« ZurückWeiter »
Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1850, by
BAKER AND SCRIBNER, In the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the United States for the Southern
District of New York.
SATAX AROUSING THE FALLEN ANGELS.-Book I., Line 314.
SIN PREVENTING THE COMBAT BETWEEN SATAN AND DEATI.-Book II., Line 727.
SATAN CONTEMPLATING ADAY AND EVE IN PARADISE-Book IV., Line 502.
CREATION OF LIGHT.-Book VII., Line 338.
HEAVEN-RIVERS OF BLISS.-Book XI., Line 77.
ADAY AND EVE DRIVEN OUT OF PARADISE.-Book XII., Line 641.
FOR PREPARING THIS AMERICAN EDITION.
Paradise Lost is, by common consent, pronounced to be a work of transcendent genius and taste. It takes rank with the Iliad of Homer, and with the Æneid of Virgil, as an Epic of incomparable merit. Dryden was by no means extravagant in the praise which he bestowed upon it in his well-known lines:
" Three poets in three distant ages born,
Its praise is often on the lips of every man endowed with the most moderate literary qualifications; but the work has been read by comparatively few persons. How few even of educated men can affirm that they have so read and understood it, as to appreciate all its parts ? How does this happen? Is the poem considered unworthy of their most careful perusal? Is it not inviting to the intellect, the imagination, and the sensibilities? Is it not acknowledged to be superior to any other poetic composition, the Hebrew writings only excepted, to whose lofty strains of inspired song the blind bard of London was so greatly indebted for his own subordinate inspiration ?
If inquiry should extensively be made, it will be ascertained that Paradise Lost, is but little read, less understood, and still less appreciated; though it may be found on the shelves of almost every library, or upon the parlor table of almost every dwelling. Every school boy,
every school girl has read some beautiful extracts from it, and has heard it extolled as an unrivalled production; and this is about all that is usually learned in regard to it, or appreciated. The question returns, and it is one of some literary interest, how is this treatment of the Paradise Lost to be accounted for? To this inquiry the following observations will, it is hoped, be considered appropriate and satisfactory.
It is pre-eminently a learned work; and has been well denominated " a book of universal knowledge." In its naked form, in its bare text, it can be understood and appreciated by none but highly educated per
The perusal of it cannot fail to be attended with a vivid impression of its great author's prodigious learning, and of the immense stores which he brought into use in its preparation. As one of his editors, (Sir Egerton Brydges,) remarks, "his great poems require such a stretch of mind in the reader, as to be almost painful. The most amazing copiousness of learning is sublimated into all his conceptions and descriptions. His learning never oppressed his imagination; and his imagination never obliterated or dimmed his learning ; but even these would not have done without the addition of a great heart, and a pure and lofty mind. The poem is one which could not have been produced solely by the genius of Milton, without the addition of an equal extent and depth of learning, and an equal labor of reflection. It has always a great compression. Perhaps its perpetual allusion to all past literature and history were sometimes carried a little too far for the popular reader; and the latinised style requires to be read with the attention due to an ancient classic.” To read it, therefore, intelligently and advantageously, no small acquaintance is needed with classical and various learning.
While large portions of the poem are sufficiently lucid for the comprehension of ordinary readers, there is frequently introduced an obscure paragraph, sentence, clause, or word; which serves to break up the continuity of the poem in the reader's mind, to obstruct his progress, to apprise him of his own ignorance or obtuseness, and thus to create no small degree of dissatisfaction. The obscurity arises, in some cases, from the highly learned character of the allusions to ancient history and mythology; in other cases, from great inversion of