1749 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

John Milton

Menleco, "To the Memory of John Milton, on reading his Paradise Lost" British Magazine 4 (November 1749) 483-85.



In Milton's page, where ev'ry line displays
The noble author in immortal lays,
Where judgment sound, and sense, alike can charm,
To captivate the breast, and bosom warm;
Amaz'd, we wonder! reading, we admire!
And think, some God the author did inspire:
Nor think that man to such a height can soar,
Unless he's aided by some heav'nly pow'r;
Where sense, religion, all in him combine,
Candid the maxims, moral and divine.
Advent'rous page bespeaks the author bold,
A noble diction vast designs t' unfold:
Great as the theme, his flight, in eager strain,
And tow'rs aloft, amid the starry train;
From pole to pole he skips, in airy flight,
Extends his pinions to the realms of light:
Unequals beauty fil'd the unbounded lays,
And sings immortal to JEHOVAH'S praise.
There Satan, leader of the Stygian pow'rs,
Conspires rebellion in the peaceful bow'rs;
He in the quarter of the north appears,
Refulgent, dazzling with his mighty peers:
A council grand the lofty poet draws,
Vaunting admire, and Satan gains applause.
One, only one, oppos'd the base intent,
And reas'ning, speaks, to stop the dire invent;
On him revengeful pour their threat'ning heat,
And vows that Heav'n of war shall be the seat.
Forth journeying thro' the Heav'ns (amazing thought!)
Two furious armies are to battle brought;
Where shields and helmets, spears, a dazzling shew,
Each spirit monstrous, all to battle go:
In furious combat Satan overthrown,
Hurl'd headlong, falling to the sulphur'ous gloom.
Here sinks the muse, and quits the Heav'nly light,
And wanders thro' the vast abyss of night,
Describing Satan in that horrid plight;
His sinking thoughts imaginations tell,
Infernal councils in the heart of Hell.
Satan conspires man's ruin, GOD to spight,
And weary, travels thro' the gloom of night.

Here bids his muse ascend the new-made world,
And leave curs'd spirits into ruin hurl'd.
The earth's creation with what beauty deck'd,
Noble the theme, by no mean language check'd,
The lofty lays assume a softer thought,
And Paradise with transient beauties fraught;
With harmony there sing a lover's song,
There Eve transports her Adam with meek tongue;
There Paradise bloom'd in its early deat,
The care of angels, and of man the seat.
Thrice happy Adam! hadst thou kept thy place,
No wand'ring steps had brought thee to disgrace;
There seraphs guarding, warn'd thee from the tree;
'Twas Eve that tempted first the serpent; she
Both cropt and eat o' the interdicted branch,
Both sinning fell, and into ruin launch'd.
On earth descends the SON and GOD of all,
On impious man a gentle curse let fall:
Speak, noble muse, not man alone was curst,
The serpent guilty eats eternal dust.
The nicer judgment first lets Adam know;
Michael, descending to his shade below,
Darts from imperial Heav'ns to this globe,
To human shape lets fall th' immortal robe;
Foretells to Adam of the future times,
And points the Sav'our in his noble lines;
Then gently leads them to the eastern gate,
They part with Eden, once their happy seat.

Here falls the pen, here stops the lofty muse,
No idle nonsense readers to amuse;
He ends with beauty, as he first begun;
Connects the noble, meaner thoughts to shun;
Soars in a strain none but himself could sing,
In gravest language wakes the sounding string;
With eloquence pronounce th' unequal'd task,
Decks the beginning, and adorns the last.
In vain my eager muse attempts to rise,
To sing thy praise, thou truly great and wise.
What breast can fathom, or, what tongue can tell,
What vast ideas did thy bosom swell?
How shall I give to thee the praise that's due?
Far short, my muse; to thee I bid adieu.