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This novelty has been, by those who can find nothing wrong in Milton, imputed to his laborious endeavours after words suitable to the grandeur of his ideas. Our language, says Addison, funk under him. But the truth is, that, both in prose and verse, he had formed his style by a perverse and pedantic principle. He was desirous to use English words with a foreign idiom. This in all his prose is discovered and condemned; for there judgement operates freely, neither softened by the beauty, nor awed by the dignity of his thoughts; but such is the power of his poetry, that his call is obeyed without resistance, the reader feels himself in captivity to a higher and a nobler mind, and criticism finks in admiration,
Milton's style was not modified by his fube ject; what is shown with greater extent in Paradise Lost, may be found in Comus. One source of his peculiarity was his familiarity with the Tuscan poets; the disposition of his words is, I think, frequently Italian ; perhaps sometimes combined with other tongues. Of him, at last, may be said what Jonson says
of Spenser, that he wrote no language, but has formed what Butler calls a Babylonish Dialeet, in itself harsh and barbarous, but made, by exalted genius and extensive learn. ing, the vehicle of so much instruction and so much pleasure, that like other lovers, we find grace
in its deformity.
Whatever be the faults of his diction, he cannot want the praise of copiousness and variety: he was master of his language in its full extent; and has selected the melodious words with such diligence, that from his book alone the Art of English Poetry might be learned.
After his diction, something must be said of his versification. The measure, he says, is the English beroick verse without rhyme. Of this mode he had many examples among the Italians, and some in his own country. The Earl of Surrey is said to have translated one of Virgil's books without rhyme; and, besides our tragedies, a few short poems had appeared in blank verse, particularly one tending to reconcile the nation to Raleigh's wild attempt upon Guiana, and probably written by Raleigh himself.
These petty performances cannot be supposed to have much influenced Milton, who more probably took his hint from Triffino's Italia Liberata ; and, finding blank verse easier than rhymne, was desirous of persuading himself that it is better.
Rhyme, he says, and says truly, is no neceffary adjunct of true poetry. But, perhaps, of poetry as a mental operation, metre or musick is no necessary adjunct : it is how, ever by the musick of metre that poetry has been discriminated in all languages ; and, in languages melodiously constructed with a due proportion of long and short fyllables, metre is fufficient. But one language cannot communicate its rules to another': where metre is scanty and imperfect, fome help is necesfary. The musick of the English heroick line strikes the ear fo faintly, that it is easily lost, unless all the syllables of every line cooperate together; this co-operation can be only obtained by the preservation of every verse unmingled with another as a distinct system of sounds; and this distinctness is obtained and preserved by the artifice of rhyme. The variety of pauses, so much boasted by
O N. 269 the lovers of blank verse, changes the measures of an English poet to the periods of a declaimer ; and there are only a few happy readers of Milton, who enable their audience to perceive where the lines end or begin. Blank verse, said an ingenious critick, seems to be verse only to the eye.
Poetry may subfist without rhyme, but English poetry will not often please ; nor can rhyme ever be safely spared but where the subject is able to support itself. Blank verse makes fome approach to that which is called the lapidary style ; has neither the easiness of prose, nor the melody of numbers, and therefore tires by long continuance. Of the Italian writers without rhyme, whom Milton alledges as precedents, not one is popular; what reason could urge in its defence has been confuted by the ear.
But, whatever be the advantage of rhyme, I cannot prevail on myfelf to with that Milton had been a rhymer; for I cannot wish his work to be other than it is; yet, like other heroes, he is to be admired rather than
imitated. He that thinks himself capable of astonishing may write blank verse; but those that hope only to please must condescend to rhyme.
The highest praise of genius is original invention. Milton cannot be said to have contrived the structure of an epick poem, and therefore owes reverence to that vigour and amplitude of mind to which all generations must be indebted for the art of poetical narration, for the texture of the fable, the variation of incidents, the interposition of dialogue, and all the stratagems that surprise and enchain attention. But, of all the borrowers from Homer, Milton is perhaps the least indebted. He was naturally a thinker for himself, confident of his own abilities, and disdainful of help or hindrance : he did not refuse admission to the thoughts or images of his predeceffors, but he did not seek them. From his contemporaries he neither courted nor received support; there is in his writings nothing by which the pride of other authors might be gratified, or favour gained ; po exchange of praise, nor solicitation of sup