Milton

Milton

Milton

Milton

Excerpt

'ANNO DOMINI 1619, he was ten years old; and was then a Poet.' So wrote John Aubrey in his 'brief life' of Milton, and though he may have exaggerated somewhat the information is essentially true, for Milton was dedicated to literature from early childhood more consciously and more deliberately than any other English poet. 'My father destined me from a child to the pursuits of literature,' he confided to his readers in his Defensio Secunda pro Populo Anglicano . Again and again in those autobiographical asides which stud his political pamphlets Milton stressed both his early and continuous poetical ambition and his careful and thorough literary training. 'After I had from my first yeeres . . . bin exercis'd to the tongues, and some sciences, as my age would suffer, . . . it was found that whether aught was impos'd me by them that had the overlooking, or betak'n to of mine own choise in English, or other tongue, prosing or versing, but chiefly by this latter, the style, by certain vital signes it had, was likely to live.' This passage, from The Reason of Church-Government , can be paralleled by many others. Milton recalls no moment of revelation and dedication such as Wordsworth describes in Book IV of The Prelude :

I made no vows, but vows Were then made for me; bond unknown to me Was given, that I should be, else sinning greatly, A dedicated Spirit.

For Milton the process seems to have been continuous and his early years a period of steady preparation to be a great English poet. He shared with Wordsworth, however, his high view of the poet's mission, though the source of Wordsworth's ethical idealism was very different from the Protestant Christian Humanism which led Milton to declare that the poet's abilities 'are of power beside the office of a pulpit, to inbreed and cherish in a great . . .

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