1766 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

John Milton

Anonymous, "Milton" Gazetteer and New Daily Advertiser (1 September 1766).



Oh for exalted thoughts, celestial fire!
Such as did once our poet's soul inspire;
My verse should then in tuneful numbers shine,
And godlike spirit animate each line;
Then distant realms should bear the pleasing sound,
And MILTON be with deathless honours crown'd.
E'en Homer's self the contest should give o'er,
And Virgil reign in Majesty no more.

In vain his praises we attempt to scan,
Unable to perform the mighty plan;
Yet, tho' unskilful to touch the vocal lyre,
Tho' strangers to the muses tuneful choir,
With extacy his genius we admire.
For with amazing force his sacred lays
Engage our wonder, and transcend our praise;
These safely may defy Barbarian Rage,
And stand the rude attacks of Time and Age.

Divine enthusiasm glow'd within his breast,
And sacred frenzy all his soul possest:
His soaring fancy reach'd the tree sublime,
And nobly scorn'd th' inglorious chains of rhyme;
No vulgar hero e'er employs his pen,
He climbs to heav'n and shuns to sing of men.
Here view, with equal terror and delight,
Angel with angel join'd in glorious fight
With strength divine, and more than human might.
Here Satan proud, rebellious, scorns to fly,
There Michael's valour strikes the wond'ring eye;
But when the poet quits these aweful scenes
To paint of Paradise, the gay demesnes,
In vain we seek for language to express,
A vision so profuse in pleasantness:
Graceful, like Eve, his varied lines appear,
And charm with true delight the ravish'd ear.

Thus, whensoe'er he our attention draws,
He soars superior to the critic's laws;
His soul inspir'd no trifling rules could bind,
Nor rigid precepts cramp his ample mind.

Hail, happy poet, genius truly great!
With pleasing thoughts and nervous strength elate,
Thy verses shall be read in ages hence,
The standard true of poetry and sense:
Thou mad'st the beauties of our language known,
And England boasts an Homer all her own.