Regarded by many as the equal of Shakespeare in poeticimagination and expression, Milton was also a prolificwriter of prose, applying his potent genius to major issuesof domestic, religious and political liberty.
"A good book is the precious lifeblood of a master spirit, embalmed and treasured up onpurpose to a life beyond life“ a quote from Areopagitica is displayed in many publiclibraries, including the New York Public Library.Link.www.wikipedea.org
―It should be noted at the outset that John Milton thought of himself primarily as apoet, one who wrote prose, as he put it, with his ―left hand,‖ reserving the right for hischosen calling (1.808; all quotations are from Milton 1953–82 [ CPW ]). Miltons firstprose works were his Prolusions , performed as school exercises during his studiesat Cambridge. During his mature years, the English press, released from strictgovernment control, experienced an explosion of printing, and he joined in the livelydebate over his countrys fortunes, publishing both as a private citizen and a publicservant. Much of his mature prose could well serve as a chronicle of two turbulentdecades of English history, the 1640s and 1650s. Milton entered into public print withtracts that ranged widely over issues of his day, publications that, for the purpose ofdiscussion, can be roughly divided into two categories, the religious and the political.Miltons seventeenth-century contemporaries looked upon these two spheres ofhuman concern as intimately intertwined: political actions were seen as profoundlyinfluencing the fate of their immortal souls. The poets prose works identify him asvery much a man of his age since religion is always close to the surface of hispolitical works and politics ever a factor in his vision of religion‖ wrote RobertThomas FallonLink.
Milton taught Mankind the lessons of ‘Dignity, reserve and stateliness’."Of Mans first disobedience, and the fruitOf that forbidden tree whose mortal tasteBrought death into the world, and all our woe,With loss of Eden."(from Paradise Lost, John Milton)Every student of English literature knows that John Milton(9 December 1608 – 8 November 1674),the noted English scholarwas a poet, polemicist, diplomat, and civil servant for the Commonwealth of England. But, the fact very often overlookedor not considered seriously is his highly rich prose works. Beside being the author of the only English epic till date ,he isalso the master of finest English prose. It is said that he would have been equally revered if he had not written a singlepoem but his prose works only. He is also the greatest neologist in English having 630 new words to OED.
John Milton was a man of letters, a polemicalwriter, and an official serving under OliverCromwell.He wrote at a time of religious flux andpolitical upheaval in England.Both his poetry and prose reflect deepconvictions and deal with contemporaryissues.His treatise condemning licensing, politicalpamphlets and Areopagitica are stampedwith his distinctive prose style and
Isocrates was anancient Greekrhetorician andorator. He was highlyinfluential through histeaching and writingson rhetoric.Milton took the title ofhis famous treatiseon censorship of thepress ‗Aeropagitica‘from one of hisforbidding speech.
In 1641, he wrote and published his first prose work under the title ‗Of Reformation in England,and the Causes that hitherto have hindered it‘.Here, he attempted to show that prelacy was incompatible with civil liberty, and to the support ofthis proposition he brought learning more various and profound, a power of reasoning, and animpassioned eloquence, unprecedented in English controversy.The treatise ended with the following prayer, ―piously laying the sad condition of England beforethe footstool of the Almighty;‖ than which, as Sir Edgerton Brydges well observed, ―there is not amore sublime and patriotic ode in any language.‖Assessed Rufus Wilmot Griswold in an essay in 1847 which served as the introduction of atwo volume collection of Milton’s Prose. (wikisource)
William Blake, Satan, Sin andDeath, 1808, watercolour.Link. Wikisource
Eikonoklastes (Eἰκονοκλάστης) is a book by John Milton, publishedOctober 1649. In it he provides a justification for the execution ofCharles I, which had taken place on 30 January 1649. The books titleis taken from the Greek, and means "iconoclast" or "breaker of theicon", and refers to Eikon Basilike, a Royalist propaganda work. Thetranslation of Eikon Basilike is "icon of the King"; it was publishedimmediately after the execution. Miltons book is therefore usually seenas Parliamentarian propaganda, explicitly designed to counter theRoyalist arguments.( link: www.wikipedea.org)The title page of Eikonolastes
Milton was well conversant in Latin and Italian.He wrote in all the three languages.Even his English was Latinized to a great extent.His vast knowledge and wide command over European Classicsas well asMythologies made his writings accessible only to the scholars.Statue of Milton in Temple of British Worthies, stowe
It is the duty of every man toimprove his knowledge, willand understanding:Isocrates(Letter to Demonicus)A good mind is the greatesttreasure in a mansbody:Isocrates (Letter toDemonicus)Of all our possessions...Wisdom alone isimmortal:Isocrates (Letter toDemonicus)Areopagitica was published onthe23rd of November 1644, at theheight of the English Civil War. Itwas titled after a speech written bythe Athenian orator Isocrates in the5th century BC. (wikipedea.org)
Milton‘s most famous and widely read and admired prose work,Areopagitica, emerged in 1644.Subtitled ‗A speech…for the liberty ofunlicenc‘d printing‘, Areopagitica takes its somewhat forbidding titlefrom a speech by the Greek orator Isocrates, advocating increasedcontrol of all aspects of Athenian life by the ancient council known asthe Areopagus. Milton‘s work is an erudite and impassionedresponse to the Long Parliament‘s enactment in June 1643 of a newLicensing Act, which required all books and pamphlets to be readand their contents approved by a government-appointed Licenserbefore publication.Areopagitica itself provides the Oxford English Dictionary withevidence for almost eighty new words and senses—two per quartopage, on average. Among them are the nouns licenser and licensing,the compound adjective slow-moving, the participial adjectivebeleaguered, and the phrase in the making, when Milton observesthat: ‗opinion in good men is but knowledge in the making‘.
MILTON‘S COTTAGE, SITUATED IN CHALFONT ST GILES, BUCKINGHAMSHIRE, WAS ONCE THE HOME OF JOHN MILTON(1608-1674), ONE OF ENGLAND‘S GREATEST POETS. IT IS NOW A MUSEUM OF HIS WORK AND TIMES.Milton‘s Cottage situated in Chalfont St Giles, Buckinghamshire,was once the home of John Milton (1608-1674), one of England‘sgreatest poets. It is now a museum of his work and times.Link.wikisource
The prose works of the great poet belong to his second period of literary activity.This period begins in 1639 and extends up to 1660.It is the period of Civil War in England and Milton plunges headlong into the vortex of theconflict between King Charles and his people.He pens in a quick succession a number of prose pamphlets onChurch, Government, Divorce and the justice as well as on King‘s execution.Whatsoever, his greatest prose tract is Areopagitica---a speech for the liberty of unlicensedprinting.
The sole exceptions to the prose were a dozen‗occasional‘ sonnets.Restoration of Monarchy in 1660 restored hispoetical zeal and his prose writing career of nearly20 years came to an end .Milton‘s prose is ,intricate, involved and Latinized.English prose develops in the direction of order,simplicity, clarity and of course, lucidity in hishand.The blind poet dictates the Lost Paradise to His ThreeDaughters, c. 1826. Artist: Eugène Delacroix (Left)
I might perhaps leave something so written to after-times, as they shall not willingly let it die – Milton inThe Reason of Church Government
A detail chronological list of Milton’s Major Prose works: His Political, philosophical and religiousprose :(1)• Of Reformation (1641)• Of Prelatical Episcopacy (1641)• Animadversions (1641)• The Reason of Church-Government Urged against Prelaty (1642)• Apology for Smectymnuus (1642)• Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce (1643)• Judgement of Martin Bucer Concerning Divorce (1644)• Of Education (1644)• Areopagitica (1644)• Tetrachordon (1645)• Colasterion (1645)
A Detailed Chronological list of Milton‘s Prose Works: (2)The Tenure of Kings and Magistrates (1649)Eikonoklastes (1649)Defensio pro Populo Anglicano [First Defence] (1651)Defensio Secunda [Second Defence] (1654)A treatise of Civil Power (1659)The Likeliest Means to Remove Hirelings from the Church (1659)The Ready and Easy Way to Establish a Free Commonwealth (1660)Brief Notes Upon a Late Sermon (1660)Accedence Commenced Grammar (1669)History of Britain (1670)
A detailed Chronological list of Miltonic Prose pieces :-(3)· Artis logicae plenior institutio [Art of Logic] (1672)· Of True Religion (1673)· Epistolae Familiaries (1674)· Prolusiones (1674)· A brief History of Moscovia, and other less known Countries lying Eastward of Russia as faras Cathay, gathered from the writings of several Eye-witnesses (1682)· De Doctrina Christiana (1823)NB. The above list is collected from www.wikipedea.org
The case of Milton’s prose writings was to some extent peculiar.He was a poet in essence.But he plunged into the thick of the political and religious feud of the time from 1639 to 1660.He was asked to defend the Cromwell Govt. and its various policies as a Mouth-piece of the Govt. He didhis job with utmost efficiency and sincere patriotic fervour.He wrote altogether 25 reformative pamphlets on Church, Government, Divorce , Liberty etc. Most oftheir subjects belonged to his time and have little interest for modern readers.But, his views on Education, Human Rights in relation to freedom of expressing thoughts and ideas &Ideal form of Government are still relevant to the 21st century.His highly ornamental Latinized style and methodical arrangements of world-knowledge has made hiswritings a priceless treasure troves for the posterity.If Shakespeare is the greatest poet then Milton is obviously the greatest Prose litterateur of England.
References & Links:WWW.WIKIPEDEA.ORGWWW.JOHNMILTON.COMWWW.WIKISOURCES (Photographs)[The readers may see the original web pages by hitting the link ]NB. All resources are used under the privilege of Creative Commons License.—i.s
A non-profit academic PPT on Miltonic Prose by—Indranil Sarkar.Assam,India.