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of Milton was scarcely known and little appreciated during his lifetime, the striking fact appears of these numerous publications of his poems, at a period when the sale and advertisement of books was very limited, the range of readers so circumscribed, and the political and religious factions and commotions entirely occupied men's minds. The anecdote of Sir John Denham's entering the House of Commons, with a proof-sheet of Paradise Lost, wet from the press, and on being questioned concerning the paper, declaring it was “part of the noblest poem that ever was written in any language or in any age,” has been doubted, though without reason; and, if true, proves thus early a just and public appreciation of the genius of Milton. In 1678, a third edition of Paradise Lost was published. Paradise Regained, and Samson Agonistes were reprinted in 1980, from which time innumerable successive editions have issued from the press.
Lawes' edition of Comus was printed in 1637, and Lycidas had appeared in 1638, in the Cambridge verses. Milton's correspondence with so many of the most eminent European Literati, and their universal resort to his house when visiting England, attest his early and public reputation. The Earl of Dorset, Fleetwood, Shepard, and Dryden, bear early and ample testimony to his merit. Dryden, the poet laureat, in 1674, had adapted from Milton a published opera, entitled, “The State of Innocence.” In his preface, Dryden observes, “ What I have here borrowed, will be so easily discerned from my mean productions, that I shall not need to point the reader to the places the original being undoubtedly one of the greatest, most noble and sublime poems, which either this age or nation has produced.” In Dennis's Letters, Moral and Critical, 1721, p. 75, Dennis writes, “ Dryden, however, at this time knew not half the extent of Milton's excellence, as more than twenty years afterwards he confessed to me.” In Roscommon's Essay on Translated Verse, published in 1682, a passage of nearly thirty lines cites an abstract of Milton's battle of the fallen angels as a specimen of the “noblest kind of verse.”
The first express and published prose eulogy of Paradise Lost that has yet been noticed, is by Edward Philips, in his edition of Buchlerus, published exactly two years after Paradise Lost. He thus speaks of his illustrious relative :-“ Johannes Miltonius, præter alia quæ scripsit elegantissma, tum Anglicè, tum Latinè, nuper publici juris PARADISUM AMISSUM, Poema, quod, sive sublimitatem argumenti, sive leporem simul et majestatem styli, sive sublimitatem inventionis, sive similitudines et descriptiones quam maximè naturales, respiciamus, verè Heroicum, ni fallor, audiet:
plurimum enim suffragiis qui non nesciunt judicare, censetur per. fectionem hujus generis poematis assecutum esse."
“John Miltov, besides other things in the most elegant style of composition which he has written, both in Latin and English, has lately presented at the bar of the public PARADISE Lost: a Poem, which, whether we consider the majesty of the subject, or the united poignancy and loftiness of the style, or the sublimity of the invention, or the propriety and felicity of the similitudes and descriptions, will receive, if I do not mistake, the name of truly heroic, and is adjudged by the suffrages of many, not unqualified to decide such a question, to have reached the perfection of this species of poetry.”
The following commendatory verses by Barrow and Marvel, before noticed as prefixed to the second edition of Paradise Lost, are additional proofs of the early and public estimation of Mil ton's muse.
IN PARADISUM AMISSAM SUMMI POETÆ JOHANNIS MILTONI..
Qui legis Amissam Paradisum, grandia magni
Carmina Miltoni, quid nisi cuncta legis?
Et fata, et fines continet iste liber.
Scribitur et toto quicquid in orbe latet;
Sulphureumque Erebi flammivomumque specus ;
Quæque colunt summi lucida regna poli ;
Et sine fine Chaos, et sine fine Deus ;
In Christo erga homines conciliatus amor.
Et tamen hæc hodie terra Britanna legit.
Quæ canit, et quanta, prælia dira tuba.
Et quæ coelestes pugna deceret agros !
Atque ipso graditur vix Michaele minor !
Dum ferus hic stellas protegit, ille rapit!
Et non mortali desuper igne pluunt :
Et metuit pugnæ non supresse suæ,
Et currus animes, armaque digna Deo,
Erumpunt torvis fulgura luminibus,
Et flammæ vibrant, et vera tonitrua rauco
Admistris flammis insonuere Polo,
Et cassis dextris irrita tela cadunt.
Infernis certant condere se tenebris.
Et quos fama recens vel celebravit anus. Hæc quicunque leget tantum cecinisse putabit Mæonidem ranas, Virgilium culices,
SAMUEL BARROW, M, D.
ON PARADISE LOST.
WHEN I beheld the poet blind, yet bold,
Yet as I read, soon growing less severe,
Pardon me, mighty poet, nor despise
That majesty which through thy work doth reign
Where couldst thou words of such a compase find ?
ANDREW MARVEL. The numerous English poetical eulogia on Milton would alone form a volume. But we must content ourselves with inserting the following elegant translations by Cowper of the complimentary verses addressed to him, in Latin and Italian, by distinguished literary contemporaries.
THE NEAPOLITAN JOHN BAPTIST MANSO, MARQUIS OF VILLA, TO THF
ENGLISHMAN JOHN MILTON.
AN. EPIGRAM ADDRESSED TO THE ENGLISHMAN JOHN MILTON, A POET
WORTHY OF THREE LAURELS, THE GRECIAN, LATIN, AND ETRUSCAN,
MELES and Mincio, both your urns depress,
TO JOHN MILTON.
AN ODE ADDRESSED TO THE ILLUSTRIOUS ENGLISHMAN MR. JOHN MILTON,
BY SIGNIOR ANTONIO FRANCINI, GENTLEMAN, OF FLORENCE.
Exalt me, Clio, to the skies,
In laureate garlands of renown,
Time's wasteful hunger cannot prey
Its record graven on the heart;
In ocean's blazing flood enshrined
The prowess of the world excels ;
To Virtue, driven from other lands,
Her smiles they feel divinely sweet.
Zeuxis, all energy and flame,
Resounding ever in his ear;
The bee with subtlest skill endued
O'er meadow and parterre, profuse;
An artist of celestial aim,
The steps of Virtue toil'd to trace,
From all, in Florence born, or taught
Immortal honors justly share,
Babel confused, and with her towers
With all her tongues confused in vain,
The secret things of heaven and earth,