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John Milton

August 3, 2014

John Milton

 John Milton

John Milton, born in 1603 in London, is considered one of the greatest English poets, his work being charac-terised by rich, varied language and profound religious themes. At Cambridge University, John Milton first thought of becoming a clergyman, but decided instead to put his creative genius into poetry. It was here that he wrote several poems in Latin and an ode celebrating the Nativity. He decision that ‘tyranny had invaded the Church’ made him decide to become a poet instead, and while he was still a student, he wrote L’Allegro and II Penseroso, companion poems contrasting the character of light-hearted man with that of serious one. One of his first major poems was Lycidas, a poem about the death of his friend King Edward. Like other poets he was greatly influenced by Latin and Greek literature, but Milton also brought to his poem his own Christian version of life. He wrote a number of pamphlets attacking the Episcopal from of church government, one of them being Of Reformation in England (1641). Milton’s most famous prose work, Areopagitica (1644) was in defence of freedom of the press. He created a new from of poetry, both passionate and scholarly at the same time.

            He published The Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce, which supported granting divorce in cases of incompatibility. He was probably influenced by his own unhappy marriage to Mary Powell, a woman many years his junior. After Mary’s death he married again in 1656 but she died in childbirth 16 months later and it is believed that his sonnet, Methought I Saw My Late Espoused saint was written about her. He married for the third time in 1663.

        Milton’s work led to serious eyestrain, and in 1652 he went blind. He has written a beautiful poem on blindness excerpts from which are as follows:


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, though my soul more bent

            To serve therewith my Maker, and present

            My true account, lest he, returning, childe;

            ‘Doth God exact day-labour, light denied?’

            ‘I fondly ask: but Patience, to prevent

            That murmur, soon replies, ‘God doth not need

            Either man’s work, or his own girls; 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.’

Whren Charles II was restored to the throne in 1660, Milton was restored, but then set free again. At about his time he wrote one of the greatest poems in existence, Paradise Lost (1667) which tells the story of Adam’s fall from grace. The first lines are:

 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.

 Composed entirely in Milton’s head and dictated to his daughter and various others, Paradise Lost uses poetic language to create and movingin a way that has never been equalled. From the time of the Restroration until his death 9in 1674), Milton lived in isolation, producing some of his greatest works aided be a secretary.


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