Antistrophe Miltons Paradise and Collinss Present

Either in response to what seemed the rhetorical questions at the end of the previous section (where now is the chosen poet?) or in an abrupt change of subject, the third section of the ode begins with an imaginative vision of an Eden that seems both Mil-tonic and actual. It possesses features distinctive of Milton's garden but is also like (l. 62) his imagined paradise. Paradoxically, Collins's act of comparing his garden to one existing in another poem (see Paradise Lost, iv. 131ff.) implies that his is real, rather than literary, and revealed directly to him — a technique Milton himself had used in comparing his Eden to the paradises of mythology.

High on some Cliff, to Heav'n up-pil'd, 55

Of rude Access, of Prospect wild,

Where, tangled round the jealous Steep,

Strange Shades o'erbrow the Valleys deep,

And holy Genii guard the Rock,

Its Gloomes embrown, its Springs unlock, 60

While on its rich ambitious Head, An Eden, like his own, lies spread.

I view that Oak, the fancied Glades among, By which as Milton lay, His Ev'ning Ear,

From many a Cloud that drop'd Ethereal Dew, 65

Nigh spher'd in Heav'n its native Strains could hear: On which that ancient Trump he reach'd was hung; Thither oft his Glory greeting, From Waller's Myrtle Shades retreating, With many a Vow from Hope's aspiring Tongue, 70

My trembling Feet his guiding Steps pursue; In vain — Such Bliss to One alone, Of all the Sons of Soul was known, And Heav'n, and Fancy, kindred Pow'rs, Have now o'erturn'd th'inspiring Bow'rs, 75

Or curtain'd close such Scene from ev'ry future View.

A single paraphrase should suffice for this section:

High on a wild cliff, steep, gloomy, guarded by holy genii, lies an Eden like Milton's. I see the oak under which Milton lay in the evenings and received heavenly inspiration and on which his trumpet was hung. Often moving toward this Miltonic scene and away from Waller's milder poetry, I vow to follow Milton and do so with trembling feet. But in vain: one mortal alone has known such bliss, and Heaven and Fancy have now overturned the inspiring bowers or hidden them from every future view.

The antistrophe's four sentences (in my construal, periods would replace the semicolon and colon at lines 67 and 71) are from four to eight lines long and generally much simpler structurally than those in earlier sections. The poetic inversions — nouns before adjectives (ll. 56 and 58), a preposition after its object (l. 63), and two direct objects before verbs (ll. 68 and 71) — pose little difficulty, at least for readers who have dipped into Milton. The major interpretative question, to which we will return, is how pessimistic the ending really might be.

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