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"Let there arise out of you a band of people inviting to all that is good enjoining what is right and forbidding what is wrong; they are the ones to attain felicity".
(surah Al-Imran,ayat-104)
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User Name: Dr.Maqsood
Full Name: Dr. Maqsood Jafri
User since: 19/Nov/2011
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A Short Note on John Milton

 

By:  Dr. Maqsood Jafri

 

The period extending from 1625 A. D  to 1660 A.D is generally described as The Age of Milton in English literary history. This period marks the end of the Renaissance. This period is filled with the political and religious strife of the reign of Charles 1(1625 to 1649) and the triumph of Puritanism. In 1649, King Charles was executed in the result of great crisis and struggle between King and the parliament. Pym and Hampden gave political support to the King; while the religious aspect was represented by men like Cromwell and Milton who were inspired by moral and religious zeal and ideals. The country had to go through a civil war fought for an idea or ideology. The Royalists and the Protestants collided for sovereignty. Puritanism became a political as well as a moral and religious force and the great champion of the endangered freedom of the English people.

 

Oliver Cromwell emerged as a victor in 1649 and till 1660 remained a supreme political force. As the Puritans were basically fundamentalists and were the men of a strong and serious religious character, calmly determined and obstinately fanatical, the growth of secular and liberal literature received serious blows and deterioration. In 1642, through an Act, the parliament abandoned all dramatic and theatrical performances. This was the final blow to the declining Elizabethan drama. Puritanism proved fatal to Art and Literature. But a giant of literature like Milton is an exception who could combine the moral and religious influences with the generous culture of the Renaissance. But he never wrote a humorous line. He had an ethical and Biblical mission. During 1640 to 1660, he wrote serious political prose supporting Cromwell against King Charles. It was his controversial period and gave no attention towards poetry.

Cromwell government was also a military dictatorship. When even the simple sports and amusements were prohibited and the people reacted to extreme religiosity. On the death of Cromwell, the people of England welcomed the exiled Charles 11 and monarchy got restored. The " Caroline Poets" who were secular wrote for Charles. Robert Herricks is quite a distinct name amongst them.

 

John Milton was born in London in Bread Street, Cheapside on the 9th December 1608. In 1620, he was admitted to St. Pauls' School. At school, he studied Latin and Greek.  From his very childhood , he was a voracious reader. At the age of fifteen, he attempted rhymed paraphrases of Psalms 114 and 136. He also wrote a few Latin exercises that time. In 1625, he matriculated at Christ college, Cambridge. He obtained his B.A. degree in 1629 and his M.A. in 1632 at the same university. At Cambridge, he wrote abundant Latin verse and seven Latin prolusions I.e. a public speech full of oratory and pedantry. At university, he earned the nickname" the Lady" because of his handsome and delicate features and the purity of his mind. He did not appreciate the scholastic logic which largely dominated the university curriculum. He asserted the creed of a Young Renaissance humanist who was at once a Christian, a Platonist and a Baconian.

 

During 1632 to 1638, he lived at Horton, near Windsor, Berkshire at his fathers' country house. during these six years, he studied history, theology, literature and philosophy. Occasionally, he visited London to fetch new books or something new in Mathematics or music. In 1632, he wrote Arcades, a miniature masque intended as a tribute to the dowager Countess of Derby. In 1634, he wrote Comus, an other masque. Comus was Miltons' first dramatization of his great theme, the conflict of good and evil. In the Beginning, he seems loving the erotic and sensual poetry of Ovid, but then he turns away from his sensuality to the idealism of Dante and Petrarch. Then came the romances  of knighthood. Finally, " the divine volumes of Plato"  taught him the true love of the good. The chaste and high mysteries glorified by St. Paul and Book of Revelation formed his sober and solemn soul. Comus was in a way a song of innocence. "Lycidas,' written in 1637, was a song of experience. This poem in form and sentiments , an elegy of the classical mind, was Miltons' first attempt to justify the Ways of God to himself and to other men. In 1637, his mother died. In May 1638, he went to Italy. He called on Galileo and happily mingled with Catholics, though he maintained his stout Protestantism. We find the sublimity and ideological profundity of the mind set of Milton in his " Paradise Lost" and " Paradise Regained." The poet is fully drenched and soaked  in the dew of religious zeal and finds redemption under the canopy of Jesus Christ. At this stage he loses to be a poet and philosopher and emerges as a priest. In my opinion the morality is universal and not religious. Morality is a social need. Even in the atheist countries the social morality is mandatory and obligatory. to be an honest and good human being is the requirement of all societies. But some organized religions put more emphasis on religious rites and rituals and regard them morality where as it is not social morality. There is not a shred of doubt in it that Milton was a moralist but his morality eventually got the shroud of religiosity. Such people are retrogressive and irrational. Even to date, we find so many clerics in Saudi Arabia, Iran, India, Ireland, Pakistan ,Myanmar and  other Asian and African countries wherein we find hordes of fundamentalists and terrorists. Milton was the child of religious mind set. Undoubtedly, he was a great lyricist and made his name in the world of literature.

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