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sVy HEN I beheld the Poet blind, yet bold,
"" In slender book his vast design unfold;
Messiah crown'd, God's reconcil'd decree,
Rebelling Angels, the forbidden tree,
Heav'n, Hell, Earth, Chaos, All! the argument
Held me awhile misdoubting his Intent;
That he would ruin (for I saw him strong)
The sacred truths to fable, and old song;
(So Samson grop'd the temple's post in spite)
The world o'er whelming to revenge his sight.

Yet as I read, soon growing less severe,
I lik' d his project, the success did fear;
Through that wide field how he his way should find,
O'er which lame faith leads understanding blind.
Lest he perplex'd the things he would explain,
And what was easy he should render vain.

Or, if a work so infinite he spann'd,
Jealous I was that some less skilful hand
(Such as disquiet always what is well.
And by ill imitating would excel)
Might hence presume the whole creation's day
To change in scenes, and shew it in a play.

Pardon me, mighty Poet, nor despise
My causeless, yet not impious surmise.
But I am now convinc'd, and none will dare
Within thy labours to pretend a share.
Thou hast not miss'd one thought that could be fit,
And all that was improper dost omit:
So that no room is here for writers left,
But to detect their ignorance, or theft.

That majesty which through thy work doth reign, Draws the devout, deterring the profane: And things divine thou treat'st of in such state, As them preserves, and thee inviolate. At once delight and horror on us seize, Thou sing'st with so much gravity and ease; And above human flight dost soar aloft, With plume so strong, so equal, and so soft: The bird nam'd from that Paradise you sing So never flags, but always keeps on wing.

Where could'st thou words of such a compass find? Whence furnish such a vast expanse of mind? Just Heav'n thee, like Tiresias, to requite, Rewards with prophecy thy loss of sight.

Well might'st thou scorn thy readers to allure With tinkling rhyme of thy own sense secure; While the town-bays writes all the while and spells, And, like a pack-horse, tires without his bells: Their fancies like our busby points appear. The poets tag them, we for fashion wear. I too transported by the mode commend, And while I mean to praise thee must offend. Thy verse created like thy theme sublime, In number, weight, and measure, needs not rhyme.




ARGUMENT. This 6rst book proposes first (in brief) the whole subjects Man's disobedience, and the loss thereupon of Paradise wherein he was placed; 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 deep. Which action passed over, the poem hastes into the midst of things; presenting Satan with bis Angels now fallen into Hell, described here not in the centre (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 Angela lying on the burning lake thunder-struck and astonished, after a certain space recovers, as from confusion, calls up him who naxt in order and dignity lay by bim; they confer of their miserable fall. Satan awakens all his s legions, who lay till then in the same manner confounded: they nse, their numbers, array of battle, their chief leaders named, 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 nest 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 pro. phecy, and what to determine thereon, he refers to a full council. What bis associates thence attempt. Pandemoninm, tbe palace of Satan, rises, suddenly built out of the deep; the infernal peers there sit in council.

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f\F 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, till one greater Man
Restore us, and regain the blissful seat, 5

Sing, heav'nly Muse, that on the secret top
Of Oreb, or of Sinai, didst inspire
That shepherd, who first taught the chosen seed.
In the beginning how the Heav'ns and Earth
Hose out of Chaos! Or, if Sion hill 10

Delight thee more, and Siloa's brook, that flow'd
Fast by the oracle of God; I thence
Invoke thy aid to my advent'rous song,
That with no middle flight intends to soar
Above th' Aonian mount, while it pursues 1.5

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, 2O
Dove-like, sat'st brooding on the vast abyss.
And mad'st it pregnant: What in me is dark,
Illumine; what is low, raise and support;
That to the height of this great argument •

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