The Sense of the Natural World
I BELIEVE THAT most readers who get pleasure from Milton's poetry count, among their chiefest blessings, passages which describe the natural world. Other kinds of passages give pleasure as well, of course, and the more kinds the better. I don't mean to limit this comment to popular or non-academic readers -- of whom I wish there were more than there are -- but to all readers, including Milton specialists, those who are budding as well as those who are already in flower. All of us, I imagine, make some passages our favorites for a multitude of reasons that define our personal needs. Just as Milton wrote what he did, in the way he did, in part to fulfill his own personal needs.
I believe that the lists of favorites of most readers would include, prominently, passages about the natural world. Such as lines from "L'Allegro," with Zephyr and Aurora a-maying
on Beds of Violets blue
And fresh-blown Roses washt in dew.
Or the picture of
many a youth, and many a maid,
Dancing in the Checker'd shade.
Or, for a second kind of example, the flower passage in
"Lycidas" with the congregation of
the rathe Primrose that forsaken dies,
The tufted Crow-toe, and pale Jessamine,