Chapter I
The Sense of the Self THE INFORMING VALUES

OUR IDEALS CREATE our personal form. The central values which constitute our ideals give us our sense of what we are, or what we like to think we are. Mostly we choose high values, but high values can rarely be fully achieved. Sometimes we are forced to twist away from them to find a more comfortable position to live in.

The values that seem to me to have been of the greatest importance to Milton have to do with three vast topics that dominated his inner life. First, his sense of his relationship to God. Second, his sense of his mission as a poet. And third, his sense of virtue. High values, noble ideals, difficult to attain. I would like to explore each of them to try to see what they meant to him. And, more important, how they shaped his life and his writings.


For Milton, God was the central fact of life. He felt that God was his personal creator, and that the breath of his maker was always within him. All of his abilities, whatever they might be, were, he thought, gifts of God. The inspiration of God enabled him, he believed, to see what would otherwise have been invisible to mortal sight, to understand what would otherwise have been unknowable, and to write when he would otherwise have been mute. Milton gave heartfelt thanks to God for his achievements. He accepted misfortune--of which he had, with Job, much more than a normal share--as the working out of the divine


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John Milton: The Inner Life


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