1709 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

John Milton

Isaac Watts, in Preface to Horae Lyricae (1709; 1854) cii-ciii.



I have not set up Milton for a perfect pattern: though he shall be for ever honoured as our deliverer from the bondage. His works contain admirable and unequalled instances of bright and beautiful diction, as well as majesty and serenity of thought. There are several episodes in his longer works, that stand in supreme dignity without a rival; yet all that vast reverence with which I read his Paradise Lost, cannot persuade me to be charmed with every page of it. The length of his periods, and sometimes of his parentheses, runs me out of breath. Some of his numbers seem too harsh and uneasy. I could never believe that roughness and obscurity added any thing to the grandeur of a poem; nor will I ever affect archaisms, exoticisms, and a quaint uncouthness of speech, in order to become perfectly Miltonian. It is my opinion that blank verse may be written with all due elevation of thought, in a modern style, without borrowing back so far as the days of Colin the shepherd, and the reign of the Faery Queen. The oddness of an antique sound gives but a false pleasure to the ear, and abuses the true relish, even when it works delight.