Milton and the Tangles of Neaera's Hair: The Making of the 1645 Poems

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University of Missouri Press, 1997 - Literary Criticism - 299 pages
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Milton's 1645 Poems is a double volume, containing not only Milton's major English lyric poems - the Nativity ode, "L'Allegro" and "Il Penseroso," "Lycidas," and the mask Comusbut also his youthful elegiac poetry and his mature Latin poems, which were written in the late 1630s after his major English lyrics had already been composed. In Milton and the Tangles of Neaera's Hair, Stella P. Revard traces the development of the 1645 Poems as a double book and investigates the debt of both English and Latin poetry to the neo-Latin and vernacular traditions of the Continental Renaissance. Too often critics simply ignore the presence of the Latin poems in the 1645 volume. Revard claims that to do so is to miss Milton's implicit intention to balance English and Latin works. She shows that the Latin poems complement the English works and reveal even more than the English poems the personal, political, and cultural crises that Milton was undergoing in the late 1630s, supplementing what the earlier English poems and particularly "Lycidas" tell us about Milton's shift of direction as poet. The Latin poems also announce Milton's intention to write an epic in his native tongue rather than in Latin. Yet even as Milton renounced Latin as the language for poetical expression, he resolved to carry into his English poems the ideals of the Continental humanistic tradition. Milton and the Tangles of Neaera's Hair provides a balanced view of Milton's first book of poetry and also looks at poetry from the Continental Renaissance tradition hitherto neglected. The reader is better able to understand how this tradition shaped both the English and the Latin poetry of Milton's 1645 Poems, as well as how Milton became the poet who went on to write the greatest epic in the English language, Paradise Lost.

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