"Three poets in three different ages born,
Greece, Italy, and England did adorn The first in loftiness of soul surpassed, The next in majesty, in both the last. The force of nature could no further go; To make a third she joined the other two."
From Cowper's "Table Talk":
"Ages elapsed ere Homer's lamp appeared,
And ages ere the Mantuan swan was heard. To carry nature lengths unknown before, To give a Milton birth, asked ages more. Thus genius rose and set at ordered times, And shot a dayspring into distant climes, Ennobling every region that he chose; He sunk in Greece, in Italy he rose, And, tedious years of Gothic darkness past, Emerged all splendor in our isle at last. Thus lovely Halcyons dive into the main, Then show far off their shining plumes again."