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       The Complete Poems (Penguin Classics), p.1
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           John Milton
The Complete Poems (Penguin Classics)




  JOHN MILTON was born in 1608. The son of a scrivener (a notary and money-lender), he was educated by private tutors and attended St Paul’s School and Christ’s College, Cambridge. He left Cambridge in 1632 and spent the next six years in scholarly retirement. A Masque and Lycidas belong to this period. Following his Italian journey (1638–9), he took up the cause of Presbyterianism in a series of hard-hitting anti-prelatical pamphlets (1641–2). His divorce pamphlets (1643–5), written after his first wife had temporarily deserted him, earned him much notoriety and contributed to his breach with the Presbyterians. In 1649 he took up the cause of the new Commonwealth. As Secretary for Foreign Tongues to the Council of State, he defended the English revolution both in English and Latin – and sacrificed his eyesight in the process. He risked his life by publishing The Ready and Easy Way to Establish a Free Commonwealth on the eve of the Restoration (1660). His great poems were published after this political defeat. A ten-book version of Paradise Lost appeared in 1667, and Paradise Regained and Samson Agonistes were published together in 1671. An expanded version of his shorter poems (first published in 1646) was brought out in 1673, and the twelve-book Paradise Lost appeared in 1674, the year of his death.

  JOHN LEONARD has taught at the universities of Cambridge, Ottawa and Western Ontario. He has published widely on Milton, and his book Naming in Paradise (Clarendon Press, 1990) was a co-winner of the Milton Society’s James Holly Hanford Award. He is a Professor of English at the University of Western Ontario, where he has taught since 1987.



  edited with a preface and notes by




  Published by the Penguin Group

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  Penguin Books Ltd, Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England

  First published 1998


  Copyright © John Leonard, 1998

  All rights reserved

  The moral right of the editor has been asserted

  Except in the United States of America, this book is sold subject

  to the condition that it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, be lent,

  re-sold, hired out, or otherwise circulated without the publisher’s

  prior consent in any form of binding or cover other than that in

  which it is published and without a similar condition including this

  condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser



  Table of Dates

  Further Reading

  POEMS 1645

  On the Morning of Christ’s Nativity

  A Paraphrase on Psalm 114

  Psalm 136

  The Passion

  On Time

  Upon the Circumcision

  At a Solemn Music

  An Epitaph on the Marchioness of Winchester

  Song. On May Morning

  On Shakespeare. 1630

  On the University Carrier

  Another on the Same


  Il Penseroso

  Sonnet I (‘O nightingale’)

  Sonnet II (‘Donna leggiadra’)

  Sonnet III (‘Qual in colle aspro’)


  Sonnet IV (‘Diodati, e te’l dirò’)

  Sonnet V (‘Per certo’)

  Sonnet VI (‘Giovane piano’)

  Sonnet VII (‘How soon hath Time’)

  Sonnet VIII (‘Captain or colonel’)

  Sonnet IX (‘Lady that in the prime’)

  Sonnet X (‘Daughter to that good Earl’)



  A Masque Presented at Ludlow Castle [‘Comus’]


  On the Death of a Fair Infant

  At a Vacation Exercise

  Sonnet XI (‘A book was writ of late’)

  Sonnet XII On the same (‘I did but prompt the age’)

  Sonnet XIII To Mr H. Lawes, on his Airs

  Sonnet XIV (‘When Faith and Love’)

  Sonnet XV On the Late Massacre in Piedmont

  Sonnet XVI (‘When I consider how my light is spent’)

  Sonnet XVII (‘Lawrence of virtuous father’)

  Sonnet XVIII (‘Cyriack, whose grandsire’)

  Sonnet XIX (‘Methought I saw my late espousèd saint’)

  The Fifth Ode of Horace

  On the New Forcers of Conscience


  Psalms I-VIII



  On the Lord General Fairfax

  To the Lord General Cromwell

  To Sir Henry Vane the Younger

  To Mr Cyriack Skinner upon his Blindness

  ‘Fix Here’


  ‘Ah Constantine, of how much ill’

  ‘Founded in chaste and humble poverty’

  ‘Then passed he to a flow’ry mountain green’

  ‘When I die’

  ‘Laughing to teach the truth’

  ‘Jesting decides great things’

  ‘’Tis you that say it, not I’

  ‘This is true liberty, when freeborn men’

  ‘Whom do we count a good man’

  ‘There can be slain’

  ‘Goddess of shades, and huntress’

  ‘Brutus far to the west’

  ‘Low in a mead of kine’


  Book I

  Book II

  Book III

  Book IV

  Book V

  Book VI

  Book VII

  Book VIII

  Book IX

  Book X

  Book XI

  Book XII


  The First Book

  The Second Book

  The Third Book

  The Fourth Book




  Elegia I Ad Carolum Diodatum

  Elegia II In Obitum Praeconis Academici Cantabrigiensis

  Elegia III In Obitum Praesulis Wintoniensis

  Elegia IV Ad Thomam Iunium

  Elegia V In adventum veris

  Elegia VI Ad Carolum Diodatum, ruri commorantem

  Elegia VII Anno aetatis undevigesimo

  ‘Haec ego mente’

  In Proditionem Bombardicam

  In eandem

  In eandem

  In eandem

  In Inventorem Bombardae

  Ad Leonoram Romae canentem

  Ad eandem

  Ad eandem


  In Obitum Procancellarii Medici

  In Quintum Novembris

  In Obitum Praesulis Eliensis

ram non pati senium

  De Idea Platonica quemadmodum Aristoteles intellexit

  Ad Patrem

  Greek Verses:

  Psalm CXIV

  Philosophus ad Regem

  Ad Salsillum


  Epitaphium Damonis


  Apologus de Rustico et Hero

  In Effigiei eius Sculptorem

  Ad Ioannem Rousium


  Epigram from Pro Populo Anglicano Defensio

  Epigram from Defensio Secunda


  Carmina Elegiaca



  Index of Titles

  Index of First Lines


  The present text represents a partial modernization. Spelling has been modernized, italics removed, and most capitals reduced. Contractions have for the most part been preserved, for they provide a guide to Milton’s prosody. I have modernized punctuation only when the original pointing might impede a modern reader. Most of my changes are from a comma to a semi-colon or full-stop. An example is Lycidas 128–32, which the editions of 1645 and 1673 point as follows:

  Besides what the grim Wolf with privy paw

  Daily devours apace, and nothing said,

  But that two-handed engine at the door,

  Stands ready to smite once, and smite no more.

  The comma after ‘said’ is potentially confusing, for it gives the momentary signal that the ‘two-handed engine’ is something that the bad shepherds said. I have printed a full-stop. In this instance I have the support of the 1638 edition, which also has a full-stop. John Creaser has argued for the virtues of eclecticism in choosing between variants such as these.1 Convinced by his arguments, I have drawn on the punctuation of all the texts produced in Milton’s lifetime. Occasionally I have modernized against all early texts.

  I have not modernized any punctuation that in my judgement conveys a deliberate ambiguity. An example is Paradise Lost v 77– 81:

  Taste this, and be henceforth among the gods

  Thyself a goddess, not to earth confined,

  But sometimes in the air, as we, sometimes

  Ascend to Heav’n, by merit thine, and see

  What life the gods live there, and such live thou.

  Many editors change the comma after ‘we’ to a semi-colon and so remove a suggestive ambiguity. As Zachary Pearce noted in 1733, Satan’s ‘as we’ is placed so as to refer either to ‘Ascend to Heav’n’ or ‘in the air’. William Empson discerns ‘a natural embarrassment’ in the fallen Satan’s implied doubt as to whether ‘he could go to Heaven himself’.2 It is not always easy – and is sometimes impossible – to decide when a poet is being deliberately ambiguous, but it is an editor’s responsibility to make difficult decisions.

  Variations of punctuation are too numerous to be recorded in the notes (though I have drawn attention to a few cases). I have recorded more verbal variations between the early texts, though constraint of space has forced me to be selective – especially with the early poems, which are extensively reworked in the Trinity manuscript.

  Attention should be drawn to a liberty I have taken in my use of capitals. The early editions usually capitalize ‘Heaven’, and they make no typographical distinction between God’s empyreal Heaven and the stellar heavens of the created universe. I have used the upper case for God’s Heaven and the lower case for the heavens below the primum mobile. The justification for this typographical distinction is that it can serve the modern reader as a helpful guide (see e.g. Paradise Lost ii 1004–6 and vii 162–7). Modern-spelling editions invariably make such a distinction between ‘God’ and ‘god’, even though the early texts use the upper case for pagan gods as well as God.

  My prime purpose in the notes has been to elucidate Milton’s biblical, classical, historical and other allusions. I have also attempted to illustrate Milton’s verbal inventiveness by frequent recourse to the Oxford English Dictionary. Like Shakespeare, Milton added many words and phrases to the language. Many of these have become so integrated into standard English that the modern reader is not surprised by them; yet Milton may have meant them to surprise. Some of Milton’s coinages have become clichés, and we must make an imaginative effort to hear them afresh. ‘Pandaemonium’ is the most famous example. Others are less well known, but no less significant. Lost in the woods at night, the Lady in A Masque catches a glimpse of the moon behind a cloud and asks:

  Was I deceived, or did a sable cloud

  Turn forth her silver lining on the night? (221–2)

  This is the OED’s earliest instance of what has since become a hackneyed metaphor.

  In my notes I have marked Milton’s neologisms with an asterisk. When the OED credits Milton with the first use of a word, I place the asterisk immediately before the word, as in my note to Paradise Lost i 548:

  *serried pressed close together, shoulder to shoulder.

  When the OED credits Milton with using an existing word in a new sense, I place the asterisk before the sense, as in my note to Paradise Lost ii 439:

  unessential *possessing no essence (OED 1).

  I have checked every word in Milton’s English poems against the OED, but my asterisks should still be used with caution. Although the editors of the OED attempted to record the first use of every word, they inevitably made some errors. William B. Hunter has identified some of these in his seminal essay ‘New Words in Milton’s English Poems’.3 Hunter nevertheless found the OED to be reliable in the vast majority of cases. Out of more than one thousand words and senses ‘apparently original in some sense with Milton’, Hunter found only twenty-eight cases where the OED was in error. Hunter was writing in 1954. Preparing my edition in the 1990s, I have been able to use the enormous searching-power of the OED on CD ROM. With just a few keystrokes it has been possible to check Milton’s putative neologisms against all quotations in the OED. Sometimes the OED credits Milton with a new word, not knowing that it is quoted in an earlier text elsewhere in the dictionary. The OED credits Milton with coining ‘loquacious’ in Paradise Lost x 161, but a global search of all OED quotations finds an earlier instance from 1656. Sometimes Milton antedates the OED’s first instance. The OED’s earliest instance of ‘self-esteem’ is from 1657, but Milton had used the term in An Apology for Smectymnuus (1642). In my note to Paradise Lost viii 572 I accordingly mark ‘self-esteem’ with an asterisk and note that Milton may have coined the term in his prose. I have silently omitted any neologism that the OED falsely accredits to Milton.

  The OED can also alert the modern reader to words that have changed or narrowed their meaning since Milton’s time. English is rich in words that mean the opposite of themselves, and Milton loves to pun on words of this kind. In one case an entire poem hinges on such a word. The poem is Sonnet XII (‘I did but prompt the age to quit their clogs’). Milton wrote it in 1646, after his divorce pamphlets had caused a scandal. The Presbyterians – Milton’s erstwhile allies against the Bishops – called on Parliament to suppress his tracts. Sonnet XII has traditionally been read as Milton’s embittered response to this rejection, but some critics have argued that the poem is really aimed at the radical sects who embraced Milton’s views too enthusiastically. The disputed lines are these:

  But this is got by casting pearl to hogs;

  That bawl for freedom in their senseless mood,

  And still revolt when truth would set them free. (8–10)

  Critics often ask how the Presbyterians can be said to ‘revolt’ when they wanted to reaffirm the conservative divorce laws. Such critics assume that ‘revolt’ has its modern meaning, and so must refer to the radical sects. The modern sense of ‘revolt’ did exist, but so did the opposite sense: ‘draw back from a course of action, return to one’s allegiance’ (OED 2b). ‘Still revolt’ might therefore mean ‘continually backslide’. This sense suits the Presbyterians, who
had bawled for freedom from episcopacy, but shrank from reforming the divorce laws when God offered them the freedom they had asked for. This is not to deny that the modern sense of ‘revolt’ also asserts itself. Milton plays the two meanings against each other to imply that his conservative foes are the real rebels – against truth. Such a pun on ‘revolt’ is characteristic of Milton. He often uses it in his prose, and the Presbyterians are always his target.

  The scholarly tradition of noting biblical and classical allusions in Milton’s poetry began in 1695 with Patrick Hume’s Annotations on Milton’s ‘Paradise Lost’. Hume’s notes have a special claim to our attention, for they provide an insight into how an educated seventeenth-century reader responded to Milton’s epic. Other valuable early editions include those of Zachary Pearce, the Jonathan Richardsons, and Thomas Newton. The greatest edition of recent decades is that of Alastair Fowler and John Carey. Every new edition is indebted to its predecessors, and the present text is no exception. It would be a mistake, however, to suppose that all of the analogues and allusions in the editorial tradition are the straightforward accumulation of centuries of disinterested inquiry. Recognizing an allusion is inescapably an interpretative act. Milton’s editors, consciously or unconsciously, have privileged those analogues that most evidently support the poems’ orthodox morality. The result is that Milton’s allusive art has been made to seem more univocal than it really is. Editors and critics alike have tended to place too exclusive an emphasis on analogues that are safe. This is a pity because Milton’s poetry draws much of its power from analogues that are unsafe. Sometimes an analogue will seem troublingly out of place. At other times, two or more analogues will compete for the same space. Obviously there is a danger of subjectivity here. Not everyone will agree about the pertinence of every supposed allusion. But it is not the case that safe allusions are always more obvious and accessible. Often it is the unsafe or problematic analogue that lies more readily to hand. In the notes to this edition I have tried to be open to problematic analogues in the belief that they invite interesting and liberating questions.

  An example of a problematic analogue may be found in A Masque when the Second Brother expresses the fear that his sister might fall victim to sexual assault. The Elder Brother (who believes that virgins enjoy supernatural protection against assault) tries to assure his brother that there is nothing to worry about. At the climax of his speech he asks a rhetorical question:

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