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Sunk though he be beneath the watery floor;
locks he laves,
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. Pandæmonium, the palace of Satan, rises, suddenly built out of the deep: the infernal Peers there sit in council.
Of Man's first disobedience and the fruit
And chiefly thou, O Spirit, that dost prefer
assert eternal Providence, And justify the ways of God to men.
Say first, for heav'n hides nothing from thy view, Nor the deep tract of hell; say first, what cause Moved our grand Parents in that happy state, Favour'd of heaven so highly, to fall off From their Creator, and transgress his will For one restraint, lords of the world besides ? Who first seduced them to that foul revolt? Th’infernal serpent; he it was, whose guile, Stirr'd up
deceived The mother of mankind, what time his pride
2 A small brook that flowed near the Temple of Jerusalem.
3 A mountain in Boeotia. In mythology, the Muses were said to dwell on it. 4 Gen. i. 2.
Had cast him out from heav'n, with all his host
1 Isaiah xiv. 13-15.
intrate,” was the inscription placed by
As from the centre thrice to th' atmost pole.
If thou beest he-But O how fall'n! how changed
The god of flies, worshipped by the Philistines (2 Kings i. 2). The Jews considered Beelzebub the greatest of the devils. See their accusation of our Lord, St. Matt. xii. 24-27; where it appears that with them Beelzebub and
were synonymous names. Mil. tou makes them two different fallen angels.
2 Satan is a Hebrew word, signifying enemy." The enemy both of God and man,