Mr. Milton’s “Paradise Lost”

1935 Words Apr 18th, 2009 8 Pages
he Poem

Andrew Marvell’s poem chronicles his reactions to the artistic merit of John Milton’s Paradise Lost (1667) in seven verse paragraphs of fifty-four rhymed iambic pentameter lines. The opening sentence forms a grammatical unit of ten lines. The remaining lines, marked with a grammatical pause at the end of each couplet, follow the poetic practice of end-stopped couplets.

Initially, Marvell contrasts Milton’s “slender Book” with its “vast Design,” its Christian topic of salvation history and its cosmic scope of infinite time and space. He fears that Milton will mar or disfigure “sacred Truths” by expressing them through, or by confining them within, the devices of an epic poem, a pagan or nonbiblical art form. Also, Marvell deals
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As a critic seeking to illuminate Milton’s epic for himself and for other readers, he maintains his integrity and a sense of perspective. He reads the poem carefully, assimilates the overall meaning, and describes, analyzes, and evaluates both substance and style. He candidly expresses his fears regarding the main features of Paradise Lost and Milton’s own motivation in writing it.

In addition, Marvell maintains his independence as a poet. For example, he knows that Milton virtually created a new poetic medium of narrative blank verse and acknowledges its superiority to rhyme. Nevertheless, he does not abandon rhyme in praising Milton’s unrhymed verse. Instead, with gentle irony, he asks Milton to overlook his rhyme. Once he has grasped the poem as a whole, Marvell realizes that his doubts, though well intended, are “causeless.” He does not, however, explain the exact reasons for his change of mind. He conveys his conclusions through assertion and through a change of attitude or tone. He demonstrates the assurance that grows out of wide literary knowledge and a principled, independent stance. His praise of Milton communicates itself as accurate and sincere, rendered by someone qualified to give it.

Marvell uses blind heroic figures of the past to convey his transition from doubt to certainty. For example, when Marvell compares Milton’s poetic strength to Samson’s physical strength, he suggests that Milton might have misused his abilities, perhaps to bring down and not
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