Of Weather the Creative Aspect of Paradise Lost Can Be Regarded as a Form of Critizism Against 18-Century Mercantilism

When Paradise Lost is studied, one cannot help to ask how Milton managed to have neoclassical values when at the same time he was filled with imagination, innovation and originality. How could he see himself as a poet and as a christian and not betray any of these callings. Milton’s principles seemed to rest in the idea that these two facets are not incompatible at all, and one could have a creative genius while following the classical principles of harmony and order. Paradise Lost doubtlessly had a profound effect on England; people interpreted the epic in many ways, and it would be logical to attribute that to the duality of the writer. However, it is important to trace a line between different kinds of interpretations of the text and even to remind that some do not go along with what Milton tried to preach, viz. aristocrats making the vision of paradise a fashion. This essay will attempt to mark the difference between various understandings of the text and the means in which Milton’s ideas are used. Furthermore, it will express the importance of Paradise Lost to the romantic poet and it will attempt recreate how these poets understood the epic. Finally, it will issue the conflict of Paradise Lost with Mercantilism or any doctrine that goes against Milton’s ideal of nature. To accomplish this an analysis of England’s aesthetic after Paradise Lost will be performed to notice new tendencies that were put into practice after the epic. This will evidence the extent in which the text reached in the life of Englishmen. It will also be discussed that Paradise Lost could and was turned into a banal trend. After, there will be a description of the effort writers made to imitate Milton’s style. All this to get into the same level Milton reached. This will be contrasted with the methodology of romantic poets who truly understood what Milton tried to preach: to seek connection with nature. And lastly pinpoint the interrelation within this holistic vision of nature and being against Mercantilism.

England’s fashion after Paradise Lost

The image of Eden drawn by Milton was a role model to build the aesthetic of England. People were astonished by this image of beauty inside paradise, and what made them smack in abstraction was that the very image was reachable in this earth, for the ingredients of paradise could be found within these lands where we live. There was an inclination for recreating that paradise imprinted in people’s mind, an attempt to assemble the city utilizing as a guide the attractive images from the epic: leaves and fuming stream, Eastern Clime, shrill Mating Song Of Birds on every bough, Aerie light (PL v. 15 – 16); all these gests were envisioned by Englishmen and put into practice in gardens of colonial houses and in the design of Victorian residences, specifically when we regard the flora covering the exterior of the façades. Further support from this claim comes from Joseph Warton’s account of the different tendencies that became the fashion in the 18-century’s decoration when Paradise Lost was popular. Prints that represented paradise were acquired along with square parterres, strait walks, trees that were lopt uniformly, flower carpets and water fountains made out of marble, between others (Warton 179). The critic then assures that “this enchanting art of modern gardening, in which this kingdom claims a preference over every nation in Europe, chiefly owes its origins and its improvements to two great poets, Milton and Pope (Warton 180)”. Therefore, It is most natural that people seek to execute the celestial images of the epic; the text was too present in their lives.

The task of envisioning Paradise Lost properly

In casual conversations engaged by well-read men, Milton’s texts were preeminent. Talks about Beauty, religion, even politics could be deeply interrelated with the epic. Also, established writers, especially poets, cited Milton in allusions; it even was vainly imitated in An Heroic Poem (England 1697) by Richard Blackmore, were he makes use of Miltonic language and features borrowed from Paradise Lost, as do Matthew Smith and John Dennis between others. It was converted into parody by John Gay’s Wine, where he takes ideas about Paradise Lost and puts them into test in burlesque situations. It was utilized as a stylistic prototype by many poets, between them Thompson, who entitles one of his texts ‘Imitation of the Style of Milton’. The poet not only imitates Milton stylistically but also uses some of his phrases. This Thompson does because he attempts to get in the same station than Milton, he tries to see how he saw, envision like he envisioned (Havens 112). The fact that Thomson applied this method of writing known as emulation with Paradise Lost helps us understand how important Milton was for the romantic writer at the time. The poet wanted to grasp the same kind of vision Milton was into, to truly release imagination and, more importantly, to let it run freely. The process can be assimilated with dreaming. When we dream we are connected with a part of ourselves that produce constant images until the point that we are almost absorbed by this force. Paradise Lost was written in the same method, that is how that level of purity was reached, a level that – some assure – touches perfection.

How being a poet becomes a responsibility after Milton

When Paradise Lost is taught, the interpreter or teacher cannot help to somehow systematize the ideas within the text. The diction and the prose Milton engaged was gradually absorbed almost mechanically by the English apprentice, that would after become a writer. This would make them terrific in analysis but not so talented in producing. This happened because Paradise Lost was a popular book in households and institutes, it was disseminated. When poetic texts prior and after Milton are put together it can be noticed that after Milton there is an increase not only in imaginative language, but also in the value of words. A word can speak volumes in Paradise Lost, mainly for what it expresses and for the context where the word lies (Havens 89). After Milton, the delineation of poetry grows much wider. A poet is a true artist that must imprint what he foresees. It follows that the public taste also grows. After Milton comes into scene, learned men have a strict criterion of what is good and pure. The blank verse Milton use is not easy to understand, and much less to use in ones own writings. Knowledge was empirical to follow Milton’s pace, and much more to write after Milton. Examples of the product of getting in the same stance of Milton are The Seasons and The Prelude, by Thompson and Wordsword respectively. These writers praise Milton’s knowledge and admire him as if he was a God:

“Among the band of my compeers was one Whom chance had stationed in the very room Honoured by Milton’s name. O temperate Bard! Be it confest that, for the first time, seated Within thy innocent lodge and oratory, One of a festive circle, I poured out Libations, to thy memory drank, till pride And gratitude grew dizzy in a brain Never excited by the fumes of wine Before that hour, or since. Then, forth I ran From the assembly; through a length of streets, Ran, ostrich-like, to reach our chapel door In not a desperate or opprobrious time, Albeit long after the importunate bell Had stopped, with wearisome Cassandra voice No longer haunting the dark winter night.” Wordsword

Poets saw themselves unworthy when they compared their intellect with Milton’s, and Wordsword’s anecdote is prove. Romantic poets, as successors of Milton, felt that they had the responsibility to continue his legacy. Lucy Newlyn assures in her anthology of Milton that “[t]he impossibility of the common poet to write an epic as beautiful as Paradise Lost made them full of uncertainty” (Newlyn 25). It is not surprising that Wordsword will have a complex of inferiority when he compares himself with Milton, the contrast is immense. In one side we have all-pure Milton with his rose coloured cheeks, perky eyes and clean-cut look, he is the exemplar Christian impersonated, a man that not only believes in God but puts his intellect into it to produce the input that the priest of the town loves. He talks wonderfully about him in the sermon and advice the public to purchase his books. Wordsword, in contrast, is drinking wine and living his life comme il plasoit a Dieu. The complex of sensations felt by Wordsworth are sound reasonable because he and Milton were different kind of people. The important thing to note is that inside all those differences, they were looking for the exact same thing: to have unmediated contact with nature and wonder in that realm where, when connected, paradise becomes material. To reach this state the background one have does not matter, because you reach it through the now, which is intrinsically located in the present.

Blank verse portrayed as the ultimate form of language

Not only that but the epic also affected educated people linguistically; Milton’s epic marked well-differentiated layers of speech. Young lionizes the language of Milton assuring that behind it there is a holy motor that makes it different from others. Miltonic language was held in such high esteem that at a point it was regarded as the exemplar way of how to speak if one ought to engage in speech. This evidently affected the nature of the ego of the era, for this experimental type of speech contained a semantic much more developed than urban chatter.

“O how unlike the deathless, divine harmony of three great names (how justly join’d!), of Milton, Greece, and Rome? His Verse, but for this little speck of mortality, in its extreme parts, as his Hero had in his Heel; like him, had been invulnerable, and immortal. But, unfortunately, that was undipt in Heli-con; as this, in Styx. Harmony as well as Eloquence is essential to poesy; and a murder of his Musick is putting half Homer to death. §233 Blank is a term of diminution; what we mean by blank verse, is verse unfallen, uncurst; verse reclaim’d, reinthron’d in the true language of the Gods” Young

By stating that the language that Milton uses is uncursed (uncurst) Young fantasises with a holy etymology only possible by divine procedures, leaving common language miles away from the perfection of the former.  And this does makes sense, for it is impossible not to acquire the feeling of bravery and intrepidness in Lucifer’s words, or to not drift out in Adam’s state of serenity when he lies in the prairies of Eden. This affected England in a political stance because the senate utilized Milton language as role model of how should a speech should be engaged. Pamphleteers auspicated by 18-century constitutional bodies fomented proper speech and standard language by attempting to supress what was called ‘national literacy’, viz. British Slang (Crowley 88). The governmental body wanted the people well educated – at least the small percentage of citizen receiving an education – and one of the main aims in the agenda was to not let pedestrian modes invade the English langue.

The struggle to return to our natural state

The pastoral image of Eden made the epic reader nostalgic, first because it provides an image of a paradise and a state of mind that has been eternally lost, but also because the possibility of recovering it is a problematic task. It made the citizen realize that industrialism is an antonym of the image of Eden Milton tries to create, and encourages them to appreciate the old cultivator life style. This at least was what Thomson tries to foment in his poems, which might have had been filled with loveliness, but also had a well-established political agenda where he states that England is inside the curse of labour. Mercantilist are slaving farmers and taking away their harvest – and for the prize of an alms – stepping in the whole meaning of working in fields to connect with nature, which is what Milton sees as the path where bliss relies. This new vision of agriculture goes against the ideal of appreciating the beauty of nature at the same time that the land is being worked. In the 18-century, land transforms itself into a commodity – it has a monetary meaning – and this was futile for anyone who read and understood Paradise Lost. So the turn point where the old values of planting and living a simple life became precious and industrialism encroached must be indirectly attributed to Milton: his anxiety to preserve paradise were echoed by 18 and 19-century writers in poems and books like Paradise Preserved: Recreations of Eden, withal others. Any book that evoked tranquillity, the importance of musing, connection with what is created naturally, contemplation and anything that enclaves pedestrian life could be affiliated, weather in inspiration or on directly following the ideal of Paradise Lost. Conversely, figures like Young, William Wordsword, Lamb and Coleridge fastened industrial excess in expanding cities like London with the figure of hell in Milton’s epic. This Shelley comments portraying Britain’s heart as almost chaotic and going in the wrong track:

“Hell is a city much like London — A populous and a smoky city; There are all sorts of people undone, And there is little or no fun done; Small justice shown, and still less pity.” Shelley

England is being misled to become a potency, an empire, and all the economical fixtures are making people be more deprived and marginalised by the government; this is the hell poets mention. Hence for the elite to have their paradise in their gardens people are dying in the factories working 12 hours a day, the woods of England are being deforested and manufactured items are being imported to fill villas with paradisiac artefacts. In conclusion, what romantics try to say is that high society takes Milton in consideration in theory but not in practice. The correct attitude towards Milton should be the one of the poets, for they not only married him in mind but also in spirit. The burgess sees Paradise Lost as a way to manifest their literacy and fashion. Nevertheless, Milton does convey a different message and does call for awareness. He wants us to go back to our natural state, for he evidently is inherently against industrialism and anything that would exhaust our natural resources.

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This entry was posted by Tournapin.

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