1747 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

John Milton

Y., "On some late Attempts to depreciate Milton" Gentleman's Magazine 17 (August 1747) 395.



To toil for fame asks all the poet's pains:
And yet how barren is the wreath he gains!
Thus Milton, scarce distinguish'd, bow'd to fate,
And the dear purchas'd lawrel comes too late!
Yet in the grave that lawrel found its root,
And flourish'd high — and bore immortal fruit.
His muse a thousand imitators fir'd,
His muse by distant nations lov'd, admir'd,
In her all Homer's — Virgil's beauties shone,
And Britain call'd the master-piece her own.

With pedant zeal, a modern Bavius cries,
"Milton's a genius! — how encomium lyes!
From foreign stores his boasted plan he drew,
With borrow'd wings, like Icarus, he flew!
Like sly Prometheus stole the heav'nly ray,
That made his man, and warm'd the living clay:
Too long the wretch has fill'd the throne of fame,
Unjust usurper! with a spurious claim!
Not his, the sacred page the boaster writ,
A Jesuit taught him art, a Dutchman wit;
My pen the shameful plagiary shall show,
And blast the bays that bind his guilty brow!"

Enervate critic! — cease thy fruitless rage,
Nor touch with impious hands the hallow'd page!
Bury'd a-new in learning's rev'rend dust,
Let good Masenius unmolested rust;
Let Grotius the Civilian's honour boast,
But as a poet — let his name be lost!
These were like swallows, when the skies are clear
Who skim the earth, and rise to disappear!
Like Jove's own bird, our Milton took his flight
To worlds unknown, and pierc'd the realms of light;
Tho' heav'n, all-wise corporeal sight deny'd;
Internal day, the lesser loss supply'd;
Disdaining succour, and oblig'd to none,
His genius beam'd expansive like the sun:
And till that glorious orb shall cease to shine,
Till sick'ning nature feel her last decline,
Truth shall preserve great Milton's honour'd page:
From Time's encroachment, and from Envy's rage;
Shall blast all vain attempts to wound his fame,
And with new glories grace his honour'd name.