CHAPTER I
FAITH, PHILOSOPHY, AND POETRY IN MILTON'S WORK

IT is necessary to examine the purely poetical part of Milton's work to see what it adds to the results of our previous survey of his thought and character, and also to apply to his art the knowledge so far obtained of his philosophy and of his general characteristics. The two parts of his production, the abstract and the artistic, throw much light on each other.

The De doctrina is at once more abstract and clearer than the poems. There is in it, at bottom, very little dogma. For instance, in the treatise, Milton does not venture to risk a firm opinion on the date of the creation of the angels (relatively to that of the world) nor on the reasons of the rebellion of the angels or of the creation of the world.1 This silence amounts to a confession of ignorance. Yet the poetry is built on most precise data on all these points, which shows that Milton looked upon dogma as a sort of myth, chiefly useful for poetical purposes. Anyhow, he always supplemented it with an inner, psychological meaning, which gives to the poetry its human, permanent value, whatever may happen to the dogma. But even so, there remain obscure points. Milton's pride and reserve kept him from giving away the whole of his thought. Although his personality is so strongly marked, the personal element in his work often escapes us. Even as he wrote on divorce in the fury of

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1
Cf. Prose Works, IV, 184, 213.

-203-

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Milton, Man and Thinker
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page i
  • Preface v
  • Contents ix
  • Introduction xiii
  • Part I - The Man xix
  • Chapter I - The Elements of Milton's Character In Youth 1
  • Chapter II - The Man of Action and of Passion 21
  • Part II - The System 109
  • Chapter I - Ontology 113
  • Chapter II - Cosmology 134
  • Chapter III - Psychology and Ethics 149
  • Chapter IV - Religion 172
  • Chapter V - Politics 181
  • Chapter VI - Conclusion: a General View Of Milton's Philosophy 198
  • Part III - The Great Poems 201
  • Chapter I - Faith, Philosophy, and Poetry In Milton's Work 203
  • Chapter II - Paradise Lost 213
  • Chapter III - Paradise Regained and Samson Agonistes 233
  • Part Iv The Sources 245
  • Chapter I - Hebraic Sources 251
  • Chapter II - The Christian Era 259
  • Chapter III - The Fathers 264
  • Chapter I - The Zohar and the Kabbalah 281
  • Chapter II - Robert Fludd (1574-1637) 301
  • Chapter III - The Mortalists, 1643-1655 310
  • Conclusion 323
  • Appendices 327
  • Index 353
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