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Title: John Milton : 'Paradise Regained', the minor poems and 'Samson Agonistes' : complete and arranged chronologically
Author: Hughes, Merritt Y.
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 1950
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For the facts about Milton's life between the composition of Epitaphium Damonis and that of Paradise Regained the reader may turn to Mr. Tillyard's critical study or to Mr. Alden Sampson's essay. In the present series of editions their treatment belongs to the introduction of a forthcoming volume of selections from the prose works. The record of those years is partly written in the later sonnets and there are some flashes of light upon them in the bitter verses from the controversial prose which are included here. The group of Psalms which were translated in 1648 - to take the place of the standard version of Sternhold and Hopkins in the churches - and the later group, which Milton said that he undertook for spiritual and poetical discipline, have their value too. They reveal him as an enthusiastic reader of the Hebrew Bible, but indicate that his conceptions of its language were coloured by the Vulgate and also by the many versions of the Psalms done into English during his own century and the sixteenth. And they occasionally betray his sense of his own isolation and blindness, which comes out, for example, in the twist of the passage in Psalm vi, 7 - "Mine eye is consumed because of grief" - into But cloud instead and ever-during dark Surrounds me. Professor Grierson did a great service in his beautiful edition of Milton's poems in 1925 in arranging them for the first time as nearly as possible in chronological order. Of course, their chronology can never be fixed with perfect finality and already - as we have seen - there is reason for putting L'Allegro and Il Penseroso earlier than Professor Grierson did. Mr. Hanford and Mr. Tillyard have modified several other tentative dates. Lately Mr. W.R. Parker has supported an early date for the translation of the fifth ode of Horace, which stands in a novel position in this volume. Personally, I have always believed that it was a school or college exercise. The evidence is not final and no editor can be dogmatic about many of the chronological questions which arise about Milton's work. If those who follow where Professor Grierson was the pioneer sometimes differ from him and from one another, the reader should be excited, not perturbed. Professor Grierson's arrangement has its disadvantages. The result is very unlike the little volume which Milton issued in 1645 with On the Morning of Christ's Nativity leading and A Maske (Cornus) closing the file of English poems. Although the spelling has been modernized - except for a few words which it has seemed well to keep in the form in which Milton used them - and although the punctuation has been cautiously and conservatively modernized also, I have tried to preserve all that I could of the original editions. Milton's elisions, it is now well known, do not mean the absolute omission of a syllable; but even readers who are new to his poetry, if they like to read it aloud or hear it distinctly with the inner ear, will understand how to interpret them and make them help in interpreting the scansion. The notes to this volume have been written con amore, but they are intended for the reader to use or neglect as his mood and need may suggest. Milton's poetry abounds with passages like Dear son of Memory, great heir of fame; which, as Mr. Belloc says, "wants unravelling and checks the flow; thousands quote it who could not tell you what it means." Many of these passages can easily be unravelled, and an editor who undertakes the task need not necessarily be one of those who, as Dr. Johnson said, "cannot bear to think themselves ignorant of that which, at last, neither diligence nor sagacity can discover." Milton was the most reminiscent of poets and I have tried to suggest the directions in which his memory played - sometimes over ancient and sometimes over medieval and contemporary literature. If any of his readers keeps a Homer and Virgil, and a copy of Hesiod's Theogony and Ovid's Metamorphoses at hand - either in the original Greek or Latin or in English translation - and sometimes wanders into the context of one of his allusions, his ghost will not turn. In countless cases, however, he is his own best commentator, and I have tried to remember that wherever possible an editor's business is to let him speak for himself.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
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