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(1608 - 1674 AD)
Here I include some selected stanzas from the Epic 'Paradise Lost' by John Milton.
The lines, as well as the following biography of the poet, are taken from the Penguin Popular Classics paperback edition.
John Milton (1608 - 74). The most famous epic poet in the English language, Paradise Lost is considered his masterpiece.
John Milton was born at Cheapside in 1608, son of a scrivener. He was educated in Christ's College, Cambridge, where he began writing poetry, and his early verse includes 'On the Morning of Christ's Nativity', the 'Arcades', and the two poems, 'L'Allegro' and 'Il Penseroso'. On leaving Cambridge, Milton studies privately at his father's home, preparing for a future as poet or clergyman. His 'masque', Comus, was performed at Ludlow in 1634, and a year later he moved from Hammersmith to Horton, Buckinghamshire, where he wrote Lycidas, an elegy. For the next twenty years, leading up to the writing of Paradise Lost, his poetic output was limited to sonnets, most famously 'On the late Massacre in Piedmont', on his blindness and on his deceased wife, although which wife is disputed. In the late 1630s Milton travelled abroad, chiefly in Italy, and on his return established himself in London. He turned to politics, becoming an ardent pamphleteer and the first he put his name to, The Reason of Church Government, was published in 1642, the year he married Mary Powell. They temporarily separated and as a result he published The Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce, which made him notorious, and he developed his strong opinions in Tetrachordon, On Education and Areopagitica, respectively covering divorce, education and the liberty of the press. Rejoined by his wife in 1645, she bore him three daughters before her death in 1652, the year their youngest was born and that Milton went totally blind. After a brief second marriage (1656-8), he published The Ready and Easy Way to Establish a Free Commonwealth (1660) in defence of republicanism. However, the Restoration was inevitable, and on its arrival Milton was arrested, fined, and released. In 1663 he married Elizabeth Minshull, who survived him. Returning to the poetic form, he published Paradise Lost in 1667 and its sequel Paradise Regained, together with Samson Agonistes, in 1671. John Milton died of gout in 1674 and is buried beside his father in St Giles', Cripplegate.
Milton's great theme in Paradise Lost is 'to justify the ways of God to men', which developed his controversial poem into a work of genius.
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