John Milton Poetry: British Analysis
The greater part of John Milton’s lyric poetry was written during his residences at Cambridge (1625-1632) and at Horton-Hammersmith (1632-1638). The work of the Cambridge period includes numerous occasional poems in English and conventionally allusive Latin epigrams and elegies. These early lyrics may owe something to Milton’s “Prolusions,” which are academic exercises on a set theme with predictable lines of argument, ornamented with numerous classical allusions. Such prose assignments may well have contributed to Milton’s rich style and his firm sense of genre.
The poems cover a wide variety of topics: the death of bishops, of an infant, of the university carrier; the anniversary of the Gunpowder Plot; and religious topics. In “At a Vacation Exercise,” written before he was twenty, Milton intimates that he will use his native language for “some graver subject” than the one that the hundred-line lyric develops. His lyric “On Shakespeare,” included with the commendatory poems in the second folio (1632), had a theme of special interest to the young Milton, the fame that comes to a poet. In this lyric, as in others, the style and diction indicate a debt to Edmund Spenser.
“On the Morning of Christ’s Nativity”
Among the poems written during the Cambridge period, the ode “On the Morning of Christ’s Nativity” (1629) remains the most significant, perhaps the best nativity hymn in English poetry....
(The entire section is 4433 words.)
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