1674 ca. ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

John Milton

Thomas Ellwood, "On the excellently learned John Milton. An Epitaph" Daily Gazetteer (30 October 1738).



SIR,
The Honours lately paid to MILTON by Mr. Auditor Benson, and the Verses in his praise inserted in your last, brought to my Remembrance a manuscript Epitaph, made by an eminent Author, and one of MILTON'S Pupils, which I have had in my Custody many Years. On looking it o'er, I thought many of the Sentiments were just and noble in the Praise of that Great Man; and at the same time could not help thinking, (some small Allowance being made for their Dress) that they would yield an agreeable Entertainment to the Publick. Of this be assured, you are the first that has had the Offer of it.
Your constant Reader,
CLITO.
Witney, Oct. 23, 1738.

Within this Arch embalm'd doth lie
One whose high Fame can never die;
MILTON, whose most ingenious Pen
Obliged has all Learned Men;
Great his Undertakings were
(None greater of their Kind)
Which sufficiently declare
The Worth and Greatness of his Mind.
Mean Adversaries he declin'd
And Battle with the Chiefest join'd.

Not e'en the Royal Pourtraicture
Securely could before him stand;
But fell and broke
Not able (as it seems) t' indure
The heavenly Stroke
Of this Iconoclastes' Hand.

Thus the so-fam'd EIKON BASILIKE
Became the Trophy of his Victory.

On his Triuimphant Chariot too did wait
One who had long the Crown of Learning wore,
And of Renown had treasur'd up good Store;
But never found an equal Match before,
Which puff'd him up, and made him too elate.

This was the Great Salmasius, he, whose Name
Had tow'r'd so high upon the Wings of Fame;
And never knew till now
What 'twas (alas!) to bow:
For many a gallant Captive (by the Heel)
Had he in Triumph drag'd at's Chariot Wheel,
But now is faln to stoop, and see the Bough
Torn from his own, to deck another's Brow:
This broke his Heart; for (having lost his Fame)
He dy'd, 'tis hard to say, whether thro' Grief or Shame.
Thus Great Salmasius, in his Winding Sheet
Lies prostrate at far Greater MILTON'S Feet,
MILTON! in whom all brave Indowments meet.
The Majesty of Po'sy he reviv'd,
The common Road forsaking,
And unto Helicon a new Way making
To write in Measures without Rhyme contriv'd.

He knew the Beauty of a Verse well made,
Doth in a just and due Proportion lie
Of Parts, true Feet, right Cadence, Symphony
(A thing by vulgar Poets, lightly weigh'd);
Not in the tinkling Chime
Of harsh and far-fetch'd Rhyme.

Two great Examples of this kind he left,
The nat'ral Issue of his teeming Brain,
Th' one, shews how Man of Eden was bereft;
In t' other, Man doth Paradise regain,
So far as naked Notion can attain.

Nature in him a large Foundation laid,
And he had also super-built thereon
A Structure great, indeed, and fair enough,
Of well-prepar'd and finely polish'd Stuff;
Admir'd by all, but equall'd by none.
So that of him it might be said,
And that most truly too,
Nature and Art
Had plaid their Part,
As if they had a Wager laid
Which of them most for him should do.

His natural Abilities
Were doubtless of the largest Size,
And thereunto he surely had acquir'd
Learning as much as could be well desir'd,
More known his Learning was not than admir'd.

Profound his Judgment was, and clear
His Apprehension of the highest Strain;
His Reason all before him down did bear,
So forcible, demonstrative and plain
It did appear.

Lofty Fancy, deep Conceit,
Stile concise, and Language great,
Render'd his Discourse compleat.

Invention never higher rose
In Poetic Strains, or Prose:
In Tongues he so much Skill had got,
He might be call'd the Polyglot.
Ever they 'gainst whom he writ,
Could not but admire his Wit;
And were forced to confess
(For indeed it was in vain
To deny a thing so plain)
That their Parts than his were less.

Unto him the Muses sent,
And that too, not in Compliment,
(For doubtless 'twas his Due,
As all that knew him, knew)
The Title of Most Excellent.
Of which Title may he rest
Now, and ever more possest.
T. E.