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Sunk though he be beneath the watery floor;
And tricks his beams, and with new spangled ore
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, While the still morn went out with sandals gray, He touch'd the tender stops of various quills, With eager thought warbling his Doric lay: And now the sun had stretch'd out all the hills, And now was dropp'd into the western bay; At last he rose, and twitch'd his mantle blue: To-morrow to fresh woods, and pastures new.
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.
Of Man's first disobedience and the fruit
That shepherd,' who first taught the chosen seed,
Delight thee more, and Siloa's brook that flow'd
And chiefly thou, O Spirit, that dost prefer
And justify the ways of God to men.
Say first, for heav'n hides nothing from thy view,
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
Nine times the space that measures day and night
Lay vanquish'd, rolling in the fiery gulf,
Torments him; round he throws his baleful eyes,
A dungeon horrible, on all sides round,
As one great furnace, flamed; yet from those flames
Regions of sorrow, doleful shades, where peace
For those rebellious; here their prison ordain'd
As far removed from God and light of heav'n,
1 Isaiah xiv. 13-15.
2 "Lasciate ogni speranza voi ch'
intrate," was the inscription placed by Dante over the gates of his "Inferno."
As from the centre thrice to th' utmost pole.
And thence in heav'n call'd Satan,2 with bold words
If thou beest he-But O how fall'n! how changed
From what height fall'n, so much the stronger proved
Can else inflict, do I repent, or change,
Though changed in outward lustre, that fix'd mind
That durst dislike his reign; and, me preferring,
In dubious battle on the plains of heav'n,
And shook his throne. What though the field be lost?