[Milton-L] The Metaphysicals

Maggie Kilgour, Prof. maggie.kilgour at mcgill.ca
Sun Jan 3 15:34:12 EST 2016

Dear John and all – if you’re interested in contemporary “metaphysicals” more broadly, don’t forget the too often forgotten but then popular Cowley, whom Dr Johnson claims was one of Milton’s favourite writers (and the only contemporary one mentioned). It’s in the “Life of Cowley” too that Johnson  creates the category of the “metaphysical”  poets.  Cowley’s   influence and example, as well as his work, deserves more consideration in general – especially Davideis (which suggests that, while I think you are generally right, Milton kept up with some new English works after 1645.  Of course, Cowley’s classicism may have been part of the attraction.)

Happy New Year!


On 16-01-03 2:32 PM, "John Hale" <john.hale at otago.ac.nz> wrote:

Dear Richard and colleagues all:

Thanks for suggesting this aspect of Herbert. A powerful suggestion.

I hope indeed that Nigel or another can tell us who Marvell showed his poems in MS to.

My reason for asking the question was a hunch that (a)Milton read Greek poems more than Latin ones, and more ancient than English ones, with Italian somewhere in between.


(b)he may have read more new poems, new to him, before 1645 than afterwards. He read or heard his known favourite authors lifelong, yet none of those named is in English,


(c)his ear for poetry and taste for it will have been continuously formed from ancient poets, ergo among other things, no place for rhyme.

But these are speculations: I was wondering if I had missed harder evidence about his reading of English poets–what and when.

I hope to hear more about the whole thing, in those quiet days of repose or reflection before MLA.

Thanks again​
John Hale
From: milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu <milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu> on behalf of Richard A. Strier <rastrier at uchicago.edu>
Sent: Monday, 4 January 2016 8:07 a.m.
To: John Milton Discussion List
Subject: Re: [Milton-L] The Metaphysicals

I have no direct evidence on this to cite, as we do on Milton reading Shakespeare.  Certainly he knew Marvell, but I don't know whether Marvell would have shared his lyrics.  Nigel Smith should weigh in on this.

I do, however, think that I can make a plausible case that Milton read Herbert.  Milton's great sonnet on his blindness seems to me to rely on imagining a divine response to his own "murmurings" that is one of Herbert's most identifiable poetic strategies.  I am not saying that this is iron-clad, but I think that it does establish a possibility -- especially given the extreme popularity of The Temple and that the poems therein were read and imitated by writers from all over the religious spectrum, right to left.

From: milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu [milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu] on behalf of John Hale [john.hale at otago.ac.nz]
Sent: Saturday, January 02, 2016 6:29 PM
To: John Milton Discussion List
Subject: [Milton-L] The Metaphysicals

Dear Colleagues:

What evidence is there that Milton had read the poems of Donne, Herbert, and Vaughan? Or those of Marvell?

Happy and productive 2016 to each and all.

John Hale

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