Date of Award


Document Type

Honors Thesis (Colby Access Only)


Colby College. English Dept.


Colin Mackay


Milton's peculiar and remarkable fidelity to depicting the truth of his poetry in paradoxical terms, as he does not only in Paradise Lost but across the body of his work, is perhaps its single most striking feature as well as the least well understood. Even among Milton's most fervent admirers, we find that praise for his writing is tempered by a certain reserve, even a confusion, of the kind which is not (or not often) found, for example, in praise for Shakespeare's work. Blake, to quote a famous example, greatly admired Milton, and yet deemed him "of the Devil's party without knowing it." Certainly, if even the greatest scholars of Milton evince such trepidation about his writing, the common reader might doubly suspect. Yet the underlying cause for the confusion seems perfectly understandable: Milton's efforts were directed at depicting truth in a way that did not focus exclusiely on only one aspect – perhaps the more "acceptable" aspect – of itself. These efforts, which according to Rajan manifest themselves as a "state of civil war," are eidenced in Milton's Lycidas in a more subtle fashion than they are in Paradise Lost, yet the impulse behind them – to illustrate truth authentically – remains the same.


Full-text access is restricted to Colby College.


poetry, uncertainty, authenticity, confusion