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In this edition of the first two books of Paradise Lost," I have tried to mark the literary aspects of the poem. Everything else has been of minor consideration. I have neglected a number of interesting things about Milton's life, because I believe that too much biography detracts from interest in the poem; I have neglected many interesting questions concerning Milton's language, because these seem often, not only to detract from interest in the poem, but almost to destroy it. I have tried to explain what was necessary, and no more, and to call attention to what might pass unnoticed, so that a student could read the poem with understanding and with appreciation of its special characteristics.
The poem is edited not only for cursory reading, but for special study. The notes at the bottom of the page are intended for use when the book is prescribed for reading. Where the book is prescribed for study, the student will find some additional notes on pp. 78–102. Even these additional notes, however, do not deal largely with explanation of allusion or linguistic comment: their purpose is to make the student more intimately familiar with the poem, and so more appreciative of its character.
There is so much information on Paradise Lost” that is almost public property, that one cannot pretend to great originality in one's notes. I must particularly acknowledge, however, the value of Verity's edition, from which I have made a number of borrowings, always, I believe, with mention of the fact. The purpose of that edition differs somewhat from that of the present, but in its own direction it is unexcelled.
I have sought to give a good, modern, readable text, disregarding the peculiarities of the original spelling and punctuation, except in rare cases where they seemed to indicate something of importance. Not having access to the second edition (1674), the last revised by Milton, I have usually consulted the third edition (1678), which has the same text, except for slight inaccuracies; and also the modern texts of Masson and Verity.
EDWARD E. HALE, JR. UNION COLLEGE, June 11, 1896.