1719 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

John Milton

Giles Jacob, in Poetical Register: or the Lives and Characters of the English Dramatick Poets (1719) 183-84.



This Great Man liv'd in the Reign of King Charles I. During the Civil Wars, and after the Murder of that Monarch, he was made Under-Secretary of State to Oliver Cromwell, he being a strenuous Defender of the Power and Liberty of the People: And his Controversy with Salmatius render'd his Name famous throughout Europe, in the writing of which he was so assiduous in Study Day and Night, that he lost his Eyes; but his Adversary had a worse Fate, and is said to have lost his life out of Vexation, Mr. Milton, in the Opinion of the World, having the better of the Controversy. After the Restoration, by the Lenity of King Charles II, he was suffer'd to keep a School at Greenwich. He writ two Dramatick Pieces.

I. A Masque; presented at Ludlow-Castle, before John Earl of Bridgewater, Lord President of Wales, 1634.

II. SAMPSON AGONISTES; A Tragedy, 1682. The Author has endeavoured to imitate the Tragedy of the Greek Poets, and has not divided his Play into Acts, wherein he seems to have followed Sophocles. It is founded on the 13th of Judges. Joseph, Antiq. l. 5. Tornier, Salian, &c.

This Author has made himself Immortal by his Poem call'd, Paradise Lost; and I think his Character is finely drawn by Mr. Dryden in the following excellent Epigram upon that Work.

Three Poets in three different Ages born,
Greece, Italy, and England did adorn.
The first in Loftiness of Thought surpast:
The next in Majesty; in both the Last.
The Force of Nature could no father go;
To make a Third, she join'd the other Two.