1707 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

John Milton

Anonymous, "Of the Inconveniency, and in Contempt of Rhime" Monthly Miscellany, or Memoirs for the Curious 1 (1707) 153.



Say Muse, for only injur'd you can tell;
Injur'd because thy Flights are barr'd by Rhime;
Those dire Obstructions, Clogs of Eloquence,
And tuneful Reasons, sweeter Harmony,
That sounds through all succeeding Languages,
Whose mortal Change Corruptions must sustain;
That, like the beauteous tops of Monuments,
Sink further down at every nod of Time,
At length dissolve to dark Oblivion,
And drown their Patron' Mem'ry by degrees.
But Reason born of Mind's Stability;
And fair Conception never can decay;
Nor like the sound of Rhime or Phrase impair,
And languish till they both decripit are.

Say then (since Rhimes so wickedly intrude,
And vitiate every Virtue of the Mind;
Deluding are to all, and like a Plague
Continue and contaminate thy Verse)
How thou regardless ar't of them, and why
Thou damn'st their spurious Rise and Progeny,
Whose Memory only entertains as Friends;
Because, like Bees us'd to that certain Hive,
Cannot be made to quit their known Abode.
How can their Sound be grateful with a Sting,
Or Hony sweet, since from the leaves of Sence,
Which more sagacious Reason loath'd and left,
And bore the nobler Part of Phrase away?

'Tis true, when Creech and Dryden strove t' out please
The Nation's rav'nous Ear as well as Mind,
They then with solid Rhime did point each Line,
Like Arrows with their Adamantine Heads,
And shot them home by strength of Reason's Bow;
Not only pierc'd our Ears, but Mind at which they aim'd.

See Chaucer's Rhimes, like Autumn Fruits are fall'n,
Transmitted, vanish'd, and consum'd away,
And had not Fancy joyn'd her Friendly Charms,
The very Trees on which they grew had droop'd;
But still the sappy Sence remains in force;
For Fancy's pregnant Soil sends fresh Supplies,
Which from beneath the mossy Park of Phrase
We still receive, and still admiring tast.

The curst Devise of Pagan Priests to stem
The Rise of Reason and the Spring of Sence,
Was gingling Rhime, to enchant th' listening Herd,
And fill their Memories with it's empty sound,
Which bore their doubtful Sentences to mind;
So sunk whole Ages down in Ignorance,
And lull'd even all Inquiries asleep.
Still that Deceit effectual more might prove,
To sight they shap'd their Verses into form
Of Moons, of Organ-pipes, of Darts, &c.
Each Serpentine, and both ends Rhim'd alike
To stun with sound the curious Intellect.
And still the nauseous gingling Sounds crept in,
And dull the keenest Appetites to Wit;
By rendering the Sence ungrateful to the Tast,
And laying the Mind and noble Reason wast.
—Spight then of all the Heathenish brood of Rhimes,
To which I no more adhere, but shake my Pen,
And leave those Idol Crambo's and be gone
To seek new Fancies—
Nor shall a Rhime invade my guarded Lines,
But when, by chance in Sense, they breed like Twins.

Milton's high Sence, and swift Ideas flew,
Sought mighty Flights and Acquisitions new,
He reconcil'd to Humane Sence and Thought,
Lucif'ran Wars, and vast Amusements wrote
Concerning Man's great loss of Paradice,
And shew'd Caelestial Facts to mortal Eyes;
Unclogg'd with Rhime and vain invented Tone,
He soar'd to Heaven and brought its Records down;
His single Phaenix Muse by Time was tir'd,
Flew high and scorch'd her Wings and so expir'd,
Till whose last Ashes shall her Kind produce,
Will ne'er be found so singular a Muse.