Milton's monistic faith : tradition and translation in the minor poetry
Faith for Milton is primarily a matter of man's access to God. Such access entails God's involvement in mankind. Faith is that which guarantees that God is accessible to men and also that God actively participates in the lives of his people. Milton's work exhibits a preoccupation with such a concept of faith, and wavers through the course of his life between dualist and monist formulations. Monistic faith suggests that God is directly accessible to man, while dualistic faith means that God may only be accessible in a mediated way. In the course of his career, Milton proceeded from an early dualistic faith to the declared monism of De Doctrina Christiana. This thesis examines the monistic impulse within Milton's poetry, focusing on the poems written during his mid-career (c. 1637-1653) when his outlook on faith turned. The thesis finds that although Milton expresses his monism in increasingly clear terms, he is never quite able to eliminate dualistic implications or tendencies from his faith. The thesis focuses on two strategies which Milton employs in his attempts to define a monistic world view and a monistic faith, namely, tradition and translation. These strategies represent points of confrontation between dualism and monism. They both assert monistic continuity in the face of dualist disjunction. Tradition attempts to overcome the disjunction perceptible between two remote events in time. It incorporates both the recovery of lost history as well as geographical and linguistic translation. Translation (taken as separate from tradition) attempts to overcome the disjunction between languages. It manages, however unsuccessfully, to carry meaning over from a source text to a target text while simultaneously altering every single word in the source text. Both these strategies thus provide textual and linguistic means for examining Milton's faith or his sense of divine access. This thesis examines Milton's deployment of tradition by means of a close consideration of Lycidas as well as several other early poems. It examines his 1648 and 1653 psalm translations and the unique manner in which they reveal Milton's understanding of faith. The thesis concludes that Milton's monistic faith never quite breaks free of the dualist tendencies against which it struggles.