The Metaphysicals and Milton

By E. M. W. Tillyard | Go to book overview

5
MILTON

EXCEPT possibly in the first of his two poems on Hobson, Milton does not introduce into his verse the rhythms of familiar speech. He can be genuinely dramatic in Comus, in the Devils' debate in Paradise Lost he can give the sense of parliamentary rhetoric, and in the temptation scene in the same poem he can make us feel that the characters are really conversing. But, strangely enough, it is in Paradise Regained that we get passages that can compare with the Hobson poem in suggesting the ordinary speaking voice. This is Satan telling Christ of his present relations with mankind:

Men, generally, think me much a foe
To all mankind: why should I? they to me
Never did wrong or violence; by them
I lost not what I lost, rather by them
I gain'd what I have gain'd, and with them dwell
Copartner in these regions of the world,
If not disposer; lend them oft my aid,
Oft my advice by presages and signs,
And answers, oracles, portents and dreams,
Whereby they may direct their future life.

Here the natural pauses, the slow tempo, the simple words, the sinuous progress suggest the ordinary conversation of an accomplished, highly educated man. But the

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