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THE VERSE. [A]
THE measure is English heroick verse without rime, as that of Homer in Greek, and of Virgil in Latin; rime being no necessary adjunct, or true ornament, of poem or good verse, in longer works especially, but the invention of a barbarous age to set off wretched matter and lame metre; graced indeed since by the use of fome famous modern poets, carried away by custom, but much to their own vexation, hindrance, and constraint to express many things otherwise, and for the most part worse than elfe they would have expressed them. Not without cause, therefore, fome both [B] Italian and Spanish poets of prime note have rejected rime both in longer and shorter works; as have also long lince our best [c] English tragedies: as a thing of itself, to all judicious ears, trivial and of no true musical delight; which consists only in apt numbers, fit quantity of syllables, and the sense variously, drawn out from one verse into another; not in the jingling found of like endings, a fault avoided by the learned Ancients, both in [D] poetry and all good oratory. This neglect then of rime so little is to be taken for
[e] defect, though it may seem so perhaps to vulgar readers, that it is rather to be esteemed an example fet, the first in English, of ancient liberty recovered, to heroick poem, from the troublesome and modern bondage of riming.
[A] The Verse.] The first edition of Paradise Lost, in 1667, was without this preface, or apology for the verse. In 1968, when a new title-page was prefixed to the edition, it was added with the following address of the Printer to the reader : “ Courteous Reader, there was no Argument at first intended to the Book ; but, for the satisfaction of many that have desired it, I have procured it, and withal a reason of that which stumbled many others, why the Poem rimes not.” Todd.
[B] - both Italian and Spanish poets of prime note] Taffo's poem on the Creation was now in Milton's mind. See likewise the Inquiry into the Origin of Par. Loft. Among the Italians also, Trissino and Rucellai have abandoned the use of rhyme; the former, in his Italia Liberata di Goti, an heroick poem; the latter, in a didactick poem, entitled Le Api, which will remain
a lasting monument that the Italian language requires not the thackles of rhyme to render it harmonious.” Roscoe's Life of Lorenzo de' Medici, 2d edit. vol. ii. p. 152. Luigi Alamanni's imitation of the Antigone of Sophocles, which appeared in 1532, and bis dida&tick poem of Coltivazione, printed at Paris in 1546, are both in blank verse. The rejection of rhyme in Italian poetry was also powerfully urged, in the fixteenth century, by Felice Figlinei, who, “ in his admirable Italian commentary on the Ethicks of Aristotle, enforces his advice by his own example, and translates all Aristotle's quotations from Homer and Euripides into verfe without rhyme.” Hift. of Eng. Poetry, vol. iii. p. 24. The Georgicks of Virgil are also thus translated. “ La Georgica di Vergilio con sciolti versi tradutta in lingua Thoscana dal magnifico M. Antonio Mario Negrifoli, nobile Ferrarese. Vinegia, 1552.” Of the Origin of Versi Sciolti among the Italians, see Walker's Historical Memoir of Italian I'ragedy, 1799. Append. p. xx. Among the Spanish poets, Mr. Bowle mentions Francisco de Aldana, who translated the Epitles of Ovid into Spanish blank verse; and Gonsalvo Perez, who, in like manner, translated the Odyssey of Homer. And he adds, that Garcilasso de la Vega, Principe de los Poetas Castellanos, in the Epistola a Boscan, folios 49, 50, 51, ed. Madrid, 1622, has given a specimen of blank verse. It hould be added, that Boscan has given similar speci. mens in his poetry, and that there is also extant in Spanish blank verse, a poem, entitled La Suma de Philofophia, by Alonzo de Fuentes of Seville, published there in 1547. There are also Dutch and French poets, who have broken the bondage of rhyme. See Fabricius, Bib. Lat. lib. ii. c. 10. p. 383.-Dr. Woodford, aserting that English poetry without rhythm is barely if at all distinguishable from profe, adds, “ Not to the Italian and Spanish blank verse, from whom the great and learned Mr. Milton, I believe, took his measures. For though (to instance in the Italian and their compositions of that kind) Annibal Caro in his most excellent translation of Virgil, and Torquato Tasso in his Sette Giornate del Mondo Creato, have avoided rhythms; yet they retained the proper character of the Italian verfe ; I mean as to the form, equivalent to our rhythm, which ever ends with a solitary syllable for the last foot, unless we make the last foot consist rather of three syllables by an antibacchius, as hörrörč cūstūmě, or by an umphibrachys, as in piumë ināntě, be there rhythm ufed, or be there none; though if there be rhythm, the chime or tune rests both upon the last and the last syllable save one; by which mark or triffyllable foot indifferent to both, and the syllabical quantities of the Italian words which approach and, except in fome few instances, directly follow the Latine,
the Italian even blank verse of any author, howsoever written, can no more be concealed and mistaken for profe than the Latine verse of Virgil or Ovid."-" Them the Spanish follow in their metrical compositions, both with rhythms and without, having most frequently a solitary and supernumerary syllable either in or for the last foot.” Pref, to Paraphrase on the Canticles, 1679. See before, p. 207. This critick is mistaken, in thinking that the French have never admitted blank verse into any kind of poem. He proceeds, however, with foretelling the downfall of blank verfe ; arguing that, “ if ourselves or the French will use blank verse, either in an heroick
poem, where they should be I think couplets ;-or in ode or fonnet, &c. let us give it the character as to its form which it anciently had, a number and movement metrical, with enterchanged variety, according to the kind of our verse, of diverse forts of feet. But this we in English have found by the experience of Sir Philip Sidney, Ab. France, and others in the last age, would never do; and, in the next, even our now cry'd-up blank verse will look as unfashionable, how well foever as a novelty, and upon his credit who was the inventer of it here, it may Speed in this. Not but that I have, and always had, as great an honour for Mr. Milton's Paradise Lost, as those who admire him moft, &c. Yet still I say, the learned only muft and thall be judges of this, and that if he had thought fit to give it the adornments of rhythm, and not avoided them fo religiously as any one may perceive he now and then does, to the debasing of his great sense ; it had been fo absolute a piece, that, in fpight of whatever the world Heathen or Christian hitherto has seen, it must have remain'd as the standard to all succeeding poets and poefy."-The prophetical period has long fince elapsed; and yet the general deçision has not pronounced the blank verse of Milton unfalhionable, or buried the author under his own majestick ruins. His credit remains unfhaken. From those who, to mention the avowal of the learned author of a late Inquiry into the Principles of Taste, tug at the oar in perusing his noble poem, I may be permitted to differ; conceding to such, not with admiration indeed, but without envy, the indulgence of their own feelings, while I contefs myself enamoured of his various melodies, and persuaded of the fituels of his stately and folema verlification to his work. TODD.
[c] our best English tragedies : ] Milton means the tragedies of Shakfpeare, which he commends in Il Penserofo as having " ennobled the bulkin'd ftage." The first composition in blank verse, extant in our language, is said to be Lord Surrey's translation of the second and fourth books of Virgil, in 1557 ; the diction and the versification of which are highly commended by Mr. Warton, Hift. Eng. Poetry, vol. iii. p. 21. TODD.
[D] both in poetry and all good oratory.] Mr. Bowle obferves, that Marston, in the Scourge of Villanie, a collection of Satires, first printed at London in 1598, after the Proëmium in librum fecundum, has some verses ad rithmum, from which the following may be here cited:
“ Alas! poor idle found :
- so little is to be taken for a defeat,] As Roger Ascham says in his Scholemaster, written about the year 1566, where he is praising the good judgement of Lord Surrey in avoyding the fault of ryming : “ And therefore, even as Virgill and Horace deserve moft worthie prayse, that they, fpying the unperfitness in Ennius and Plautus, by trewe imitation of Homer and Euripides, brought poetrie to the fame perfectnes in Latin as it was in Grecke, even fo those, that by the fame way would benefit their tong and country, deserve rather thankes thun disprayse." See Hift. Eng. Poetry, vol. iii. p. 25.-And fee note (B.] Yet Milton's “ neglect of rime,” we observe, has been considered as a defect; and by some, with officious anxiety for the fame of Milton, has been commuted into pretended “necessary jinglings.” The Fall of Man by Dryden was perhaps the first attempt of the kind; which fetves to exhibit the corresponding patages of Milton with redoubled luftre. To this succeeded the production of Edward Ecclestone, gent. entitled Noah's Flood, an Opera, in 1679; afterwards publiiled with the fonorous appellation of The Cataclujn! Of this tuneful bard it is said by one of his eulogists, ia the verses pretixed to the Opera, that