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Milton: Poet of Exile, Second Edition

Louis L. Martz
Copyright Date: 1986
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 356
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  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    This full and definitive treatment of the whole body of Milton's poetry, written by one of the country's most eminent Milton scholars, was originally published under the titlePoet of Exile: A Study of Milton's Poetry.With a new title and an introduction developing the theme of exile, it is now issued in paperback for the first time."The most important single study of Milton that has appeared in years…. For a long time to come, it will bethebook from which Milton'soeuvreis reviewed and from which Milton criticism seeks renewal." -Joseph Wittreich,Modern Language Quarterly"Martz's pleasure in reading Milton is evident and he conveys that pleasure in his pages…. All of us will want to ponder and can expect to profit from a commentary on the text carried on with the educated understanding, tact, skill, and perceptiveness that are everywhere present in this book." -B. Rajan,Modern Philology"A work that is both rich and rewarding…. The background that Martz brings to his subject illuminates Milton's poetry in fresh and exciting ways." -Michael Lieb,Cithara"The strength of Martz's criticism arises from his style as well as his learning and good sense. Observations are made in a manner which both clears the mind and arouses the imagination. Commonplace facts, acknowledged but ignored, suddenly take on fresh significance, while the results of scholarly research are introduced with easy grace and relevance. No one writing of Milton today has a sharper eye for the illuminating detail." -Hugh Maccallum,University of Toronto Quarterly"Martz's sensitive, percipient comments on the interplay of styles in Milton's poems provide some overarching unity to these diverse essays." -Barbara Kiefer Lewalski,Journal of English and Germanic Philology"The best major study of Milton's whole poetic career in almost half a century." -Arnold Stein

    eISBN: 978-0-300-16270-7
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Introduction (1986)
    (pp. ix-xxvi)
    L. L. M.

    The myth of exile, says Leszek Kolakowski in a recent essay, “lies at the core of all religions,” for “the fundamental message embedded in religious worship is: our home is elsewhere.” Pondering this point, he adds, “Suppose that the theologians are right and that our progenitors in Eden would have acquired the knowledge of carnal love and produced offspring, even if they had resisted the temptation and remained blissfully unaware of Good and Evil.” Still, under such conditions, he argues, they would never have begun “a race capable of creating” in a larger sense: “Creativity arose from insecurity, from an...

  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xxvii-xxviii)
    L. L. M.
  5. PART I. The Shepherd’s Trade:: Poems of Mr. John Milton, Both English and Latin, London, 1645

    • CHAPTER 1 The Pastoral Music: A Maske Presented at Ludlow Castle
      (pp. 3-30)

      At the close of the seventh idyll of Theocritus, the poet Simichidas and his companions arrive at the scene of the harvest festival of Demeter, after Lycidas has gone another way, giving his stick to Simichidas “to pledge our friendship in the Muse.” Their friendly exchange of songs in the earlier part of the idyll has prepared the way for the harmonious scene at the end where nature and man and the Muses mingle in a happy concord:

      Tall elms and poplars murmured in profusion overhead;

      near by, the sacred water from the Nymphs’ own cave

      bubbled up and sparkled;...

    • CHAPTER 2 The Rising Poet
      (pp. 31-59)

      It is hard to maintain a clear view of Milton’s volume of 1645, since the editions that we are most likely to be using have broken up Milton’s groupings and have rearranged the poems in chronological order, interspersed with other poems that Milton did not choose to publish here. I do not mean to quarrel with these rearrangements, which have the advantage of allowing one to trace the development of Milton’s early poetical career. And indeed Milton himself has taken the lead in making such a view of his career possible, since his volume of 1645 takes care to date...

    • CHAPTER 3 Lycidas: Building the Lofty Rhyme
      (pp. 60-76)

      Nothing could pay a higher tribute to Milton’s sense of significant balance and contrast than the placement of the Nativity Ode andLycidasin his volume of 1645: at the beginning and the end of his shorter English poems. Both poems have a personal prologue and an objective conclusion in one stanza, while the body of each poem displays a movement that modulates into three sequences.¹ But there the similarity ends. The Nativity poem shows its origins in English poetry and popular song by the stanza that ends the opening sequence of the Hymn:

      The Shepherds on the Lawn,


  6. PART II. Paradise Lost:: Poem of Exile

    • CHAPTER 4 Princes of Exile
      (pp. 79-94)

      Summing up his situation, Milton wrote with bitter wit in a letter of 1666: “For what you callPolitica,but I would rather have you callloyalty to one’s country,—this particular girl, after enticing me with her fair name, has almost expatriated me, so to speak.” But he adds: “one’s country is wherever it is well with one”¹—for Milton, the country of the soul. Doubly exiled from the community of men, first by his loss of eyesight, and then by political isolation, Milton at last found the freedom to write his poem of exile, the last great poem...

    • CHAPTER 5 The Realms of Light
      (pp. 95-113)

      Paradise Lostbegins with a heavy emphasis upon the last word of its title, for the wordslostandloss,along with kindred words such asruin,resound like a hideous dirge throughout books 1 and 2. This theme is set in the first words of Satan, as he and his mate lie “weltring” on the burning lake of Hell, and Satan speaks in the broken, hesitant, veering phrases of torment:

      If thou beest he; But O how fall’n! how chang’d

      From him, who in the happy Realms of Light

      Cloth’d with transcendent brightness didst outshine

      Myriads though bright: If...

    • CHAPTER 6 The Diffusion of Good
      (pp. 114-126)

      Milton’s conception of an expanding universe, motivated by the ever-creative goodness of God, is clearly represented in the movement from destruction to creation that occurs in books 6 and 7. As the numerological critics have pointed out, the manifestation of the chariot of the Son covers the exact center of the poem, which occurs in the sixth book of 1667 between lines 761 and 762, or at line 766 in the second edition.¹ Whichever version one is reading, everyone is bound to sense that this triumphal appearance is presented in the very middle of the poem, a fact especially evident...

    • CHAPTER 7 The Power of Choice
      (pp. 127-141)

      Adam and Eve, before the Fall, have all our basic psychological qualities: they are “frail” in the sense that their power of choice may wrongly choose; choice is difficult because “wandring thoughts” and passions and the wild work of fancy are all part of the broad field in which human choice must operate. Adam and Eve find it difficult to choose rightly because they are so “unexperienc’t”; their descendants find it difficult to choose because they have so much experience, see so many possibilities, dangers, and advantages. Yet in Milton’s universe the power of choice is essential to man’s perfection...

    • CHAPTER 8 The Winding up of the Action
      (pp. 142-154)

      The tenth book ofParadise Lost,Addison remarks, “has a greater variety of Persons in it than any other in the whole Poem. The Author upon the winding up of his Action introduces all those who had any Concern in it, and shews with great Beauty the influence which it had upon each of them. It is like the last Act of a well written Tragedy, in which all who had a part in it are generally drawn up before the Audience, and represented under those Circumstances in which the determination of the Action places them.”¹ Thus Milton binds his...

    • CHAPTER 9 “A Poem Written in Ten Books”
      (pp. 155-168)

      If we share Addison’s view that book 10 represents “the winding up of the action,” it seems almost inevitable that the remainder of the poem will turn to aftermath and epilogue. But I cannot agree with Prince that in reading long poems and novels we are bound to experience a flagging of interest in “the last stretch.”¹ At least, theAeneidand theLusiaddo not seem to me to end in this way, nor doTom Jones, Ulysses,andThe Wings of the Dove.Some better explanation or defence of Milton’s ending must be found—and many have been...

    • CHAPTER 10 Trials of Faith
      (pp. 169-184)

      The parallels that the preceding chapter has drawn between the final books ofParadise Lostand theLusiadmay help us toward a clearer understanding of the lower style that Milton has chosen to follow in his ending. For Milton’s lowered style refuses to be heroic: the style itself scorns the distentions of empire and leads toward the firm and quiet closing words of Adam and the angel:

      Henceforth I learne, that to obey is best,

      And love with feare the onely God, to walk

      As in his presence, ever to observe

      His providence, and on him sole depend,


    • CHAPTER 11 The Solitary Way
      (pp. 185-200)

      “In my end is my beginning,” T. S. Eliot wrote inEast Coker,“In my beginning is my end”—adapting an ancient motto said to belong to Mary, Queen of Scots. I should like, in concluding this part, to think ofParadise Lostfrom this standpoint, as a poem where the end returns to the beginning. Such an approach is implicit in the closing lines of the poem, which tell of Adam and Eve’s departure from Paradise. I use the worddepartureinstead of the more traditional termexpulsion,for Milton’s ending moderates the stark and threatening words of Genesis:...

  7. Part III. Paradise Lost:: Figurations of Ovid

    • CHAPTER 12 The Anti-heroic Epic
      (pp. 203-218)

      Milton’s daughter Deborah, in her old age, recalled how she and her sisters had read to their father the works of three favorite authors. “Isaiah, Homer, and Ovid’s metamorphoses,” John Ward reports, “were books, which they were often called to read to their father; and at my desire she [Deborah] repeated a considerable number of verses from the beginning of both these poets with great readiness”—“both these poets” evidently meaning Homer and Ovid, as distinguished from the prophet Isaiah.¹ The omission of Vergil is surprising, and it is quite possible that Deborah, speaking many years after the event, simply...

    • CHAPTER 13 Pastoral Love: Versions and Subversions
      (pp. 219-231)

      Thus we are prepared for a mutation from the old heroic mode into a new mode composed by one who, like Ovid, is “Not sedulous by Nature to indite / Warrs, hitherto the onely Argument / Heroic deem’d” (9.27–29). This new mutation moves on in book 4 to tell of the first human lovers; and that love-tale begins with an allusion to Ovidian myth. When Eve tells to Adam the story of her first awakening, and of her vision of herself reflected in a lake, the reminiscence of Ovid’s story of Narcissus has been felt by every reader.¹ The...

    • CHAPTER 14 The Ultimate Design
      (pp. 232-244)

      Awareness of Milton’s ultimate design is maintained throughoutParadise Lostby the voice of the bard, the narrator, or the authorial presence, as it is sometimes called—that presence recognized in so many recent studies and frequently remarked in the preceding section of this book.¹ Such a presence, so different from the objectivity of Homer, may in part derive from Vergil’s “subjective style” in theAeneid. But the presence of Vergil’s narrator is subtle and usually tacit, though now and then, infrequently, emerging in open exclamations of sympathy or revulsion. Ovid appears to have picked up this mode of presence...

  8. PART IV. The Chosen Sons

    • CHAPTER 15 Paradise Regain’d: The Interior Teacher
      (pp. 247-271)

      In the search for universals, said Augustine, “we do not listen to anyone speaking and making sounds outside ourselves. We listen to Truth which presides over our minds within us, though of course we may be bidden to listen by someone using words. Our real Teacher is he who is so listened to, who is said to dwell in the inner man, namely Christ, that is, the unchangeable power and eternal wisdom of God.”¹ Milton shared this Augustinian view of “wisdom” speaking within the mind. The “prophetic function” of Christ, he said, “has two parts, one external and one internal....

    • CHAPTER 16 Samson Agonistes: The Breath Of Heaven
      (pp. 272-292)

      This is an opening rich with implications, for the situation suggests the opening of Sophocles’ redemptive tragedy,Oedipus at Colonus,where the blind Oedipus is led on stage by his daughter Antigone. We know that Samson will also be accepted by the divine power, as Oedipus was at last accepted and transfigured by the divine powers at the close ofthat Greek play. At the same time Milton’s phrasing in these opening lines contains a redemptive overtone drawn from the first chapter of the Gospel of Luke, where Zacharias prophesies the redemption of God’s people: “Through the tender mercy of our...

  9. APPENDIX 1. Paradise Regain’d and the Georgics
    (pp. 293-304)
  10. APPENDIX 2. Amor and Furor: Anti-heroic Themes and the Unity of Ovid’s Metamorphoses
    (pp. 305-308)
  11. Notes
    (pp. 309-340)
  12. List of Illustrations
    (pp. 341-344)
  13. Index
    (pp. 345-356)