An Introduction to The Minor Poems in English of John Milton


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John Milton

In both the cases, he seems in control, taking stock of the situation arising from the polarization of the English society on religious and political lines. He fought with the Puritans against the Cavaliers i. But the very same constitutional and republican polity, when tried to curtail freedom of speech, Milton, given his humanistic zeal, wrote Areopagitica. Milton's political thought may be best categorized according to respective periods in his life and times. The years —42 were dedicated to church politics and the struggle against episcopacy. After his divorce writings, Areopagitica , and a gap, he wrote in —54 in the aftermath of the execution of Charles I , and in polemic justification of the regicide and the existing Parliamentarian regime.

Then in —60 he foresaw the Restoration, and wrote to head it off. 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. A friend and ally in the pamphlet wars was Marchamont Nedham.

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Austin Woolrych considers that although they were quite close, there is "little real affinity, beyond a broad republicanism", between their approaches. 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 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 [ 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 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.

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. Milton was neither a clergyman nor a theologian; however, theology, and particularly English Calvinism, formed the great palette on which John Milton created his greatest thoughts. John Milton wrestled with the great doctrines of the Church amidst the theological crosswinds of his age.

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.

His use of biblical citation was wide-ranging; Harris Fletcher, standing at the beginning of the intensification of the study of the use of scripture in Milton's work poetry and prose, in all languages Milton mastered , notes that typically Milton clipped and adapted biblical quotations to suit the purpose, giving precise chapter and verse only in texts for a more specialized readership.

As for the plenitude of Milton's quotations from scripture, Fletcher comments, "For this work, I have in all actually collated about twenty-five hundred of the five to ten thousand direct Biblical quotations which appear therein". Milton embraced many heterodox Christian theological views.

Minor Poems John Milton - AbeBooks

He has been accused of rejecting the Trinity , believing instead 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 he licensed for publication by William Dugard the Racovian Catechism , based on a non-trinitarian creed. Rufus Wilmot Griswold argued that "In none of his great works is there a passage from which it can be inferred that he was an Arian; and in the very last of his writings he declares that "the doctrine of the Trinity is a plain doctrine in Scripture.

In his 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.

Paradise Lost Part 1 By: John Milton Full Audiobook

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. The Restoration of the Stuart monarchy in began a new phase in Milton's work.

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.

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 maintained his personal faith in spite of the defeats suffered by his cause, the Dictionary of National Biography recounted 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. Writing of the enigmatic and often conflicting views of Milton in the Puritan age, David Daiches wrote convincingly,. A fair theological summary may be: that John Milton was a Puritan, though his tendency to press further for liberty of conscience, sometimes out of conviction and often out of mere intellectual curiosity, made the great man, at least, a vital if not uncomfortable ally in the broader Puritan movement.

Milton called in the Areopagitica for "the liberty to know, to utter, and to argue freely according to conscience, above all liberties" applied, however, only to the conflicting Protestant denominations, and not to atheists, Jews, Muslims or Catholics. Rather than force a man's conscience, government should recognise the persuasive force of the gospel. In August of that year, he presented his thoughts to the Westminster Assembly of Divines , which had been created by the Long Parliament to bring greater reform to the Church of England.

Milton's thinking on divorce caused him considerable 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 Even here, though, his originality is qualified: Thomas Gataker had already identified "mutual solace" as a principal goal in marriage.

Milton wrote during a period when thoughts about divorce were anything but simplistic; rather, there was active debate among thinkers and intellectuals at the time. However, Milton's basic approval of divorce within strict parameters set by the biblical witness was typical of many influential Christian intellectuals, particularly the Westminster divines. Milton addressed the Assembly on the matter of divorce in August , [90] at a moment when the Assembly was beginning to form its opinion on the matter.

Neither the Assembly nor Parliament condemned Milton or his ideas. In fact, when the Westminster Assembly wrote the Westminster Confession of Faith they allowed for divorce 'Of Marriage and Divorce,' Chapter 24, Section 5 in cases of infidelity or abandonment. Thus, the Christian community, at least a majority within the 'Puritan' sub-set, approved of Milton's views.


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Nevertheless, reaction among Puritans to Milton's views on divorce was mixed. Herbert Palmer , a member of the Westminster Assembly , condemned Milton in the strongest possible language:. If any plead Conscience Palmer expressed his disapproval in a sermon addressed to the Westminster Assembly. The Scottish commissioner Robert Baillie described Palmer's sermon as one "of the most Scottish and free sermons that ever I heard any where.

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. A sense of history mattered greatly to him: [94].

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". 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. John Dryden , an early enthusiast, in began the trend of describing Milton as the poet of the sublime.

In , Patrick Hume became the first editor of Paradise Lost , providing an extensive apparatus of annotation and commentary, particularly chasing down allusions.

An Introduction to The Minor Poems in English of John Milton An Introduction to The Minor Poems in English of John Milton
An Introduction to The Minor Poems in English of John Milton An Introduction to The Minor Poems in English of John Milton
An Introduction to The Minor Poems in English of John Milton An Introduction to The Minor Poems in English of John Milton
An Introduction to The Minor Poems in English of John Milton An Introduction to The Minor Poems in English of John Milton
An Introduction to The Minor Poems in English of John Milton An Introduction to The Minor Poems in English of John Milton

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