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Analysis of written works especially those filled with controversy and criticism may be a very hard nut to crack but at the same time one learns a lot in the process. It is through such analysis that one is able to appreciate the vastness and richness in English literature. Various writings such as ‘Paradise Lost’ by John Milton are some of the greatest writings in history besides those of famous people like Shakespeare.
Before undertaking an analysis of ‘Paradise Lost’ it would be worthy or important to note what type of work or writing it actually is. Basically Paradise Lost can be broadly be classified as a poem as it has most of the characteristics of a poem. Paradise Lost may also be declared to be epic and thus qualifying it to be an epic poem. An epic poem may be used to refer to those writings or in this case, those poems that were written for the early civilization, as a way to appreciate the cultural values back then. In a way an epic piece of writing is usually very long in wording and tries to capture past cultural practices and in a way bring it to the present either as a means of appreciation or as a source of acknowledgement of the past and its bringing of the present.
Paradise Lost being an epic poem has been written in more than 12 books. In my analysis, the focus of Paradise Lost will be on Book 1-12. This is because these books contain most of the original work done by John Milton and is one that has not been repeatedly revised or edited, which will make my analysis more accurate and dependable from which reliable conclusions can be drawn.
Milton’s writing style
When it comes to writing of epic poems, most writers have a style whereby they try to create allusions or rather they allude to formerly written works or poems in this case. In the allusion, the poet will try and change it to appear in the way he wants his or her readers to understand it.
To analyze this feature of allusion in Milton1s writing style I have referred to one particular sentence in Paradise Lost. ‘Like the war in heaven, where all the combatants are immortal’ besides this Milton has used the allusion to a famous monster and also touching and mentioning of ‘sex lives of angels’. The above examples just stated are all from Paradise Lost, but the fact is such things like war in heaven were heard long before the birth of John Milton and found their use by great poets.(Campbell 98)
Milton uses this style of allusion to try and communicate to his readers that he is a man who is wide read and harbors vast knowledge in a way that would make him appear noble in our very eyes. Milton has made reference in his writing to great books such as the bible and other Christian documents and literature that very few have had access to leave alone reading them. This alone makes him a renowned writer among the respected writers.
However, this style of allusion or basically using references from other poems and documents have affected his work negatively, or better still, distorted his work. This answers the very question as to how Milton’s writing style might have affected the content of his poem. It is very evident that Milton has made a great deal of references in his writing such that some of the references are not given the value they deserve and others being used too many a time. This has then reduced the quality of his work. Allusion is a principle followed in poetic writing but its overuse completely renders it meaningless and literally that poem or piece of writing loses value considerably.
Stylistic features in Paradise Lost
In analyzing the stylistic features used in Paradise Lost, I will focus my attention on the structure of sentences, known as syntax. A keener look on the wording of Paradise Lost, one would not help but note that the sentences appear incomplete, somehow discomfited and complex to understand or make head or tail of what he wants to put across.
Milton has majorly made use of Latin English which makes his work difficult to read and understand. He uses words that are very strange and such whose primary meaning that he did not have in mind. An example of such a word that he uses is the word ‘manuring’. In the poem, this word is used by Eve in the poem to refer to manual work. However, Milton seems ignorant of the fact that the person reading the poem will give it a more obvious connotation and may be start thinking that Adam as well as Eve is putting compost on the farm in Eden.(Campbell 45)
It has also been noted that Milton tends to be overly boring and repetitive in use of the figures of speech such as imagery. Some of which are even considered un-important, and would give his work more quality if they were left out.
In regard to Milton’s style in his writing, many would not have wished the poem to be as long as it is. The truth of the matter is that some sections of the poem are some of the genius pieces this world will ever get in the writing history and some are just as complicated as they appear.
Milton’s work as bad poetry
In analysis of why Milton’s work might be considered as bad poetry by various poets and scholars, I will use an example of a paragraph from Book V. A major reason why his work is considered as bad poetry is because his style of poetry is very hard to grasp and at the same time complicated, such that it is considered as a weakening or corrosion of the general poetic approach.
In support of this, the passage I have picked is as follows “Thrones, Dominations, Princedoms, Virtues, Powers, If these magnific Titles yet remain Not merely titular, since by Decree Another now hath to himself ingross't All Power, and us eclipst under the name
Of King anointed, for whom all this haste Of midnight march, and hurried meeting here,
This only to consult how we may best With what may be devis'd of honors new Receive him coming to receive from us Knee-tribute yet unpaid, prostration vile, Too much to one, but double how endur'd, To one and to his image now proclaim'd?”(Campbell 77)
Even to the most read scholars of poetry, it would be almost impossible to tell if it was a question being posed, until you saw a question mark at the end of the passage. The meaning of the above passage would alone give you sleepless nights before cracking it. Hence it would be very unfair to poetry itself to term such writing as being of good quality. However, in defense of Milton’ magnificent style of writing some writers such as C. Lewis pointed out that, the meaning that was to be communicated was of less significance than the intuition the writing would create to its readers.
Milton’s use of extensive similes and repeated images
Extensive similes refer to a detailed and deeper use of just a single simile or metaphor. Such similes would be nowadays referred to as Miltonic similes. This is where a single simile can be use as the topic or theme of a piece of writing such as an essay or even a book. These similes help in revealing an even deeper meaning of the objects or people that were being compared. This unique style that requires vast knowledge makes his poetry richer in content and displays his artistic nature in poem writing. An example of use of such simile is in Book IV, 166” where there is comparison of Satan’s arrival in Eden to that of fish.”
Other than use of similes, Milton has incorporated a good number of images in his poem. The image most unique in his work is that of maze. This image has been used again and again throughout the poem and such an example is,”like the tangled curls of Eve’s hair” such use of imagery enhances imagination in the readers mind throughout the poem. In a way Milton offers us a way in which to appreciate and understand the ideas that he so effortlessly tries to communicate to us.
It is evident that Milton’s style is of his own understanding and unique to him. People will be very critical of his writing, but with what Paradise Lost has accomplished both in the religious and the political world, it could not have been done any better and definitely not at his time. More notable is his dedication to religion and politics which he brought to justice in a social manner and his ever untiring demand for justice, as it was well known even being blind he still had a vision.