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The measure is English heroic verse without rhyme,
as that of Homer in Greek, and of Virgil in Latin; rhyme being no necessary adjunct or true ornament of poem or good verse, in longer works especially, but the invention of a barbarous age, to set off wretched matter and lame metre; grac'd indeed since by the use of some famous modern poets, carried away by custom, but much to their own vexation, hindrance, and constraint to express many things otherwise, and for the most part, worse than else they would have express'd them. Not without cause, therefore, some both Italian and Spanish poets of prime note have rejected rhyme both in longer and shorter works, as have also long since our best English tragedies, as a thing of itself, to all judicious ears, trivial, and of no true musical delight; which consists only in apt numbers, fit quantity of syllables, and the sense variously drawn out from one verse into another, not in the jingling sound of like endings, a fault avoided by the learned Ancients both in poetry and all good oratory. This neglect then, of rhyme, so little is to be taken for a defect, though it may seem so perhaps to vulgar readers,
that it rather is to be esteemed an example set, the first in English, of ancient liberty recovered to heroic poem, from the troublesome and modern bondage of rhyming
The Argument. This First Book proposes, first in brief, the whole subject, Man's.
disobedience, and the loss thereupon of Paradise wherein he was plac’d: then touches the prime cause of his fall, the serpent, or rather Satan in the serpent; who revolting from God, and drawing to his side many legions of angels, was by the command of God driven out of Heaven with all his crew into the great Dcep. Which action pass'd over, the Poem hastes into the midst of things, presenting Satan with his angels now falling into Hell, describ'd here, not in the center (for Heaven and earth may be supposed as yet not made, certainly not yet accursed) but in a place of utter darkness, fitliest called Chaos: here Satan with his angels lying on the burning lake, thunderstruck and astonish’d, after a certain space recovers as from confusion, calls up him who next in order and dignity lay by him; they confer of their miserable fall. Satan awakens all his legions, who lay till then in the same manner confounded : they rise, their numbers, array of battel, their chief leaders nam'd, according to the idols known afterwards in Canaan and the countries adjoining. To these Satan directs his speech, comforts them with hope yet of regaining Heaven, but tells them, lastly, of a new world and new kind of creature to be created, according to an ancient prophecy or report in Heaven: for that angels were long before this visible, creation was the opinion of many ancient Fathers. To find out the truth of this prophecy, and what to determine thereon, he refers to a full council.' What his associates thence attempt. Pandemoniuin the palace of Satan rises, suddenly built out of the Deep: the infernal Peers there sit in council. Of Man's first disobedience, and the fruit Of that forbidden Tree, whose mortal taste Brought death into the world, and all our woe, With loss of Eden, tillione greater Man Restore us, and regain the blissful seat; qu br.15
Sing heav'nly Muse | that on the secret top
15 Things unattempted yet in prose or rhyme. And chiefly Thou, O Spi'rit! that dost prefer Before all temples th' upright heart and pure, Instruct me, for Thou know'st; Thou from the first Wast present, and with mighty wings outspread 20 Dove-like satst brooding on the vast abyss, And mad'st it pregnant: what in me is dark Illumin, what is low raise and
support; That to the height of this great argument I may assert eternal Providence,
25 And justify the ways of God to men.
Say first, for Heav'n hides nothing from thy view, Nor the deep tract of Hell, say first what cause Mov'd our grand parents, in that happy state, Favor'd of Heav'n so highly, to fall off 30 From their Creator, and transgress his will For one restraint, lords of the world besides ? Who first seduc'd them to that foul revolt? Th' infernal Serpent; he it was, whose guile, Stirr'd up with envy and revenge, deceiv'd 35
The Mother of mankind, what time his prido
60 A dungeon horrible on all sides round
furnace flam'd, yet from those flames No light, but rather darkness visible Serv'd only to discover sights of woe, Regions of sorrow, doleful shades, where Peace 65
As one great