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thing led him to recur to Psalm-translation. On a few successive days of August 1653 he dictated metrical versions of the first Eight of the Psalms.
were done on a new principle.
These versions, however, They did not profess to be
close to the original, nor were they in the ordinary service metre. On the contrary, very various metres were employed, some of them quite uncommon; and no two of the Eight Psalms were rendered in the same metre. Perhaps the main
intention was to try the effect of such a freedom of metre.
SCRAPS OF TRANSLATED VERSE FROM THE PROSE
It was Milton's laudable habit, and one rather unusual in his day, not to trouble the readers of his English pamphlets and other writings with quotations in Latin and Greek, but, where he did have occasion to quote a Latin or Greek author, either to give the English sense of the passage, or to annex the English sense to the quoted bit of Latin or Greek. So with Italian. Hence, when he wanted to quote a line or two from a Latin, Greek, or Italian poet, or a passage of Latin verse occurring in a prose author, he generally took the trouble to translate it offhand himself at the moment. such cases blank verse came easiest, and all the scraps of the kind in his prose writings are in blank verse. He did not think it worth while to collect these for either the first or the second edition of his Poems; but they have very properly been sought out and placed in later editions.
TO THE LATIN
THE Latin Poems were distinctly divided by Milton himself, in both editions, into two Books or sets,-an "ELEGIARUM LIBER," or "BOOK OF ELEGIES"; and a "SYLVARUM LIBER," or " BOOK OF SYLVÆ." The word Sylva (literally "a Wood") was the name given by the Latin authorcraft of the Empire, as we learn from Quintilian, to any rough thing written off at a heat; and hence the Miscellanies of many poets are printed in their works under the title of Sylva. The distinction made by Milton between his ELEGIÆ or ELEGIES and his SYLVÆ or MISCELLANIES seems to have been one of metrical form merely, and not of matter. Among the ELEGIES he put all pieces, of whatever kind, and whether properly "elegiac" or not in the sense of "pensive" or mournful," that were written in the elegiac metre, of alternate Hexameters and Pentameters, so much used by Tibullus, Propertius, and his favourite Ovid. Among the SYLVÆ or MISCELLANIES, on the other hand, he put all pieces written in other kinds of verse, whether in Hexameters only, or in such more complex Horatian measures as Alcaics and varied Iambics. Later editors, indeed, have taken the liberty of cutting off a few of the smaller pieces from the end of the Book of Elegies, and combining them with two or three scraps of Latin verse from the prose-pamphlets, so as to constitute a third brief book, called EPIGRAMMATUM LIBER, or BOOK OF EPIGRAMS. But, though the few pieces thus thrown together are of the nature of Epigrams, and some of them like Martial's Epigrams, the liberty seems unwarrantable. Milton made the distinction into ELEGIES and SYLVÆ suffice, and we must do the same.