All in All: Unity, Diversity, and the Miltonic Perspective

All in All: Unity, Diversity, and the Miltonic Perspective

All in All: Unity, Diversity, and the Miltonic Perspective

All in All: Unity, Diversity, and the Miltonic Perspective

Synopsis

The sixteen essays in this collection reflect the individuality and diversity of varied ideas and approaches to Milton scholarship. They demonstrate the continued scholarly commitment to a search for truths in and about Milton's works, a process that began in the seventeenth century and promises to continue unabated into the next millennium.

Excerpt

In describing the building of the temple of the Lord in Areopagitica, Milton draws attention to the energizing diversity that characterizes the search for ultimate Truth:

There must be many schisms and many dissections made in the quarry
and in the timber, ere the house of God can be built. and when every
stone is laid artfully together, it cannot be united into a continuity, it
can but be contiguous in this world; neither can every peece of the
building be of one form; nay rather the perfection consists in this, that
out of many moderat varieties and brotherly dissimilitudes that are not
vastly disproportionall, arises the goodly and gracefull symmetry that
commends the whole pile and structure.

That Milton recognized the impossibility, in this world, of constructing a perfect, whole, and consistent Truth out of the dissimilar stones that are laid together, however artfully, is itself a truth contiguous to another truth, that however impossible the task, Milton’s works are a testament to his attempts.

Andrew Marvell, in his dedicatory poem, “On Paradise Lost,” records his response to one such attempt when he wonders in verse how Milton will avoid ruining “The sacred Truths,” how find his way “Through that wide Field” comprised of such diverse elements as “Messiah Crown’d, God’s Reconcil’d Decree, / Rebelling Angels, the Forbidden Tree, / Heav’n, Hell, Earth, Chaos, All.” Yet in the course of Marvell’s poem, his “surmise[s]” are rendered “causeless”: Milton’s “slender Book,” with its tapestry so “vast” and so varied, nonetheless is controlled by a unity, a “Design,” and the “Mighty Poet” Milton is hailed for his gift of “Prophecy.”

The issue of diversity and unity that Milton raises in Areopagitica and that Marvell reacts to in relation to Paradise Lost is one apropos of the Miltonic canon generally and one that has continued to engage critics of a poet who, like Shakespeare, transcends his age. Thus Diane Kelsey McColley, in “‘All in All’: the Individuality of Creatures in Paradise Lost,” considers the claim that Milton may well be the poet for the upcoming millennium through examining the prediction in Paradise Lost that, apocalyptically, “God shall . . .

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