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[286]
In worst extremes and on the perilous edge
Of battle when it raged, in all assaults.

There can be little doubt that the rhymes in the first passage cited were intentional, and perhaps they were so in the others; but Milton's ear has tolerated not a few perfectly rhyming couplets, and others in which the assonance almost becomes rhyme, certainly a fault in blank-verse:—

From the Asian Kings (and Parthian among these),
From India and the Golden Chersonese;

That soon refreshed him wearied, and repaired
What hunger, if aught hunger, had impaired;

And will alike be punished, whether thou
Reign or reign not, though to that gentle brow;

Of pleasure, but all pleasure to destroy,
Save what is in destroying, other joy;

Shall all be Paradise, far happier place
Than this of Eden, and far happier days;

This my long sufferance and my day of grace
They who neglect and scorn shall never taste;

So far remote with diminution seen,
First in his East the glorious lamp was seen.1

These examples (and others might be adduced) serve to show that Milton's ear was too busy about the larger interests of his measures to be always careful of the lesser. He was a strategist rather than a drill-sergeant in verse, capable, beyond any other English poet, of putting great masses through the most complicated evolutions without clash or confusion, but he was not curious that every foot should be at the same angle. In reading ‘Paradise Lost’ one has a feeling of vastness. You float under an illimitable sky, brimmed with sunshine or hung with constellations; the abysses of space

1 ‘First in his East,’ is not soothing to the ear.

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