4. Simile and Cross-reference

THE twentieth-century criticism of Milton's similes is one of the most useful recent discussions of Milton's style. So much so, that one is doubtful about the need to enter again into the question. Yet no account of Milton's style may omit some mention of the similes, which are characteristic in their power and beauty. And the best of the recent criticism is in articles which have not been reprinted, and which may therefore not be as well known as they ought to be. Moreover, the eighteenth-century comments on the similes are often of interest and value.

But first my debt to recent critics. The argument about the similes is in essence a simple one, and analogous to the argument about Milton's use of words: are they epic similes which fasten on a broad point of resemblance and then drift beautifully away? Or are they more closely related to the poem? It was Mr. James Whaler who provided the earliest and fullest discussion of this important question.

Of his four articles, the most useful is "The Miltonic Simile".1 It is long, detailed, and in some ways brilliant-- though the brilliance is likely to be obscured by its unnecessary mathematical symbols. Mr. Whaler's knowledge of classical epic simile gives authority to his main point about Milton, which is to insist on how often his similes are pro-

____________________
1
P.M.L.A., 1932. The others are: Modern Philology, 1931, studying the compounding and distribution of the similes; Journal of English and Germanic Philology, 1931, on their grammatical nexus; and P.M.L.A., 1932, which discusses the scarcity of animal similes in P.L.

-118-

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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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