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may not Paradise Lost be doing this? Nay, and what though the relevancy of the poem to the present soul of the world should have been more impaired by the lapse of time and the change of ideas than we have admitted it to be, and much of the interest of it, as of all the other great poems of the world, should now be historical? Even so what interest it possesses! What a portrait, what a study, of a great English mind of the seventeenth century it brings before us! "I wonder not so much at the poem itself, though worthy "of all wonder," says Bentley in the preface to his Edition of the poem, as "that the author could so abstract his thoughts from his own troubles as to "be able to make it-that, confined in a narrow and to him a dark chamber, "surrounded with cares and fears, he could expatiate at large through the
compass of the whole Universe, and through all Heaven beyond it, and "could survey all periods of time from before the creation to the consum"mation of all things. This theory, no doubt, was a great solace to him "in his affliction, but it shows in him a greater strength of spirit, that made "him capable of such a solace. And it would almost seem to me to be
peculiar to him, had not experience by others taught me that there is that power in the human mind, supported with innocence and conscia virtus, "that can make it shake off all outward uneasiness and involve itself secure "and pleased in its own integrity and entertainment." It is refreshing to be able to quote from the great scholar and critic words showing so deep an appreciation by him of the real significance of the poem which, as an editor, he mangled. Whatever the Paradise Lost is, it is, as Bentley here points out, a monument of almost unexampled magnanimity.
PREFIXED TO THE SECOND EDITION.
IN PARADISUM AMISSAM SUMMI POETÆ
Qui legis Amissam Paradisum, grandia magni
Scribitur et toto quicquid in Orbe latet;
Et sine fine magis, si quid magis est sine fine,
Et tamen hæc hodie terra Britanna legit.
Et quæ cœlestes pugna deceret agros!
Atque ipso graditur vix Michaele minor!
Dum ferus hic stellas protegit, ille rapit!
Et metuit pugnæ non superesse suæ.
Et currus animes, armaque digna Deo,
Excidit attonitis mens omnis, et impetus omnis,
Et quos fama recens vel celebravit anus:
ON PARADISE LOST.
WHEN I beheld the Poet blind, yet bold,
Yet, as I read, soon growing less severe, I liked his project, the success did fearThrough that wide field how he his way should find O'er which lame Faith leads Understanding blind; Lest he perplexed the things he would explain, And what was easy he should render vain. Or, if a work so infinite he spanned, 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 show it in a play. Pardon me, mighty Poet; nor despise My causeless, yet not impious, surmise. But I am now convinced, and none will dare Within thy labours to pretend a share.
Thou hast not missed. one thought that could be fit,
The 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 ;