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much thought, and as delicate a perception of the beautiful, as any thing in Homer or Virgil. In these, and the other ancient writers, there are, perhaps, sufficient impediments in the language itself - to say nothing of customs, manners, and modes of thinking, different from our own to prevent a too hasty perusal; but, in the higher class of English poets, if we have any other aim in reading them than mere amusement, we must voluntarily subject ourselves to the same deliberate study as we have to submit to in the Classical writers from necessity. It is only after dwelling on the poet's words, and, as it were brooding on their etymology, their history, their grammatical structure and arrangement, and above all, their allusive import, and moral significance, as distinguished from their mere dictionary signification, that they become pregnant and full of meaning, and that we can be truly said to understand what to a cursory reader seems so easy. Milton is easy of comprehension only to those who are content to comprehend a
It was long ago remarked by Macaulay, that the effect of Milton's poetry "is produced not so much by what it expresses, as by what it suggests; not so much by the ideas it directly conveys, as by other ideas which are connected with them.” Now these suggestions and ideas require to be expressed and developed before they can be distinctly understood by the youthful mind; and to assist in doing this, is the great object of the present volume. The words of the Paradise Lost, if understood according to the letter, have, it is true, an intelligible sense, but this is not enough. They must be seen in the light of all previous literature and all previous science before they yield their full strength and meaning
I have not hesitated to call the notes" copious,” because in the matter of quantity there can be no room for self-deception; and as compared with any but expensive editions, not well fitted for the use of schools, the annotations in this volume are certainly large individually and numerous in amount. As to the more important point of quality, it is not my part to judge. I shall be well pleased if I am not charged with presumption in undertaking to edit a work which has already been given to the world in so many different shapes, and by so many distinguished men. As in duty bound, I have availed myself of the labours of my predecessors; but I have endeavoured to "give every man his own," and the names of Richardson, Addison, and Newton, and other commentators on Milton, will frequently be found in these pages. Historical, Mythological, Scriptural, and Classical allusions have been explained after consulting the Dictionaries of Smith, Kitto, Brande, and the best existing works on the various subjects. Parallel passages from the Classics and from the modern poets whom Milton followed, as well as from his own prose works, have been adduced, as far as the limits which I had assigned to myself would allow; and the fruit of a pretty extensive course of miscellaneous reading has been brought to bear upon the illustration of the text.
As to original notes, if there are any that really deserve the name, I can only hope that they will not be considered unworthy of accompanying those that have been selected, and that both together will be found to facilitate the study of a work which is universally allowed to be one of the perennial glories of our literature, and which will fitly represent, to the most distant age, the intellectual greatness of the country that produced it. The remembrance of many things must pass away and perish, but the melody of Milton's lyre can never be forgotten while the literature of England, or any vestige of her language, lives upon the earth.
“For deeds doe die, however noblie donne,
And thoughts of men do as themselves decay :
SCHOOLS OF GREENWICH HOSPITAL,
January 1. 1855.
"In ancient, and also in modern periods, we find a few poets who are accounted perfect ; whom it were a kind of treason to find fault with.” – Carlyle.
“Three poets in three distant ages born
This first book proposes first (in brief) the whole subject, Man's disobedience,
and the loss thereupon of Paradise wherein he was placed; then touches the prime cause of his fall — the Serpent, or rather Satan in the serpent; who, revolting from God, and drawing to his side many legions of Angels, was, by the command of God, driven out of Heaven, with all his crew, into the great deep. Which action passed over, the poem hastes into the midst of things; presenting Satan with his Angels now fallen into Hell, described here not in the centre (for Heaven and Earth may be supposed as yet not made, certainly not yet accursed), but in a place of utter darkness, fitliest called Chaos; Here Satan, with his Angels lying on the burning lake, thunder-struck and astonished, after a certain space recovers, as from confusion, calls up him who next in order and dignity lay by him; they confer of their miserable fall. Satan awakens all his legions, who lay till then in the same manner confounded: they rise, their numbers, array of battle, their chief leaders named, according to the idols known afterwards in Canaan, and the countries adjoining. To these Satan directs his speech; comforts them with hope yet of regaining Heaven; but tells them, lastly, of a new world and new kind of creature to be created, according to an ancient prophecy or report in Heaven; (for that Angels were long before this visible creation was the opinion of many ancient Fathers). To find out the truth of this prophecy, and what to determine thereon, he refers to a full council. What his associates thence attempt. Pandemonium, the palace of Satan, rises, suddenly built out of the deep; the infernal peers there sit in council.