John Milton

John Milton (9 December 1608 – 8 November 1674) was an English poet, polemicist, a scholarly man of letters, and a civil servant for the Commonwealth of England under Oliver Cromwell. He wrote at a time of religious flux and political upheaval, and is best known for his epic poem Paradise Lost.

Milton's poetry and prose reflect deep personal convictions, a passion for freedom and self-determination, and the urgent issues and political turbulence of his day. Writing in English, Latin, and Italian, he achieved international renown within his lifetime, and his celebrated Areopagitica, (written in condemnation of pre-publication censorship) is among history's most influential and impassioned defenses of free speech and freedom of the press.

William Hayley's 1796 biography called him the "greatest English author", and he remains generally regarded "as one of the preeminent writers in the English language"; though critical reception has oscillated in the centuries since his death (often on account of his republicanism). Samuel Johnson praised Paradise Lost as "a poem which...with respect to design may claim the first place, and with respect to performance, the second, among the productions of the human mind," though Johnson (a Tory and recipient of royal patronage) described Milton's politics as those of an "acrimonious and surly republican".

Because of his republicanism, Milton has been the subject of centuries of British partisanship (a "nonconformist" biography by John Toland, a hostile account by Anthony à Wood, etc.).

Read more about John Milton:  Biography, Published Poetry, Views, Legacy and Influence, Poetic and Dramatic Works, Political, Philosophical and Religious Prose

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    ‘Tis chastity, my brother, chastity.
    She that has that is clad in complete steel,
    And like a quivered nymph with arrows keen
    May trace huge forests and unharbored heaths,
    Infamous hills and sandy perilous wilds,
    Where, through the sacred rays of chastity,
    No savage fierce, bandit, or mountaineer
    Will dare to soil her virgin purity.
    John Milton (1608–1674)

    Be it so, for I submit; his doom is fair,
    That dust I am and shall to dust return.
    O welcome hour whenever! Why delays
    His hand to execute what his decree
    Fixed on this day? Why do I overlive?
    Why am I mocked with death, and lengthened out
    To deathless pain? How gladly would I meet
    Mortality, my sentence, and be earth
    Insensible! how glad would lay me down
    As in my mother’s lap!
    —John Milton (1608–1674)