[Milton-L] Great, unhappy souls

Jason Kerr aelfric at gmail.com
Wed Jan 27 13:14:53 EST 2010

Didn't one of Milton's wives (I think it was Elizabeth Minshull) object to
the engraved portraits because they made Milton look dour--entirely unlike
the smiling person she knew? I don't have the exact reference to hand at the
moment (no doubt some other listmember does). Of course, I recognize that
Dario's talking about something like romantic melancholy, which isn't
necessarily incompatible with being happy in the usual sense--at least I
hope not...

Jason A. Kerr

On Wed, Jan 27, 2010 at 12:41 PM, Dario Rivarossa <dario.rivarossa at gmail.com
> wrote:

> In his “Dialogue between Nature and a Soul”, written in 1824, the poet and
> essayist Giacomo Leopardi mentions Milton among the “great, unhappy souls”.
> Leopardi admiration was not to be taken for granted, since Milton wrote in
> order to “justify the ways of God to men”, while the Italian poet was an
> atheist; indeed the only avowed atheist among the fathers of Italian
> literature: Dante, Petrarca, Manzoni etc. He was at loggerheads with the
> Christian writers of his times, and not only them, but he obviously noticed
> that Milton had something different to tell than theology. In fact, in Italy
> Milton has always belonged to counterculture. Hints to PL, however warped,
> can be found in Leopardi’s “History of Mankind”, in that same collection
> called “Operette morali” (Little moral writings).
> Last but not least, Leopardi’s philosophy anticipated Nietzsche’s, who knew
> his works.
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The purpose of poetry is to remind us
how difficult it is to remain just one person,
for our house is open, there are no keys in the doors,
and invisible guests come in and out at will.

          —Czeslaw Milosz, from "Ars Poetica?"
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