John Milton the Elder and His Music

John Milton the Elder and His Music

John Milton the Elder and His Music

John Milton the Elder and His Music

Excerpt

To be known to posterity solely as the parent of an illustrious child is a destiny that doubtless has its attractions. It is not, however, the most enviable of all possible fates. And John Milton, the poet's father (as he is invariably identified), might have felt his natural pride crossed by an excusable twinge of chagrin had he foreseen his present position in the estimation of the world.

Many students of poetry, to be sure, honor him for his sheer luck with his son and namesake; they respect him for his ability in the most prosaic of literary pursuits, the drawing up of legal documents; they envy him his financial success as a real estate operator; they commend him for providing his offspring with an excellent education and an impeccable moral upbringing; they even detect a glimmer of artistic talent in his affection for organ music and psalm singing. His own "psalm tunes" are often mentioned as if they were his only musical compositions, but it is interesting to note that although he harmonized several such tunes, he never actually invented any in his life, so far as we know. But his extended musical works, of which a fair number survive, have been widely disregarded.

That relatively little attention has been bestowed upon his larger achievements seems strange, in view of the extraordinarily close and affectionate relationship that is known to have existed between him and his celebrated son for almost forty years. Many features of the poet Milton's personality, many of his tastes, opinions, and accomplishments, may receive enhanced understanding when viewed as the results of his unusual intimacy with his richly gifted father.

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