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This volume exhibits those poems of Milton, of which a second editon, with some slender additions, appeared in 1673, while the author was yet living, under the title, “ Poems upon feve“ ral occafions, by Mr. John Milton. Both En“ glish and Latin, &c. Composed at several “ times." In this collection our author did not include his PARADISE REGAINED and SAMSON AGONISTES, as some later editors have done. Those two pieces, forming a single volume by themselves, had just before been printed together, in 1671, for Milton here intended only an edition of his Juvenile Poems.
The chief purpose of the Notes is to explain our author's allufions, to illustrate or to vindicate his beauties, to point out his imitations both of others and of himself, to elucidate his obsolete diction, and by the adduction and juxtaposition of parallels universally gleaned both from his poetry and prose, to ascertain his favourite words, and to shew the peculiaries of his phraseology. And thus some of the Notes, those I mean which relate to his imitations of himfelf, and to his language, have a more general effect, and are applicable to all Milton's writings.
Among the English poets, those readers who trust to the late commentators will be led to
believe, that our author imitated Spenser and Shakespeare only. But his style, expression, and more extensive combinations of diction, together with many of his thoughts, are also to be traced in other English poets, who were either contemporaries or predecessors, and of whom many are now not commonly known, Of this it has been a part of my task to produce proofs. Nor have his imitations from Spenser and Shakespeare been hitherto sufficiently noted.
... When Milton wrote these poems, many traditionary, superstitions, not yet worn out in the popular belief, adhered to the poetry of the times. Romances and fabulous narratives were still in fashion, and not yet driven away by puritans and usurpers. To ideas of this fort, and they corresponded with the complexion of his genius, allusions often appear even in Milton's elder poetry: but it was natural that they should be found at least as largely in his early pieces, which were professedly written in a lighter strain, at a period when they more universally prevailed, and were more likely to be caught by a young poet. Much imagery in these
is founded on this source of fiction. Hence arose obscurities, which have been overlooked or mifinterpreted : and thus the force of many strikingly poetical passages has been weakened or unperceived, because their origin was unknown,
unexplored, or misunderstood. Coeval books, which might clear such references, were therefore to be consulted : and a new line of commentary was to be pursued. Comparatively, the claffical annotator has here but liitle to do. Doctor Newton, an excellent scholar, was unacquainted with the treasures of the Gothic library. From his more folid and rational studies, he never deviated into this idle track of reading. Milton, at least in these poems, may be reckoned an old English poet'; and therefore here requires that illustration, without which no old English poet can be well illustrated.
Hitherto I have been speaking of the Notes to the English poems. As to those on the poEMATA LATINA, of which something has already been incidentally said, they may have their use in unfolding many passages even to the learned reader. These pieces contain several curious circumstances of Milton's early life, situations, friendships, and connections; which are often fo transiently or implicitly noticed, as to need examination and enlargement. It also seemed useful to Thew, which of the antient Roman poets were here Milton's models, and how far and in what instances they have been copied. Here a new fource of criticism on Milton, and which displays him in a new light and character, was opened. That English notes are joined with a Latin text, may be censured as an inconfift
ency, or as an arbitrary departure from the cuftomary practice. But I know not any satisfac- . tory reason, why books in a learned or unfamiliar language, should be always explained in a language equally difficult.
It was no part of my plan to add to my own the Notes of my predecessors. Perhaps it has happened, that some of my remarks have been anticipated by doctor Newton and others. Such coincidences are accidental and undesigned. I have been favoured with a few Notes by the late Mr. Bowle, the learned and ingenious publisher of Don Quixote, extracted from his interleaved copy of Milton's second edition of these poems. A few others have been communicated by my brother; and I am convinced that my reader will concur with me in wishing, that his indispensable engagements would have permitted him to communicate many more. These valuable contributions are constantly marked with the names of their respective authors : as are some observations of Bishop Warburton, and of Bishop Hurd, distinguished by the initial letters of their names, W. and H., and which were kindly communicated to me by the latter of these two learned prelates.
I must add one or two more circumstances relating to my revisal of this volume. I have found it expedient to alter or enlarge Milton's VOL. I.
own titles, which seemed to want fulness and precision, yet preserving their form and substance. Nor have I scrupulously followed the order used in his own editions, which yet
I have not greatly violated. In disturbing the series of the pieces, my meaning was, not to study capricious and useless novelty, but to accommodate the reader, and to introduce uniformity, by a more methodical but obvious arrangement. I have endeavoured to render the text as uncorrupt and perspicuous as possible, not only by examining and comparing the authentic copies published under the author's immediate inspection, but by regulating the punctuation, of which Milton appears to have been habitually careless.
THIS new edition of Milton's Poems was completely finished for the press, and delivered to the printer, with the many alterations and large additions that now appear, some months before the lamented death of the editor. Among the additions will be found Remarks on the Greek Verses of Milton, by the learned Mr. C. Burney; and also, what the lovers of this great poet will look upon as a curiosity, his last Will and Testament, in which will be seen, many circumstances of his Life, Manners, and Habits, not known before.