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The Annotated Milton

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Complete English Poems

Edited by Burton RaffelAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Burton Raffel

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On Sale: October 28, 2009
Pages: 864 | ISBN: 978-0-307-41693-3
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On Sale: November 25, 2008
ISBN: 978-0-553-90582-3
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poetry (8)
poetry (8)
Synopsis|Excerpt

Synopsis

Affordable, compact, and authoritative, this one-volume edition of The Annotated Milton encompasses the monumental sweep of John Milton’s poetry. Here are Milton’ s early works, including his first great poem, “On the Morning of Christ’s Nativity,” the light and lyrical “L’Allegro” and “Il Penseroso,” the masque Comus, and the lushly beautiful pastoral elegy “Lycidas.” Here, too, included in their entirety, are the three epic poems considered to be among the finest works in the English language: Paradise Lost, Paradise Regained, and Samson Agonistes.

Fully annotated by Burton Raffel, this distinguished edition clarifies the complex allusions of Milton’s verse and references the personal, religious, historical, and mythical influences that inspired the great blind poet of England, who ranks among the undisputed giants of world literature.

Excerpt

A PARAPHRASE ON
PSALM 114
1624


When the blest seed of Terah's faithful son
After long toil their liberty had won,
And passed from Pharian fields to Canaan land,
Led by the strength of the Almighty's hand,
Jehovah's wonders were in Israel shown,
His praise and glory was in Israel known.
That saw the troubled sea, and shivering fled,
And sought to hide his froth-becurled head
Low in the earth. Jordan's clear streams recoil,
As a faint host that hath received the foil.   
The high, huge-bellied mountains skip like rams
Amongst their ewes, the little hills like lambs.
Why fled the oceans and why skipped the mountains?
Why turned Jordan toward his crystal fountains?
Shake earth, and at the presence be aghast
Of Him that ever was, and aye shall last,
That glassy floods from rugged rocks can crush,
And make soft rills from fiery flint-stones gush.


PSALM 136
1624


Let us with a gladsome mind
Praise the Lord, for He is kind,
For His mercies aye endure,
Ever faithful, ever sure.
Let us blaze His name abroad,
For of gods He is the God,
For His, etc.
O let us His praises tell,
Who doth the wrathful tyrants quell,
For His, etc.
That with His miracles doth make
Amazed Heav'n and earth to shake,
For His, etc.
Who by His wisdom did create
The painted Heav'ns so full of state,
For His, etc.
Who did the solid earth ordain
To rise above the wat'ry plain,
For His, etc.
Who by His all-commanding might
Did fill the new-made world with light,
For His, etc.
And caused the golden-tressed sun
All the day long his course to run,
For His, etc.
The horned moon to shine by night,
Amongst her spangled sisters bright,
For His, etc.
He with His thunder-clasping hand
Smote the first-born of Egypt land,
For His, etc.
And in despite of Pharaoh fell,
He brought from thence His Israel,
For His, etc.
The ruddy waves He cleft in twain,
Of the Erythraean main,
For His, etc.
The floods stood still like walls of glass
While the Hebrew bands did pass,
For His, etc.
But full soon they did devour
The tawny king with all his power,
For His, etc.
His chosen people He did bless
In the wasteful wilderness,
For His, etc.
In bloody battle He brought down
Kings of prowess and renown,
For His, etc.
He foiled bold Seon and his host,
That ruled the Amorrean coast,
For His, etc.
And large-limbed Og He did subdue,
With all his over-hardy crew,
For His, etc.
And to His servant Israel
He gave their land, therein to dwell,
For His, etc.
He hath with a piteous eye
Beheld us in our misery,
For His, etc.
And freed us from the slavery
Of the invading enemy,
For His, etc.
All living creatures He doth feed,
And with full hand supplies their need,
For His, etc.
Let us therefore warble forth
His mighty majesty and worth,
For His, etc.
That His mansion hath on high,
Above the reach of mortal eye,
For His mercies aye endure,
Ever faithful, ever sure.


ON THE DEATH OF A FAIR INFANT DYING OF A COUGH
1625-26? 1628?
I
O fairest flower no sooner blown but blasted,
Soft silken primrose fading timelessly,
Summer's chief honor if thou hadst outlasted
Bleak winter's force, that made thy blossom dry,
For he being amorous on that lovely dye
That did thy cheek envermeil, thought to kiss,
But killed, alas, and then bewailed his fatal bliss.
II
For since grim Aquilo, his  charioteer,
By boisterous rape th' Athenian damsel got,
He thought it touched32 his deity full near
If likewise he some fair one wedded not,
Thereby to wipe away the infamous blot
Of long-uncoupled bed and childless eld,
Which 'mongst the wanton gods a foul reproach was held.
III
So mounting up in icy-pearled car
Through middle empire of the freezing air
He wandered long, till thee he spied from far.
There ended was his quest, there ceased his care:
Down he descended from his snow-soft chair,
But all unwares with his cold-kind embrace
Unhoused thy virgin soul from her fair biding place.
IV
Yet art thou not inglorious in thy fate,
For so Apollo, with unweeting hand,
Whilom did slay his dearly loved mate,
Young Hyacinth, born on Eurotas' strand,
Young Hyacinth, the pride of Spartan land,
But then transformed him to a purple flower:
Alack, that so to change thee winter had no power.
V
Yet can I not persuade me thou art dead
Or that thy corpse corrupts in earth's dark womb,
Or that thy beauties lie in wormy bed,
Hid from the world in a low-delved tomb.
Could Heav'n, for pity, thee so strictly doom?
Oh no! for something in thy face did shine
Above mortality that showed thou wast divine.
VI
Resolve me, then, O soul most surely blest
(If so it be that thou these plaints dost hear)!
Tell me, bright spirit, where'er thou hoverest,
Whether above that high, first-moving sphere
Or in the Elysian fields (if such there were),
Oh say me true if thou were mortal wight
And why from us so quickly thou didst take thy flight.
VII
Were thou some star which from the ruined roof
Of shaked Olympus by mischance didst fall?
Which careful Jove in Nature's true behoof
Took up, and in fit place did reinstall?
Or did, of late, earth's sons besiege the wall
Of shiny Heav'n, and thou some goddess fled
Amongst us here below to hide thy nectared head?
VIII
Or were thou that just maid who once before
Forsook the hated earth, O tell me sooth,
And cam'st again to visit us once more?
Or wert thou Mercy, that sweet smiling youth?
Or that crowned matron, sage white-robed Truth?
Or any other of that heav'nly brood
Let down in cloudy throne to do the world some good?
IX
Or wert thou of the golden-winged host,
Who having clad thyself in human weed
To earth from thy prefixed seat didst post,
And after short abode fly back with speed,
As if to show what creatures Heav'n doth breed,
Thereby to set the hearts of men on fire
To scorn the sordid world, and unto Heav'n aspire?
X
But oh, why didst thou not stay here below
To bless us with thy Heav'n-loved innocence?
To slake his wrath, whom sin hath made our foe?
To turn swift-rushing black perdition hence,
Or drive away the slaughtering pestilence?
To stand 'twixt us and our deserved smart?
But thou canst best perform that office where thou art.
XI
Then thou, the mother of so sweet a child,
Her false-imagin'd loss cease to lament,
And wisely learn to curb thy sorrows wild.
Think what a present thou to God has sent,
And render Him with patience what he lent.
This if thou do, He will an offspring give
That till the world's last end shall make thy name to live.


AT A VACATION EXERCISE IN THE COLLEGE, PART LATIN, PART ENGLISH
1628
The Latin speeches ended, the English thus began:
Hail, native language, that by sinews weak
Didst move my first endeavoring tongue to speak
And mad'st imperfect words with childish trips,
Half unpronounced, slide through my infant lips,
Driving dumb silence from the portal door,
Where he had mutely sat two years before!
Here I salute thee, and thy pardon ask,
That now I use thee in my later task.
Small loss it is that hence can come unto thee:
I know my tongue but little grace can do thee.
Thou needst not be ambitious to be first:
Believe me, I have thither packed the worst—
And, if it happen, as I did forecast,
The daintiest dishes shall be served up last.
I pray thee, then, deny me not thy aid
For this same small neglect that I have made,
But haste thee straight to do me once a pleasure,
And from thy wardrobe bring thy chiefest treasure,
Not those new-fangled toys and trimming slight
Which takes our late fantastics with delight,
But cull those richest robes and gay'st attire
Which deepest spirits and choicest wits desire.
I have some naked thoughts that rove about
And loudly knock to have their passage out,
And, weary of their place, do only stay
Till thou has decked them in thy best array,
That so they may without suspect or fears
Fly swiftly to this fair assembly's ears.
Yet I had rather, if I were to choose,
Thy service in some graver subject use,
Such as may make thee search thy coffers round
Before thou clothe my fancy in fit sound—
Such where the deep transported mind may soar
Above the wheeling poles, and at Heav'n's door
Look in, and see each blissful deity
How he before the thunderous throne doth lie,
Listening to what unshorn Apollo sings
To the touch of golden wires, while Hebe brings
Immortal nectar to her kingly sire.
Then passing through the spheres of watchful fire,
And misty regions of wide air next under,
And hills of snow and lofts of piled thunder,
May tell at length how green-eyed Neptune raves,
In Heav'n's defiance mustering all his waves.
Then sing of secret things that came to pass
When beldam Nature in her cradle was.
And last, of kings and queens and heroes old,
Such as the wise Demodocus once told,
In solemn songs at king Alcinous' feast,
While sad Ulysses' soul and all the rest
Are held with his melodious harmony
In willing chains and sweet captivity.
But fie, my wand'ring muse! How thou dost stray!
Expectance calls thee now another way:
Thou know'st it must be now thy only bent
To keep in compass of thy predicament.
Then quick, about thy purposed business come,
That to the next I may resign my room.
Then Ens is represented as father of the [ten Aristotelian predicaments, his ten sons, whereof the eldest stood for substance, with his canons, which Ens, thus speaking, explains:
Good luck befriend thee, son, for at thy birth
The fairy ladies danced upon the hearth.
Thy drowsy nurse hath sworn she did them spy
Come tripping to the room where thou didst lie,
And sweetly singing round about thy bed
Strew all their blessings on thy sleeping head.
She heard them give thee this: that thou should'st still
From eyes of mortals walk invisible.
Yet there is something that doth force my fear,
For once it was my dismal hap to hear
A sibyl old, bow-bent with crooked age,
That far events full wisely could presage,
And in time's long and dark prospective glass
Foresaw what future days should bring to pass:
"Your son," said she, "(nor can you it prevent)
Shall be subject to many an accident.
O'er all his brethren he shall reign as king,
Yet every one shall make him underling,
And those that cannot live from him asunder
Ungratefully shall strive to keep him under.
In worth and excellence he shall out-go them,
Yet being above them, he shall be below them.
From others he shall stand in need of nothing,
Yet on his brothers shall depend for clothing.
To find a foe it shall not be his hap,
And peace shall lull him in her flow'ry lap.
Yet shall he live in strife, and at his door
Devouring war shall never cease to roar.
Yea, it shall be his natural property
To harbor those that are at enmity."
What power, what force, what mighty spell, if not
Your learned hands, can loose this Gordian knot?
The next, Quantity and Quality, spoke in prose. Then Relation was called by his name:
Rivers arise, whether thou be the son
Of utmost Tweed, or Ouse, or gulfy Dun,
Or Trent, who like some earth-born giant spreads
His thirty arms along the indented meads,
Or sullen Mole, that runneth underneath,
Or Severn swift, guilty of maiden's death,
Or rocky Avon, or of sedgy Lea,
Or coaly Tyne, or ancient hallowed Dee,
Or Humber loud, that keeps the Scythian's name,
Or Medway smooth, or royal-towered Thame.
Burton Raffel

About Burton Raffel

Burton Raffel - The Annotated Milton
Burton Raffel is a translator, poet, and scholar whose major translations include The Canterbury Tales, Beowulf, Don Quijote, The Red and the Black, and Gargantua and Pantagruel. He has also annotated several Shakespeare plays for Yale University Press. He was the Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Arts and Humanities and emeritus professor of English at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette until 2003. He lives in Louisiana.

  • The Annotated Milton by Edited by Burton Raffel
  • September 07, 1999
  • Fiction - Classics
  • Bantam Classics
  • $6.95
  • 9780553581102

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