The John Milton Reading Room

Paradise Lost


Paradisum Amissam
Summi Poetæ


QUi legis Amissam Paradisum, grandia magni
Carmina Miltoni, quid nisi cuncta legis?
Res cunctas, & cunctarum primordia rerum,
Et fata, & fines continet iste liber.
Intima panduntur magni penetralia mundi, [ 5 ]
Scribitur & toto quicquid in Orbe latet.
Terræque, tractusque maris, coelumque profundum
Sulphureumque Erebi, flammivomumque specus.
Quæque colunt terras, Portumque & Tartara cæca,
Quæque colunt summi lucida regna Poli. [ 10 ]
Et quodcunque ullis conclusum est finibus usquam,
Et sine fine Chaos, & sine fine Deus:
Et sine fine magis, si quid magis est sine fine,
In Christo erga homines conciliatus amor.
Hæc qui speraret quis crederet esse futurum? [ 15 ]
Et tamen hæc hodie terra Britanna legit.
O quantos in bella Duces! quæ protulit arma!
Quæ canit, & quanta prælia dira tuba.
Coelestes acies! atque in certamine Coelum!
Et quæ Coelestes pugna deceret agros! [ 20 ]
Quantus in ætheriis tollit se Lucifer armis!
Atque ipso graditur vix Michaele minor!
Quantis, & quam funestis concurritur iris
Dum ferus hic stellas protegit, ille rapit!
Dum vulsos Montes ceu Tela reciproca torquent, [ 25 ]
Et non mortali desuper igne pluunt:
Stat dubius cui se parti concedat Olympus,
Et metuit pugnæ non superesse suæ.
At simul in coelis Messiæ insignia fulgent,
Et currus animes, armaque digna Deo, [ 30 ]
Horrendumque rotæ strident, & sæva rotarum
Erumpunt torvis fulgura luminibus,
Et flammæ vibrant, & vera tonitrua rauco
Admistis flammis insonuere Polo:
Excidit attonitis mens omnis, & impetus omnis [ 35 ]
Et cassis dextris irrita Tela cadunt.
Ad poenas fugiunt, & ceu foret Orcus asylum
Infernis certant condere se tenebris.
Cedite Romani Scriptores, cedite Graii
Et quos fama recens vel celebravit anus. [ 40 ]
Hæc quicunque leget tantum cecinesse putabit
Mæonidem ranas, Virgilium culices.

S.B. M.D.


Paradise Lost

WHen I beheld the Poet blind, yet bold,
In slender Book his vast Design unfold,
Messiah Crown'd, Gods Reconcil'd Decree,
Rebelling Angels, the Forbidden Tree,
Heav'n, Hell, Earth, Chaos, All; the Argument [ 5 ]
Held me a while misdoubting his Intent,
That he would ruine (for I saw him strong)
The sacred Truths to Fable and old Song
(So Sampson groap'd the Temples Posts in spight)
The World o'rewhelming to revenge his sight. [ 10 ]
Yet as I read, soon growing less severe,
I lik'd his project, the success did fear;
Through that wide Field how he his way should find
O're which lame Faith leads Understanding blind;
Lest he perplex'd the things he would explain, [ 15 ]
And what was easie he should render vain.
Or if a Work so infinite he spann'd
Jealous I was that some less skilful hand
(Such as disquiet always what is well,
And by ill imitating would excell) [ 20 ]
Might hence presume the whole Creations day
To change in Scenes, and show it in a Play.
Pardon me, Mighty Poet, nor despise
My causeless, yet not impious, surmise.
But I am now convinc'd, and none will dare [ 25 ]
Within thy labours to pretend a share.
Thou hast not miss'd one thought that could be fit,
And all that was improper dost omit:
So that no room is here for Writers left,
But to detect their Ignorance or Theft. [ 30 ]
That Majesty which through thy Work doth Reign
Draws the devout, deterring the Profane.
And things divine thou treatst of in such state
As them preserves, and thee, inviolate.
At once delight and horrour on us seise, [ 35 ]
Thou singst with so much gravity and ease;
And above humane flight dost soar aloft
With plume so strong, so equal, and so soft.
The Bird nam'd from that Paradise you sing
So never flaggs, but always keeps on Wing. [ 40 ]
Where couldst thou words of such a compass find?
Whence furnish such a vast expence of mind?
Just Heav'n thee like Tiresias to requite
Rewards with Prophesie thy loss of sight.
Well mightst thou scorn thy Readers to allure [ 45 ]
With tinkling Rhime, of thy own sense secure;
While the Town-Bayes writes all the while and spells,
And like a Pack-horse tires without his Bells:
Their Fancies like our Bushy-points appear,
The poets tag them, we for fashion wear. [ 50 ]
I too transported by the Mode offend,
And while I meant to Praise thee must Commend.
Thy Verse created like thy Theme sublime,
In Number, Weight, and Measure, needs not Rhime.

A. M.



THE Measure is English Heroic Verse without Rime, as that of Homer in Greek, and Virgil in Latin; Rhime 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 Rhime both in longer and shorter Works, as have also long since our best English Tragedies, as a thing of itself, to all judicious ears, triveal, and of no true musical delight; which consists onely 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 Rhime 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.