The Influence of Milton on English Poetry

The Influence of Milton on English Poetry

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The Influence of Milton on English Poetry

The Influence of Milton on English Poetry

Read FREE!

Excerpt

Fifteen years ago last spring Mr. C. N. Greenough, now dean of Harvard College, suggested to me Milton's influence in the eighteenth century as one of a number of desirable subjects for a doctor's thesis. Since that time, except for my first three years of teaching and a year and a half during the war, this study has taken all the hours not devoted to professional duties, all my summers, and all of three entire years. I am embarrassingly conscious that this expenditure of time is quite disproportionate to the results; yet, as Michael Wodhull (who had planned to complete his translation of Euripides in "about one year") wrote, a century since, "notwithstanding about eight years have elapsed, during which I cannot charge myself with any gross degree of remissness or inattention, I feel much more inclined to express my fears, lest I should have been too hasty in the SYSTEMation, than to apologise for my tardiness."

The danger in a study of this kind is that the writer shall be as one who walks in a mist, seeing only what is immediately before him. More time for continuous reading, not alone in the poetry but in the philosophy and criticism of the period, together with more attention to its history, would, I realize, have made the work broader, richer, meatier, and in every way more significant. For the title indicates only the principal subject with which the book is concerned, since I have endeavored not alone to study Milton's influence (touching also on that of his more important followers), but to make some historical and critical evaluation of the works he influenced, to trace the course of blank-verse translations and the development of the principal types of unrimed poetry, -- such as the descriptive, the epic, and the technical treatise, -- to reach a better understanding of the eighteenth-century lyric awakening, to follow the history of non-dramatic blank verse from its beginnings to the boyhood of Tennyson, and of the sonnet from the restoration of the Stuarts to the accession of Victoria.

My method has been to examine, at least cursorily, all the available English poetry written between 1660 and 1837 regardless of its esthetic value or historical importance, and to reexamine with more care all that seemed to have any real significance for my purposes. Notwithstanding a constant effort to reduce the bulk of the . . .

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