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John Milton

John Milton by Project Gutenberg[1]
Born 9 December 1608(1608-12-09)
Bread Street, Cheapside, London, England
Died 8 November 1674 (aged 65)
Bunhill, London, England
Occupation Poet, prose polemicist, civil servant
Notable work(s) Paradise Lost, Paradise Regained, Samson Agonistes, Areopagitica

John Milton (9 December 1608 – 8 November 1674) was an English poet, author, polemicist and civil servant for the Commonwealth of England. He is best known for his epic poem Paradise Lost.

He was a scholarly man of letters, a polemical writer, and an official serving under Oliver Cromwell. Milton is believed to have been a Calvinist and the question of predestination and freedom was crucial to his intellectual orientation. He wrote at a time of religious and political flux in England, and his poetry and prose reflect deep convictions, often reacting to contemporary circumstances such as his treatise condemning censorship, Areopagitica. As well as English, he wrote in Latin and Italian, and had an international reputation during his lifetime.

After his death, Milton's personal reputation oscillated, a state of affairs that continued through the centuries. At an early stage he became the subject of partisan biographies, such as that of John Toland from the nonconformist perspective, and a hostile account by Anthony à Wood. Samuel Johnson described him as "an acrimonious and surly republican"; but William Hayley's 1796 biography called him the "greatest English author".[2] He remains generally regarded "as one of the preeminent writers in the English language and as a thinker of world importance."[3]

Contents

Biography

One can situate both Milton's poetry and his politics historically. The phases of his life parallel major historical divisions of Stuart Britain. Under the increasingly personal rule of Charles I and its breakdown in constitutional confusion and war, Milton studied, travelled, wrote poetry mostly for private circulation, and launched a career as pamphleteer and publicist. A more detailed treatment can be found at John Milton's early life. Under the Commonwealth of England, from being thought dangerously radical and even heretical, the shift in accepted attitudes in government placed him in public office, and he even acted as an official spokesman in certain of his publications. The Restoration of 1660 deprived Milton, now completely blind, of his public platform, but this period saw him complete most of his major works of poetry. Milton had a great impact on the Romantic movement in England, as shown in fellow poet William Wordsworth's sonnet London, 1802. Wordsworth calls upon him to rise from the dead and aid in returning England to its former glory.

Milton's views developed from his very extensive reading, as well as travel and experience, from his student days of the 1620s to the English Revolution.[4] By the time of his death in 1674, Milton was impoverished and on the margins of English intellectual life, yet unrepentant for his political choices, and of Europe-wide fame.

Early life

John Milton's father, also named John Milton (1562–1647), moved to London around 1583 after being disinherited by his devout Catholic father, Richard Milton, for embracing Protestantism. In London, the senior John Milton married Sarah Jeffrey (1572–1637), the poet's mother, and found lasting financial success as a scrivener. He lived and worked out of a house on Bread Street, where the Mermaid Tavern was located in Cheapside. The elder Milton was noted for his skill as a musical composer, and this talent left Milton with a lifetime appreciation for music and friendship with musicians like Henry Lawes.[5]

Blue plaque in Bread Street, London, where Milton was born.

After Milton was born, on 9 December 1608 his father's prosperity provided his eldest son with a private tutor, Thomas Young, and then a place at St Paul's School in London. There he began the study of Latin and Greek, and the classical languages left an imprint on his poetry in English (he wrote also in Italian and Latin). His first datable compositions are two psalms done at age 15 at Long Bennington. One contemporary source is the Brief Lives of John Aubrey, an uneven compilation including first-hand reports. In the work, Aubrey quotes Christopher, Milton's younger brother: "When he was young, he studied very hard and sat up very late, commonly till twelve or one o'clock at night".[6]

Milton matriculated at Christ's College, Cambridge, in 1625 and graduated with a B.A. in 1629,[7] ranking fourth of 24 honours graduates that year in the University of Cambridge.[8] Preparing to become an Anglican priest, he stayed on to obtain his Master of Arts degree on 3 July 1632.

Milton was probably rusticated for quarrelling in his first year with his tutor, William Chappell. He was certainly at home in the Lent Term 1626; there he wrote his Elegia Prima, a first Latin elegy, to Charles Diodati, a friend from St Paul's. Based on remarks of John Aubrey, Chappell "whipt" Milton.[6] This story is now disputed. Certainly Milton disliked Chappell.[9] Christopher Hill cautiously notes that Milton was "apparently" rusticated, and that the differences between Chappell and Milton may have been either religious or personal, as far as we can know.[10] Another factor, possibly, was the plague, by which Cambridge was badly affected in 1625. Later in 1626 Milton's tutor was Nathaniel Tovey.

At Cambridge Milton was on good terms with Edward King, for whom he later wrote Lycidas. He also befriended Anglo-American dissident and theologian, Roger Williams. Milton tutored Williams in Hebrew in exchange for lessons in Dutch.[11] Otherwise at Cambridge he developed a reputation for poetic skill and general erudition, but experienced alienation from his peers and university life as a whole. Watching his fellow students attempting comedy upon the college stage, he later observed 'they thought themselves gallant men, and I thought them fools'.[12] Milton, due to his hair, which he wore long, and his general delicacy of manner, was known as the "Lady of Christ's".

Milton, c. 1629. Unknown artist

The university curriculum was dour, and he worked towards formal debates on topics, conducted in Latin. Yet his corpus is not devoid of humour, notably his sixth prolusion and his epitaphs on the death of Thomas Hobson. While at Cambridge he wrote a number of his well-known shorter English poems, among them On the Morning of Christ's Nativity, his Epitaph on the admirable Dramatick Poet, W. Shakespeare, his first poem to appear in print, L'Allegro and Il Penseroso.

Study, poetry and travel

Upon receiving his M.A. in 1632, Milton retired to Hammersmith, his father's new home since the previous year. He also lived at Horton, Berkshire, from 1635 and undertook six years of self-directed private study. Christopher Hill points out that this was not retreat into a rural or pastoral idyll at all: Hammersmith was then a "suburban village" falling into the orbit of London, and even Horton was becoming deforested, and suffered from the plague.[13] He read both ancient and modern works of theology, philosophy, history, politics, literature and science, in preparation for a prospective poetical career. Milton's intellectual development can be charted via entries in his commonplace book (like a scrapbook), now in the British Library. As a result of such intensive study, Milton is considered to be among the most learned of all English poets; in addition to his years of private study, Milton had command of Latin, Greek, Hebrew, French, Spanish, and Italian from his school and undergraduate days; he also added Old English to his linguistic repertoire in the 1650s while researching his History of Britain, and probably acquired proficiency in Dutch soon after.[14]

Milton continued to write poetry during this period of study: his Arcades and Comus were both commissioned for masques composed for noble patrons, connections of the Egerton family, and performed in 1632 and 1634 respectively. Comus argues for the virtuousness of temperance and chastity.

He contributed his pastoral elegy Lycidas to a memorial collection for one of his Cambridge classmates. Drafts of these poems are preserved in Milton’s poetry notebook, known as the Trinity Manuscript because it is now kept at Trinity College, Cambridge.

In May 1638, Milton embarked upon a tour of France and Italy that lasted up to July or August 1639.[15] His travels supplemented his study with new and direct experience of artistic and religious traditions, especially Roman Catholicism. He met famous theorists and intellectuals of the time, and was able to display his poetic skills. For specific details to what happened within Milton's "grand tour", there appears to be just one primary source: Milton's own Defensio Secunda. Although there are other records, some letters and some references in his other prose tracts, the bulk of the information about the tour comes therefore from a work that, according to Barbara Lewalski, "was not intended as autobiography but as rhetoric, designed to emphasize his sterling reputation with the learned of Europe."[16]

In [Florence], which I have always admired above all others because of the elegance, not just of its tongue, but also of its wit, I lingered for about two months. There I at once became the friend of many gentlemen eminent in rank and learning, whose private academies I frequented — a Florentine institution which deserves great praise not only for promoting humane studies but also for encouraging friendly intercourse.[17]
– Milton's account of Florence in Defensio Secunda

He travelled a route common to other Englishmen touring Europe at the time. He first went to Calais, and then on to Paris, riding horseback. While in Paris, he brought a letter from diplomat Henry Wotton which allowed him to be introduced at the British embassy. From ambassador John Scudamore, Milton received other letters of introduction and met Hugo Grotius, a Dutch law philosopher, playwright and poet. Milton left France after this meeting and visiting various landmarks. He traveled south, from Nice to Genoa and then onto Livorno and Pisa. He reached Florence in July 1638. While there, Milton enjoyed many of the sites and structures of the city. His candor of manner and erudite neo-Latin poetry made him friends in Florentine intellectual circles, and he met a number of famous and influential people through these connections including the astronomer Galileo who was under virtual house arrest at Arcetri, as well as others.[18] He also spent time at the Florentine academies. In particular, Milton probably visited the Florentine Academy and the Academia della Crusca along with smaller academies in the area including the Apatisti (those free from the pathos, hence free from emotions and passions) and the Svogliati.

He left Florence in September to continue to Rome. With the connections from Florence, Milton was able to have easy access into Rome's intellectual society. His poetic abilities impressed those like Giovanni Salzilli, who praised Milton within an epigram. In late October, Milton, despite his dislike for the Society of Jesus attended a dinner given by the English College, Rome, meeting English Catholics who were also guests, theologian Henry Holden and the poet Patrick Cary.[19] There is little else known about this time beyond that he met David Codner, an English Benedictine with court connections, who also praised Milton's poetry, and that he attended various musical events, including oratorios, operas, and melodramas. Milton left for Naples near the end of November, where he stayed only for a month because of the Spanish control.[20] During that time, he was introduced to Giovanni Battista Manso, patron to both Torquato Tasso and to Giovanni Battista Marino. Manso became Milton's guide through Naples. He gave Milton books, and a teasing distich based on Gregory the Great's pun on "Angle" and "angel" when describing the English. Milton responded in his Mansus that he was grateful for the gesture of goodwill and claims Manso as his patron.[21]

Originally, Milton wanted to leave Naples in order to travel to Sicily, and then on to Greece, but he returned to England during the summer of 1639 because of what he claimed, in Defensio Secunda,[22] were "sad tidings of civil war in England."[23] To further complicate matters, Milton received word that his childhood friend, Diodati, had died. Milton in fact stayed another seven months on the continent, and spent time at Geneva with Diodati's uncle after he returned to Rome. In Defensio Secunda, Milton proclaimed he was warned against a return to Rome because of his frankness about religion, but he stayed in the city for two months and was able to experience Carnival and meet Lukas Holste, a Vatican librarian who guided Milton through its collection. He was introduced to Cardinal Francesco Barberini, who invited Milton to an opera hosted by the Cardinal. Around March, Milton traveled once again to Florence and stayed there for two months, he attended further meetings of the academies and spent time with friends. After leaving Florence, he traveled through Lucca, Bologna, and Ferrara before coming to Venice. In Venice, Milton was exposed to a model of Republicanism, but he soon found another model when he traveled to Geneva. From Switzerland, Milton traveled to Paris and then to Calais before finally arriving back in England in either July or August 1639.[24]

Civil war, prose tracts and marriage

On returning to England, where the Bishops' Wars presaged further armed conflict, Milton began to write prose tracts against episcopacy, in the service of the Puritan and Parliamentary cause. Milton's first foray into polemics was Of Reformation touching Church Discipline in England (1641), followed by Of Prelatical Episcopacy, the two defences of Smectymnuus (a group of presbyterian divines named from their initials: the "TY" belonged to Milton's old tutor Thomas Young), and The Reason of Church-Government Urged against Prelaty. With frequent passages of real eloquence lighting up the rough controversial style of the period, and deploying a wide knowledge of church history, he vigorously attacked the High-church party of the Church of England and their leader, William Laud, Archbishop of Canterbury.

Though supported by his father’s investments, at this time Milton became a private schoolmaster, educating his nephews and other children of the well-to-do. This experience, and discussions with educational reformer Samuel Hartlib, led him to write in 1644 his short tract, Of Education, urging a reform of the national universities.

In June 1643 Milton paid a visit to the manor house at Forest Hill, Oxfordshire and returned with a 16-year-old bride, Mary Powell.[25] A month later, finding life difficult with the severe 35-year-old schoolmaster and pamphleteer, Mary returned to her family. Because of the outbreak of the Civil War, she did not return until 1645; in the meantime her desertion prompted Milton, over the next three years, to publish a series of pamphlets arguing for the legality and morality of divorce. In 1643 Milton had a brush with the authorities over these writings, in parallel with Hezekiah Woodward who had more trouble.[26] It was the hostile response accorded the divorce tracts that spurred Milton to write Areopagitica, his celebrated attack on censorship.

Secretary for Foreign Tongues

With the parliamentary victory in the Civil War, Milton used his pen in defence of the republican principles represented by the Commonwealth. The Tenure of Kings and Magistrates (1649) defended popular government and implicitly sanctioned the regicide; Milton’s political reputation got him appointed Secretary for Foreign Tongues by the Council of State in March 1649. Though Milton's main job description was to compose the English Republic's foreign correspondence in Latin, he also was called upon to produce propaganda for the regime and to serve as a censor. In October 1649 he published Eikonoklastes, an explicit defence of the regicide, in response to the Eikon Basilike, a phenomenal best-seller popularly attributed to Charles I that portrayed the King as an innocent Christian martyr. A month after Milton had tried to break this powerful image of Charles I (the literal translation of Eikonoklastes is 'the image breaker'), the exiled Charles II and his party published a defence of monarchy, Defensio Regia Pro Carolo Primo, written by the leading humanist Claudius Salmasius. By January of the following year, Milton was ordered to write a defence of the English people by the Council of State. Given the European audience and the English Republic's desire to establish diplomatic and cultural legitimacy, Milton worked more slowly than usual, as he drew on the learning marshalled by his years of study to compose a riposte. On 24 February 1652 Milton published his Latin defence of the English People, Defensio Pro Populo Anglicano, also known as the First Defence. Milton's pure Latin prose and evident learning, exemplified in the First Defence, quickly made him a European reputation, and the work ran to numerous editions.[27]

In 1654, in response to an anonymous Royalist tract Regii sanguinis clamor, a work that made many personal attacks on Milton, he completed a second defence of the English nation, Defensio secunda, which praised Oliver Cromwell, now Lord Protector, while exhorting him to remain true to the principles of the Revolution. Alexander Morus, to whom Milton wrongly attributed the Clamor (in fact by Peter du Moulin), published an attack on Milton, in response to which Milton published the autobiographical Defensio pro se in 1655. In addition to these literary defences of the Commonwealth and his character, Milton continued to translate official correspondence into Latin. The probable onset of glaucoma finally resulted in total blindness by 1654, forcing him to dictate his verse and prose to amanuenses (helpers), one of whom was the poet Andrew Marvell. One of his best-known sonnets, On His Blindness, is presumed to date from this period.

Family

Milton and Mary Powell (1625 – 1652) had four children:

  • Anne
  • Mary
  • John (1651 – June 1652)
  • Deborah (2 May 1652 – ?)

Mary Powell, died on 5 May 1652 from complications following Deborah's birth. Milton's daughters survived to adulthood, but he always had a strained relationship with them. On 12 November 1656, Milton remarried to Katherine Woodcock. She died on 3 February 1658, less than four months after giving birth to a daughter, Katherine, who also died.

Two nephews John Phillips and Edward Phillips, were known as writers. They were sons of Milton's sister Anne; John acted as a secretary, and Edward was Milton's first biographer.

The Restoration

Though Cromwell’s death in 1658 caused the English Republic to collapse into feuding military and political factions, Milton stubbornly clung to the beliefs that had originally inspired him to write for the Commonwealth. In 1659 he published A Treatise of Civil Power, attacking the concept of a state-dominated church (the position known as Erastianism), as well as Considerations touching the likeliest means to remove hirelings, denouncing corrupt practises in church governance. As the Republic disintegrated, Milton wrote several proposals to retain a non-monarchical government against the wishes of parliament, soldiers and the people:

Milton later in life
  • A Letter to a Friend, Concerning the Ruptures of the Commonwealth, written in October 1659, was a response to General Lambert's recent dissolution of the Rump Parliament
  • Proposals of certain expedients for the preventing of a civil war now feared, written in November 1659
  • The Ready and Easy Way to Establishing a Free Commonwealth, in two editions, responded to General Monck's march towards London to restore the Long Parliament (which led to the restoration of the monarchy). The work is an impassioned, bitter, and futile jeremiad damning the English people for backsliding from the cause of liberty and advocating the establishment of an authoritarian rule by an oligarchy set up by unelected parliament.

Upon the Restoration in May 1660, Milton went into hiding for his life, while a warrant was issued for his arrest and his writings burnt. He re-emerged after a general pardon was issued, but was nevertheless arrested and briefly imprisoned before influential friends, such as Marvell, now an MP, intervened. On 24 February 1663 Milton remarried, for a third and final time, a Wistaston, Cheshire-born woman Elizabeth (Betty) Minshull, then aged 24, and spent the remaining decade of his life living quietly in London, only retiring to a cottage - Milton's Cottage - in Chalfont St. Giles, his only extant home, during the Great Plague of London.

During this period Milton published several minor prose works, such as a grammar textbook, Art of Logic, and a History of Britain. His only explicitly political tracts were the 1672 Of True Religion, arguing for toleration (except for Catholics), and a translation of a Polish tract advocating an elective monarchy. Both these works were referred to in the Exclusion debate - the attempt to exclude the heir presumptive, James, Duke of York, from the throne of England because he was Roman Catholic - that would preoccupy politics in the 1670s and '80s and precipitate the formation of the Whig party and the Glorious Revolution.

Milton died of kidney failure on 8 November 1674 and was buried in the church of St Giles Cripplegate; according to an early biographer, his funeral was attended by “his learned and great Friends in London, not without a friendly concourse of the Vulgar.”[28]

Published poetry

Milton's poetry was slow to see the light of day, at least under his name. His first published poem was On Shakespear (1630), anonymously included in the Second Folio edition of Shakespeare. In the midst of the excitement attending the possibility of establishing a new English government, Milton collected his work in 1645 Poems. The anonymous edition of Comus was published in 1637, and the publication of Lycidas in 1638 in Justa Edouardo King Naufrago was signed J. M. Otherwise the 1645 collection was the only poetry of his to see print, until Paradise Lost appeared in 1667.

Paradise Lost

Milton’s magnum opus, the blank-verse epic poem Paradise Lost, which appeared in a quarto edition in 1667, was composed by the blind Milton from 1658–1664 through dictation given to a series of aides in his employ. It reflects his personal despair at the failure of the Revolution, yet affirms an ultimate optimism in human potential. Milton encoded many references to his unyielding support for the "Good Old Cause."[29]

Milton Reading for his daughters the "Paradise Lost", c. 1826. Artist: Eugène Delacroix

Milton sold the copyright of this monumental work to his publisher for a seemingly trifling £10; this was not a particularly outlandish deal at the time.[30] Milton followed up Paradise Lost with its sequel, Paradise Regained, published alongside the tragedy Samson Agonistes, in 1671. Both these works also resonate with Milton’s post-Restoration political situation. Just before his death in 1674, Milton supervised a second edition of Paradise Lost, accompanied by an explanation of "why the poem rhymes not" and prefatory verses by Marvell. Milton republished his 1645 Poems in 1673, as well a collection of his letters and the Latin prolusions from his Cambridge days. A 1668 edition of Paradise Lost, reported to have been Milton's personal copy, is now housed in the archives of the University of Western Ontario.

Views

An unfinished religious manifesto, De doctrina christiana, probably written by Milton, lays out many of his heterodox theological views, and was not discovered and published until 1823. Milton's key beliefs were idiosyncratic, not those of an identifiable group or faction, and often they go well beyond the orthodoxy of the time. Their tone, however, stemmed from the Puritan emphasis on the centrality and inviolability of conscience.[31] He was his own man, but it is Areopagitica, where he was anticipated by Henry Robinson and others, that has lasted best of his prose works.

Philosophy

By the late 1650s, Milton was a proponent of monism or animist materialism, the notion that a single material substance which is "animate, self-active, and free" composes everything in the universe: from stones and trees and bodies to minds, souls, angels, and God.[32] Milton devised this position to avoid the mind-body dualism of Plato and Descartes as well as the mechanistic determinism of Hobbes. Milton's monism is most notably reflected in Paradise Lost when he has angels eat (5.433–39) and engage in sexual intercourse (8.622–29) and the De Doctrina, where he denies the dual natures of man and argues for a theory of Creation ex Deo.

Political thought

First page of John Milton's 1644 edition of Areopagitica

In his political writing, Milton addressed particular themes at different periods. The years 1641–42 were dedicated to church politics and the struggle against episcopacy. After his divorce writings, Areopagitica, and a gap, he wrote in 1649–54 in the aftermath of the execution of Charles I, and in polemic justification of the regicide and the existing Parliamentarian regime. Then in 1659–60 he foresaw the Restoration, and wrote to head it off.[33]

Milton's own beliefs were in some cases both unpopular and dangerous, and this was true particularly to his commitment to republicanism. In coming centuries, Milton would be claimed as an early apostle of liberalism.[34] According to James Tully:

... with Locke as with Milton, republican and contraction conceptions of political freedom join hands in common opposition to the disengaged and passive subjection offered by absolutists such as Hobbes and Robert Filmer.[35]

A friend and ally in the pamphlet wars was Marchamont Nedham. Austin Woolrych considers that although they were quite close, there is "little real affinity, beyond a broad republicanism", between their approaches.[36] Blair Worden remarks that both Milton and Nedham, with others such as Andrew Marvell and James Harrington, would have taken the problem with the Rump Parliament to be not the republic, but the fact that it was not a proper republic.[37] Woolrych speaks of "the gulf between Milton's vision of the Commonwealth's future and the reality".[38] In the early version of his History of Britain, begun in 1649, Milton was already writing off the members of the Long Parliament as incorrigible.[39]

He praised Oliver Cromwell as the Protectorate was set up; though subsequently he had major reservations. When Cromwell seemed to be backsliding as a revolutionary, after a couple of years in power, Milton moved closer to the position of Sir Henry Vane, to whom he wrote a sonnet in 1652.[40][41] The group of disaffected republicans included, besides Vane, John Bradshaw, John Hutchinson, Edmund Ludlow, Henry Marten, Robert Overton, Edward Sexby and John Streater; but not Marvell, who remained with Cromwell's party.[42] Milton had already commended Overton, along with Edmund Whalley and Bulstrode Whitelocke, in Defensio Secunda.[43] Nigel Smith writes that

... John Streater, and the form of republicanism he stood for, was a fulfilment of Milton's most optimistic ideas of free speech and of public heroism [...][44]

As Richard Cromwell fell from power, he envisaged a step towards a freer republic or “free commonwealth”, writing in the hope of this outcome in early 1660. Milton had argued for an awkward position, in the Ready and Easy Way, because he wanted to invoke the Good Old Cause and gain the support of the republicans, but without offering a democratic solution of any kind.[45] His proposal, backed by reference (amongst other reasons) to the oligarchical Dutch and Venetian constitutions, was for a council with perpetual membership. This attitude cut right across the grain of popular opinion of the time, which swung decisively behind the restoration of the Stuart monarchy that took place later in the year.[46] Milton, an associate of and advocate on behalf of the regicides, was silenced on political matters as Charles II returned.

Theology

Like many Renaissance artists before him, Milton attempted to integrate Christian theology with classical modes. In his early poems, the poet narrator expresses a tension between vice and virtue, the latter invariably related to Protestantism. In Comus Milton may make ironic use of the Caroline court masque by elevating notions of purity and virtue over the conventions of court revelry and superstition. In his later poems, Milton's theological concerns become more explicit. In 1648 he wrote a hymn How lovely are thy dwelling fair [47], a paraphrase of Psalm 84, that explains his view on God.

Milton embraced many heterodox Christian theological views. He rejected the Trinity, in the belief that the Son was subordinate to the Father, a position known as Arianism; and his sympathy or curiosity was probably engaged by Socinianism: in August 1650 he licensed for publication by William Dugard the Racovian Catechism, based on a non-trinitarian creed.[48][49] A source has interpreted him as broadly Protestant, if not always easy to locate in a more precise religious category.

In his 1641 treatise, Of Reformation, Milton expressed his dislike for Catholicism and episcopacy, presenting Rome as a modern Babylon, and bishops as Egyptian taskmasters. These analogies conform to Milton's puritanical preference for Old Testament imagery. He knew at least four commentaries on Genesis: those of John Calvin, Paulus Fagius, David Pareus and Andreus Rivetus.[50]

Through the Interregnum, Milton often presents England, rescued from the trappings of a worldly monarchy, as an elect nation akin to the Old Testament Israel, and shows its leader, Oliver Cromwell, as a latter-day Moses. These views were bound up in Protestant views of the Millennium, which some sects, such as the Fifth Monarchists predicted would arrive in England. Milton, however, would later criticise the "worldly" millenarian views of these and others, and expressed orthodox ideas on the prophecy of the Four Empires.[51]

The Restoration of the Stuart monarchy in 1660 began a new phase in Milton's work. In Paradise Lost, Paradise Regained and Samson Agonistes Milton mourns the end of the godly Commonwealth. The Garden of Eden may allegorically reflect Milton's view of England's recent Fall from Grace, while Samson's blindness and captivity – mirroring Milton's own lost sight – may be a metaphor for England's blind acceptance of Charles II as king. Illustrated by Paradise Lost is mortalism, the belief that the soul lies dormant after the body dies.[52]

Despite the Restoration of the monarchy Milton did not lose his personal faith; Samson shows how the loss of national salvation did not necessarily preclude the salvation of the individual, while Paradise Regained expresses Milton's continuing belief in the promise of Christian salvation through Jesus Christ.

Though he may have maintained his personal faith in spite of the defeats suffered by his cause, the Dictionary of National Biography recounts how he had been alienated from the Church of England by Archbishop William Laud, and then moved similarly from the Dissenters by their denunciation of religious tolerance in England.

"Milton had come to stand apart from all sects, though apparently finding the Quakers most congenial. He never went to any religious services in his later years. When a servant brought back accounts of sermons from nonconformist meetings, Milton became so sarcastic that the man at last gave up his place".

Divorce

His thinking on divorce caused him the most trouble with the authorities. An orthodox presbyterian view of the time was that Milton's views on divorce constituted a one-man heresy:

The fervently Presbyterian Edwards had included Milton’s divorce tracts in his list in Gangraena of heretical publications that threatened the religious and moral fabric of the nation; Milton responded by mocking him as “shallow Edwards” in the satirical sonnet “On the New Forcers of Conscience under the Long Parliament,” usually dated to the latter half of 1646.[53]

Even here, though, his originality is qualified: Thomas Gataker had already identified "mutual solace" as a principal goal in marriage.[54] Milton abandoned his campaign to legitimize divorce after 1645, but he expressed support for polygamy in the De doctrina christiana, the theological treatise that provides the clearest evidence for his views.[55]

History

History was particularly important for the political class of the period, and Lewalski considers that Milton "more than most illustrates" a remark of Thomas Hobbes on the weight placed at the time on the classical Latin historical writers Tacitus, Livy, Sallust and Cicero, and their republican attitudes.[56] Milton himself wrote that "Worthy deeds are not often destitute of worthy relaters", in Book II of his History of Britain. A sense of history mattered greatly to him:

The course of human history, the immediate impact of the civil disorders, and his own traumatic personal life, are all regarded by Milton as typical of the predicament he describes as 'the misery that has bin since Adam'.[57]

Legacy and influence

Once Paradise Lost was published, Milton's stature as epic poet was immediately recognised. He cast a formidable shadow over English poetry in the 18th and 19th centuries; he was often judged equal or superior to all other English poets, including Shakespeare. Very early on, though, he was championed by Whigs, and decried by Tories: with the regicide Edmund Ludlow he was claimed as an early Whig,[58] while the High Tory Anglican minister Luke Milbourne lumped Milton in with other "Agents of Darkness" such as John Knox, George Buchanan, Richard Baxter, Algernon Sidney and John Locke.[59]

Early reception of the poetry

John Dryden, an early enthusiast, in 1677 began the trend of describing Milton as the poet of the sublime.[60] Dryden's The State of Innocence and the Fall of Man: an Opera (1677) is evidence of an immediate cultural influence. In 1695, Patrick Hume became the first editor of Paradise Lost, providing an extensive apparatus of annotation and commentary, particularly chasing down allusions.[61]

Titlepage of a 1752-1761 edition of "The Poetical Works of John Milton with Notes of Various Authors by Thomas Newton" printed by J. & R. Tonson in the Strand.

In 1732 the classical scholar Richard Bentley offered a corrected version of Paradise Lost.[62] Bentley was considered presumptuous, and was attacked in the following year by Zachary Pearce. Christopher Ricks judges that, as critic, Bentley was both acute and wrong-headed, and "incorrigibly eccentric"; William Empson also finds Pearce to be more sympathetic to Bentley's underlying line of thought than is warranted.[63][64]

There was an early, partial translation of Paradise Lost into German by Theodore Haak, and based on that a standard verse translation by Ernest Gottlieb von Berge. A subsequent prose translation by Johann Jakob Bodmer was very popular; it influenced Friedrich Gottlieb Klopstock. The German-language Milton tradition returned to England in the person of the artist Henry Fuseli.

Many enlightenment thinkers of the 18th century revered and commented on Milton's poetry and non-poetical works. In addition to John Dryden, among them were Alexander Pope, Joseph Addison, Thomas Newton, and Samuel Johnson. For example in The Spectator[65]Joseph Addison wrote extensive notes, annotations, and interpretations of certain passages of Paradise Lost. Jonathan Richardson, senior, and Jonathan Richardson, the younger, co-wrote a book of criticism.[66] In 1749, Thomas Newton published an extensive edition of Milton's poetical works with annotations provided by himself, Dryden, Pope, Addison, the Richardsons (father and son) and others. Newton's edition of Milton was a culmination of the honour bestowed upon Milton by early Enlightenment thinkers; it may also have been prompted by Richard Bentley's infamous edition, described above. Samuel Johnson wrote numerous essays on Paradise Lost, and Milton was included in his Lives of the Most Eminent English Poets (1779–1781).

Blake

Frontispiece to Milton: a Poem

William Blake considered Milton the major English poet. Blake placed Edmund Spenser as Milton's precursor, and saw himself as Milton's poetical son.[67] In his Milton: a Poem, Blake uses Milton as a character.

Romantic theory

Edmund Burke was a theorist of the sublime, and he regarded Milton's description of Hell as exemplary of sublimity as aesthetic concept. For Burke it was to set alongside mountain-tops, a storm at sea, and infinity.[68] In The Beautiful and the Sublime he wrote "No person seems better to have understood the secret of heightening, or of setting terrible things, if I may use the expression, in their strongest light, by the force of a judicious obscurity than Milton."[69]

The Romantic poets valued his exploration of blank verse, but for the most part rejected his religiosity. William Wordsworth began his sonnet "London, 1802" with "Milton! thou should'st be living at this hour"[70] and modeled The Prelude, his own blank verse epic, on Paradise Lost. John Keats found the yoke of Milton's style uncongenial;[71] he exclaimed that "Miltonic verse cannot be written but in an artful or rather artist's humour."[72] Keats felt that Paradise Lost was a "beautiful and grand curiosity"; but his own unfinished attempt at epic poetry, Hyperion, was unsatisfactory to the author because, amongst other things, it had too many "Miltonic inversions".[72] In The Madwoman in the Attic, Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar note that Mary Shelley's novel Frankenstein is, in the view of many critics, "one of the key 'Romantic' readings of Paradise Lost."[73]

Later legacy

The Victorian age witnessed a continuation of Milton's influence, George Eliot[74] and Thomas Hardy being particularly inspired by Milton's poetry and biography. By contrast, the early 20th century, with the efforts of T. S. Eliot and Ezra Pound, witnessed a reduction in Milton's critical stature. Harold Bloom, in The Anxiety of Influence, could still write that "Milton is the central problem in any theory and history of poetic influence in English [...]".[75]

Milton's Areopagitica is still cited as relevant to the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.[76] A quotation from Areopagitica – "A good book is the precious lifeblood of a master spirit, embalmed and treasured up on purpose to a life beyond life" – is displayed in many public libraries, including the New York Public Library.

The title of Phillip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy is derived from a quotation, "His dark materials to create more worlds", line 915 of Book II in Paradise Lost. Pullman was concerned to produce a version of Milton's poem accessible to teenagers,[77] and has spoken of Milton as "our greatest public poet".[78]

T. S. Eliot believed that "of no other poet is it so difficult to consider the poetry simply as poetry, without our theological and political dispositions... making unlawful entry".[79]

Literary legacy

Milton's use of blank verse, in addition to his stylistic innovations (such as grandiloquence of voice and vision, peculiar diction and phraseology) influenced later poets. At the time poetic blank verse was considered distinct from its use in verse drama, and Paradise Lost was taken as a unique examplar.[80] Said Isaac Watts in 1734, “Mr. Milton is esteemed the parent and author of blank verse among us”[81]. “Miltonic verse” might be synonymous for a century with blank verse as poetry, a new poetic terrain independent from both the drama and the heroic couplet.

Lack of rhyme was sometimes taken as Milton's defining innovation. He himself considered the rhymeless quality of Paradise Lost to be an extension of his own personal liberty:

“This neglect then of Rhime... is to be esteem'd an example set, the first in English, of ancient liberty recover'd to heroic Poem from the troublesom and modern bondage of Rimeing.”[82].

This pursuit of freedom was largely a reaction against conservative values entrenched within the rigid heroic couplet.[83] Within a dominant culture that stressed elegance and finish, he granted primacy to freedom, breadth and imaginative suggestiveness, eventually developed into the romantic vision of sublime terror. Reaction to Milton’s poetic worldview included, grudgingly, acknowledgement that of poet’s resemblance to classical writers (Greek and Roman poetry being unrhymed. Blank verse came to be a recognized medium for religious works and for translations of the classics. Unrhymed lyrics like Collins' Ode to Evening (in the meter of Milton's translation of Horace's Ode to Pyrrha) were not uncommon after 1740.[84]

Statue of Milton in Temple of British Worthies, Stowe

A second aspect of Milton's blank verse was the use of unconventional rhythm:

“His blank-verse paragraph, and his audacious and victorious attempt to combine blank and rhymed verse with paragraphic effect in Lycidas, lay down indestructible models and patterns of English verse-rhythm, as distinguished from the narrower and more strait-laced forms of English metre”[85].

Prior to Milton, “the sense of regular rhythm…had been knocked into the English head so securely that it was part of their nature”[86]. The “Heroick measure,” according to Samuel Johnson, “is pure…when the accent rests upon every second syllable through the whole line…The repetition of this sound or percussion at equal times, is the most complete harmony of which a single verse is capable”[87]. Caesural pauses, most agreed, were best placed at the middle and the end of the line. In order to support this symmetry, lines were most often octo- or deca-syllabic, with no enjambed endings. To this schema Milton introduced modifications, which included hypermetrical syllables (trisyllabic feet), inversion or slighting of stresses, and the shifting of pauses to all parts of the line.[88] Milton deemed these features to be reflective of “the transcendental union of order and freedom”[89]. Admirers remained hesitant to adopt such departures from traditional metrical schemes: “The English…had been writing separate lines for so long that they could not rid themselves of the habit”[90]. Isaac Watts preferred his lines distinct from each other, as did Oliver Goldsmith, Henry Pemberton, and Scott of Amwell, whose general opinion it was that Milton's frequent omission of the initial unaccented foot was “displeasing to a nice ear”[91]. It was not until the late eighteenth century that poets (beginning with Gray) began to appreciate “the composition of Milton’s harmony…how he loved to vary his pauses, his measures, and his feet, which gives that enchanting air of freedom and wilderness to his versification”[92].

While neo-classical diction was as restrictive as its prosody, and narrow imagery paired with uniformity of sentence structure resulted in a small set of 800 nouns circumscribing the vocabulary of 90% of heroic couplets ever written up to the eighteenth century,[93] andradition required that the same adjectives attach to the same nouns, followed by the same verbs, Milton's pursuit of liberty extended into his vocabulary as well. It included many Latinate neologisms, as well as obsolete words already dropped from popular usage so completely that their meanings were no longer understood. In 1740 Francis Peck identified some examples of Milton's “old” words (now popular).[94] The “Miltonian dialect” as it was called, was emulated by later poets; Pope used the diction of Paradise Lost in his Homer translation, while the lyric poetry of Gray and Collins was frequently criticized for their use of “obsolete words out of Spenser and Milton”[95]. The language of Thomson’s finest poems (e.g. The Seasons, Castle of Indolence) was self-consciously modeled after the Miltonian dialect, with the same tone and sensibilities as Paradise Lost. Following to Milton, English poetry from Pope to John Keats exhibited a steadily-increasing attention to the connotative, the imaginative and poetic, value of words.[96]

Miltonic effects

The varied manifestations of personal liberty in Milton’s works (e.g. abandonment of rhyme, irregular rhythms, peculiar diction) converge to create specific Miltonian effects that live on to this day. Raymond Dexter identifies nine outstanding characteristics specific to Paradise Lost that survived into later poetic movements:

1. Dignity, reserve and stateliness

Of Man's first disobedience, and the fruit
Of that forbidden Tree, whose mortal taste
Brought death into the world, and all our woe,
With loss of Eden, till one greater Man
Restore us, and regain the blissful seat,
Sing, Heavenly Muse (i. 1-6)

2. Sonorous, orotund voice

O thou that, with surpassing glory crown'd
Look'st from thy sole dominion like the god
Of this new World. (iv. 32-4)

3. Inversion of the natural order of words and phrases

Ten paces huge
He back recoil’d. (vi. 193-4)

"temperate vapours bland"(v. 5)
"heavenly form Angelic"(ix. 457-8)
"unvoyageable gulf obscure"(x. 366)

4. The omission of words not necessary to the sense

And where their weakness, how attempted best,
By force or subtlety. (ii. 357-8)

5. Parenthesis and opposition

Their song was partial, but the harmony
(What could it less when Spirits immortal sing?)
Suspended Hell, and took with ravishment
The thronging audience. In discourse more sweet
(For eloquence the soul, song charms the sense)
Others apart sat on a hill retired (ii. 552-7)

6. The use of one part of speech for another

"with gems . . . rich emblazed," "grinned horrible," (adjective used as adverb)
"Heaven's azure" or "the vast of Heaven." (adjective used as noun)
"without disturb they took alarm"; "the place of her retire." (verbs used as nouns )
May serve to better us and worse our foes (adjective used as verb)
Yet oft his heart, divine of something ill (verb, adjective employed in participal sense)
"fuell'd entrails," "his con-sorted Eve," "roses bushing round." (substantive used as verb).

7. Vocabulary

Archaic words from Chaucer, Spenser and Shakespeare : "erst," "grunsel," "welkin," "frore," "lore," "grisly," "ken" etc. Unusual Words from Greek or Latin: "dulcet," "panoplie," "sapience," "nocent," "congratulant” etc. Words employed in senses obsolete to the eighteenth century: "the secret top Of Oreb," "a singèd bottom all in-volved With stench," "tempt an abyss,” "his uncouth way"

8. The introduction into a comparatively short passage of proper names in number, not necessary to the sense, but adding richness, color, and imaginative suggestiveness

And what resounds
In fable or romance of Uther's son,
Begirt with British and Armoric knights;
And all who since, baptized or infidel,
jousted in Aspramont, or Montalban,
Damasco, or Marocco, or Trebisond;
Or whom Biserta sent from Afric shore
When Charlemain with all his peerage fell
By Fontarabbia. (i. 579-87)

9. Unusual compound epithets

"Sail-broad vans," "high-climbing hill," "arch-chemic sun," "half-rounding guards," "night-warbling bird," "love-labour'd song"

Poetic and dramatic works

Political, philosophical and religious prose

Notes

  1. ^ Project Gutenberg. Little Journeys to the Homes of the Great – Volume 05 by Elbert Hubbard. Retrieved on 02/22/09
  2. ^ McCalman 2001 p. 605.
  3. ^ Contemporary Literary Criticism, "Milton, John - Introduction"
  4. ^ Masson 1859 pp. v–vi.
  5. ^ Lewalski 2003 p. 3.
  6. ^ a b Dick 1962 pp. 270–5.
  7. ^ Milton, John in Venn, J. & J. A., Alumni Cantabrigienses, Cambridge University Press, 10 vols, 1922–1958.
  8. ^ Hunter 1980 p. 99.
  9. ^ Wedgwood 1961 p. 178.
  10. ^ Hill 1977 p. 34.
  11. ^ Pfeiffer 1955 pp. 363–373
  12. ^ Milton 1959 pp. 887–8.
  13. ^ Hill 1977 p. 38.
  14. ^ Lewalski 2003 p. 103.
  15. ^ Chaney, 1985 and 2000
  16. ^ Lewalski 2003 pp. 87–88
  17. ^ Milton 1959 Vol. IV part I. pp. 615–617
  18. ^ Lewalski 2003 pp. 88–94
  19. ^ Chaney, 1985 and 2000, and Lewalski, p. 96.
  20. ^ Chaney, 1985, p. 244-51 and Chaney, 2000, p. 313
  21. ^ Lewalski 2003 pp. 94–98
  22. ^ Lewalski 2003 p. 98
  23. ^ Milton 1959 Vol IV part I. pp. 618–619
  24. ^ Lewalski 2003 pp. 99–109
  25. ^ Lobel, 1957, pages 122-134
  26. ^ Lewalski 2003 pp. 181–2, 600.
  27. ^ von Maltzahn 1999 p. 239
  28. ^ Toland 1932 p. 193.
  29. ^ Hill, 1977
  30. ^ Wilson 1983 pp. 241–42.
  31. ^ See, for instance, Barker, Arthur. Milton and the Puritan Dilemma, 1641–1660. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1942: 338 and passim; Wolfe, Don M. Milton in the Puritan Revolution. New York: T. Nelson and Sons, 1941: 19.
  32. ^ Stephen Fallon, Milton Among the Philosophers (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1991), p. 81.
  33. ^ Blair Worden, Literature and Politics in Cromwellian England: John Milton, Andrew Marvell and Marchamont Nedham (2007), p. 154.
  34. ^ Milton and Republicanism, ed. David Armitage, Armand Himy, and Quentin Skinner (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995)
  35. ^ James Tully, An Approach to Political Philosophy: Locke in Contexts (1993), p. 301.
  36. ^ Austin Woolrych, Commonwealth to Protectorate (1982), p. 34.
  37. ^ Worden, p. 149.
  38. ^ Austin Woolrych, Commonwealth to Protectorate (1982), p. 101.
  39. ^ G. E. Aylmer (editor), The Interregnum: The Quest for Settlement 1646–1660 (1972), p. 17.
  40. ^ Christopher Hill, God's Englishman (1972 edition), p. 200.
  41. ^ "Online Library of Liberty – To S r Henry Vane the younger. – The Poetical Works of John Milton". Oll.libertyfund.org. http://oll.libertyfund.org/?option=com_staticxt&staticfile=show.php%3Ftitle=556&chapter=85636&layout=html&Itemid=27. Retrieved 2008-12-09. 
  42. ^ "John W. Creaser – Prosodic Style and Conceptions of Liberty in Milton and Marvell – Milton Quarterly 34:1". Muse.jhu.edu. http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/milton_quarterly/v034/34.1creaser.html#FOOT36. Retrieved 2008-12-09. 
  43. ^ William Riley Parker and Gordon Campbell, Milton (1996), p. 444.
  44. ^ Nigel Smith, Popular Republicanism in the 1650s: John Streater's 'heroick mechanics' , p. 154, in David Armitage, Armand Himy, Quentin Skinner (editors), Milton and Republicanism (1998).
  45. ^ Blair Worden, Literature and Politics in Cromwellian England: John Milton, Andrew Marvell and Marchamont Nedham (2007), Ch. 14, Milton and the Good Old Cause.
  46. ^ Austin Woolrych, Last Quest for Settlement 1657–1660, p. 202, in G. E. Aylmer (editor), The Interregnum: The Quest for Settlement 1646–1660 (1972), p. 17.
  47. ^ Nr 106 in The Church Hymn book 1872 (ed. Hatfield, Edwin F., New York and Chicago, USA)
  48. ^ Lewalski, Life of Milton, p. 253.
  49. ^ William Bridges Hunter, A Milton Encyclopedia (1980), Volume VIII p. 13.
  50. ^ Arnold Williams, Renaissance Commentaries on "Genesis" and Some Elements of the Theology of Paradise Lost, PMLA, Vol. 56, No. 1 (Mar., 1941), pp. 151–164.
  51. ^ Walter S. H. Lim, John Milton, Radical Politics, and Biblical Republicanism (2006), p. 141.
  52. ^ John Rogers, The Matter of Revolution (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1998), p. xi.
  53. ^ (PDF) Nicholas McDowell, Family Politics; Or, How John Phillips Read His Uncle's Satirical Sonnets, Milton Quarterly Volume 42 Issue 1, Pages 1–21, Published Online: 17 Apr 2008
  54. ^ Christopher Hill, Milton and the English Revolution" (1977), p. 127.
  55. ^ John Milton, The Christian Doctrine in Complete Poems and Major Prose, ed. Merritt Hughes (Hackett: Indianapolis, 2003), pp. 994–1000; Leo Miller, John Milton among the Polygamophiles (New York: Loewenthal Press, 1974)
  56. ^ Lewalski, Life of Milton, p. 199.
  57. ^ Timothy Kenyon, Utopian Communism and Political Thought in Early Modern England (1989), p. 34.
  58. ^ Kevin Sharpe, Remapping Early Modern England: The Culture of Seventeenth-century Politics (2000), p. 7.
  59. ^ J. P. Kenyon, Revolution Principles (1977), p. 77.
  60. ^ "Audience and human nature in the poetry of Milton and Dryden/Milton ve Dryden'in siirlerinde izleyici ve insan dogasi – Interactions – Find Articles at BNET". Findarticles.com. http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_7014/is_1_16/ai_n28450154/pg_5. Retrieved 2008-12-09. 
  61. ^ Joseph M. Levine, The Battle of the Books: History and Literature in the Augustan Age (1994), p. 247.
  62. ^ "Online text of one book". Andromeda.rutgers.edu. http://andromeda.rutgers.edu/~jlynch/Texts/Bentley/. Retrieved 2010-01-04. 
  63. ^ Christopher Ricks, Milton's Grand Style (1963), p. 9, p. 14, p. 57.
  64. ^ William Empson, Some Versions of Pastoral (1974 edition), p. 147.
  65. ^ Nos 267, 273, 279, 285, 291, 297, 303, 309, 315, 321, 327, 333, 339, 345, 351, 357, 363, and 369.
  66. ^ Explanatory Notes and Remarks on Milton's Paradise Lost (1734).
  67. ^ S. Foster Damon, A Blake Dictionary (1973), p. 274.
  68. ^ Bill Beckley, Sticky Sublime (2001), p. 63.
  69. ^ Part II, Section I: http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/b/burke/edmund/sublime/part2.html
  70. ^ "Francis T. Palgrave, ed. (1824–1897). The Golden Treasury. 1875". Bartleby.com. http://www.bartleby.com/106/213.html. Retrieved 2010-01-04. 
  71. ^ Thomas N. Corns, A Companion to Milton (2003), p. 474.
  72. ^ a b Leader, Zachary. "Revision and Romantic Authorship". Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999. 298. ISBN 0-1981-8634-7
  73. ^ Cited from the original in J. Paul Hunter (editor), Frankenstein by Mary Shelley (1996), p. 225.
  74. ^ Nardo, Anna, K. George Eliot’s Dialogue with Milton
  75. ^ Harold Bloom, The Anxiety of Influence: A theory of poetry (1997), p. 33.
  76. ^ "''Milton's Areopagitica and the Modern First Amendment'' by Vincent Blasi". Nationalhumanitiescenter.org. http://nationalhumanitiescenter.org/ideasv42/blasi4.htm. Retrieved 2010-01-04. 
  77. ^ "Imitating Milton: The Legacy of Paradise Lost". Christs.cam.ac.uk. http://www.christs.cam.ac.uk/darknessvisible/imitation.html. Retrieved 2010-01-04. 
  78. ^ "Philip Pullman opens Bodleian Milton exhibition - University of Oxford". Ox.ac.uk. http://www.ox.ac.uk/media/news_stories/2007/071217a.html. Retrieved 2010-01-04. 
  79. ^ Eliot 1947 p. 63.
  80. ^ Saintsbury 1908 ii. 443
  81. ^ Watts 1810 iv. 619
  82. ^ Milton 1668 xi
  83. ^ Gordon 2008 p. 234
  84. ^ Dexter 1922 p. 46
  85. ^ Saintsbury 1908 ii. 457
  86. ^ Saintsbury 1916 p. 101
  87. ^ Johnson 1751 no.86
  88. ^ Dexter 1922 p. 57
  89. ^ Saintsbury 1908 ii. 458-9
  90. ^ Dexter 1922 p. 59
  91. ^ Saintsbury 1916 p. 114
  92. ^ Gray 1748 Observations on English Metre
  93. ^ Hobsbaum 1996 p. 40
  94. ^ They included “self-same,” “hue,” “minstrelsy,” “murky,” “carol” and “chaunt”. Among Milton’s naturalized Latin words were "humid," "orient," "hostil," "facil," "fervid," "jubilant," "ire," "bland," "reluctant," "palpable," "fragil" and "ornate". Peck 1740 p. 110-111.
  95. ^ Scott 1785 63
  96. ^ Saintsbury 1908 ii. 468
  97. ^ "Online Library of Liberty - Titles". Oll.libertyfund.org. http://oll.libertyfund.org/Home3/HTML-voice.php?recordID=0937. Retrieved 2010-01-04. 

References

  • Beer, Anna. Milton: Poet, Pamphleteer, and Patriot. New York: Bloomsbury Press, 2008.
  • Campbell, Gordon and Corns, Thomas. John Milton: Life, Work, and Thought. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008.
  • Chaney, Edward, The Grand Tour and the Great Rebellion: Richard Lassels and 'The Voyage of Italy' in the Seventeenth Century (Geneva, CIRVI, 1985) and "Milton's Visit to Vallombrosa: A literary tradition", The Evolution of the Grand Tour, 2nd ed (Routledge, London, 2000)
  • Dexter, Raymond. The Influence of Milton on English Poetry London: Kessinger Publishing. 1922
  • Dick, Oliver Lawson. Aubrey's Brief Lives. Harmondsworth, Middl.: Penguin Books, 1962.
  • Eliot, T. S. "Annual Lecture on a Master Mind: Milton", Proceedings of the British Academy 33 (1947).
  • Hill, Christopher. Milton and the English Revolution". New York: Viking Press, 1977.
  • Gray, Thomas. Observations on English Metre. "The Works of Thomas Gray" ed.Mitford London: William Pickering 1835.
  • Hobsbaum, Philip. "Meterem,Rhythm and Verse Form" New York: Routledge, 1996.
  • Hunter, William Bridges. A Milton Encyclopedia. Lewisburg: Bucknell University Press, 1980.
  • Johnson, Samuel. "Rambler #86" 1751
  • Lewalski, Barbara K. The Life of John Milton. Oxford: Blackwells Publishers, 2003.
  • A History of the County of Oxford: Volume 5: Bullingdon Hundred. 1957. pp. 122–134. 
  • Masson, David. The Life of John Milton and History of His Time, vol. 1. Cambridge: 1859.
  • McCalman, Iain. et al., An Oxford Companion to the Romantic Age: British Culture, 1776–1832. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001.
  • Milton, John. Complete Prose Works 8 Vols. gen. Ed. Don M. Wolfe. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1959.
  • Milton, John. The Verse, "Paradise Lost" London, 1668.
  • Peck, Francis. "New Memoirs of Milton" London, 1740.
  • Pfeiffer, Robert H. "The Teaching of Hebrew in Colonial America", The Jewish Quarterly Review, (April 1955).
  • Saintsbury, George. "The Peace of the Augustans: A Survey of Eighteenth Century Literature as a Place of Rest and Refreshment" London: Oxford University Press. 1946.
  • Saintsbury, George. "A History of English Prosody: From the Twelvth Century to the Present Day" London: Macmillan and co. 1908
  • Scott, John. "Critical Essays" London 1785
  • Toland, John. Life of Milton in The Early Lives of Milton. Ed. Helen Darbishere. London: Constable, 1932.
  • von Maltzahn, Nicholas. "Milton's Readers" in The Cambridge Companion to Milton. ed. Dennis Richard Danielson, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999.
  • Watts, Isaac. "Miscellaneous Thoughts" no. lxxiii. Works 1810
  • Wedgwood, C. V. Thomas Wentworth, First Earl of Strafford 1593–1641. New York: Macmillan, 1961.
  • Wilson, A. N. The Life of John Milton. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1983.

External links


Quotes

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

A poet soaring in the high reason of his fancies, with his garland and singing robes about him.

John Milton (1608-12-091674-11-08) was an English poet and politician, most famous for his epic poem Paradise Lost.

Contents

See also

Sourced

  • What needs my Shakespeare for his honoured bones,
    The labor of an age in pilèd stones,
    Or that his hallowed relics should be hid
    Under a star-y-pointing pyramid?
    Dear son of memory, great heir of fame,
    What need'st thou such weak witness of thy name?
    • On Shakespeare (1630).
  • And so sepúlchred in such pomp dost lie,
    That kings for such a tomb would wish to die.
    • On Shakespeare (1630).
  • How soon hath Time, the subtle thief of youth,
    Stol'n on his wing my three-and-twentieth year.
    • On His Having Arrived at the Age of Twenty-three (1631).
  • Captain or Colonel, or Knight in Arms,
    Whose chance on these defenceless doors may seize,
    If ever deed of honour did thee please,
    Guard them, and him within protect from harms.
    • Sonnet VIII: When the Assault was Intended to the City.
  • The great Emathian conqueror bid spare
    The house of Pindarus, when temple and tower
    Went to the ground.
    • Sonnet VIII: When the Assault was intended to the City.
  • Such sweet compulsion doth in music lie.
    • Arcades (1630-1634), line 68.
  • Under the shady roof
    Of branching elm star-proof.
    • Arcades (1630-1634), line 88.
  • The lazy leaden-stepping Hours,
    Whose speed is but the heavy plummet's pace.
    • On Time (c. 1637).
  • O nightingale, that on yon bloomy spray
    Warbl'st at eve, when all the woods are still.
    • Sonnet, To the Nightingale (c. 1637).
  • Blest pair of Sirens, pledges of Heaven's joy,
    • At a Solemn Music (c. 1637), line 1.
  • Where the bright seraphim in burning row
    Their loud uplifted angel trumpets blow.
    • At a Solemn Music.
  • A poet soaring in the high reason of his fancies, with his garland and singing robes about him.
    • The Reason of Church Government (1641), Book II, Introduction.
  • By labor and intent study (which I take to be my portion in this life), joined with the strong propensity of nature, I might perhaps leave something so written to after-times, as they should not willingly let it die.
    • The Reason of Church Government (1641), Book II, Introduction.
  • He who would not be frustrate of his hope to write well hereafter in laudable things ought himself to be a true poem.
    • Apology for Smectymnuus (1642).
  • His words ... like so many nimble and airy servitors trip about him at command.
    • Apology for Smectymnuus (1642).
  • I will not deny but that the best apology against false accusers is silence and sufferance, and honest deeds set against dishonest words.
    • Apology for Smectymnuus (1642).
  • So little care they of beasts to make them men, that by their sorcerous doctrine of formalities, they take the way to transform them out of Christian men into judaizing beasts. Had they but taught the land, or suffered it to be taught, as Christ would it should have been in all plenteous dispensation of the word, then the poor mechanic might have so accustomed his ear to good teaching, as to have discerned between faithful teachers and false. But now, with a most inhuman cruelty, they who have put out the people’s eyes, reproach them of their blindness; just as the Pharisees their true fathers were wont, who could not endure that the people should be thought competent judges of Christ’s doctrine, although we know they judged far better than those great rabbis: yet “this people,” said they, “that know not the law is accursed.”
    • Apology for Smectymnuus (1642), section VIII.
  • Truth...never comes into the world but like a bastard, to the ignominy of him that brought her forth.
    • The Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce (1643), Introduction.
  • Truth is as impossible to be soiled by any outward touch as the sunbeam.
    • The Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce (1643), Introduction. Compare: "The sun, which passeth through pollutions and itself remains as pure as before", Francis Bacon, Advancement of Learning, Book ii (1605).
  • Men of most renowned virtue have sometimes by transgressing most truly kept the law.
    • Tetrachordon (1644–1645).
  • New Presbyter is but Old Priest writ Large.
    • On the new forcers of Conscience under the Long Parliament (1645).
  • For other things mild Heav'n a time ordains,
    And disapproves that care, though wise in show,
    That with superfluous burden loads the day,
    And, when God sends a cheerful hour, refrains.
    • To Cyriack Skinner (1646–1647).
The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven.
  • For such kind of borrowing as this, if it be not bettered by the borrower, among good authors is accounted Plagiarè.
    • Eikonoklastes (1649), 23.
  • None can love freedom heartily, but good men; the rest love not freedom, but license.
    • Tenure of Kings and Magistrates (1649).
  • No man who knows aught, can be so stupid to deny that all men naturally were born free.
    • Tenure of Kings and Magistrates (1649).
  • Peace hath her victories
    No less renowned than war.
    • To the Lord General Cromwell (1652).
  • When I consider how my light is spent,
    Ere half my days, in this dark world and wide,
    And that one talent which is death to hide
    Lodged with me useless.
    • On His Blindness (1652).
  • Who best
    Bear his mild yoke, they serve him best: his state
    Is kingly; thousands at his bidding speed,
    And post o'er land and ocean without rest;
    They also serve who only stand and wait.
    • On His Blindness (1652).
  • Avenge, O Lord, thy slaughtered saints, whose bones
    Lie scattered on the Alpine mountains cold;
    Ev'n them who kept thy truth so pure of old
    When all our fathers worshipped stocks and stones
    Forget not.
    • On the Late Massacre in Piedmont (1655).
  • Cyriack, whose Grandsire on the Royal Bench
    Of British Themis, with no mean applause
    Pronounced and in his volumes taught our Laws,
    Which others at their Bar so often wrench
    • To Cyriack Skinner (1655).
  • Yet I argue not
    Against Heav'n's hand or will, nor bate one jot
    Of heart or hope; but still bear up, and steer
    Right onward.
    • To Cyriack Skinner, upon His Blindness (c. 1655).
  • Of which all Europe rings from side to side.
    • To Cyriack Skinner, upon His Blindness (c. 1655).
  • In mirth that after no repenting draws.
    • To Cyriack Skinner, upon His Blindness (c. 1655).
  • Lawrence, of virtuous father virtuous son
    • To Mr. Lawrence (1656).
  • Methought I saw my late espousèd saint
    Brought to me like Alcestis from the grave.
    • On His Deceased Wife (c. 1658).
  • But oh! as to embrace me she inclined,
    I waked, she fled, and day brought back my night.
    • On His Deceased Wife (c. 1658).
  • [Rhyme is] but the invention of a barbarous age, to set off wretched matter and lame Meter; ... Not without cause therefore some both Italian and Spanish poets of prime note have rejected rhyme, ... as have also long since our best English tragedies, as... trivial and of no true musical delight; which [truly] consists only in apt numbers, fit quantity of syllables, and the sense variously drawn out from one verse into another, not in the jingling sound of like endings, a fault avoided by the learned ancients both in poetry and all good oratory.
    • Introduction to Paradise Lost Added, 1668.
  • Such bickerings to recount, met often in these our writers, what more worth is it than to chronicle the wars of kites or crows flocking and fighting in the air?
    • The History of England (1670), Book IV .
  • For stories teach us, that liberty sought out of season, in a corrupt and degenerate age, brought Rome itself to a farther slavery: for liberty hath a sharp and double edge, fit only to be handled by just and virtuous men; to bad and dissolute, it becomes a mischief unwieldy in their own hands: neither is it completely given, but by them who have the happy skill to know what is grievance and unjust to a people, and how to remove it wisely; what good laws are wanting, and how to frame them substantially, that good men may enjoy the freedom which they merit, and the bad the curb which they need.
  • Madam, methinks I see him living yet;
    So well your words his noble virtues praise,
    That all both judge you to relate them true,
    And to possess them, honour'd Margaret.
  • Such as may make thee search the coffers round.
    • At a Vacation Exercise. Line 31, reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919).
  • O fairest flower! no sooner blown but blasted,
    Soft silken primrose fading timelessly.
    • Ode on the Death of a fair Infant, dying of a Cough, reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919).
  • Thy liquid notes that close the eye of day.
    • Sonnet to the Nightingale, reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919). Compare: "That well by reason men it call may / The daisie, or els the eye of the day, / The emprise, and floure of floures all", Geoffrey Chaucer, Prologue of the Legend of Good Women, line 183.
  • As ever in my great Taskmaster's eye.
    • On his being arrived to the Age of Twenty-three, reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919).
  • That old man eloquent.
    • To the Lady Margaret Ley, reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919).
  • That would have made Quintilian stare and gasp.
    • On the Detraction which followed upon my writing certain Treatises, reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919).
  • License they mean when they cry, Liberty!
    For who loves that must first be wise and good.
    • On the Detraction which followed upon my writing certain Treatises, reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919).
  • What neat repast shall feast us, light and choice,
    Of Attic taste?
    • To Mr. Lawrence.
  • Have hung
    My dank and dropping weeds
    To the stern god of sea.
    • Translation of Horace. Book i. Ode 5.
  • Beholding the bright countenance of truth in the quiet and still air of delightful studies.
    • The Reason of Church Government, Introduction, Book ii.
  • By this time, like one who had set out on his way by night, and travelled through a region of smooth or idle dreams, our history now arrives on the confines, where daylight and truth meet us with a clear dawn, representing to our view, though at a far distance, true colours and shapes.
    • The History of England, Book i.

On the Morning of Christ's Nativity (1629)

  • This is the month, and this the happy morn,
    Wherein the Son of Heav'n's eternal King,
    Of wedded maid and virgin mother born,
    Our great redemption from above did bring;
    For so the holy sages once did sing,
    That He our deadly forfeit should release,
    And with His Father work us a perpetual peace.
    • Stanza 1, line 1.
  • It was the winter wild
    While the Heav'n-born child
    All meanly wrapt in the rude manger lies.
    • Hymn, stanza 1, line 29.
  • No war, or battle's sound
    Was heard the world around.
    The idle spear and shield were high up hung.
    • Hymn, stanza 4, line 53.
  • Time will run back and fetch the Age of Gold.
    • Hymn, stanza 14, line 135.
  • Swinges the scaly horror of his folded tail.
    • Hymn, stanza 18, line 172.
  • The oracles are dumb,
    No voice or hideous hum
    Runs through the arched roof in words deceiving.
    Apollo from his shrine
    Can no more divine,
    With hollow shriek the steep of Delphos leaving.
    No nightly trance or breathed spell
    Inspires the pale-eyed priest from the prophetic cell.
    • Hymn, stanza 19, line 173.
  • From haunted spring and dale
    Edged with poplar pale
    The parting genius is with sighing sent.
    • Hymn, stanza 20, line 184
  • Peor and Baälim
    Forsake their temples dim.
    • Hymn. Line 197.

L'Allegro (1631)

  • Hence, loathèd Melancholy,
    Of Cerberus and blackest Midnight born,
    In Stygian cave forlorn,
    'Mongst horrid shapes, and shrieks, and sights unholy.
    • Line 1.
  • Haste thee, Nymph, and bring with thee
    Jest, and youthful jollity,
    Quips and cranks and wanton wiles,
    Nods and becks and wreathèd smiles.
    • Line 25.
  • Sport, that wrinkled Care derides,
    And Laughter, holding both his sides.
    Come, and trip it, as you go.
    On the light fantastic toe.
    • Line 31.
  • The mountain nymph, sweet Liberty.
    • Line 36.
  • Mirth, admit me of thy crew,
    To live with her, and live with thee,
    In unreprovèd pleasures free.
    • Line 38.
  • While the cock with lively din
    Scatters the rear of darkness thin,
    And to the stack, or the barn door,
    Stoutly struts his dames before,
    Oft list'ning how the hounds and horn
    Cheerly rouse the slumb'ring morn.
    • Line 49.
  • And every shepherd tells his tale
    Under the hawthorn in the dale.
    • Line 67.
  • Meadows trim, with daisies pied,
    Shallow brooks, and rivers wide;
    Towers and balements it sees
    Bosomed high in tufted trees,
    Where perhaps some beauty lies,
    The cynosure of neighboring eyes.
    • Line 75.
  • Herbs, and other country messes,
    Which the neat-handed Phillis dresses.
    • Line 85.
  • And the jocund rebecks sound
    To many a youth, and many a maid,
    Dancing in the checkered shade.
    And young and old come forth to play
    On a sunshine holiday.
    • Line 94.
  • Then to the spicy nut-brown ale.
    • Line 100.
  • Then lies him down the lubber fiend,
    And stretched out all the chimney's length,
    Basks at the fire his hairy strength.
    • Line 110.
  • Towered cities please us then,
    And the busy hum of men.
    • Line 117.
  • Ladies, whose bright eyes
    Rain influence, and judge the prize.
    • Line 121.
  • And pomp, and feast, and revelry,
    With mask, and antique pageantry,
    Such sights as youthful poets dream
    On summer eves by haunted stream.
    Then to the well-trod stage anon,
    If Jonson's learned sock be on,
    Or sweetest Shakespeare, Fancy's child,
    Warble his native wood-notes wild,
    And ever, against eating cares,
    Lap me in soft Lydian airs,
    Married to immortal verse
    Such as the meeting soul may pierce,
    In notes with many a winding bout
    Of linked sweetness long drawn out.
    • Line 127. Compare: "Wisdom married to immortal verse", William Wordsworth, The Excursion, book vii.
  • Untwisting all the chains that tie
    The hidden soul of harmony.
    • Line 143.
  • Such strains as would have won the ear
    Of Pluto, to have quite set free
    His half-regained Eurydice.
    These delights, if thou canst give,
    Mirth, with thee, I mean to live.
    • Line 148.

Il Penseroso (1631)

  • Hence vain deluding Joys,
    The brood of Folly without father bred!
    • Line 1.
  • The gay motes that people the sunbeams.
    • Line 8.
  • And looks commercing with the skies,
    Thy rapt soul sitting in thine eyes.
    • Line 39.
  • Forget thyself to marble.
    • Line 42.
  • And join with thee, calm Peace and Quiet,
    Spare Fast, that oft with gods doth diet.
    • Line 45.
  • And add to these retired Leisure,
    That in trim gardens takes his pleasure.
    • Line 49.
  • Sweet bird, that shunn'st the noise of folly,
    Most musical, most melancholy!
    • Line 61.
  • I walk unseen
    On the dry smooth-shaven green,
    To behold the wandering moon,
    Riding near her highest noon,
    Like one that had been led astray
    Through the heav'n's wide pathless way,
    And oft, as if her head she bowed,
    Stooping through a fleecy cloud.
    • Line 65.
  • Oft, on a plat of rising ground,
    I hear the far-off curfew sound
    Over some wide-watered shore,
    Swinging low with sullen roar.
    • Line 73.
  • Where glowing embers through the room
    Teach light to counterfeit a gloom,
    Far from all resort of mirth,
    Save the cricket on the hearth.
    • Line 79.
  • Sometime let gorgeous Tragedy
    In sceptred pall come sweeping by,
    Presenting Thebes, or Pelops' line,
    Or the tale of Troy divine.
    • Line 97.
  • But, O sad Virgin, that thy power
    Might raise Musaeus from his bower,
    Or bid the soul of Orpheus sing
    Such notes as warbled to the string,
    Drew Iron tears down Pluto’s cheek,
    And made Hell grant what Love did seek.
    • Line 105.
  • Or call up him that left half told
    The story of Cambuscan bold.
    • Line 109.
  • Where more is meant than meets the ear.
    • Line 120
  • When the gust hath blown his fill,
    Ending on the rustling leaves
    With minute drops from off the eaves.
    • Line 128.
  • Hide me from day's garish eye,
    While the bee with honied thigh,
    That at her flowery work doth sing,
    And the waters murmuring
    With such consort as they keep,
    Entice the dewy-feathered sleep.
    • Line 141.
  • And storied windows richly dight,
    Casting a dim religious light.
    There let the pealing organ blow,
    To the full-voiced choir below,
    In service high, and anthems clear
    As may, with sweetness, through mine ear
    Dissolve me into ecstasies,
    And bring all heaven before mine eyes.
    • Line 159.
  • Till old experience do attain
    To something like prophetic strain.
    • Line 173.

Lycidas (1637)

  • Yet once more, O ye laurels, and once more
    Ye myrtles brown, with ivy never sere,
    I come to pluck your berries harsh and crude,
    And with forced fingers rude
    Shatter your leaves before the mellowing year.
    • Line 1.
  • He knew
    Himself to sing, and build the lofty rhyme.
    • Line 10.
  • Without the meed of some melodious tear.
    • Line 14.
  • Under the opening eyelids of the morn,
    We drove afield; and both together heard
    What time the gray-fly winds her sultry horn,
    Batt'ning our flocks with the fresh dews of night.
    • Line 26.
  • But O the heavy change, now thou art gone,
    Now thou art gone and never must return!
    • Line 37.
  • The gadding vine.
    • Line 40.
  • Alas! what boots it with incessant care
    To tend the homely slighted shepherd's trade,
    And strictly meditate the thankless Muse?
    Were it not better done as others use,
    To sport with Amaryllis in the shade,
    Or with the tangles of Neaera's hair?
    Fame is the spur that the clear spirit doth raise
    (That last infirmity of noble mind)
    To scorn delights, and live laborious days;
    But the fair guerdon when we hope to find,
    And think to burst out into sudden blaze,
    Comes the blind Fury with th' abhorrèd shears,
    And slits the thin-spun life.
    • Line 64. Compare: "Erant quibus appetentior famæ videretur, quando etiam sapientibus cupido gloriæ novissima exuitur" (Translated: "Some might consider him as too fond of fame, for the desire of glory clings even to the best of men longer than any other passion"), Tacitus, Historia, iv. 6; said of Helvidius Priscus.
  • Fame is no plant that grows on mortal soil.
    • Line 78.
  • It was that fatal and perfidious bark,
    Built in th' eclipse, and rigged with curses dark,
    That sunk so low that sacred head of thine.
    • Line 100.
  • Last came, and last did go,
    The Pilot of the Galilean lake;
    Two massy keys he bore of metals twain,
    (The golden opes, the iron shuts amain).
    • Line 108.
  • Blind mouths! That scarce themselves know how to hold
    A sheep-hook.
    • Line 119.
  • The hungry sheep look up, and are not fed,
    But swoln with wind and the rank mist they draw,
    Rot inwardly, and foul contagion spread:
    Besides what the grim wolf with privy paw
    Daily devours apace, and nothing said;
    But that two-handed engine at the door
    Stands ready to smite once, and smite no more.
    • Line 123.
  • Throw hither all your quaint enamell'd eyes
    That on the green turf suck the honied showers,
    And purple all the ground with vernal flowers.
    Bring the rathe primrose that forsaken dies,
    The tufted crow-toe, and pale jessamine,
    The white pink, and the pansy freakt with jet,
    The glowing violet,
    The musk-rose, and the well-attir'd woodbine,
    With cowslips wan that hang the pensive head,
    And every flower that sad embroidery wears.
    • Line 139.
  • Whether beyond the stormy Hebrides,
    Where thou perhaps under the whelming tide
    Visit'st the bottom of the monstrous world.
    • Line 156.
  • Look homeward, Angel, now, and melt with ruth.
    • Line 163.
  • For Lycidas your sorrow is not dead,
    Sunk though he be beneath the watery floor;
    So sinks the day-star in the ocean bed;
    And yet anon repairs his drooping head,
    And tricks his beams, and with new-spangled ore
    Flames in the forehead of the morning sky.
    So Lycidas sunk low, but mounted high,
    Through the dear might of him that walked the waves.
    • Line 166.
  • He touch'd the tender stops of various quills,
    With eager thought warbling his Doric lay.
    • Line 188.
  • At last he rose, and twitched his mantle blue:
    Tomorrow to fresh woods and pastures new.
    • Line 192.

Tractate of Education (1644)

  • Litigious terms, fat contentions, and flowing fees.
  • I shall detain you no longer in the demonstration of what we should not do, but straight conduct ye to a hillside, where I will point ye out the right path of a virtuous and noble education; laborious indeed at the first ascent, but else so smooth, so green, so full of goodly prospect and melodious sounds on every side that the harp of Orpheus was not more charming.
  • Inflamed with the study of learning and the admiration of virtue; stirred up with high hopes of living to be brave men and worthy patriots, dear to God, and famous to all ages.
  • Ornate rhetoric thought out of the rule of Plato... To which poetry would be made subsequent, or indeed rather precedent, as being less subtle and fine, but more simple, sensuous, and passionate.
  • In those vernal seasons of the year, when the air is calm and pleasant, it were an injury and sullenness against Nature not to go out, and see her riches, and partake in her rejoicing with heaven and earth.
  • Attic tragedies of stateliest and most regal argument.

About John Milton

  • The reason Milton wrote in fetters when he Wrote of Angels and of God, and at liberty when of Devils and Hell, is because he was a true Poet and of the Devil's party without knowing it.

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John Milton
File:John Milton - Project Gutenberg eText
Occupation Poet, Prose Polemicist, Civil Servant

John Milton (December 9, 1608November 8, 1674) was an English poet, religious thinker and civil servant for the English Commonwealth Government. He is one of the most important figures in Western literature. He is most famous for his Christian epic poem Paradise Lost. His writing influenced both later poets and religious thinkers.

Contents

Life

John Milton was born on 9th December, 1608, the son of John Milton (senior) and Sarah Jerry. His family lived in Bread Street, London. His father was a musician and composer. His main work was as a scrivener, a secretary who reads and writes letters for people who cannot read and write for themselves. Milton's father was well paid at this work, and was able to hire a private tutor to teach his clever eldest son. Milton's brother Christopher said he studied very long into each night. Milton then went to St. Paul's School where he studied Latin, Greek, and Hebrew.

Milton then studied at Christ's College, Cambridge and graduated with a B.A. in 1629. On 3 July 1632 he received his Master of Arts degree. He returned home where he continued to study and write poetry for six years. He would write much poetry. When he was 34 he married Mary Powell who was 17.

Publication

In 1645, during the English Civil War, he published Poems of Mr. John Milton, in which there were his famous poems "L'Allegro" and "Il'Penseroso", which was mostly ignored. Om 1649, during the trial of Charles I, Milton wrote Of the Tenure of Kings and Magistrates, arguing that kings can rule only when the people allow them to. He then became secretary to the Council of State and wrote in Latin Eikonoklastes in 1649. That was last big writing project he did before he began to become blind. In 1652 he became completely blind and was very unhappy. However, in 1667, he published the famous Paradise Lost, one of the greatest English-language epics. Four years later he wrote Paradise Regained, a story about how men became sinful and how Jesus Christ won the battle with the devil. The last work that was published while he was alive was Samson Agonistes. He died, probably because of gout, on November eighth, 1674.

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