**** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE ****

Find this Story

Print, a form you can hold

Wireless download to your Amazon Kindle

Look for a summary or analysis of this Story.

Enjoy this? Share it!


John Milton
by [?]

And yet I see that one writer mentions the chaste and ascetic quality of Milton’s early life as proof of a cold and measured nature. Seemingly the writer does not know that intense feeling often finds a gratification in asceticism, and that vows of chastity are proof of passion. There are many ways of working off one’s surplus energy–Milton was married to his work. He traversed the vast fields of Classic Literature, read in the original from Greek, Hebrew, Syriac, French, Spanish, Latin and Italian. He delved into abstruse mathematics, studied music as a science, and labored at theology. In fact, he came to know so much of all religions that he had faith in none. He seemed to view religion in the cold, calculating light of a syllogistic problem–not as a warm, pulsing motive in life. His real religion was music, a fact he once frankly acknowledged.

On the pinions of music he was carried out and away beyond the boundaries of time and space, and there he found that rest for his soul, without which he would have sunk to earth and been covered by the kindly, drifting leaves of oblivion.

For some, the secrets of music, the wonder of love, and the misty, undefined prayers of the soul constitute true religion. When you place a creed in a crucible and afterward study the particles on a slide encased in balsam, you are apt to get a residuum or something–a something that does not satisfy the heart.

Milton got well acquainted with theology. It was interesting, but not what he had supposed. He came to regard the Church as a useful part of the Government–divine, of course, as all good things are divine. But to become a priest and play a part–he would not do it. He was honest–stubbornly honest.

Seven years he had been at Cambridge, and now that he was just ready to step into a “living”–right in the line of promotion of which his beauty and intellect tokened a sure presage–he balked.

It was a great blow to his parents. His mother pleaded; his father threatened; but they soon perceived that this son they had brought forth had a will stronger than theirs. Their fond dreams of his preferment–the handsome face of their boy above an oaken pulpit, with thousands feeding on his words, the public honors, and all that–faded away into tears and misty nothingness. But parenthood is doomed to disappointment–it does not endure long enough to see the end. Youth is so headstrong and wilful: it will not learn from the experience of others.

And all these years of preparation and expense! Better had he died and been laid to rest with the three now in the churchyard.

Before Milton had served his seven years’ apprenticeship at Cambridge, his parents moved to the village of Horton–twenty miles out of London, Windsor way.

The village of Horton has not changed much with the years, and a tramp across the fields from Eton by way of Burnham Beeches and Stoke Pogis, where Gray wrote “The Elegy,” is quite worth while. It is a land of lazy woods, and winding streams and hedgerows melodious with birds. One treads on storied ground, and if you wish you can recline beneath gnarled old oaks where Milton mused and scribbled, and wrote the first draft of “L’ Allegro” and “Il Penseroso.”

Milton loitered here at Horton for six years, and in that time produced just six poems.

He was thirty-two years of age, and had never earned a sixpence. But what booted it! His father and mother’s home was his: they gladly supplied his every want; and his mother, especially, was ever his kindly critic and most intimate friend. His days were spent in study, dreams, lonely walks across green fields, and homecomings when, with his mother’s hand in his, he would talk or recite to her in order to clarify the thought that pressed upon him. Very calm, very peaceful and very beautiful were those days. “The pensive attitude of mind brings the best result–not the active,” he used to say. It was then he wrote to his old friend, Diodati: “You asked what I am about–what I am thinking of? Why, with God’s help, I am thinking of immortality. Forgive the word, it is for your ear alone–I am pluming my wings for flight.”