3. Enhancing Suggestions

FOR Bagehot, Paradise Lost was distinguished not only by 'a manly strength', but also by its 'haunting atmosphere of enhancing suggestions'.1And these suggestions are not just a matter of the great vistas of Milton's themes, but also of delicate and subtle life in the verse. This chapter tries to show how Milton, without abandoning epic grandeur, draws on the infinite suggestiveness of word-order and words.

The eighteenth-century critics were quick to spot these effects. So Addison, talking of such rhetorical patterning, says that 'several passages in Milton . . . have as excellent turns of this nature as any of our English poets whatsoever; but [I] shall only mention that which follows, in which he describes the fallen angels engaged in the intricate disputes of predestination, free-will, and foreknowledge; and to humour the perplexity, makes a kind of labyrinth in the very words that describe it':2

reason'd high
Of Providence, Foreknowledge, Will, and Fate,
Fixt Fate, free will, foreknowledge absolute,
And found no end, in wandring mazes lost. (II. 558-61)

Similarly Richardson commented on the lines in which Satan looks into Chaos before leaping into it: ''tis Observable the

____________________
1
1859. Literary Studies ( 1905), ii. 217.
2
The Tatler, No. 114, 31 Dec. 1709. Cp. William Smith: 'the very Structure of the Words expresses the Intricacy of the Discourse; and the Repetition of some of the Words, with Epithets of slow Pronunciation, shews the Difficulty of making Advancements, in such unfathomable Points' ( Longinus on the Sublime, 2nd ed., 1742, p. 185).

-78-

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Milton's Grand Style
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page v
  • Prefatory Note vii
  • Contents viii
  • Abbreviations ix
  • 1. The Milton Controversy 1
  • 2. The Grand Style 22
  • 3. Enhancing Suggestions 78
  • 4. Simile and Cross-Reference 118
  • Index of the principal passages discussed 151
  • Index 153
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