Reference > Cambridge History > Cavalier and Puritan > Milton > The early poems
  The growth of his reputation On the Morning of Christ’s Nativity  

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The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume VII. Cavalier and Puritan.

V. Milton.

§ 10. The early poems.


It did not, however, show itself prodigialiter. The parallel contrast between the precocity of Cowley and the comparatively slow development of Milton, but a few years earlier, must have often suggested itself; but it may be doubted whether it has much real validity as anything more than accident. Indeed, the lesson of another pair of contemporaries—Shelley and Keats—practically denies it any. The carefully dated primitiae— “at fifteen yeers old,” “Anno aetatis 17,” “Anno Aetatis 19”—exhibited nothing that almost any good versifier of that fertile time might not have written. Of the two boyish Psalm-paraphrases, 114 has absolutely nothing distinctive; the other, a good metre, but nothing more. The poem entitled On the Death of a fair Infant (his little niece) can bear its two years further weight for age; but there is, perhaps, only one line—
       
Or that crown’d Matron sage white-robed Truth—
which one would pronounce distinctly Miltonic, and even this is not exclusively so. At a Vacation Exercise—yet another two years younger or older—makes, perhaps, a slight further advance in more than metre (this will be dealt with separately). But it is only in the summoning of the rivers at the close that approach to individuality is suggested, and, even then, there is a strong suggestion of Spenser.
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  The growth of his reputation On the Morning of Christ’s Nativity  
 
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