1793 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

John Milton

J. Laws, Esq. of Jamaica, "Ode on Milton" European Magazine 23 (January 1793) 71.



Immortal Milton! thy illustrious name
Stands foremost in the rolls of Fame;
Thy pleasing memory can never die,
But handed down to late posterity,
Ev'n to the end of all-consuming time,
Shall never know decay;
Fresh laurels on the way
Shall crown with added praise thy genius sublime;
And ages yet to come, with transport view
Thy noble works, and give the applause due.

'Twas thou, advent'rous bard, who durst aspire
To tune thy sacred lyre
Free from the shackles of the Gothic age;
When ev'ry monkish tale was made to chime,
And nonsense jingled into rhyme,
Then deem'd as faultless as the sacred page:
Not so thy verse, deep, sonorous, strong;
Heroicly majestic, moves along;
And ev'ry sentence, ev'ry line,
Mysteriously doth shine,
Well fraught with antient lore, and skill divine,
Whilst sage instruction opens to the wise,
Altho' to ignorants, and fools, conceal'd she lies.

No Greek or Roman Bard
Can with thee be compar'd,
Ev'n mighty Homer's self must yield,
The Mantuan Swain must quit the field;
Their narrow subject never could admit
Such lofty flights of human wit;
Beyond the scale of Nature thou hast flown,
And doubtless, by the immortal Spirit fir'd,
Which first the chosen Lawgiver inspir'd,
Hast made the heav'ns, earth, chaos, all thy own.
He that from noisy crouds would fly,
Compos'd of nought but vanity,
And deep sequester'd in some lonely glen,
In studious solitude would sit,
Exploring truths by antient Sages writ,
Let him peruse thy melancholy Man;
But where the youth, inclin'd to festive joy,
Would taste the sweets of mirth without alloy,
Let thy Allegro be his guide,
And Innocence his only pride,
Then Wisdom ne'er shall frown, nor Virtue ever chide.

Pedant Salmasius, to his cost,
Soon mourn'd his reputation lost,
When he, presumptuous, dar'd with thee contend
And thou so valiantly didst Liberty defend.
But had I Dryden's skill,
Or Pope's more courtly wit at will,
The pleasing task too arduous would prove,
In numbers worthy thee, to sing thy praise;
Suffice, that happy with the blest above,
Thou needst no tribute from my humble lays.