Milton & Wordsworth, Poets and Prophets: A Study of Their Reactions to Political Events

Milton & Wordsworth, Poets and Prophets: A Study of Their Reactions to Political Events

Milton & Wordsworth, Poets and Prophets: A Study of Their Reactions to Political Events

Milton & Wordsworth, Poets and Prophets: A Study of Their Reactions to Political Events

Excerpt

The lectures here printed were given as the Northcliffe Lectures in Literature at University College, London, in the early spring of last year; and, with some modifications and additions now embodied, as the Turnbull Lectures at Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore. I wish to thank both these institutions for the opportunity afforded me. My desire was, starting from my own conception of what prophetic poetry is, and illustrating that from the greatest of all prophetic poets, to trace the developement of Milton's thought and feeling from the time that, moved by the events of the years following his return from Italy, and rapt in a vision of a regenerate England, he definitely conceived of himself as one on whom also a burden was laid, and looked forward, as his share in the sacred task, to the composition of a great poem that should be "doctrinal to a nation". Was that design fulfilled in Paradise Lost? Or was that poem, with the two which followed, the statement of the conclusions to which he had been driven by a gradual disappointment of his hopes and a loss of faith in the human will? Is Paradise Lost, in part or whole, a prophetic, intuitional, poem in the sense I have tried to illustrate from other prophetic, intuitional, poets? It was with a view to emphasise this last question that, after beginning with the Hebrew prophets I have ended with Wordsworth. He too began with a vision of "human nature born again", and he too was disillusioned. But . . .

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