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of cloathing the fabulous atchievements of the early British kings and champions in the gorgeous trappings of epic attire, he wrote sm EcTYMNUUs and TETRAchor DoN, apologies for fanatical preachers and the doćtrine of divorce. In his travels, he had intended to visit Sicily and Athens, countries connected with his finer feelings, interwoven with his poetical ideas, and impressed upon his imagination by his habits of reading, and by long and intimate converse with the Grecian literature. But so prevalent were his patriotic attachments, that hearing in Italy of the commencement of the national quarrel, instead of proceeding forward to feast his fancy with the contemplation of scenes familiar to Theocritus and Homer, the pines of Etna and the pastures of Peneus, he abruptly changed his course, and hastily returned home to plead the cause of ideal liberty. Yet in this chaos of controversy, amidst endless disputes concerning religious and political reformation, independency, prelacy, tythes, toleration, and tyranny, he sometimes seems to have heaved a figh for the peaceable enjoyments of lettered solitude, for his congenial pursuits, and the more mild and ingenuous exercises of the muse. In a Letter to Henry Oldenburgh, written in 1654, he says, “Hoc “cum libertatis adversus inopinatum certamen, “ Dive RS1s longe et AMANIoRIBUs omnino “me studiis intentum, ad se rapuit IMITUM,”
* PRose Works, ii. 574.
For obvious reasons, the Latin poems of this volume can never acquire the popularity of the English. But as it is my wish that they may be better known than before, and as they are in this edition, partly on that account, and for the first time, accompanied with a series of Notes of proportionably equal extent with those attached to the English text, I have thought it proper to introduce them to the reader's acquaintance by fome general remarks, from which an estimate of their charaćter might be preparatively formed, and at one view.
. In the Elegies, Ovid was professedly Milton's model for language and versification. They are not, however, a perpetual and uniform tissue of Ovidian phraseology. With Ovid in view, he has an original manner and charaćter of his own, which exhibit a remarkable perspicuity of contexture, a native facility and fluency. Nor does his observation of Roman models oppress or destroy our great poet's inherent powers of invention and sentiment. I value these pieces as much for
for their fancy and genius, as for their style and expression. . . . . . . . .
That Ovid among the Latin poets was Milton's favourite, appears not only from his elegiac but his hexametric poetry. . The versification of our author's hexameters has yet a different structure from that of the Metamorphoses: Milton's is more clear, intelligible, and flowing; less desultory, less familiar, and less embarrassed with a frequent recurrence of periods. Ovid is at once rapid and abrupt. He wants dignity: he has too much conversation in his manner of telling a story. Prolixity of paragraph, and length of sentence, are peculiar to Milton. This is seen, not only in some of his exordial invocations in the PARADISE Los T, and in many of the religious addresses of a like cast in the prose-works, but in his long verse. It is to be wished that in his Latin compositions of all sorts, he had been more attentive to the simplicity of Lucretius, Virgil, and Tibullus.
Dr. Johnson, unjustly I think, prefers the Latin poetry of May and Cowley to that of Milton, and thinks May to be the first of the three. May is certainly a sonorous versifier, and was sufficiently accomplished in poetical declamation for the continuation of Lucan's pH ARSALIA. But May is scarcely an author in point. His skill is in pa
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rody; and he was confined to the peculiarities of an archetype, which, it may be presumed, he thought excellent. As to Cowley when compared with Milton, the same critic observes, “Milton is generally content to express the “ thoughts of the ancients in their language: “Cowley, without much loss of purity or ele- . “gance, accommodates the dićtion of Rome to “his own conceptions.—The advantage seems “to lie on the fide of Cowley.” But what are these conceptions : Metaphysical conceits, all the unnatural extravagancies of his English poetry; such as will not bear to be cloathed in the Latin language, much less are capable of admitting any degree of pure Latinity. I will give a few instances, out of a great multitude, from the DAVIDEIs.