THERE IS AN INTIMATE and complex relation between a close understanding of a poem and a deep understanding of its maker. This book tries to explore that relation with respect to the writings and the nature of John Milton.
Milton tells us a great deal about himself, or at least about the way he saw himself. His contemporaries add many facts and opinions about the way they saw him. In all, a strong, consistent, and believable person appears, if we choose to seek him out. This is the person whose inner profile I try to sketch in this book. It isn't necessary to resort to speculation in order to apprehend a sense of the real person that Milton was, and it certainly isn't necessary to look for him in a maze of psychological inference.
Milton's poems reflect his nature, with elegance. Sometimes the reflection is clear, sometimes obscure, sometimes a trial for our powers of perception. The "inner life" of the title of this book is intended to refer equally to the inner life of the man and the inner life of his writings, which have a life of their own.
The "inner life," as I use the term, is meant to suggest that mysterious world of motives, drives, and action that takes place within, it is where we establish and come to terms with our values, with our drives, and with our sense of self-esteem, it is where we mediate with the world outside of our selves, with the world of other human beings and with the world of nature, it is where we face our most important crises and where we seek our ultimate guidance in resolving our crucial problems. These are the topics that I try to deal with in this book. I approach them through a consideration of what we know of Milton's nature and of his writings, and of the relation of the two.
There are two possibilities that I have thought about as ideals for this book. One is to come to a better appreciation of Milton's writings, individually and collectively. The other is to reach a