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Milton’s Poetic Style | Paradise Lost | Critical Note

Adam and Eve Paradise Lost by John Milton

“The name of Milton”, says Raleigh, has become the work, not of biography nor of a theme, but of a style the most distinguished in our poetry”. Whatever he has written, in “The Paradise Lost”, every line of it impresses the reader of its originality. As Macaulay has said, “There is no square inch of his poetry from first to last of which one could not say, “This is Milton and no one else.”

The greatest and most praiseworthy work of Milton is “Paradise Lost”. Though he was deficient in visual power, when we read this heroic poem, we find that he is at his best in imagery besides majestic style. When Wordsworth wrote:

“Thou hardest a voice whose sound was like the sea,” as he had in his mind the grand style of “Paradise Lost”. When Tennyson spoke of Milton as being the “God-gifted organ voice of England,” he was no doubt referring to the majestic blank verse of “Paradise Lost”.

About The Miltonic Style

About the Miltonic style of the epic poem, another renowned critic stops, ford Brook writes very correctly. “The style of the epic is always great. On the whole, it is greatest in the whole range of England poetry Fullness of sound. The weight of march, compactness of finish, the fitness of words to things, the fitness of pauses to thought. A strong grasp of the main idea while other ideas play around it, equality of power over vast spaces of imagination sustained splendor when he soars.

With plume so strong, so equal and so soft, majesty in the conduct of thought. Music in the majesty which fills it with solemn beauty belongs one and all of the style; it gains its highest influence on us and fulfills the ultimate end of a grand style in being the easy and necessary expression of the very character and nature of the man. It reveals Milton, as much, sometimes more than his thought.”

The Theme Of Paradise Lost Is Great

The theme of Paradise Lost is great. “The horizon of Paradise Lost is not narrower than all spaces. Its chronologies not shorter than eternity, the globe of our earth becomes a mere spot in the physical universe and that universe itself a drop suspended in the infinite empyrean”, says Jettison. Its characters are God, fallen angels, and their leader Satan and it deals with the entire human race, such a great theme required a grand style which Milton provides to all his readers. When we read the poem, we find in it, everything great in a mighty way. For instance, a sea beast Leviathan has been compared with the huge size of Satan. This sea beast is so vast in its dimensions that the seamen take it as a big island. Similarly, the shield of Satan is:

Like the moon, whose orb
Through optic glass the Tuscan artist views
At evening from the top Resole (Li., 287 – 289)

“No one,” says Raleigh, “has known so well how to portray in a few strokes effects of multitude and vastness. “Satan is described as under:

He spoke; and to confirm his words, outflew,
Millions of flaming swords, drama from thighs,
Of mighty Cherubim, the sudden blaze,
Far round illumined Hell

Similarly the ruin and prostration of the rebel angels is described in two lines only:

Cherub and Seraph rolling int the floor
With scattered arms and ensigns

Milton uses similes in Paradise Lost and goes beyond the limits of comparison and expands them in a beautiful manner to draw complete pictures. In order to explain the huge size of Satan’s spear, Milton says:

His spear, to equal which the tallest pine,
Hewn on Norwegian hills, to be the most,
if some great Admiral were but around (Li., 292 – 294)

Milton uses such similes to illustrate the hugeness and vastness. Raleigh remarks, “He attained to a finished style or perhaps a more consistent and unflagging elevation than is to be found elsewhere in literature… No poet since Milton’s day has recaptured the solemnity and beauty of large utterance of Gabriel and Belial or Satan.”

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