JOHN MILTON by Douglas Bush

JOHN MILTON

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KIRKUS REVIEW

When 40 years ago the then revolutionary Eliot began dumping the ""holies"" of English Lit in favor of the more demonic, Milton was among the first ""buried"". However, Old Possum mellowed, and in the mid-'40's, with a charming recantation, the creator of Paradise Lost was resurrected. Since then Miltonic studies have boomed. Harvard's Douglas Bush, usually domiciled with the Metaphysicals, here attemptis the final re-glamorization: ""Milton may be called the most heroic figure in English poetry""...his ""was a personality of heroic stature,"" etc. Thus in our anti-heroic age, if we continue to consider Milton a cold fish, perhaps, so hints the professor, it is we who are cold: cold to ideals, to grandeur, to Art. Maybe. His short, searching, but not particularly readable account, (the scholarly machinery goes its sober, stilted way), analyses Milton from varying angles: psychologically, philosophically, theologically, aesthetically. He is always developing: first the collegiate Spenserianisms and the lyrics, then the 20 year interval of pamphleteering and random sonnets; finally the ""slow-endeavouring art"" producing what he determined to write all along, his magnum opus to equal Homer, Vergil, Dante. A Puritan and a rebel, (in service to Cromwell, to freedom of the press, divorce and Church reform) Milton had three marriages, went blind in his middle years, and experienced the Restoration as a crushing blow. All these strains the professor fuses to a sort of Christian humanism on Milton's part; his exegeses of the twin epics and of Samson are as ripe and rewarding as any now current.

Publisher: Macmillan