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That majefty which through thy work doth reign, Draws the devout, deterring the profane; And things divine thou treat'ft of in such state As them preferves, and thee, inviolate. At once delight and horror on us feize, Thou fing'ft with fo much gravity and cafe; And above human flight doft foar aloft, With plume fo ftrong, fo equal, and fo foft: The bird nam'd from that Paradife you fing So never flags, but always keeps on wing.
Where could't thou words of fuch a compass find?
Well might'ft thou fcorn thy readers to allure'
And while I mean to praife thee, must commend.
HE meafure is English heroic verfe without rhyme, as that of Homer in Greek, and of Virgil in Latin; rhyme being no neceffary adjunct or true ornament of poem or good verfe, in longer works especially, but the invention of a barbarous age, to fet off wretched matter and metre; graced indeed fince by the ufe of fome famous modern poets, carried away by custom; but much to their own vexation, hinderance, and conftraint, to exprefs many things otherwife, and, for the most part, worfe than elfe they would have expreffed them. Not without cause, therefore, fome, both Italian and Spanish poets, of prime note, have rejected rhyme, both in longer and shorter works, as have alfo long firice our best English tragedies, as a thing of itself, to all judicious ears, trivial, and of no true musical delight; which confifts only in apt numbers, fit quantity of fyllables, and the fenfe variously drawn out from one verfe into another; not in the jingling found of like endings, a fault avoided by the learned Ancients both in poetry and all good oratory. This neglect then of rhyme fo little is to be taken for a defect, though it may seem so perhaps to vulgar readers, that it rather is to be esteemed an example fet, the first in English, of ancient liberty recovered to heroic poem, from the troublefome and modern bondage of rhyming.
This book propofes, firft, in brief, the whole fubject, Man's difobedience, and the lofs thereupon of Paradife wherein 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 paffed over, the poem haftes into the midst of things, prefenting Satan with his angels now fallen into hell, defcribed here, not in the centre (for Heaven and Earth may be fuppofed as yet not made, certainly not yet accurf. ed), but in a place of utter darkness, fitlieft called Chaos: Here Satan with his Angels lying on the burning lake, thunder ftruck and aftonished, after a certain fpace recovers, as from confufion, calls up him who next in order and dignity lay by him: they confer of their miferable fall. Satan awakes his legions, who lay till then in the fame manner confounded: They rife, their numbers, array of battle, their chief leaders named, according to the idols known afterwards in Canaan and the countries adjoining. To thefe Satan directs his fpeech, comforts them with hope yet of regaining Heaven, but tells them lafly of a new world and a new kind of creature to be created, according to an ancient prophecy or report in heaven; for that Angels were long before this vifible 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 affociates thence attempt. Pandemonium, the palace of Satan, rifes, fuddenly built out of the deep: the infernal peers there fit in council.
F man's first disobedience, and the fruit
With lofs of Eden, till one greater Man
That fhepherd who first taught the chofen feed,
And chiefly thou, O Sp'rit, that dost prefer
Say firft, for heav'n hides nothing from thy view, Nor the deep tract of hell: fay first what caufe Mov'd our grand parents in that happy state, Favour'd of heav'n fo highly, to fall off From their Creator, and tranfgrefs his will, For one restraint, lords of the world befides? Who firft feduc'd them to that foul revolt? Th' infernal ferpent; he it was, whofe guile, Stirr'd up with envy and revenge, deceiv'd The mother of mankind, what time his pride Had caft him out from heav'n, with all his hoft Of rebel angels; by whofe aid afpiring To fet himself in glory 'bove his peers, He trufted to have equall'd the Moft High, If he oppos'd; and with ambitious aim Against the throne and monarchy of Con Rais'd impious war in heav'n and battle proud, With vain attempt. Him the Almighty power