1824 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

John Milton

William Hazlitt, in Select British Poets (1824) in Works, ed. Howe (1932) 9:237.



MILTON was one of the four great English poets, who must certainly take precedence over all others, I mean himself, Spenser, Chaucer, and Shakespear. His subject is not common or natural indeed, but it is of preternatural grandeur and unavoidable interest. He is altogether a serious poet; and in this differs from Chaucer and Shakespear, and resembles Spenser. He has sublimity in the highest degree; beauty in an equal degree; pathos in a degree next to the highest; perfect character in the conception of Satan, of Adam and Eve; fancy, learning, vividness of description, stateliness, decorum. He seems on a par with his subject in Paradise Lost; to raise it, and to be raised with it. His style is elaborate and powerful, and his versification, with occasion harshness and affectation, superior in harmony and variety to all other blank verse. It has the effect of a piece of fine music. His smaller pieces, Lycidas, L'Allegro, Il Penseroso, the Sonnets, &c., display proportional excellence, from their beauty, sweetness, and elegance.