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Heaven and Hell, Chaos and Creation, War between the Omnipotent and the most exalted Orders of his Creatures, the Fall of Angels and of Man, the wonderful maze of a wise and beneficent Providence educing Good out of Evil, and restoring the triumph and the reign of Order, Virtue, and Happiness, over Confusion, Vice, and Miserythese are the themes of our great Epic Poet: -these, that fill and expand the soul, tranquilize it into a contemplative mood, and prepare, as it were, the soil of thought for receiving, in the strains of sublime poetry, the sacred influence of Heaven.
It is not our design to show the interest of his fable, the justness of his characters, the sublimity and pathos of his sentiments, the vigour and the variety of his language, by a critical discussion. Where excellence is so conspicuous as that of Milton, every eye beholds it, every heart feels it, without the instruction of the Critic : the Poet himself is our best Guide. With him, rather than with the best of his Commentators, we delight to ascend to the gates of Heaven, and the very Throne of God, and there to learn the destiny of Man. Led by him, we explore with terror and amazement the depths of Hell, or repose in the gardens of Paradise, listening to the conversation of two persons the most adapted, in the whole range of poetic fancy, to soothe, to interest, to charm and transport the soul.
“ Adam the goodliest of men since born
“ His sons; the fairest of her daughters Eve". the progenitors of the whole human race.
While the elegant mediocrity of modern poetry is passing daily into the shades of oblivion, Milton, who has not only harmony to please the ear, but power to alarm, and grace to soften the heart, keeps his ground,
and even rises in reputation, Were it possible to add any thing on this subject, we might observe that the transcendent excellence of Milton's Paradise Lost has lately been conspicuously displayed in the light of contrast with the CALVARY of CUMBER
But, though it were superfluous to expatiate on the judgment and the powers of Milton as a Poet, it is by no means unnecessary, in very many instances, to explain to common, and even to some who cannot be accounted unlearned Readers, the recondite ideas of the Philosopher, and the allusions of the most learned of his age.
In the present Edition, as to what regards the Poem, the aim of the Editor has been to observe a proper medium between the meagreness of some Annotators and the excessive profusion of Newton, who has cer. tainly overloaded his Publication with a number of remarks unnecessary, trite, and frivolous.
For the external part, elegance and uniformity have been consulted in the mode of disposing the notes, and the convenience of the Reader, who may wish to take a walk amidst the fit haunts of the Muses, with Milton in his pocket, in the size of these volumes.
July 30th, 1795.