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10/16/2018

Milton as a Sonneteer.

                                     Considered from the background of sonnets in English it may be said that Milton was a minor poet of sonnet. He wrote only twenty-three sonnets in all, of which On His Blindness and On the Late Massacre in Piedmont are the best. Six of these twenty- three sonnets belong to the period of Milton's youth and immaturity, though the hand of the master is visible in them. The other sonnets were written during the period from 1645 to 1658, which is marked as the period of his prose writing. The latter sonnets of Milton are the most personal of his utterances. They represent the emotional moments in his later life, and record his experiences which found no adequate expression in his prose writing.         Milton characteristically made use of the form of sonnet at a time when its vogue was almost past. His formal model is not the English sonnet, with three quatrains and couplet at the close, but the Italian model with octave and sestet.        On the basis of their themes Milton's sonnets can be divided into about four categories. Firstly, there is the group of sonnets which deal with great public events and personalities. The sonnets to Cromwell, Vans, and Fairfax, and the one on The Late Massacre in Piedmont, are of this category.        Secondly, there are sonnets which express personal emotion of the poet. “On His Having Arrived at the Age of Twenty three”, the two sonnets on his blindness and the one written in memory of his second wife are sonnets of this type. They combine a poignant pathos with an earnest ethical and religious idealism. Thirdly, there are sonnets of addresses to personalities like Lawes, Skinner, Edward  Lawrence, Lady Margaret Key, and an unidentified virtuous young lady, and the sonnet expressing grife for Mrs, Katherine Thomson.         From the above account it is clear that Milton widened the scope of the sonnet to a considerable degree. Before Milton, the sonnet form was used only as a medium of expressing the emotion of love, but Milton used the sonnet form to express his deeply felt emotions on contemporary politics, religion, public figures, and womanhood, relationship between husband and wife, and personal matters, such as his own blindness. Milton modelled his sonnets on Petrarchan form, but he did not follow it blindly. In the Petrarchan or Italian sonnet, there is a clear division between the octave and the sestet, with a fixed rhyme-scheme, but in Miltonic sonnet, the division between the octave and the sestet is not clear-cut, and the syntax tends to overflow the divisions of octave and sestet. So in structure it is more complex than the Petrarchan form.  W. J. Long observes, “This Italian form of verse nearly to the point of perfection. In them he seldom wrote of love, the usual subject with his predecessors, but of patriotism, duty, music, and subjects of political interest suggested by the struggle into which England was drifting.”
If we want to consider someone to be a successful sonneteer, we must analyse his sonnets as a successful sonnet. John Milton wrote a number of sonnets. Some of his remarkable sonnets are –
1. “On His Blindness”
2. “On His Being Arrival to the age of Twenty-Three”
3. “On the Late Massacre in Piedmont”
4. “On his Deceased Wife”
5. “On the same”.   And many others.

As we know a sonnet is a lyric poem consists of 14 iambic pentameter lines. This type of poems are divided into 2 parts, first 8 lines are called octave, and last 6 lines are called sixtet. Usually octave presents a problem i.e. question, doubt, crisis. And the sixtet gives a solution of that problem. And finally ends with a mental satisfaction.  Now all the sonnets of John Milton fulfill all the conditions to be a successful sonnet.

For example we show “On His Blindness” as a sonnet bellow--- 

                               

  Considered from the background of sonnets in English it may be said that Milton was a minor poet of sonnet. He wrote only twenty-three sonnets in all, of which On His Blindness and On the Late Massacre in Piedmont are the best. Six of these twenty- three sonnets belong to the period of Milton's youth and immaturity, though the hand of the master is visible in them. The other sonnets were written during the period from 1645 to 1658, which is marked as the period of his prose writing. The latter sonnets of Milton are the most personal of his utterances. They represent the emotional moments in his later life, and record his experiences which found no adequate expression in his prose writing.
       Milton characteristically made use of the form of sonnet at a time when its vogue was almost past. His formal model is not the English sonnet, with three quatrains and couplet at the close, but the Italian model with octave and sestet.
      On the basis of their themes Milton's sonnets can be divided into about four categories. Firstly, there is the group of sonnets which deal with great public events and personalities. The sonnets to Cromwell, Vans, and Fairfax, and the one on The Late Massacre in Piedmont, are of this category.
      Secondly, there are sonnets which express personal emotion of the poet. “On His Having Arrived at the Age of Twenty three”, the two sonnets on his blindness and the one written in memory of his second wife are sonnets of this type. They combine a poignant pathos with an earnest ethical and religious idealism. Thirdly, there are sonnets of addresses to personalities like Lawes, Skinner, Edward  Lawrence, Lady Margaret Key, and an unidentified virtuous young lady, and the sonnet expressing grife for Mrs, Katherine Thomson.
       From the above account it is clear that Milton widened the scope of the sonnet to a considerable degree. Before Milton, the sonnet form was used only as a medium of expressing the emotion of love, but Milton used the sonnet form to express his deeply felt emotions on contemporary politics, religion, public figures, and womanhood, relationship between husband and wife, and personal matters, such as his own blindness. Milton modelled his sonnets on Petrarchan form, but he did not follow it blindly. In the Petrarchan or Italian sonnet, there is a clear division between the octave and the sestet, with a fixed rhyme-scheme, but in Miltonic sonnet, the division between the octave and the sestet is not clear-cut, and the syntax tends to overflow the divisions of octave and sestet. So in structure it is more complex than the Petrarchan form.
W. J. Long observes, “This Italian form of verse nearly to the point of perfection. In them he seldom wrote of love, the usual subject with his predecessors, but of patriotism, duty, music, and subjects of political interest suggested by the struggle into which England was drifting.”

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