Sunday, December 9, 2012

The Virtue of Perseverance - John Milton

Milton Dictates Lost Paradise
Today, the birthday of John Milton (9 December 1608 – 8 November 1674), Garrison Keillor posted what's indented below, on his blog, The Writer's Almanac. What captured my imagination was the underlined portion, which reminds me that I have not yet faced a true test of perseverance, although I think it my strongest virtue. If you've never held a copy of Paradise Lost in your hand, I'll tell you that it's over 10,000 lines of free verse and approximately 96,000 words white Paradise Regained is much, much shorter. That is sheer hard labor with a word processor, but of course Milton had but a quil in the hands of a friend or daughter.
Today is the birthday of John Milton... Though he wanted to be a poet, he spent most of his life working as a political pamphleteer, calling for freedom to divorce and freedom of the press. He wrote, among other things, "Who kills a man kills a reasonable creature, God's image; but he who destroys a good book kills reason itself, kills the image of God, as it were, in the eye." He also spoke out against the king during England's civil war, which was fine as long as the king was deposed and Oliver Cromwell was leading the Commonwealth. But eventually, the monarchy was restored and Milton, who by this time had severe glaucoma, became a public enemy. His pamphlets were burned, and people said God had smote him with blindness for his treason against the Crown.

Newly unemployed, Milton returned to poetry. He composed the verses in his head, reciting them over and over until he found someone — friends, family, or hired help — who could write them down. And in this way, he wrote an English epic poem in blank verse: Paradise Lost (1667), which was originally called Adam Unparadised. It's about the Biblical story of Adam and Eve, and their fall from the earthly paradise of the Garden of Eden. Milton published a sequel four years later; it's called Paradise Regained (1671), and it's about the temptation of Christ.

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