"Fame Is No Plant That Grows On Mortal Soil"

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Context: Milton says that he wonders whether it would be better to abandon the thankless task of trying to write serious poetry and do nothing but follow the crowd and compose erotic poetry. He, however, says that his desire for fame will not let him take the easy way. But then he reflects that fame, for which he hungers, always eludes us; when we are about to grasp it, Fate cuts short our lives. Next, Apollo, god of poetry, warns him against a desire for human praise, because true fame is not to be found on earth in the glitter of worldly vanities, nor yet in mere widespread reputation. Real fame comes from God, who judges every deed and grants to virtue an eternal reward. Milton writes thus:

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Fame is no plant that grows on mortal soil,Nor in the glistering foilSet off to th' world, nor in broad rumor lies,But lives and spreads aloft by those pure eyesAnd perfect witness of all-judging Jove;As he pronounces lastly on each deed,Of so much fame in heav'n expect thy meed.

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