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When by the rout that made the hideous roar,1. "`
Alas! what boots it with incessant care
Set off to th' world, nor in broad rumour lies;
Of so much fame in heav'n expect thy meed."
But now my oat proceeds,
And listens to the herald of the sea
That came in Neptune's plea;
He ask'd the waves, and ask'd the felon winds,
What hard mishap hath doom'd this gentle swain ?
And question'd every gust of rugged wings
That blows from off each beakèd promontory:
They knew not of his story,
And sage Hippotades their answer brings,4
1 The Bacchanalians.
2 In Sicily.
3 Near Mantua.
4 Eolus (the East Wind) was the son of Hippotades.
That not a blast was from his dungeon stray'd,
Built in th' eclipse, and rigg'd with curses dark,
Next Camus,' reverend sire, went footing slow,
The pilot of the Galilean lake.
Two massy keys he bore of metals twain,3
(The golden opes, the iron shuts amain)
He shook his mitred locks, and stern bespake,
How well could I have spared for thee, young swain,*
Creep, and intrude, and climb into the fold!
Blind mouths! that scarce themselves know how to hold
That to the faithful herdman's art belongs!
What recks it them? What need they? They are sped;
1 The Cam.
2 The Hyacinth; supposed to bear the letters Ai-Ai, put on it by Apollo in memory of his grief for Hyacinthus. See note at p. 2.
3 "The pilot of the Galilean lake" is St. Peter.
4 King intended to take orders in the Church of England.
5 "Thin, lean, meagre."-T. WARTÓN.
Return, Alpheus, the dread voice is past,
The musk-rose, and the well-attired woodbine,
Let our frail thoughts dally with false surmise.
Weep no more, woful Shepherds, weep no more,
Bellerus, a Cornish giant, from Belle
2 Mount St. Michael, near the Land's End, Cornwall.
3 In an Atlas of 1623, and in a map of Gallicia, near Cape Finisterre, is marked a place called Namancos. In this map, also, is marked the Castle of Bayona.
Sunk though he be beneath the watery floor;
And yet anon repairs his drooping head,
So Lycidas sunk low, but mounted high,
Thro' the dear might of Him that walk'd the waves.
Thus sang the uncouth swain to the oaks and rills,
THE VERSE OF "PARADISE LOST."
"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, some 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 esteem'd an example set, the first in English, of ancient liberty recover'd to Heroic Poem from the troublesom and modern bondage of Rimeing."
From Milton's own Edition, 1669.
This First Book proposes, first in brief, the whole subject, Man's disobedience, and the loss thereupon of Paradise, 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 side many legions of Angels, was by the command of God driven out of heaven with all his crew into the great deep. Which action passed over, the Poem hastes into the midst of things, presenting Satan with his Angels now fallen into hell, described here, not in the centre, for heaven and earth may be supposed as yet not made, certainly not yet accursed, but in a place of utter darkness, fitliest called Chaos. Here Satan with his Angels lying on the burning lake, thunderstruck and astonished, after a certain space recovers, as from confusion, calls up him who next in order and dignity lay by him: they confer of their miserable fall. Satan awakens all his legions, who lay till then in the same manner confounded; they rise; their numbers, array of battle, their chief leaders named, according to the idols known afterwards in Canaan and the countries adjoining. To these Satan directs his speech, comforts them with hope yet of regaining heaven, but tells them lastly of a new world and new kind of creature to be created, according to an ancient prophecy or report in heaven: for that Angels were long before this visible 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 associates thence attempt. Pandaemonium, the palace of Satan, rises, suddenly built out of the deep: the infernal Peers there sit in council. »en