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No one who is in the least interested in education can fail to notice, that the Reading-Books used in our elementary schools are daily becoming more and more exclusively scientific in their contents. Without entering upon the question whether this is to be considered an advantage or a disadvantage, it will scarcely be denied that, however admirable such textbooks may be, and however excellent the instruction based on them, an exclusively scientific education of the young can produce only a partial development of the intellect. Under even the most favourable circumstances many faculties will remain uncultivated, many mental appetites ungratified, and habits and information of the highest value in future life will be unacquired. The introduction of some other element is thus necessary to the full and harmonious education of all the powers of the mind, and this element is to be found, it is believed, at least in great part, in the study of the literature of our own language. It is from the desire to facilitate the introduction of such a study into the more advanced classes of our elementary schools that the present Work has been compiled. It differs essentially from all other school editions of Milton, both in the text and in the notes. Instead of presenting to the reader detached passages without connexion, or introductory books without sequel, the following extracts have been so selected as to furnish a continuous narrative, exhibiting the plan, progress, and consummation of Milton's immortal epic.
The Notes have been carefully prepared for the use of elementary schools, and with the exception of a few, in which reference is made to the original authorities, have been written expressly for this Work. The Author's plan has been to explain concisely all classical and mythological allusions; to paraphrase all obscure passages; to illustrate peculiarities in opinion or expression by references to Scripture, or quotations from Milton's other writings; and to remove from the path of the learner the obstacles occasioned by the frequent use of technical terms, obsolete words, foreign idioms, and intricate construction. The Notes are thus necessarily somewhat numerous, but care has been taken that they shall not supersede the efforts of the pupils; and while it is hoped that no real difficulty has been left unexplained, nothing has been introduced to encourage indolence or render industry unnecessary. For this reason no lists of metaphors or parallel passages from the classics are given; the references to Scripture are never printed at full length; and the Notes have been placed at the end of the book, not at the bottom of the page where they may be seen without previous study.
On the whole, the Editor is not without the hope that the present unpretending Volume may supply a desideratum which he believes to be pretty extensively felt, and may tend to compensate the deficiencies of a system of education which expends all its energies on the lower faculties of the mind, leaving the higher altogether uncultivated.
The First Book proposes, first in brief, the whole subject, man's disobedience, and the loss thereupon of Paradise, wherein he was placed: then touches the prime cause of his fall, the serpent, or rather Satan in the serpent; who, revolting from God, and drawing to his side many legions of angels, was, by the command of God, driven out of heaven, with all his crew, into the great deep. Which action passed over, the poem hastens into the midst of things, presenting Satan, with his angels, now fallen into hell, described here, not in the centre (for heaven and earth may be supposed as yet not made, certainly not yet accursed), but in a place of utter darkness, fitliest called Chaos: here Satan, with his angels, lying on the burning lake, thunder-struck and astonished, after a certain space recovers, as from confusion, calls up him who next in order and dignity lay by him: they confer of their miserable fall. Satan awakens all his legions, who lay till then in the same manner confounded. They rise; their numbers; array of battle; their chief leaders named according to the idols known afterwards in Canaan and the countries adjoining. To these Satan directs his speech, comforts them with hope yet of regaining heaven, but tells them lastly of a new world, and a new kind of creature to be created, according to an ancient prophecy or report in heaven; for that angels were long before this visible creation, was the opinion of many ancient fathers. To find out the truth of this prophecy, and what to determine thereon, he refers to a full council, What his associates thence attempt. Pandemonium, the palace of Satan, rises suddenly built out of the deep: the infernal peers there sit in council.
Of man's first disobedience, and the fruit