Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Milton Resources

I believe my friend, Paul, has been holding out on me. For shame! Okay, he left a trail of clues, but still… Paul made a few comments in his post on Milton’s Areopagitica for which I hadn’t found the sources, although to his credit he did mention “Professor John Rogers” and, in a separate, unrelated post, iTunes U. Wait… damn my eyes, what’s this? “I also often download lectures from iTunes U (currently working through a Yale course on John Milton) and audiobooks from Librivox which run the gamut from excellent to unlistenable.” Friend Paul, I have wrongly accused you. I am the schmuck who isn’t observant.

Enough with the self-castigation. Here, in no particular order, are the resources I’m currently using:

Update (2010-12-08)

With my reading of “Lycidas” I find a sense of growing awe. And I find myself tiring of the constraints of poetry in electronic form (mostly reading from the Annotated Milton ebook, substituting Bloom’s The Best Poems of the English Language: From Chaucer Through Robert Frost where possible). To that end, I’ve added The Complete Poetry and Essential Prose of John Milton to my “Christ is Born! (So give me stuff!)” wishlist. I’ve also requested my local library purchase The Life of John Milton: A Critical Biography, by Barbara Lewalski—by all accounts this seems to be the current definitive biography on Milton.

Links Summary




  1. I've had Paradise Lost on my bedstand for over six months now. I started reading and got sidetracked about 20 pages in. To Milton's credit, though, I have actually retained some of his imagery. No small feat getting me to remember something I've read or watched, something fictional in particular. Paul can tell you, I have the retention of a gnat for fiction...only slightly better for non.

  2. I credit any non-poetry-lover who would pick up Paradise Lost and slog through 20 pages of it. Milton rightly has the reputation of being great and powerful poet. He also rightly has the reputation for being difficult.

    I haven't gotten to Paradise Lost, yet. So far his short poetry is, while well written, very dense in allusion, and frequently even the syntax is difficult, both of which make for poor bedtime reading and a either whole lot of work if you aren't really up on your classics and Bible, or else the willingness to read only for the main idea. Reading for the main idea isn't a bad idea for prose during the first read, but a large amount of the pleasure of poetry is the effect of layers of meaning.

    Paul should be hitting Paradise Lost soon, and I think I'm a day or two away from it. Care to join us?

  3. Well, I probably could have connected the dots better but, no, I endeavor to never hold out.

    This lecture series certainly opened up Comus for me. You?

  4. Oh, and I'm probably about a week out from Paradise Lost. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a white whale to kill.

  5. I only found the series yesterday and listened to the first 2 lectures while working on dinner. Comus is covered in lecture 4, so maybe today or tomorrow I'll listen to it.

    I finished Comus a day or two ago and unlike a lot of the short poetry, I actually enjoyed it. I found the 2 different oppositional dialogs interesting -- the discussion of the brothers moreso than the discussion of the Lady and Comus, as the Pleasure/Virginity discussion seemed fairly standard fare and not terribly enlightening to the conflict.

    Regardless of the ideas behind the poem, I found the telling of it engaging. Bloom refers to it as "superb (but highly Shakespearean)" in his notes for Lycidas. Reading Blooms intro I think a lot of Milton is going over my head. I've been trying to get through the short poetry to get to Paradise Lost, but I think one could and should spend much more time studying the poems. They don't reveal themselves on a first or second reading... at least not for this reader.

  6. I also wanted to say that the lectures did open up "On The Morning of Christ's Nativity" for me. I found the poem pretty difficult and puzzling for reasons he covered in the 2nd lecture. I do wish that the lectures spent more time on an explication of the works and aesthetics and less on the cultural themes, but that's to be expected, I guess.

  7. Well, I may just join you. At least I can count on the first 20 pages being smooth sailing. Not sure how interesting my input will be, but you never know. I'm not sure how well I'll keep up either for that matter. But again, we shall see.

  8. No pressure. It's really too bad we can't do an actual flesh-and-blood reading. Poetry begs to be read aloud and can be enjoyable even when the commitment levels vary from person to person outside the meetings.

    I don't know if this will be encouraging or the opposite, but I've read Lycidas something between 2 and 3 times now. The first required painfully following every footnote, the 2nd was a straight read through. The sorta-3rd is a return to parts. A fourth will be another straight read through. It's so dense with allusions that it requires work, but it's incredible stuff. I assume Paradise Lost will be somewhat similar an experience. The important bit isn't understanding everything, but figuring out how to enjoy it for yourself.


Don't be a jerk.