Remembering John Milton and His Greatest Works

Author: Sherry Helms

John Milton, one of the greatest English authors and one of the most influential political thinkers, is best known in the world of literature for his epic poem “Paradise Lost”. Being a civil servant under Oliver Cromwell he used to write in the times of huge religious and political outbreaks, and his own religious and political philosophies have always been reflected in his writings. Milton’s writings had great impact on the Romantic Movement in English Literature, and that is why his fellow poet William Wordsworth used to refer him as one of the pioneers of English Revolution.

Milton’s most famous published poetries consist of Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained and his tragic drama Samson Agonistes, all these works vibrating with the tune of Post- Restoration situation. Milton’s political philosophies have sometimes been self- contradictory, as he has sometimes been dedicated to republicanism and sometimes became the pioneer of liberalism. Milton’s poems integrate Christian theology with the classical mode expressing his strong belief in Christian salvation through Jesus Christ. His religious beliefs went through a period of transformation towards Protestantism, as he has expressed himself in Aeropagitica- “the liberty to know, to utter, and to argue freely according to conscience, above all liberties”.

His legacy continues with his greatest works “Paradise Lost”, “Paradise Regained”, “Samson Agonistes” and “Aeropagitica”. The later ages in literature has also experienced huge impact by John Milton in their works, e.g.: George Eliot and Thomas Hardy.

The epic poem by John Milton, his greatest work Paradise Lost was written in blank verse, a volume of total twelve books. John Milton has beautifully elucidated the Christian story of the “Fall of Man”, the story of temptation of Adam and Eve by the devilish Satan and their expulsion from the Garden of Eden. Milton has thoroughly justified the ways of God in his first book of the poem. The book introduces us to the beginning of sin and death into the world. It also questions the power of the church and God, upgrading the poem as an influential one in the age of English Renaissance.

His sequel to Paradise Lost is named as Paradise Regained, dealing with almost similar theological themes, and the central theme being “Temptation of Christ”. This is a poem of reversal of fortune where Milton is looking for reversal of the loss of paradise. He deals with spiritual as well as literal hunger to craft the temptation of Christ.

Milton’s ideas of the Civil War and his despair over the Restoration period gave birth to one of the most tragic dramas in the history of literature Samson Agonistes. The story is drawn in a dramatic way from the story of Samson in Old Testament: Judges 13- 16. Milton beautifully connects Aristotle’s theory of tragedy to this combination of Greek tragedy and Hebrew scripture. The play deals with acts of violence and revenge and also a negated portrayal of women characters and their false love.

Milton is also very popular for his philosophical doctrines and the most famous among them is Aeropagitica. It is a collection of a speech by John Milton in defense of the right to freedom of speech and expression. To strengthen his argument he has used biblical and classical references extensively. Aeropagitica mirrors the modern Christian world.

Let the legacy continue and all of us share the truth of God.

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