Chapter II
The Sense of the Self INNER DRIVES

IDEALS BECOME OPERATIVE through desire. It is the desire to fulfill ideals of human behavior that gives them concrete meaning. Milton's central ideals--his informing values--were (as I see them) his sense of relationship with God, of his mission as a poet, and of the centrality of virtue. I have tried to set forth the basis for that proposition in the preceding chapter. What does that proposition mean, so far as our understanding of Milton is concerned?

Throughout Milton's writings about himself, one is conscious of his awareness that he is someone quite special--particularly chosen, unusually talented, especially perceptive--and of his sense of responsibility for living up to the rare gifts that had been bestowed on him. Milton was the sort of person we are inclined to typify as an idealist. He was one of that small group of persons who have an important element of altruism in their makeup, who have an awareness of their own value systems, who try to live in accordance with that value system, and who may sometimes ignore (or be irritated by) real difficulties that keep them from fulfilling their wishes, even though those difficulties are beyond their effective control.1

A key problem that Milton--along with many others--faced was learning how to deal with his sense of obligation while fulfill

Milton idealism is one of the principal themes of Parker biography. See for example, vol. I, pp. 23, 28, 109-10, 226-30, 240, 276, 347, 530, 590. While I am not sure that I know how broad the term "idealism" is in Parker use, 1 believe that his views generally support the interpretation that I offer.


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John Milton: The Inner Life


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