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EVERYMAN'S LIBRARY
EDITED BY ERNEST RHYS

POETRY AND
THE DRAMA

MILTON'S POETICAL
WORKS WITH INTRODUCTION
BY W. H. D. ROUSE, LITT.D.

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INTRODUCTION

NOTHING now remains to say about John Milton: his place among the immortals is secure. None of the great gifts were denied him, except humour; and the place of humour, in preventing over-emphasis and lack of proportion, was taken in him by something of the Greek instinct for form. It has been noticed that the chief artistic defect of the Teutonic races is a certain caprice and wilfulness; they are a law-abiding race, but they like to make their own laws. This distinguishes them from the Latin-speaking races, which with their language seem to have imbibed something of the respect for law that marked the Romans. If the Romans, as a people, had had imagination, it is difficult to set bounds to what they might have done in the realm of intellect; but in Greece alone do we find a people strong both in imagination and in the reason that regulates imagination, with a subtle feeling for proportion that has never been approached elsewhere. Their art progresses by an infinite series of small steps, by which the artists felt their way to perfection without the risk of breaking away from tradition. From this fountain Milton drank. His puritan training prepared him by a stern restraint to move within the laws of his art, and these laws he studied, not in the more capricious works of the west so much as in the best models of Greece and Rome. According to the custom of his time, he first exercised himself in Latin composition; I mean, of course, not the spurious kind, by which pieces of English are rendered in Latin, but true composition, in which the author expresses his own thoughts. He wrote Latin, both prose and verse, as well as he wrote his own language: his verse, indeed, gives him a claim to be considered a Latin poet. This discipline, which may make pedants of inferior intellects, was admirable for Milton's fiery imagination and lofty ambition: it was just the correc

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