John Milton

John Milton

Biography of John Milton

John Milton (December 9, 1608 – November 8, 1674) was an English poet and intellectual who wrote during a period of political and religious turmoil. He’s best known for his epic poem Paradise Lost, which depicts the fall of Lucifer and the temptation of mankind. 

He was born into a middle-class family. He was educated at St. Paul’s School, then at Christ’s College, Cambridge, where he began to write poetry in Latin, Italian, and English, and prepared to enter the clergy.

After university, however, he abandoned his plans to join the priesthood and spent the next six years in his father’s country home in Buckinghamshire following a rigorous course of independent study to prepare for a career as a poet. His extensive reading included both classical and modern works of religion, science, philosophy, history, politics, and literature. In addition, Milton was proficient in Latin, Greek, Hebrew, French, Spanish, and Italian, and obtained a familiarity with Old English and Dutch as well.

During his period of private study, Milton composed a number of poems, including "On the Morning of Christ’s Nativity," "On Shakespeare," “L’Allegro," “Il Penseroso," and the pastoral elegy "Lycidas.” In May of 1638, Milton began a 13-month tour of France and Italy, during which he met many important intellectuals and influential people, including the astronomer Galileo, who appears in Milton’s tract against censorship, “Areopagitica.”

In 1642, Milton returned from a trip into the countryside with a 16-year-old bride, Mary Powell. Even though they were estranged for most of their marriage, she bore him three daughters and a son before her death in 1652. Milton later married twice more: Katherine Woodcock in 1656, who died giving birth in 1658, and Elizabeth Minshull in 1662.

During the English Civil War, Milton championed the cause of the Puritans and Oliver Cromwell, and wrote a series of pamphlets advocating radical political topics including the morality of divorce, the freedom of the press, populism, and sanctioned regicide. Milton served as secretary for foreign languages in Cromwell’s government, composing official statements defending the Commonwealth. During this time, Milton steadily lost his eyesight, and was completely blind by 1651. He continued his duties, however, with the aid of Andrew Marvell and other assistants.

After the Restoration of Charles II to the throne in 1660, Milton was arrested as a defender of the Commonwealth, fined, and soon released. He lived the rest of his life in seclusion in the country, completing the blank-verse epic poem Paradise Lost in 1667, as well as its sequel Paradise Regained and the tragedy Samson Agonistes both in 1671. Milton oversaw the printing of a second edition of Paradise Lost in 1674, which included an explanation of “why the poem rhymes not," clarifying his use of blank verse, along with introductory notes by Marvell. He died shortly afterwards, on November 8, 1674, in Buckinghamshire, England.

Paradise Lost, which chronicles Satan’s temptation of Adam and Eve and their expulsion from Eden, is widely regarded as his masterpiece and one of the greatest epic poems in world literature. Since its first publication, the work has continually elicited debate regarding its theological themes, political commentary, and its depiction of the fallen angel Satan who is often viewed as the protagonist of the work.

The epic has had wide-reaching effect, inspiring other long poems, such as Alexander Pope‘s The Rape of the Lock, William Wordsworth‘s The Prelude and John Keats‘s Endymion, as well as Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein, and deeply influencing the work of Percy Bysshe Shelley and William Blake, who illustrated an edition of the epic.

Epics by John Milton

Poems by John Milton

  1. An Epitaph on the Admirable Dramatic Poet W. Shakespeare
  2. An Epitaph On The Marchioness Of Winchester
  3. Another On The Same
  4. Arcades
  5. At A Solemn Musick
  6. At A Vacation Exercise In The Colledge, Part Latin, Part English. The Latin Speeches Ended, The English Thus Began
  7. Comus
  8. From 'Arcades'
  9. From 'Samson Agonistes' i
  10. How Soon Hath Time
  11. Hymn on the Morning of Christ's Nativity
  12. Il Penseroso
  13. L'Allegro
  14. Light
  15. Lycidas
  16. Methought I Saw My Late Espoused Saint
  17. On His Blindness
  18. On His Deceased Wife
  19. On Shakespear
  20. On The Death Of A Fair Infant Dying Of A Cough
  21. On The Lord Gen. Fairfax At The Seige Of Colchester
  22. On The Morning Of Christs Nativity
  23. On The New Forcers Of Conscience Under The Long Parliament
  24. On the Religious Memory of Mrs. Catherine Thomson, my Christian Friend, Deceased Dec. 16, 1646
  25. On the Same
  26. On The University Carrier Who Sickn'd In The Time Of His Vacancy, Being Forbid To Go To London, By Reason Of The Plague
  27. On Time
  28. Psalm 01
  29. Psalm 02
  30. Psalm 03
  31. Psalm 04
  32. Psalm 05
  33. Psalm 06
  34. Psalm 07
  35. Psalm 08
  36. Psalm 80
  37. Psalm 81
  38. Psalm 82
  39. Psalm 83
  40. Psalm 84
  41. Psalm 85
  42. Psalm 86
  43. Psalm 87
  44. Psalm 88
  45. Samson Agonistes
  46. Song On May Morning
  47. Sonnet 01
  48. Sonnet 02
  49. Sonnet 03
  50. Sonnet 03: Canzone
  51. Sonnet 04
  52. Sonnet 05
  53. Sonnet 06
  54. Sonnet 07
  55. Sonnet 08
  56. Sonnet 09
  57. Sonnet 10
  58. Sonnet 11
  59. Sonnet 12
  60. Sonnet 13
  61. Sonnet 14
  62. Sonnet 15
  63. Sonnet 16
  64. Sonnet 17
  65. Sonnet 18
  66. Sonnet 19
  67. Sonnet 20
  68. Sonnet 21
  69. Sonnet 22
  70. Sonnet 23
  71. Sonnet to the Nightingale
  72. The Fifth Ode Of Horace. Lib. I
  73. The Hymn
  74. The Passion
  75. To a Virtuous Young Lady
  76. To Mr. Cyriack Skinner Upon His Blindness
  77. To Mr. H. Lawes on His Airs
  78. To Mr. Lawrence
  79. To My Lord Fairfax
  80. To Sr Henry Vane The Younger
  81. To the Lady Margaret Ley
  82. To the Lord Generall Cromwell May 1652
  83. To The Nightingale
  84. To the Same
  85. Upon The Circumcision
  86. When the Assault Was Intended to the City