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Ad pænas fugiunt, et ceu foret Orcus asylum
Infernis certant condere se tenebris. Cedite Romani scriptores, cedite Graii
Et quos fama recens vel celebravit anus. Hæc quicunque leget tantum cecinisse putabit Mæonidem ranas, Virgilium culices.
SAMUEL BARROW, M. D.
ON PARADISE LOST.
WHEN I beheld the poet blind, yet bold,
Yet as I read, soon growing less severe,
Or if a work so infinite he spann'd,
Pardon me, mighty poet, nor despise
That majesty which through thy work doth reign Draws the devout, deterring the profane. And things divine thou treat'st of in such state As them preserves, and thee, inviolate. At once delight and horror on us seize, Thou sing'st with so much gravity and ease, And above human flight dost soar aloft With plume so strong, so equal, and so soft. The bird nam'd from that paradise you sing So never flags, but always keeps on wing.
Where could'st thou words of such a compass find? Whence furnish such a vast expanse of mind ? Just heaven thee like Tiresias to requite Rewards with prophecy thy loss of sight.
Well mightest thou scorn thy readers to allure With tinkling rhyme, of thy own sense secure; While the town-bayes writes all the while and spells, And like a pack-horse tires without his bells: Their fancies like our bushy points appear, The poets tag them, we for fashion wear. I too, transported by the mode, offend, And while I meant to praise thee must commend.1 Thy verse created like thy theme sublime, In number, weight, and measure, needs not rhyme.
1 See note in Life, p. lxxvii.
“The measure is English Heroic 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 Meeter; grac't indeed since by the use of some famous modern Poets, carried away by Custom, but much to thir own vexation, hindrance, and constraint, to express many things otherwise, and for the most part worse, then else they would have exprest them. Not without cause, therefore, som both Italian and Spanish Poets of prime note, have rejected Rime both in longer and shorter Works, as have also, long since, our best English Tragedies, as a thing of itself, to all judicious eares, triveal 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 sound of like endings, a fault avoyded by the learned Ancients both in Poetry and all good Oratory. This neglect then of Rime, so little is to be taken for a defect, though it may seem so perhaps to vulgar readers, that it rather is to be esteemid an example set, the first in English, of ancient liberty recover'd to Heroic Poem from the troublesom and modern bondage of Rimeing.”