Milton's Grand Style

Topics: John Milton, Poetry, Epic poetry Pages: 9 (3221 words) Published: December 30, 2012
What is Milton's grand style in paradise lost?

"The name of Milton", says Raleigh, "is become the mark, not of a biography nor of a theme, but of a style - the most distinguished in our poetry." In all that he has written he has impressed his indomitable personality and irrepressible originality. John Milton is not only in every line of Paradise Lost but in every line of poetry that he has written. As Macaulay has said: "There is not a square inch of his poetry from first to last of which one could not confidently say." "This is Milton and no one else." His accent and speech alike in Ode to Nativity and in Paradise Lost are his own and in marked contrast to any other English poet.

Essentials of Miltonic Style
Since style is the expression of personality, we have to find the peculiar quality of Milton's style in his personality and character. In the first place, Milton's mind was "nourished upon the best thoughts and finest words of all ages", and that is the language, says Pattison, of one "who lives in the companionship of the great and the wise of the past." Secondly, Milton was a man of lofty character, whose "soul was like a star that dwelt apart, and who in all that is known about him, his life, his character, and his power of poetry, shows something for which the only fit words is Sublime." Thirdly, Milton was a supreme artist. "Poetry", says Bailey, "has been by far our greatest artistic achievement, and he ( Milton) is by far our greatest poetic artist. Tennyson truly called him "God gifted organ-voice of England." "To live with Milton," says Bailey, "is necessarily to learn that the art of poetry is no triviality, no mere amusement, but a high and grave thing, a thing of the choicest discipline of phrase, the finest craftsmanship of structure, the most nobly ordered music of sound. So, in Milton's poetic style we inevitably find the imprint of a cultured mind, a lofty soul and an artistic conscience. "In the sure and flawless perfection of his rhythm and diction, he (Milton) is as admirable as Virgil or Dante, and in this respect, he is unique amongst us. No one else in English literature possess the like distinction.... Shakespeare is divinely strong, rich and attractive; but sureness, of perfect style Shakespeare himself does not possess. Milton from one end of Paradise Lost to the other is in his diction and rhythm constantly a great artist in the great style." (Mathew Arnold). "The study of his verse is one that never exhausts itself, so that the appreciation of it has been called the last reward of consummate scholarship." Above all, there is a certain loftiness about the style of Milton, which is found alike in his Ode to Nativity and in Paradise Lost, and so Bailey says that it is precisely 'majesty' which is the unique and essential Miltonic quality." Milton achieves this loftiness as much by words as by the sonority, dignity and weight of the words themselves. Artistic Perfection

In reply to the observation that Shakespeare never blotted a line, Ben Jonson said, 'would he had blotted a thousand': No one has ever uttered such a wish with regard to Milton's poetry. Milton as a poetic artist is never careless or slipshod. There is hardly a line in his poetic work which is unpoetical - hardly a word which is superfluous. All the words used by him are deliberately chosen for fulfilling these functions: the exact expression of thought, their power for suggestion, and the musical effects for the verse. And this artistic perfection characterises his poetry from his first important poem Ode to Nativity to his last one, Samson Agonistes. Milton has written all types of poetry - lyric, epic and dramatic - and his style in each reaches the high water-mark of poetic art. According to Dr. Pearce, Milton's grand style originates from the formalities of classical prose. "Prosaic virtues of clarity, order, strict definition, working from line to line, adjusting clause to clause, word to word, are the...
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