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l. A GENERAL IDEA OF THE GRACES AND mPERFBcnoNs
285. THE LANGUAGE should be both perspicuous and
sublime. How a sublime style may be formed . 32
291. Qualities of true and false Critics . . . 39
297. THE DEFECTS. The Fable is unhappy, its hero
unsuccesssul, and it has too many digreffions.
The Allegorical persons in the Characters. The
Sentiments sometimes degenerate into puns; have
too frequent allusions to heathen fables as true;
and very frequently display unnecessary ostentalion
of Learning. The Language is olten too Obscure,
jingling, and technical . . . . . 43
II. BEAUTms lN THE SEVERAL BOOKS.
303. Book I. . . . . . . . . 50
309. Book II. . , . . . . . . 59
315. Book IIl. . . . . . 67
321. Book IV. . . . . _ . 75
327. Book V. . . . . . . . 84
333. Book Vl. . . . . . . 92
339. Book VII. . . . . . . . 10:
345. Book VIIL . . . . 109
351. Book IX. . . I 17
357. Book X. . *. . . '26
363. Book Xl. . . . [36
69. Book XII. . . . . . . 145
JOHN MIL'roN's PUBLIC SELF-DEDICATION TO THE COMPOSI' TION OF A GREAT ENGLISH EPIC.
About Feb. 1642, Milton, et 32, in his third contribution to the Smectymnuus controversy, T/u Reason qf Church-government urg'd against Prdatry, to show how little delight he had in that which he believed ' God by his Secretary conscience injcyned' upon him therein; he thus magnificently announces his self-dedication to the magnificent purpose of writing a reat Epic in his mother tongue
' I should not chuse this mannerof writing wherein knowin my self inferior to my self, led by the genial power of nature to another task, I ve the use, as l
* may accountit, but of my lest hand. And though Ishall be foolish in saying more
to this purpose, yet since it will be such a folly as wisest men going abou: to commit, have only confest and so committed, I may trust with more reason_ because with more folly to have courteous rdon. For although a Poet soaring in the high region of his fancies with is garland and singing robes about him might without apology speak more of himself then I mean to do, yet for me sitting here below in the cool element of prose, a mortall thing among many readers of no Empyreall conceit, to venture and divulge unusual things of my selfe, I shall petition to the gentler sort, it may not be envy to me. I must say therefore that after I had from my first yeeres by the ceaselesse diligence and care of my father, whom God recompence, bin exercis'd to the tongues, and some sciences, as my age would suffer, by sundry masters and teachers both at home and at the schools, it was found that whether ought was impos'd me by them that had the overlooking, or betak'n to of mine own choise in English, or other tongue, prosing and versing, but chiefly this latter, the stile by certain vital signes it had, was likely to live. But much latelier in the privat Academies of Italy, whither I was favor'd to resort, perceiving that some trifles which I had in memory, compos'd at under twenty or thereabout (for the manner is that every one must give some proof of his wit and reading there) met with acceptance abovewhat was lookt for, and other things which I had shifted in scarsity of books and conveniences to patch up amongst them, were receiv'd with written Encomiums, which the Italian is not forward to bestow on men of this side the Alps. I began thus farre to assent both to them and divers of my friends here at home, and not lesse to an inward prompting which now grew daily upon me, that by labour and intent study (which l take to be my portion in this life) joyn'd with the strong propensity of nature, I might perhaps leave something so written to aftertimes, as they should not willingly let it die. These thoughts at once possest me, and these other. That if I were certain to write as men buy Leases, for three lives and downward, there ought no regard be sooner had, then to Gods glory by the honour and instruction of my country. For which cause, and not only for that I knew it would be hard to arrive at the second rank among the Latines, I apply'd my selfe to that resolution which A n'asto follow'd against the perswasions of Bembo, to fix all the industry and art I could unite to the adornin of my native tongue; not to make verbal curiosities the end, that were a toy som vanity, but to be an interpreter and relater of the best and sa est things among mine own Citizens throughout this Iland in the mother di ect. That what the greatest and cho cest wits of Athens, Rome, or modern Italy, and those Hebrews ot old did or their country, I in my proportion with this over and above of being a Christian, mi ht doe for mine: not caring to be once nam'd abroad, though perhaps l cou d attaine to that, but content with these British Ilands as my world, whose fortune hath hitherto bin, that if the Athenians, as some say, made their small deeds great and renowned by their eloquent writers, England hath had her noble atchievments made small by the unskilfull handling of monks and mecbanicks.
Time servs not now, and perhaps I might seem too profuse to give any certain account of what the mind at home in the spacious circuits of her musing hath liberty to propose to her self, though of highest hope, and hardest attempting, whether that Epick form whereof the two poems of Homer, and those other two of Virgil and Tassa are a diffuse, and the book of Iob a brief model: or whether the rules of Aristotle herein are strictly to be kept, or nature to be follow'd, which in them that know art. and use judgement is no transgression, but an inriching of art. And lastly what King or Knight before the conquest might be chosen in whom to lay the patteru of a. Chni'
tian Hmr_ And as Tasso gave to a Prince of Italy his chois whether he would command him to write of Godfreys expedition against the insidels, o' Bdisan'us against the Gothes, or Charlemain against the Lombards; if to the instinct of nature and the imboldning of art ought may be trusted, and that there be nothing advers in our climat, or the fate of this age, it haply would be no rashnesse from an equal diligence and inclination to present the like offerin our own ancient stories. Or whether those Dramatick constitutions, wherein Sap/weles and Eun' ides raigne shall be found more doctrinal and exemplary to a Nation, the cripture also affords us a divine pastoral Drama in the Song of Salomo'z consisting of two persons and a double C/wrm, as Onþen rightly 'udges. And the Apocalyps of Saint Io/m is the majestick image of a h'g and statel Tragedy, shutting up and intermin ling her solemn Scenes and Acts wi a sevenfold Clwrm of halleluja's an harping s mphonies : and this my opinion the grave autority of Pareus commenting at booke is sufficient to confirm. Or if occasion shall lead to imitat those magnifick Odes and Hymns wherein Pindarm and CalZimac/ms are in most things worthy, some others in their frame judicious, in their matter most an end faulty: But those frequent songs throughout the law and prophets be ond all these, not in their divine argument alone, but in the very critical art o composition may be easily made appear over allkinds of Lyrick poesy, to be incom at'able. These abilities, wheresoever they be found, are the inspired guift of od rarely bestow'd, but yet to some (though most abuse) in every Nation : and are of power beside the office of a ulpit. to inbreed and cherish in a great people the seeds of vertu, and public civility, to allay the pertubations of the mind, and set the affections in right tune, to celebrate in glorious and lofty Hymns the throne and equipage of Gods Almightinesse, and what he works, and what_he suffers to be wrought with high providence in his Church, to sing the Victorious agonies of Martyrs and Saints, the deeds and triumphs of just and pious Nations doing valiantly through faith a ainst the enemies of Christ, to deplore the general relapses of Kingdoms an States from justice and Gods true worship. Lastly, whatsoever in religion is holy and sublime, in vertu aimable, or rave, whatsoever hath passion or admiration in all the changes of that whic is call'd fortune from without, or the wily suttleties and refluxes of mans thoughts from u ithin, all these things with a solid and treatable smoothnesse to paint out and describe. Teaching over the whole book of sanctity and vertu through all the instances of example with such delight to those especially of soft and delicious temper who will not so much as look upon Truth herselfe, unlesse they see her elegantly drest, that whereas the aths of honesty and good life appear now rugged and difficult, though they be indeed easy and pleasant, they would then appeare to all men both easy and leasant though they were rugged and difficult indeed. . _ . The thing which I had to say, and those intentions which have liv'd within me ever since I could conceiv my self any thing worth to my Countrie, I return to crave excuse that urgent reason hath pluckt from me by an abortive and foredated discovery. And the accomplishment of them lies not but in a power above mans to promise ; but that none hath by more studious ways endeavour'd, and with more unwearied s irit that none shall, that I dare almost averre of my self, as farre as life an freeleasure will extend, and that the Land had once infranchis'd her self from this impertinent yoke of prelatry. under whose inquisitorious and tyranmcal duncery no' free and splendid wit can flourish. Neither doe I think it shame to covnant with any knowing reader, that for some few yeers yet I may go on trust with him toward the payment of what I am now indebted, as being a work not to be rays'd from the heat of youth, or the Vapours of wine, like that which flows at wast from the pen of some vulgar Amorist, or the trencher fury of a riming parasite, not to be obtain'd by the invocation of Dame Memory and her Siren daughters, but by devout prayer to that eternall Spirit who can enrich with all utterance and knowledge. and sends out his Seraphim with the hallow'd fire of his Altar to touch and purify the lips of whom he pleases: to this must oe added industrious and select reading, steddy observation, insight into all seemly and generous arts and affaires, till which in some measure be compast, at mine own peril and cost I refuse not to sustain this expectation from as many a'
are not loath to hazard so much credulity upon the best pledges that I can [Live theme-At. 37-41. Ed. 1041.