1691 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

John Milton

Gerard Langbaine, in Account of the English Dramatick Poets (1691) 375-77.



An Author that liv'd in the Reign of King Charles the Martyr. Had his Principles been as good as his Parts, he had been an Excellent Person; but his demerits towards his Sovereign, has very much sullied his Reputation. He has writ several Pieces both in Verse and Prose: and amongst others two Dramas, of which we shall first give an Account, viz.

Samson Agonistes, a Dramatick Poem; printed 8vo. Lond. 1680. Our Author has endeavour'd to imitate the Tragedy of the Ancient Greek Poets; 'tis writ in Blank Verse of ten Syllables, which the Author prefers to Rime. His Reasons are too long to be transcribed; but those who have the Curiosity, may read them at the Entrance of his Paradice lost. The Chorus is introduced after the Greek Manner, and (says my Author) "The Measure of its Verses is of all sorts, called by the Greeks Monostrophic, or rather Apolelymenon, without regard had to Strophe, Antistrophe, or Epod; which were a kind of Stanza's fram'd only for the Musick, than used with the Chorus that sung; not essential to the Poem, and therefore not material: or being divided into Stanza's, or Pauses, they may be called Allaeostrophia. Division into Act and Scene, referring chiefly to the Stage, (to which this Work never was intended) is here omitted." In this the Author seems to follow Sophocles, whose Plays are not divided into Acts. I take this to be an Excellent Piece; and as an Argument of its Excellency, I have before taken Notice, that Mr. Dryden has transferred several Thoughts to his Aurengzebe. The Foundation of the History is in Holy Writ: See Judges Ch. 13, &c. Josephus Antiq. l. 5. Torniel, Salian, &c.

Masque, presented at Ludlow Castle 1634. on Michaelmass Night, before the Right Honourable John, Earl of Bridgewater, Viscount Brackley, Ld. President of Wales, and One of his Majesties most Honourable Privy Council; printed 4to. Lond. 1687. and dedicated to the Right Honourable John, Lord Viscount Brackley, Son and Heir Apparent to the Earl of Bridgewater, &c. The Publisher acquaints his Patron, that "Altho' not openly acknowledged by the Author, yet it is a Legitimate Off-spring; so lovely, and so much desired, that the often copying of it hath tir'd his Pen, to give his several Friends Satisfaction, and brought him to a Necessity of producing it to the publick view." The principal Persons of this Masque, were the Lord Brackley, Mr. Thomas Egerton, the Lady Alice Egerton.

Our Author's other Pieces in Verse, are his Paradice lost, an Heroick Poem, in twelve Books. I know not when it was first printed, but there came out not long since a very fair Edition in Fol. with Sculptures, printed Lond. 1689. His Paradice regain'd, a Poem in four Books, is fitted likewise to be bound with it. He publisht some other Poems in Latin and English, printed 8vo. Lond. 1645. Nor was he less Famous for History than Poetry; witness his History of Brittain, from the first Traditional Beginning of the Norman Conquest; printed 4to. Lond. 1670. He writ several other Pieces, as a Latin Piece called, Pro populo Anglicano, Defensio contra Salmasium, 12mo. Lond. 1652. The Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce, in two Books, printed 4to. Lond. 1644. this being answered by an Anonymous Writer, was reply'd to by our Author, in a Book which he called Collasterion, printed 4to. Lond. 1654. He write besides a Piece called Chief Places of Scripture, concerning Marriage and Divorce; printed Lond. 1645. Sr. Robert Filmer (if I mistake not) writ against him, in his Observations concerning the Original of Government, printed 4to. Lond. 1652.