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which they could not but have hit on before among the rudiments of grammar, but that sublime art which in Aristotle's Poetics, in Horace, and the Italian commentaries of Castelvetro, Tasso, Mazzoni, and others, teaches what the laws are of a true epic poem, what of a dramatic, what of a lyric, what decorum is, which is the grand masterpiece to observe. This would make them soon perceive what despicable creatures our common rimers and play-writers be, and show them what religious, what glorious and magnificent use might be made of poetry, both in divine and human things. From hence, and not till now, will be the right season of forming them to be able writers and composers in every excellent matter, when they shall be thus fraught with a universal insight into things.
[From the Apology for Smectymnuus, 1642.]
True eloquence I find to be none but the serious and hearty love of truth; and that whose mind soever is fully possessed with a fervent desire to know good things, and with the dearest charity to infuse the knowledge of them into others, when such a man would speak, his words (by what I can express), like so many nimble and airy servitors, trip about him at command, and, in well-ordered files, as he would wish, fall aptly into their own places.
[From the Defensio Secunda, 1654.]
He alone is worthy of the appellation (great) who either does great things, or teaches how they may be done, or describes them with a suitable majesty when they have been done; but those only are great things which tend to render life more happy, which increase the innocent enjoyments and comforts of existence, or which pave the way to a state of future bliss more permanent and more pure.
III. THE COMPOSITION OF PARADISE LOST.
FROM MASSON'S INTRODUCTION TO PARADISE LOST.
It was in 1639, after his return from his Italian tour, in his thirty-first year, that Milton, as he tells us, first bethought himself seriously of some great literary work, on a scale commensurate with his powers, and which posterity should not willingly let die. He had resolved that it should be an English poem; he had resolved that it should be an epic; nay, he had all but resolved — as is proved by his Latin poem to Manso, and his Epitaphium Damonis — that his subject should be taken from the legendary history of Britain, and should include the romance of Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table. Suddenly, however, this decision was shaken. He became uncertain whether the dramatic form might not be fitter for his purpose than the epic, and, letting go the subject of Arthur, he began to look about for other subjects. The proof exists in the form of a list — written by Milton's own hand in 1640-1, or certainly not later than 1642, and preserved among the Milton MSS. in Trinity College, Cambridge — of about one hundred subjects, many of them Scriptural, and the rest from British History, which he had jotted down, with the intention, apparently, of estimating their relative degrees of capability, and at last fixing on the one, or the one or two, that should appear best. Now, at the head of this long list of subjects is Paradise Lost. There are no fewer than four separate drafts of this subject as then meditated by Milton for dramatic treatment. The first draft consists merely of a list of dramatis personae, as follows : —
"The Persons: —Michael; Heavenly Love; Chorus of Angels; Lucifer; Adam, Eve, with the Serpent; Conscience; Death; Labor, Sickness, Discontent, Ignorance, with others, Mutes; Faith; Hope; Charity."
This draft having been cancelled, another is written parallel with it, as follows : —
"The Persons:—Moses [originally written 'Michael or Moses,' but the words 'Michael or' deleted, so as to leave ' Moses' as preferable for the drama]; Justice, Mercy, Wisdom; Heavenly Love; the Evening Star, Hesperus; Lucifer; Adam; Eve; Conscience; Labor, Sickness, Discontent, Ignorance, Fear, Death, [as] Mutes; Faith; Hope; Charity."
This having also been scored out, there follows a third draft, more complete, thus : —
"paradise Lost: — The Persons: Moses TtpoXoyttyi, recounting how he assumed his true body; that it corrupts not, because of his [being] with God in the mount; declares the like of Enoch and Eliah, besides the purity of the place — that certain pure winds, dews, and clouds preserve it from corruption; whence exhorts to the sight of God; tells them they cannot see Adam in the state of innocence by reason of their sin. — [Act I.]: Justice, Mercy, Wisdom, debating what should become of Man if he fall. Chorus of Angels sing a hymn of the Creation. — Act II.: Heavenly Love; Evening Star. Chorus sing the marriage song and describe Paradise.—Act III.: Lucifer contriving Adam's ruin. Chorus fears for Adam and relates Lucifer's rebellion and fall. — Act IV.: Adam, Eve, fallen; Conscience cites them to God's examination. Chorus bewails and tells the good Adam hath lost. — Act V.: Adam and Eve driven out of Paradise, presented by an Angel with Labor, Grief, Hatred, Envy, War, Famine, Pestilence, Sickness, Discontent, Ignorance, Fear, [as] Mutes—to whom he gives their names — likewise Winter, Heat, Tempest, &C. ; Death entered into the world; Faith, Hope, Charity, comfort and instruct him. Chorus briefly concludes."
This is left standing; but in another part of the MS., as if written at some interval of time, is a fourth draft, as follows: —
"adam Unparadised:—The Angel Gabriel, either descending or entering—showing, since the globe is created, his frequency as much on Earth as in Heaven — describes Paradise. Next the Chorus, showing the reason of his coming — to keep his watch, after Lucifer's rebellion, by the command of God — and withal expressing his desire to see and know more concerning this excellent and new creature, Man. The Angel Gabriel, as by his name signifying a Prince of Power, passes by the station of the Chorus, and, desired by them, relates what he knew of Man, as the creation of Eve, with their love and marriage. — After this, Lucifer appears, after his overthrow; bemoans himself; seeks revenge upon Man. The Chorus prepares resistance at his first approach. At last, after discourse of enmity on either side, he departs; whereat the Chorus sing of the battle and victory in Heaven against him and his accomplices, as before, after the first Act, was sung a hymn of the Creation.—Here again may appear Lucifer, relating and consulting on what he had done to the destruction of Man. Man next and Eve, having been by this time seduced by the Serpent, appear confusedly, covered with leaves. Conscience, in a shape, accuses him; Justice cites him to the place whither Jehovah called for him. In the meantime the Chorus entertains the stage and is informed by some Angel of the manner of the Fall. Here the Chorus bewails Adam's fall. — Adam and Eve return and accuse one another; but especially Adam lays the blame to his wife — is stubborn in his offence. Justice appears, reasons with him, convinces him. The Chorus admonishes Adam, and bids him beware Lucifer's example of impenitence. —The Angel is sent to banish them out of Paradise; but, before, causes to pass before his eyes, in shapes, a masque of all the evils of this life and world. He is humbled, relents, despairs. At last appears Mercy, comforts him, promises him the Messiah; then calls in Faith, Hope, Charity; instructs him. He repents, gives God the glory, submits to his penalty. The Chorus briefly concludes. — Compare this with the former Draft."
These schemes of a possible drama on the subject of Paradise Lost were written out by Milton as early as between 1639 and 1042, or between his thirty-first and his thirty-fourth year, as a portion of a list of about a hundred subjects which occurred to him, in the course of his reading at that time, as worth considering for the great English Poem which he hoped to give to the world. From the place and the proportion of space which they occupy in the list, it is apparent that the subject of Paradise Lost had then fascinated him more strongly than any of the others, and that, if his notion of an epic on Arthur was then given up, a drama on Paradise Lost had occurred to him as the most likely substitute. It is also more probable than not that he then knew of previous dramas that had been written on the subject, and that, in writing out his own schemes, he had the schemes of some of these dramas in his mind. Vondel's play was not then' in existence; but Andreini's was. Farther, there is evidence in Milton's prose pamphlets published about this time that, if he did ultimately fix on the subject he had so particularly been meditating, he was likely enough to make himself acquainted with any previous efforts on the same subject, and to turn them to account for whatever they might be worth. Thus, in his Reason of Church Government (1641), taking the public into his confidence in various matters relating to himself, and informing them particularly how his mind had been recently occupied with thoughts of a great English poem (whether an epic or a drama he had not, he hints, quite determined), and with what reluctance he felt himself drawn away from that design to engage in the political controversies of the time, he thus pledges himself that the design, though necessarily postponed, shall not be abandoned: 'Neither do I think it shame to covenant with any knowing reader that for some few years yet I may go on trust with him toward the payment of what I am now indebted, as being a work not to be raised from the heat of youth, or the vapors of wine, like that which flows at waste from the pen of some vulgar amorist, or the trencher-fury of a riming parasite, nor to be obtained by the invocation of Dame Memory and her Siren daughters, but by devout prayer to that Eternal Spirit who can enrich with all utterance and knowledge,