John Milton

John Milton, the only poet who identified himself with Puritanism, had so strong a personality that he cannot be taken to represent anyone except himself. He was an English poet, polemicist, and civil servant for the Commonwealth of England. He is best known for his epic poem Paradise Lost.   As a poet he dominates his century from so great an altitude that he cannot be merged in it. His firm mind was a proof against Spenserian exuberance; his ear was too delicate for Johnson’s harsh prosaic verse; his superb egoism followed a single theme, the problem of morality as he himself saw it. He speaks for only one soul, his own, which was indeed strong and lofty. He was the only poet to endeavour to blend the spirit of the Renaissance and of the Reformation.
Early Life
Milton was born in London on December 9, 1608. When his father, John Milton Sr. was disinherited by his Roman Catholic grandfather for turning Protestant, he moved to London and established himself successfully as a notary and moneylender who paid a great deal of attention to his son’s education. Milton studied at St. Paul’s School, London, from some time between 1615 and 1620 till 1625, when he joined Christ’s College, Cambridge. At St. Paul’s, he followed the regular curriculum of Latin, Greek and Hebrew; but he also learnt several modern languages from private tutors at home. He received his Bachelor of Arts degree from Cambridge in March 1629 and subsequently his Master of Arts in July 1632. Here he was nicknamed ‘the Lady’ for his fineness of features and general delicate manners. His Cambridge years display little love for scholastic logic; he preferred instead the ideas and literatures of Renaissance humanism, blending a firmly rooted Christianity with Platonism. According to him he was first taken up by the sensuality of Ovidian and other Roman poetry, but later took greater interest in idealism of Dante, Petrarch, and Edmund Spenser. This was to finally lead to a fascination with Platonic...