John Milton is, next to William Shakespeare, the most influential English poet, a writer whose work spans an incredible breadth of forms and subject matter. The Complete Poetry and Essential Prose of John Milton celebrates this author's genius in a thoughtfully assembled book that provides new modern-spelling versions of Milton's texts, expert commentary, and a wealth of other features that will please even the most dedicated students of Milton's canon. Edited by a trio of esteemed scholars, this volume is the definitive Milton for our time.
In these pages you will find all of Milton's verse, from masterpieces such as Paradise Lost-widely viewed as the finest epic poem in the English language-to shorter works such as the Nativity Ode, Lycidas,, A Masque and Samson Agonistes. Milton's non-English language sonnets, verses, and elegies are accompanied by fresh translations by Gordon Braden. Among the newly edited and authoritatively annotated prose selections are letters, pamphlets, political tracts, essays such as Of Education and Areopagitica, and a generous portion of his heretical Christian Doctrine. These works reveal Milton's passionate advocacy of controversial positions during the English Civil War and the Commonwealth and Restoration periods.
With his deep learning and the sensual immediacy of his language, Milton creates for us a unique bridge to the cultures of classical antiquity and medieval and Renaissance Christianity. With this in mind, the editors give careful attention to preserving the vibrant energy of Milton's verse and prose, while making the relatively unfamiliar aspects of his writing accessible to modern readers. Notes identify the old meanings and roots of English words, illuminate historical contexts-including classical and biblical allusions-and offer concise accounts of the author's philosophical and political assumptions. This edition is a consummate work of modern literary scholarship.
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November 13, 2008
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Excerpt from The Complete Poetry and Essential Prose of John Milton by John Milton
"He had auburn hair. His complexion exceeding fair--he was so fair that they called him the Lady of Christ's College" (see Aubrey, p. xxvii). psalm 114
The 1645 Poems informed its readers that "this and the following Psalm were done by the author at fifteen years old." They could well have been school exercises, as is usually assumed, but Milton's father's combination of faith and musical skill expressed itself in a keen appreciation for the Psalter. Milton Sr. in fact contributed six settings to Thomas Ravenscroft's The Whole Book of Psalms (1621). These translations are his son's earliest surviving English compositions.
When the blest seed of Terah's faithful son,
After long toil their liberty had won,
And passed from Pharian fields to Canaan land,
Led by the strength of the Almighty's hand,
5Jehovah's wonders were in Israel shown,
His praise and glory was in Israel known.
That saw the troubled sea, and shivering fled,
And sought to hide his froth-becurl�d head
Low in the earth; Jordan's clear streams recoil,
10As a faint host that hath received the foil.
The high, huge-bellied mountains skip like rams
Amongst their ewes, the little hills like lambs.
Why fled the ocean? And why skipped the mountains?
Why turn�d Jordan toward his crystal fountains?
15Shake earth, and at the presence be aghast
Of him that ever was, and ay shall last,
That glassy floods from rugged rocks can crush,
And make soft rills from fiery flint-stones gush.
1. faithful son: Abraham.
3. Pharian: Egyptian.
10. foil: defeat.
Let us with a gladsome mind
Praise the Lord, for he is kind,
For his mercies ay endure,
Ever faithful, ever sure.
5Let us blaze his name abroad,
For of gods he is the God;
O let us his praises tell,
10Who doth the wrathful tyrants quell.
Who with his miracles doth make
Amaz�d heav'n and earth to shake.
Who by his wisdom did create
The painted heav'ns so full of state.
Who did the solid earth ordain
To rise above the wat'ry plain.
25Who by his all-commanding might,
Did fill the new-made world with light.
And caused the golden-tress�d sun,
30All the day long his course to run.
The horn�d moon to shine by night,
Amongst her spangled sisters bright.
10. Who: 1673. 1645 has that here and in lines 13, 17, 21, and 25. In each case we follow 1673. He with his thunder-clasping hand,
Smote the first-born of Egypt land.
And in despite of Pharaoh fell,
He brought from thence his Israel.
45The ruddy waves he cleft in twain,
Of the Erythraean main.
The floods stood still like walls of glass,
50While the Hebrew bands did pass.
But full soon they did devour
The tawny king with all his power.
His chosen people he did bless
In the wasteful wilderness.
In bloody battle he brought down
Kings of prowess and renown.