Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Happy 400th Birthday, John Milton!

and thus ADAM last reply'd.
How soon hath thy prediction, Seer blest,
Measur'd this transient World, the Race of time,
Till time stand fixt: beyond is all abyss,
Eternitie, whose end no eye can reach.
Greatly instructed I shall hence depart,
Greatly in peace of thought, and have my fill
Of knowledge, what this vessel can containe;
Beyond which was my folly to aspire.
Henceforth I learne, that to obey is best,
And love with feare the onely God, to walk
As in his presence, ever to observe
His providence, and on him sole depend,
Merciful over all his works, with good
Still overcoming evil, and by small
Accomplishing great things, by things deemd weak
Subverting worldly strong, and worldly wise
By simply meek; that suffering for Truths sake
Is fortitude to highest victorie,
And to the faithful Death the Gate of Life;
Taught this by his example whom I now
Acknowledge my Redeemer ever blest.

To whom thus also th' Angel last repli'd:
This having learnt, thou hast attaind the summe
Of wisdom; hope no higher, though all the Starrs
Thou knewst by name, and all th' ethereal Powers,
All secrets of the deep, all Natures works,
Or works of God in Heav'n, Air, Earth, or Sea,
And all the riches of this World enjoydst,
And all the rule, one Empire; onely add
Deeds to thy knowledge answerable, add Faith,
Add Vertue, Patience, Temperance, add Love,
By name to come call'd Charitie, the soul
Of all the rest: then wilt thou not be loath
To leave this Paradise, but shalt possess
A Paradise within thee, happier farr.

--John Milton, Paradise Lost, 1667.

3 comments:

Elephantschild said...

A good antidote to your post on the loss of some of our mother tongue's mostly lovely words.

Evan said...

I'm fairly certain that English has been on a solid downhill track since about 1700. Here's another gem, from Edmund Spenser, describing the death of the great dragon at the end of The Faerie Queen:

So downe he fell, and forth his life did breath,
That vanisht into smoke and cloudes swift;
So downe he fell, that th'earth him vnderneath
Did grone, as feeble so great load to lift;
So downe he fell, as an huge rockie clift,
Whose false foundation waues haue washt away,
With dreadfull poyse is from the mayneland rift,
And rolling downe, great Neptune doth dismay;
So downe he fell, and like an heaped mountaine lay.


--The Faerie Queen, 1590

Cheryl said...

One of the best classes I ever took was a graduate seminar in Milton at the University of Houston. It was taught by one of the foremost Milton scholars in the country, Dr. William B. Hunter, who also happened to be a charming and truly kind human being and a traditionalist (not postmodern/deconstructionist). I remember quiet mornings before children, sitting at home drinking coffee reading Paradise Lost for hours on end. Wow. Thanks for bringing back a great memory.