Sunday, November 8, 2009

November 8: Blind but Unconquered (Vol. 4, pp. 359-369)

John Milton died on this day in 1674. Today's passage is from his sequel to "Paradise Lost," called (naturally) "Paradise Regained."

While Milton is admittedly an acquired taste that I never acquired, his personal story is worth noting. At the time he dictated the text of what would become "Paradise Regained," he was broke and blind and living in obscurity.

He was politically on the outs when he wrote the "Paradises," since he was on the anti-monarchy side of the political and religious wars in England in the 17th century. Milton had an interesting mix of liberty and moral purity — two things that on the surface seem incompatible.

Milton is more complex than he appears. How can one be devoted to what he called "the three species of liberty which are essential to the happiness of social life — religious, domestic and civil" and be an advocate of freedom and tolerance, yet be associated with the Puritans, the folks synonymous with religious reaction and intolerance?

While the "Paradise" poems are what Milton is best known for, he was also someone who fought for ideals more closely associated with the Enlightenment. You'd never know it without reading his other works, which sadly aren't collected in the Harvard Classics and would better illuminate what kind of person he really was.

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