Our guest blogger today is the younger John Milton — before he ossified into the hidebound figure caricatured so devastatingly by Robert Graves in his remarkable feat of cross-gender ventriloquism, Wife to Mr Milton. As Colin Burrow points out in the latest London Review of Books, before Milton became Milton, there was an open, questing poetic mind, intoxicated with Spenser, alive with “calling shapes, beckoning shadows, airy tongues” — and with what Graves himself once called “the single poetic theme of Life and Death.” As Burrow notes:
The quintessential early Miltonic moment is one in which a series of participles weaves all the world together and creates a rapturous arrest of temporal process … :
‘The melting voice through mazes running;
Untwisting all the chains that ty
The hidden soul of harmony.’
Now that is a voice — once known, lost, echoing ahead — worth following until the world’s end.