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“ Had Milton liv'd to see how thou hast writ,
“ He'd, for the charms thou giv'it it, Rhime admit." And he is called by another, “ Milton and Dreydon in epitome." Nothing indeed can be more certain, than that he is indebted ofteu enough to these poets. But let the reader solace himself with a specimen of the charms which would have won the heart of Milton, and forced him, in spite of himself, to write in couplets ! “ The scene being opened, Hell is represented with Spirits in several poftures of torments, &c. “ Lucifer. Bid 'em their shrieks and howlings now refrain,
And let each soul make musick with his chain;
And Hell itself shall keep a jubilee. 6 Belial.
It shall be done. “ Lucifer.
The happy time is nigh';
Read there the Universe will soon be drown'd." This, however, is modeft when compared to the complacency with which the author of the Royal Grammar, published in 1715, speaks of rectifying Milton's defect: “ It is not impossible, but the Paradise may admit a fecond cultivation, and perhaps receive new beauties from another dress; at least be generally read with more pleasure; and, which is no small benefit of rhyme, be retained with more eate: of which take this short Effay upon that passage, B. ii. p. 42. edit. 1674. Oshame to men ! Devil with devil damn’d, &c.
“ O shame! O curse! O more than hellish spight!
“ And sacrificing thousands to their hate, &c." I consign to the reader's laughter, or contempt, these new beauties ; which, like the charms in Noah's Flood, may not improperly be termed, in the forcible expression of a modern author, “ The feverous eftlux of a rhyme-fed brain.”
Knight's Progress of Civ. Society.
I must not omit to mention, that, in a pamphlet published in 1732, under the title of “ Milton restor'd and Bentley depos’d," a part of the first book of Paradise Loft is “ attempted in rime," and pretended to be “ addressed to Dr. Bentley from Dean Swift," in the following letter:
New-Year's day, 1732. “ I am overjoy'd to hear, that a very ingenious youth of this city [Dublin] is now upon the useful design (for which he is never enough to be commended) of bestowing rime on Milton's Paradise Lott, which will make the Poem, in that only defective, more heroic and fonorous than it has hitherto been. I wish the gentleman fuccefs in the performance; and as it is a work in which a young man could not be more happily employ’d, or appear in with greater advantage to his character, fo I am concern'd that it did not fall out to be your province. I am your's &c,
J. Swift." Such a design had been announced, and is admirably ridiculed by Swift in his Advice to a Young Poet. The attempt justmentioned is wretched in the extreme.—Milton has been amply vindicated in his rejection of rhyme, not only by the remarks of Roscommon, Addison, and other eminent criticks, but also by the attention and the success with which, in later times, his unfettered and noble versification has been studied :
“ Hither, as to their fountain, other stars
Repairing, in their golden urns draw light.” On this subject I subjoin the remarks of an elegant poet, and most accomplished scholar; as just as they are beautiful. See the late Dr. Roberts's “ Poetical Epiftle to Christopher Anstey Efq', on the English Poets, chiefly those who have written in blank verse,” 1772.
“ Poet of other times, to thee I bow
" And tuned it to sublimeft argument.
The first Book proposes, first in brief, the whole subjea, Man's disobedience, and the loss thereupon of Paradisewherein he was placed : Then touches the prime cause of his Fall
, the Serpent, or rather Satan in the Serpent; who, revolting from God, and drawing to his fide many legions of Angels, was, by the command of God, driven out of Heaven, with all his crew, into the great deep. Which action passed over, the Poem haftens into the midst of things, presenting Satan with his Angels now falling into Hell described here, not in the center (for Heaven and Earth may be supposed as yet not made, certainly not yet accursed,) but in a place of utter darkness, fitliest called Chaos : Here Satan with his Angels lying on the burning lake, thunderAruck and astonished, after a certain space recovers, as from confufon, calls up him who next in order and dignity lay by him : They confer of their miserable fall; Satan awakens all his legions, who lay till then in the same manner confounded. They rife; their numbers ; array of batile ; their chief leaders named, according to the idols known afterwards in Canaun and the countries adjoining. Po these Satan directs his speech, comforts them with hope yet of regaining Heaven, but tells them lastly of a new world and new kind of creature to be created, according to an ancient prophecy or report in Heaven ; for, that Angels were long before this viņble creation, was the opinion of many ancient Fathers. To find out the truth of this prophecy, and what to determine thereon, he refers to a full council
. What his associates thence attempt. Pandemonium, the palace of Satan, rises, suddenly built out of the deep: The infernal peers there fit in council.