[Milton-L] Marvell's Milton?

Brendan M. Prawdzik bprawdzi at cbu.edu
Fri Feb 21 09:47:53 EST 2014

Dear all,

I'm wondering how some of you might venture to answer at least one the following questions:  What do you think was the relationship between Marvell's political and theological beliefs during the late 1660s and early 1670s?  How might we characterize the social relationship between these two men at this time?

It seems clear to me that Marvell's Restoration prose continually targets theological controversy itself, based on a) the acrimony and hostility that drives and had driven, with tragic consequences, Christians apart; that among his projects is the disentangling of polemic, with its thorns and erring, gadding vines

, from a purer, more straightforward (and more pre-Nicene) form of Christianity; and based on b) that these controversies cause sustained eruptions over metaphysical questions beyond the reach of a fallen human understanding alienated from truths behind divine mysteries.

These views would have had consequences for Marvell's relation to Milton; they raise the question of whether this brilliant younger man to some degree tutored the older master, thus reversing a dynamic of influence that we might see in the 1640s and 50s.

After all, in the Rehearsall Transpros'd (1672) Marvell undeniably looks to Milton's polemics, especially the Animadversions and Apology, and reconstitutes them according to the ideology expressed in my second paragraph.

I think that we also see constructive admonishment/criticism in "On Paradise Lost."

I wonder if this (putatively) evolved relationship with Marvell influenced what I see as the corrective function of Samson Agonistes, which I read as marking a distinct shift from the Milton of the 1640s and early 50s, when his rhetoric was at its hottest and when his gradually dying Millenarianism was yet at its strongest, and when we confront Milton's efforts to legitimate violence (esp. the regicide) that we know to stem from a type of arbitrary government disregarding law.

These are all aspects that the maturer Marvell would have criticized; indeed, that he implicitly rejects while borrowing from the controversial Milton, such borrowings appearing in each of his Restoration prose tracts.

Your thoughts?



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