The Poetical Works of John Milton: With Translations of the Italian, Latin and Greek Poems from the Columbia University Edition

By David Masson; John Milton | Go to book overview

OF THAT SORT OF DRAMATIC POEM CALLED TRAGEDY.

TRAGEDY, as it was anciently composed, hath been ever held the gravest, moralest, and most profitable of all other poems; therefore said by Aristotle to be of power, by raising pity and fear, or terror, to purge the mind of those and such-like passions -- that is, to temper and reduce them to just measure with a kind of delight, stirred up by reading or seeing those passions well imitated. Nor is Nature wanting in her own effects to make good his assertion; for so, in physic, things of melancholic hue and quality are used against melancholy, sour against sour, salt to remove salt humours. Hence philosophers and other gravest writers, as Cicero, Plutarch, and others, frequently cite out of tragic poets, both to adorn and illustrate their discourse. The Apostle Paul himself thought it not unworthy to insert a verse of Euripides into the text of Holy Scripture, I Cor. xv. 33; and Paræus, commenting on the Revelation, divides the whole book, as a tragedy, into acts, distinguished each by a Chorus of heavenly harpings and song between. Heretofore men in highest dignity have laboured not a little to be thought able to compose a tragedy. Of that honour Dionysius the elder was no less ambitious than before of his attaining to the tyranny. Augustus Cæesar also had begun his Ajax, but, unable to please his own judgment with what he had begun, left it unfinished. Seneca, the philosopher, is by some thought the author of those tragedies (at least the best of them) that go under that name. Gregory Nazianzen, a Father of the Church thought it not unbeseeming the sanctity of his person to write a tragedy, which he entitled Christ Suffering. This is mentioned to vindicate Tragedy from the small esteem, or rather infamy, which in the account of many it undergoes at this day, with other common interludes; happening through the poet's error of intermixing comic stuff with tragic sadness and gravity, or introducing trivial and vulgar persons: which by all judicious hath been counted absurd, and brought in without discretion, corruptly to gratify the people. And, though ancient Tragedy use no Prologue, yet using sometimes, in case of self-defence or explanation, that which Martial calls an Epistle, in behalf of this tragedy, coming forth after the ancient manner, much different from what among us passes for best, thus much beforehand may be epistled -- that Chorus is here introduced after the Greek manner, not ancient only, but modern, and still in use among the Italians. In the modelling therefore of this poem, with good reason, the Ancients and Italians are rather followed, as of much more authority and fame. The measure of verse used in the Chorus is of all sorts, called by the Greeks Monostrophic, or rather Apolelymenon, without regard had to Strophe,

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The Poetical Works of John Milton: With Translations of the Italian, Latin and Greek Poems from the Columbia University Edition
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface. v
  • Contents vii
  • Introduction 1
  • Commendatory Verses, - Prefixed to the Second Edition 37
  • The Verse. 41
  • Paradise Regained. 281
  • Introduction To Paradise Regained. 283
  • Samson Agonistes. 341
  • Introduction To Samson Agonistes. 343
  • Of That Sort of Dramatic Poem Called Tragedy. 353
  • The Argument. 355
  • Samson Agonistes. 357
  • Introduction To the Minor Poems. 395
  • Poems: - English and Latin, With a Few in Italian and Greek. Composed at Several Times. 473
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