1713 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

John Milton

Henry Felton, in Dissertation on Reading the Classics (1713; 1715) 257-59.



Milton, my Lord, is the Assertor of Poetic Liberty, and would have freed us from the Bondage of Rhime, but like Sinners, and like Lovers, we hug our Chain, and are pleased in being Slaves. Some indeed have made some faint Attempts to break it, but their Verse had all the Softness and Effeminacy of Rhime without the Music: And Dryden himself, who sometimes struggled to get loose, always relapsed, and was faster bound than ever; but Rhime was his Province, and he could make the Tinkling of his Chains harmonious. Mr. Philips hath trod the nearest in his great Master's Steps, and hath equalled him in his Verse more than he falleth below him in the Compass and Dignity of his Subject. The Shilling is truly Splendid in his Lines, and his Poems will live longer than the unfinished Castle, as long as Blenheim is remembered, or Cyder drunk in England. But I have digressed from Milton, and that I may return, and say all in a Word: His Style, His Thoughts, his Verse are as superiour to the Generality of other Poets, as his Subject. His Disloyalty alone throws a Cloud upon his Glory, and we stand amazed to think that Man could ever be a Rebel, who had seen, as it were, and described, in all the Pomp of Terror, the Rebellion and Punishment of the Apostate Angels.