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Whatever be the faults of liis.dition, he cannot want the praise of copioufiefs and variety : he was master of his language in its full extent; and has selected the melodious words with such diligence, that from his book alone the Art of English Poetry inight be learned:
After his diction; something must be said of his verfification. The measure, he says, is the English beroick verse without rhynie. Of this mode he had many examples among
the Italians; and fome in his own country. The Earl of Surrey is said to have translated one of Virgil's books without rhyme ; and, befides our tragedies, a few short poems had appeared in blank verse; particularly one tending to reconcile the nation to Raleigh's wild attempt upon Guiana, and probably written by Raleigh himself. These petty performances cannot be supposed to have much influenced Milton, who more probably took bis hint from Trisino's Italia Liberata ; and, finding blank verfe easier than rhyme, was defirous of persuading himself that it is better.
Rhyme, he says, and says truly, is no necesfary' adjunct of true poetry. But perhaps, of poetry as a mental operation, metre or musick is no necessary adjunct : it is however by the mufick of metre that poetry has been discriminated in all languages ; and in languages melodiously constructed with a due proportion of long and short fyllables, metre is sufficient. But one language cannot communicate its rules to another : where metre is scanty and imperfect, some help is neceffary. The mufick of the English heroick line strikes the ear so faintly that it is easily lost, unlefs all the syllables of every line co-operate together : this co-operation can be only obtained by the preservation of every verse unmingled with another, as a distinct system of sounds; and this distinctnefs is obtained and preserved by the artifice of rhyme. The variety of pauses, so much boasted by the lovers of blank verse, changes the measures of an English poet to the periods of a declaimer"; and there are only a few skilful and happy readers of Milton, who enable their audience to perceive where the lines end or begin. Blank
verse, said an ingenious critick, seems to be verse only to the eye.
Poetry may subsist without rhyme, but : English poetry, will not often please ; nor can : rhyme ever be safely fpared but where the subject is able to support itself. Blank verse makes foine approach to that which is called the lapidary Style; has neither the easiness of prose, nor the melody of numbers, and therefore tires by long continuance. Of the Italịan writers without rhyme, whom Milton alleges as precedents, not one is popular ;; what reason could urge in its defence, has, been confuted by the ear,
.: But, whatever be the advantage of rhyme, I cannot prevail on myself to wish that Milton had been a rhymer; for I cannot wish his work to bę other than it is; yet, like other heroes, he is to be admired rather than imitated. He that thinks himself capable of astonishing, may write blank verse; but those that hope only to please, must condescend to rhyme.
The highest praise of genius is original invention. Milton cannot be said to have
contrived the ftruéture of an epick poom, and therefore owes reverence to that vigour and amplitude of mind to which all generations must be indebted for the art of poetical nar: ration, for the texture of the fable, the va. riation of incidents, the interposition of dia. logue, and all the stratagems that surprise and enchain attention. But, of all the borrowers from Homer, Milton is perhaps the leaft indebted. He was naturally a thinker for himself, confident of his own abilities, and disdainful of help or hindrance ; he did not refuse admission to the thoughts or images of his predeceffors, but he did not seek them. From his contemporaries he neither courted nor received support; there is in his writings nothing by which the pride of other authors might be gratified, or favour gained; 110 exchange of praise, nor solicitation of support. His great works were performed under discountenance, and in blindness, but difficulties vanished at his touch; he was born for whatever is arduous ; and his work is not the greatest of heroick poems, only ben cause it is not the first.
BUT L E R.
F the great author of Hudibras there is
a life prefixed to the later editions of his poem, by an unknown writer, and therefore of difputable authority; and fome account is incidentally given by Wood, who confeffes the uncertainty of his own narrative z more however than they knew cannot now be learn od, and nothing remains but to compare and
SAMUEL BUTLER was born in the parish of Streníhám in Worcestershire, according to his biographer, in 1612. This account Dr. Nash finds confirmed by the regifter. He was christened Feb. 5 4