said, "see only as far as the old dispensation allows them to see."53 Jesus, Milton, and Milton's audiences (both contemporary with the poet and now)
see further--and beyond. That is finally where such a poetic leads: each
poem has its own integrity but also looks beyond itself, while the poems
collectively and simultaneously impress themselves upon human consciousness, which they stretch, and press upon human history, which they
This essay was completed during a research leave provided by the Graduate School of
the University of Maryland. All citations of Milton's poetry are given parenthetically
within the text and, unless otherwise indicated, are (for the poetry) to The Works of John
Frank Allen Patterson, 18 vols. ( New York: Columbia University Press, 1931-38) and (for the prose) to Complete Prose Works of John Milton, ed.
Don M. Wolfe
et al., 8 vols. ( New Haven: Yale University Press, and London: Oxford University Press, 1953-83). For Milton's last poems, I have used the standard abbreviations: PL (Paradise
Lost), PR (Paradise Regained), SA (Samson Agonistes). The title of my essay derives from Hilaire Belloc Milton ( Philadelphia: J. B. Lippencott, 1935), p. 280.
Balachandra Rajan, "To Which Is Added Samson Agonistes," in The Prison and the
Pinnacle: Papers to Commemorate the Tercentenary of "Paradise Regained" and "Samson
Balachandra Rajan ( London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1973), p. 96.
The epigraph for this essay derives from Shawcross piece, "The Genres of Paradise
Regain'd and Samson Agonistes: The Wisdom of Their Joint Publication," in Composite
Orders: The Genres of Milton's Last Poems, ed.
Richard S. Ide and
Joseph Wittreich ( Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1983), p. 240.
See A. S. P. Woodhouse The Heavenly Muse: A Preface to Milton, ed.
( Toronto and Buffalo: University of Toronto Press, 1972), p. 293, and William Riley Parker's Milton: A Biography, 2 vols. ( Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1969), 2:909.
Jonathan Culler, The Pursuit of Signs: Semiotics, Literature, Deconstruction ( 1981;
rpt. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1983), p. 118.
See Christopher Hill, The Collected Essays of Christopher Hill: Writing and Revolution in Seventeenth-Century England ( Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1985), pp. 32-71, and Annabel Patterson Censorship and Interpretation: The Conditions
of Writing and Reading in Early Modern England ( Madison: University of Wisconsin
Press, 1984), pp. 44-119.
William A. Oram, "Nature, Poetry, and Milton's Genii," in Milton and the Art of
Sacred Song, ed.
J. Max Patrick and
Roger H. Sundell ( Madison: University of Wisconsin
Press, 1979), p. 48. The fullest discussions of these early poetic volumes and of the
crucial place of Lycidas in them are provided by Louis L. Martz, Poet of Exile: A Study
of Milton's Poetry ( New Haven: Yale University Press, 1980), pp. 31-59; Raymond B.