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attempting; whether that epic form, whereof the two

poems of Homer, and those other two of Virgil and - Taffo, are a diffuse, and the book of Job a brief, model;

or whether the rules of Aristotle herein are ftrialy to be kept, or nature to be followed; which in them that know

art, and use judgment, is no transgression, but an en“ riching of art : and lastly, what king or knight, before " the Conquest, might be chosen, in whom to lay the pat“ tern of a christian hero. And as Taslo gave to a prince of “ Italy his choice, whether he would command him to write “ of Godfrey's expedition against the infidels, Belisarius

against the Goths, of Charlemain against the Lombards; “ if to the instinct of nature, and the emboldning of art

aught may be trusted, and that there be nothing adverse “ in our climate, or the fate of this age, it haply would be no • rashness, from an equal diligence and inclination, to pre-“ fent the like offer in our antient stories. Or whether those “ dramatic constitutions, wherein Sophocles and Euripides “ reign, shall be found more do&rinal and exemplary to a “.nation–Or, if occafion shall lead, to imitate those magnific “ odes and hymns, wherein Pindarus and Callimachus are in “ most things worthy. But those frequent songs throughout “ the law and prophets, beyond all these, not in their divine argument alone, but in the very critical art of compofi

be easily made appear over all the kinds of lyric poesy to be incomparable. These abilities, wheresoever “they be found, are the inspired gift of God, rarely be“ stowed, but yet to fome (though most abuse) in every “nation ; and are of power, besides the office of a pulpit,

« tion, may


to inbreed and cherish in a great people the seeds of virtue

and public civility, to allay the perturbations of the mind, " and set the affections in right tune; to celebrate in glori"' ous and losty: hymns the throne and equipage of God's

almightiness, and what he works, and what he fuffers to be wrought with high providence in his church ; to

sing victorious agonies of martyrs and saints, the deeds and natriumphs of just and pious nations doing valiantly through “ faith against the enemies of Christ; to deplore the general

relapses of kingdoms and states from justice and God's true s worship. Lastly, whatsoever in religion is holy and sublime,

' in virtue amiable or grave, whatsoever hath passion or ad“ miration in all the changes of that, which is called fortune “ from without, or the wily subtleties and refluxes of man's

thoughts from within ; all these things, with a solid and “ treatable smoothness to paint out and describe, teaching

over the whole book of sanctity and virtue, through all “ the instances of example, with such delight, to those espe.“ cially, of soft and delicious temper, who will not so much as “look upon truth herself, unless they fee her elegantly drest; " that whereas the paths of honesty and good life appear " now rugged and difficult, though they be indeed easy

and pleasant, they will then appear to all men both easy ! and pleasant, though they were rugged and difficult « indeed.”

“ The thing which I had to say, and those intentions, “ which have lived within me ever since I could conceive

myself any thing worth to my country, I return to crave “excuse that urgent reason hath pluckt from me by an

" abortive

s6 abortive and fore-dated discovery ; and the accomplish“ ment of them lies not but in a power above man's to pro« mise; but that none hath by more ftudious ways en“ deavoured, and with more unwearied spirit that none fhall, w that I dare almost aver of myself, as far as life and free “ leisure will extend. Neither do I think it shame to co“ venant with any knowing reader that for some few years

yet I may go on trust with him toward the payment of « what I am now indebted, as being a work not to be raised “ from the heat of youth, or the vapours of wine, like that “ which flows at waste from the pen of fome vulgar amourist,

or the trencher fury of a rhyming parasite'; nor to be .“ obtained by the invocation of dame Memory and her firen “ daughters; but by devout prayer to that eternal spirit, .“ who can enrich with all utterance and knowledge, and "fends out his Seraphim with the hallowed fire of his altar “ to touch and purify the lips of whom he pleases ; to this " must be added industrious and select reading, steady ob“ fervation, inlight into all seemly and generous arts and “affairs ; till which in some measure' be compassed at mine

own peril and cost I refuse not to sustain this expectá" tion from as many as are not loth to hazard so much cre“ dulity upon the best pledges that I can give them. Al

though it nothing content me to have disclosed thus much “ before hand; but that I trust hereby to make it manifest “ with what small : willingness I'endure to interrupt 'the “ pursuit of no less hopes than these, and leave a calm and " pleasing folitariness, fed with chearful and confident “ thoughts; to embark in a troubled sea of noise and hoarse §

“ disputes,

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disputes, put from beholding the bright countenance of “ truth, in the quiet and still air of delightful studies.”

Mr. Warton, who has cited the last sentence of this very interesting passage, as a proof that Milton, then engaged in controversy, fighed for his more congenial pursuits, laments,' “ that the vigorous portion of his life, that those

years in which imagination is on the wing, were un

worthily and unprofitably wasted on temporary topics.”; Many lovers of poetry will fympathise with this amiable writer in his regret; but others may still entertain very different sensations on the subject. Allowing for a moment that the controversial writings of Milton deserve to be neglected and forgotten, reasons may yet be found to rejoice, rather than lament, that he exerted his faculties in composing them. The occupation, however it might suspend his poetical enterprizes, cherished the ardour and energy his mind, and, above all, confirmed in him that well founded and upright self-esteem, to which we are principally indebted for his sublimest production. The works I allude to were, in his own estimation, indispensable and meritorious; had he not written them, as he frankly informs us," he would have heard within himself, all his “ life after, of discourage and reproach.” Nothing, perhaps, but this retrospect on a life passed, as his own conscience assured him, in the faithful discharge of arduous and irksome duties, could have afforded to the declining days of Milton that confident' vigour of mind, that intense and inextinguishable fire of imagination, which gave existence and perfection to his Paradise Loft.




• He appears to have thought with a celebrated ancient, that perfect morality is necessary to the perfection of genius; and that sublimity in composition may be expected only from the man, who has attained the fublime in the steady practice of virtue.

These noble and animating ideas seem to have had great influence on his conduct very early in life; for in speaking of the studies and sentiments of his youth, he says,

“ I was confirmed in this opinion, that he who would " not be frustrate of his hope to write well hereafter in lauds6 able things, ought himself to be a true poem; that is,

a compofition and pattern of the honourableft things ; not

presuming to sing high praises of heroic men, or famous “ cities, unless he have in himself the experience and the

practice of all that which is praise worthy."

In reply to the absurd charge of his leading a diffolute life, he gives an engaging and spirited account of his domestic conduct. “ Those morning haunts are where they ss should be, at home; not sleeping or concoding the fur“ feits of an irregular feast, but up and stirring; in winter

often ere the sound of any bell awake men to labour or “ to devotion ; in fummer, as oft with the bird that first “rouses, or not much tardier, to read good authors, or cause " them to be read, till the attention be weary, or memory “ have its full fraught; then with useful and generous la

bours, preserving the body's health and hardiness, to ren“ der lightfome, clear, and not lumpish obedience to the (6 mind.”


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