Milton: The Poet Essay

1635 words - 7 pages

John Milton was born in London in 1608 (Merriman). His grandfather was a Roman Catholic who had disowned Milton's father when he turned Protestant (Merriman). The boy was sent to St. Paul's school, and he learned Latin, Greek, and Hebrew, and began to try to write poetry (Merriman). In 1625 he enrolled at Christ's College, Cambridge, clashed with his tutor the following year and was suspended, returned and was given another tutor, and graduated on schedule (Merriman). The University in those days still undertook to teach largely by repeat memorization, and Milton thought his training there of little value (Merriman). He undertook to give himself a liberal education by wide reading (Merriman). His father had hoped to make a lawyer of him, but took it very well when his son announced that he intended to make the writing of poetry his life's work (Merriman). In 1629 at the age of 21 years old he wrote a short poem, "On the morning of Christ's Nativity," his first memorable work, still widely read at Christmas (Merriman). Between 1641 and 1660, Milton wrote almost no poetry (Merriman). This was the time when the English Puritans were planning to overthrow the English monarchy on the grounds that it was making taxes unlawfully (and was, moreover, in league with the wicked English Church (Merriman). Milton believed wholeheartedly in the Puritan cause, and set aside his poetry to write pamphlets in defense of various aspects of liberty as he saw it (Merriman). In 1642, at the age of 33, Milton married Mary Powell, who was 16. In a few months, she went home to her family (Merriman). In 1645 friends brought about the reconciling of their differences, and Mary returned to her husband (Merriman). Mary bore John three daughters, and died in 1652 (Merriman). Milton published in 1644 his most famous pamphlet, Areopagetica (Merriman). While in Athens, Saint Paul spoke before the Areopagus, a council of citizens that got its name from its meeting place, a temple of Ares, and that was responsible for censorship (Merriman). Milton's pamphlet was written in protest against the setting up by the Cromwell government of a board of Censorship for all printed works (Merriman). It is an argument for freedom of the press (Merriman). In February 1649, just after the beheading of King Charles I, Milton published a pamphlet called "the Tenure of Kings and Magistrates," arguing that power resides in the people, who may give it to governors, but are free to withdraw it again (Merriman). He was invited to become Secretary for Foreign Languages in Cromwell's Council of State (Merriman). As such, he continued to write pamphlets defending the Republic, the killing of the King, and the rule of Cromwell (Merriman). After 1660, with the monarchy restored, Milton's political dreams lay in ruins under the double blow of the collapse of the Puritan Republic and the failure of said republic to uphold freedom while it lasted (Merriman). Milton retired to private life and returned...

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