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(So Sampson groped the temple's post in spight,) The world o’erwhelming, to revenge his sight.
Yet as I read, still growing less severe, I liked his project, the success did fear; Through that wide field how he his way should find, O'er which lame Faith leads Understanding blind; Lest he'd perplex the things he would explain, And what was easy he should render vain.
Or if a work so infinite he span’d, Jealous I was, that some less skilful hand (Such as disquiet always what is well, And, by ill imitating, would excel,) Might hence presume the whole Creation's day To change in scenes, and show it in a play.
Pardon me, mighty Poet, nor despise My causeless, yet not impious, surmise: But I am now convinced ; and none will dare Within thy labours to pretend a share. Thou hast not miss’d one thought that could be fit, And all that was improper dost omit: So that no room is here for writers left, But to detect their ignorance or theft.
That majesty, which through thy work doth reign, Draws the devout, deterring the profane : And things divine thou treat'st of in such state As them preserves, and thee, inviolate. At once delight and horror on us seize, Thou sing'st with so much gravity and ease; And above human flight dost soar aloft With plume so strong, so equal, and so soft: The bird, named from that Paradise you sing, So never flags, but always keeps on wing.
Where couldst thou words of such a compass find? Whence furnish such a vast expanse of mind?
Just Heaven thee, like Tiresias, to requite,
Well might'st thou scorn thy readers to allure With tinkling rhime, of thy own sense secure; While the Town-Bays writes all the while and
spells, And, like a pack-horse, tires without his bells: Their fancies like our bushy points appear; The poets tag them, we for fashion wear. I too, transported by the mode, offend, And, while I meant to praise thee, must commend: Thy verse created, like thy theme, sublime, In number, weight, and measure, needs not rhime.
EPIGRAM ON MILTON.
FROM AN ACCOUNT OF
ADDRESS TO GREAT BRITAIN.
For lofty sense,
DR. JOHNSON'S PROLOGUE
MASK OF COMUS. ACTED AT DRURY-LANE THEATRE, APRIL 5, 1750.
For the Benefit of Milton's Grand-Daughter. Ye patriot crowds, who burn for England's fame, Yenymphs,whose bosoms beat at Milton's name, Whose generous zeal, unbought by flattering
rhimes, Shames the mean pensions of Augustan times ; Immortal patrons of succeeding days, Attend this prelude of perpetual praise ! Let Wit, condemn'd the feeble war to wage With close malevolence, or public rage; Let Study, worn with Virtue's fruitless lore, Behold this Theatre, and grieve no more. This night, distinguish'd by your smiles, shall tell, That never Britain can in vain excel; The slighted arts futurity shall trust, And rising ages hasten to be just.
At length our mighty Bard's victorious lays Fill the loud voice of universal praise ; And battled Spite, with hopeless anguish dumb, Yields to renown the centuries to come; With ardent haste each candidate of fame, Ambitious, catches at his towering name: He sees, and pitying sees, vain wealth bestow Those pageant honours which he scorned below, While crowds aloft the laureat bust behold, Or trace his form on circulating gold. Unknown --unheeded, long his offspring lay, And want hung threatening o'er her slow decay.
What though she shine with no Miltonian fire,
FROM GRAY'S PROGRESS OF POESY. Nor second HE that rode sublime Upon the seraph-wings of ecstasy; . The secrets of the abyss to spy, He pass'd the flaming bounds of place and time: The living throne, the sapphire blaze, Where Angels tremble while they gaze, He saw; but, blasted with excess of light, Closed his eyes in endless night.