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John Milton: The Great English Scholar Poet

John Milton: The Great English Scholar Poet

by: Shirley Satterfield

John Milton: The Great English Scholar Poet

Born in London in the year of 1608 Milton lived and wrote at a time when England was in political turmoil and religious flux, and to understand Milton you have to understand Oliver Cromwell’s revolution for more personal freedom, his government and his Puritanical religious views, with Milton being the poetical voice and Cromwell’s civil servant of these changing times in the British Isles. In short, Milton himself was no great friend of King Charles I and his age old Monarchy and was, for the most part, ignored in England by the gentry of his time, especially after the death of Cromwell when the King reascended his throne and took back his power.
However, Milton was an adept poet and a man of Letters who wrote in the four languages of English, Latin, Italian and Greek and made his mark on the rest of the world to the point that he is considered to be second only to Shakespeare in his poetic stature by scholars today. And in fact, Shakespeare was greatly admired by Milton and was his seminal inspiration when he called the Bard a “Dear son of memory, great heir of Fame…” in his poem On Shakespeare, meaning that Shakespeare would always be remembered for his great works for all time.
But Milton’s own skill as a poet is self evident in his twin poems on Mirth and Melancholy which describes two opposite moods reflected against each other and two different kinds of people with opposite humors, one a morning person and the other a night person but who share the same dreamy muse, each poem reflected the image of the other in perfect form and rhyme scheme. These are some highlights:

L” Allegro

“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,”
– – – 
“Such sights as youthful poets dream
On summer eves by haunted stream.” 
– – – 
“And ever against eating cares;
Lap me in soft Lydian airs,” 

Il Penseroso

“Hide me from the day’s garish eye,”
– – – 
“And let some strange mysterious dream
Wave at his wings in airy stream
Of lively portraiture displayed
Softly on my eyelids laid.”
– – – 
“Dissolve me into ecstasies,
And bring all heaven before mine eyes.” 
Unfortunately Milton lost his eyesight as he aged, but by no means his insight when he wrote his book length masterpiece Paradise Lost about the fall of man in the garden and his eventual redemption by Jesus Christ in Paradise Regained when he dictated his work to his daughter on his deathbed in 1667. Legend has it that this scholarly man lost his eyesight from overmuch reading of the Greek and Latin classics by candlelight at night.

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Yasir Sulaiman Recent comment authors
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Yasir Sulaiman
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A forgotten legend. Thank you for bringing him up!