At the Ref Desk (8/28/18): Bingo! Got my first 'Do-U-Have-My-Textbook???' question -- and the school year doesn't even begin till next week! [more...]

The Art of Reading John Milton

Submitted by Leo Klein on Sun, 12/7/08 (7:39pm)

milton_540.jpg NPR had a segment on the 400th anniversary of John Milton. It wasn't too bad in relating the importance of Paradise Lost though I don't think I agree with Modern Library's William Kerrigan who recommends the "best way" of reading it as all at once in one sitting. As an undergrad, I had to pound my head against this work more than once. Not only is the language and imagery a bit tricky but the allusions to classical and contemporary events are enough to sink even the most motivated reader. The trick then is not to become frustrated but rather to come back to it, over and over again if necessary, until the outstanding beauty of the work starts speaking to you. For that reason, I'd say that the best way to read Paradise Lost is to read it three times over.

UPDATE: One of passages that totally knocked me over when reading this as an undergrad:

                                             Full soon
Among them he arrived; in his right hand
Grasping ten thousand Thunders, which he sent
Before him, such as in their Souls infixed
Plagues; they astonished all resistance lost,
All courage; down their idle weapons dropped;
O're Shields and Helmes, and helmed heads he rode
Of Thrones and mighty Seraphim prostrate,
That wished the Mountains now might be again
Thrown on them as a shelter from his ire.

John Milton, Paradise Lost, VI.

2 comments

by Brenda Rossini on Tue, 12/9/08 (8:31am)

Today, 12/9/2008, there's a reading of John Milton at the Guardian.co.uk, as well as a quiz (which I failed)

by Leo Klein on Wed, 12/10/08 (10:35am)

That's neat. Here's the Quiz. The reading by Philip Pullman also looks interesting.

Thanks.