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John Milton

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A poet soaring in the high reason of his fancies, with his garland and singing robes about him.

John Milton (December 9, 1608 – November 8, 1674) was an English poet and politician, most famous for his epic poem Paradise Lost.

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Sourced quotes

  • And so sepúlchred in such pomp dost lie,
    That kings for such a tomb would wish to die.
    • On Shakespeare (1630).
Simple: After your death you received such honour, that kings would wish to die to receive it.
  • How soon hath Time, the subtle thief of youth,
    Stol'n on his wing my three-and-twentieth year.
    • On His Having Arrived at the Age of Twenty-three (1631).
Simple: Time, the thief of youth, has moved so quickly. He has stolen my twenty-third year.
  • Captain or Colonel, or Knight in Arms,
    Whose chance on these defenseless doors may seize,
    If ever deed of honour did thee please,
    Guard them, and him within protect from harms.
    • Sonnet VIII: When the Assault was Intended to the City.
Simple: Soldier of any kind, take this chance and guard this door, and anyone behind it from harm.
  • By labor and intent study (which I take to be my portion in this life), joined with the strong propensity of nature, I might perhaps leave something so written to after-times, as they should not willingly let it die.
    • The Reason of Church Government (1641), Book II, Introduction.
Simple: By working and studying hard (which I see as my role in life), together with the strength of nature, I might leave something written that when I die, they should not willingly let it die.
  • He who would not be frustrate of his hope to write well hereafter in laudable things ought himself to be a true poem.
    • Apology for Smectymnuus (1642).
  • His words ... like so many nimble and airy servitors trip about him at command.
    • Apology for Smectymnuus (1642).
  • I will not deny but that the best apology against false accusers is silence and sufferance, and honest deeds set against dishonest words.
    • Apology for Smectymnuus (1642).
  • Truth...never comes into the world but like a bastard, to the ignominy of him that brought her forth.
    • The Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce (1643), Introduction.
  • Truth is as impossible to be soiled by any outward touch as the sunbeam.
    • The Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce (1643), Introduction. Compare: "The sun, which passeth through pollutions and itself remains as pure as before", Francis Bacon, Advancement of Learning, Book ii (1605).
  • Men of most renowned virtue have sometimes by transgressing most truly kept the law.
    • Tetrachordon (1644–1645).
  • New Presbyter is but Old Priest writ Large.
    • On the new forcers of Conscience under the Long Parliament (1645).
  • For other things mild Heav'n a time ordains,
    And disapproves that care, though wise in show,
    That with superfluous burden loads the day,
    And, when God sends a cheerful hour, refrains.
    • To Cyriack Skinner (1646–1647).
The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven.
  • For such kind of borrowing as this, if it be not bettered by the borrower, among good authors is accounted Plagiarè.
    • Eikonoklastes (1649), 23.
  • None can love freedom heartily, but good men; the rest love not freedom, but license.
    • Tenure of Kings and Magistrates (1649).
  • No man who knows aught, can be so stupid to deny that all men naturally were born free.
    • Tenure of Kings and Magistrates (1649).
Simple: Nobody who knows anything, can be stupid enough to deny the fact that all men were naturally born free.
  • Peace hath her victories
    No less renowned than war.
    • To the Lord General Cromwell (1652).
Simple: The victories in peace are as famous as those in war.
  • When I consider how my light is spent,
    Ere half my days, in this dark world and wide,
    And that one talent which is death to hide
    Lodged with me useless.
    • On His Blindness (1652).
  • Who best
    Bear his mild yoke, they serve him best: his state
    Is kingly; thousands at his bidding speed,
    And post o'er land and ocean without rest;
    They also serve who only stand and wait.
    • On His Blindness (1652).
  • Avenge, O Lord, thy slaughtered saints, whose bones
    Lie scattered on the Alpine mountains cold;
    Ev'n them who kept thy truth so pure of old
    When all our fathers worshipped stocks and stones
    Forget not.
    • On the Late Massacre in Piedmont (1655).
  • Cyriack, whose Grandsire on the Royal Bench
    Of British Themis, with no mean applause
    Pronounced and in his volumes taught our Laws,
    Which others at their Bar so often wrench
    • To Cyriack Skinner (1655).
  • Yet I argue not
    Against Heav'n's hand or will, nor bate one jot
    Of heart or hope; but still bear up, and steer
    Right onward.
    • To Cyriack Skinner, upon His Blindness (c. 1655).
  • Of which all Europe rings from side to side.
    • To Cyriack Skinner, upon His Blindness (c. 1655).
  • In mirth that after no repenting draws.
    • To Cyriack Skinner, upon His Blindness (c. 1655).
  • Lawrence, of virtuous father virtuous son
    • To Mr. Lawrence (1656).
  • Methought I saw my late espousèd saint
    Brought to me like Alcestis from the grave.
    • On His Deceased Wife (c. 1658).
  • But oh! as to embrace me she inclined,
    I waked, she fled, and day brought back my night.
    • On His Deceased Wife (c. 1658).
  • [Rhyme is] but the invention of a barbarous age, to set off wretched matter and lame Meter; ... Not without cause therefore some both Italian and Spanish poets of prime note have rejected rhyme, ... as have also long since our best English tragedies, as... trivial and of no true musical delight; which [truly] consists only in apt numbers, fit quantity of syllables, and the sense variously drawn out from one verse into another, not in the jingling sound of like endings, a fault avoided by the learned ancients both in poetry and all good oratory.
    • Introduction to Paradise Lost Added, 1668.
  • Such bickerings to recount, met often in these our writers, what more worth is it than to chronicle the wars of kites or crows flocking and fighting in the air?
    • The History of England (1670), Book IV .
  • For stories teach us, that liberty sought out of season, in a corrupt and degenerate age, brought Rome itself to a farther slavery: for liberty hath a sharp and double edge, fit only to be handled by just and virtuous men; to bad and dissolute, it becomes a mischief unwieldy in their own hands: neither is it completely given, but by them who have the happy skill to know what is grievance and unjust to a people, and how to remove it wisely; what good laws are wanting, and how to frame them substantially, that good men may enjoy the freedom which they merit, and the bad the curb which they need.
  • Madam, methinks I see him living yet;
    So well your words his noble virtues praise,
    That all both judge you to relate them true,
    And to possess them, honour'd Margaret.
  • Such as may make thee search the coffers round.
    • At a Vacation Exercise. Line 31, reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919).
  • O fairest flower! no sooner blown but blasted,
    Soft silken primrose fading timelessly.
    • Ode on the Death of a fair Infant, dying of a Cough, reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919).
  • Thy liquid notes that close the eye of day.
    • Sonnet to the Nightingale, reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919). Compare: "That well by reason men it call may / The daisie, or els the eye of the day, / The emprise, and floure of floures all", Geoffrey Chaucer, Prologue of the Legend of Good Women, line 183.
  • As ever in my great Taskmaster's eye.
    • On his being arrived to the Age of Twenty-three, reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919).
  • That old man eloquent.
    • To the Lady Margaret Ley, reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919).
  • That would have made Quintilian stare and gasp.
    • On the Detraction which followed upon my writing certain Treatises, reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919).
  • License they mean when they cry, Liberty!
    For who loves that must first be wise and good.
    • On the Detraction which followed upon my writing certain Treatises, reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919).
  • What neat repast shall feast us, light and choice,
    Of Attic taste?
    • To Mr. Lawrence.
  • Have hung
    My dank and dropping weeds
    To the stern god of sea.
    • Translation of Horace. Book i. Ode 5.
  • Beholding the bright countenance of truth in the quiet and still air of delightful studies.
    • The Reason of Church Government, Introduction, Book ii.
  • By this time, like one who had set out on his way by night, and travelled through a region of smooth or idle dreams, our history now arrives on the confines, where daylight and truth meet us with a clear dawn, representing to our view, though at a far distance, true colours and shapes.
    • The History of England, Book i.

On the Morning of Christ's Nativity (1629)

  • This is the month, and this the happy morn,
    Wherein the Son of Heav'n's eternal King,
    Of wedded maid and virgin mother born,
    Our great redemption from above did bring;
    For so the holy sages once did sing,
    That He our deadly forfeit should release,
    And with His Father work us a perpetual peace.
    • Stanza 1, line 1.
  • It was the winter wild
    While the Heav'n-born child
    All meanly wrapt in the rude manger lies.
    • Hymn, stanza 1, line 29.
  • No war, or battle's sound
    Was heard the world around.
    The idle spear and shield were high up hung.
    • Hymn, stanza 4, line 53.
  • Time will run back and fetch the Age of Gold.
    • Hymn, stanza 14, line 135.
  • Swinges the scaly horror of his folded tail.
    • Hymn, stanza 18, line 172.
  • The oracles are dumb,
    No voice or hideous hum
    Runs through the arched roof in words deceiving.
    Apollo from his shrine
    Can no more divine,
    With hollow shriek the steep of Delphos leaving.
    No nightly trance or breathed spell
    Inspires the pale-eyed priest from the prophetic cell.
    • Hymn, stanza 19, line 173.
  • From haunted spring and dale
    Edged with poplar pale
    The parting genius is with sighing sent.
    • Hymn, stanza 20, line 184
  • Peor and Baälim
    Forsake their temples dim.
    • Hymn. Line 197.

L'Allegro (1631)

  • Hence, loathèd Melancholy,
    Of Cerberus and blackest Midnight born,
    In Stygian cave forlorn,
    'Mongst horrid shapes, and shrieks, and sights unholy.
    • Line 1.
  • Haste thee, Nymph, and bring with thee
    Jest, and youthful jollity,
    Quips and cranks and wanton wiles,
    Nods and becks and wreathèd smiles.
    • Line 25.
  • Sport, that wrinkled Care derides,
    And Laughter, holding both his sides.
    Come, and trip it, as you go.
    On the light fantastic toe.
    • Line 31.
  • The mountain nymph, sweet Liberty.
    • Line 36.
  • Mirth, admit me of thy crew,
    To live with her, and live with thee,
    In unreprovèd pleasures free.
    • Line 38.
  • While the cock with lively din
    Scatters the rear of darkness thin,
    And to the stack, or the barn door,
    Stoutly struts his dames before,
    Oft list'ning how the hounds and horn
    Cheerly rouse the slumb'ring morn.
    • Line 49.
  • And every shepherd tells his tale
    Under the hawthorn in the dale.
    • Line 67.
  • Meadows trim, with daisies pied,
    Shallow brooks, and rivers wide;
    Towers and balements it sees
    Bosomed high in tufted trees,
    Where perhaps some beauty lies,
    The cynosure of neighboring eyes.
    • Line 75.
  • Herbs, and other country messes,
    Which the neat-handed Phillis dresses.
    • Line 85.
  • And the jocund rebecks sound
    To many a youth, and many a maid,
    Dancing in the checkered shade.
    And young and old come forth to play
    On a sunshine holiday.
    • Line 94.
  • Then to the spicy nut-brown ale.
    • Line 100.
  • Then lies him down the lubber fiend,
    And stretched out all the chimney's length,
    Basks at the fire his hairy strength.
    • Line 110.
  • Towered cities please us then,
    And the busy hum of men.
    • Line 117.
  • Ladies, whose bright eyes
    Rain influence, and judge the prize.
    • Line 121.
  • And pomp, and feast, and revelry,
    With mask, and antique pageantry,
    Such sights as youthful poets dream
    On summer eves by haunted stream.
    Then to the well-trod stage anon,
    If Jonson's learned sock be on,
    Or sweetest Shakespeare, Fancy's child,
    Warble his native wood-notes wild,
    And ever, against eating cares,
    Lap me in soft Lydian airs,
    Married to immortal verse
    Such as the meeting soul may pierce,
    In notes with many a winding bout
    Of linked sweetness long drawn out.
    • Line 127. Compare: "Wisdom married to immortal verse", William Wordsworth, The Excursion, book vii.
  • Untwisting all the chains that tie
    The hidden soul of harmony.
    • Line 143.
  • Such strains as would have won the ear
    Of Pluto, to have quite set free
    His half-regained Eurydice.
    These delights, if thou canst give,
    Mirth, with thee, I mean to live.
    • Line 148.

Il Penseroso (1631)

  • Hence vain deluding Joys,
    The brood of Folly without father bred!
    • Line 1.
  • The gay motes that people the sunbeams.
    • Line 8.
  • And looks commercing with the skies,
    Thy rapt soul sitting in thine eyes.
    • Line 39.
  • Forget thyself to marble.
    • Line 42.
  • And join with thee, calm Peace and Quiet,
    Spare Fast, that oft with gods doth diet.
    • Line 45.
  • And add to these retired Leisure,
    That in trim gardens takes his pleasure.
    • Line 49.
  • Sweet bird, that shunn'st the noise of folly,
    Most musical, most melancholy!
    • Line 61.
  • I walk unseen
    On the dry smooth-shaven green,
    To behold the wandering moon,
    Riding near her highest noon,
    Like one that had been led astray
    Through the heav'n's wide pathless way,
    And oft, as if her head she bowed,
    Stooping through a fleecy cloud.
    • Line 65.
  • Oft, on a plat of rising ground,
    I hear the far-off curfew sound
    Over some wide-watered shore,
    Swinging low with sullen roar.
    • Line 73.
  • Where glowing embers through the room
    Teach light to counterfeit a gloom,
    Far from all resort of mirth,
    Save the cricket on the hearth.
    • Line 79.
  • Sometime let gorgeous Tragedy
    In sceptred pall come sweeping by,
    Presenting Thebes, or Pelops' line,
    Or the tale of Troy divine.
    • Line 97.
  • But, O sad Virgin, that thy power
    Might raise Musaeus from his bower,
    Or bid the soul of Orpheus sing
    Such notes as warbled to the string,
    Drew Iron tears down Pluto’s cheek,
    And made Hell grant what Love did seek.
    • Line 105.
  • Or call up him that left half told
    The story of Cambuscan bold.
    • Line 109.
  • Where more is meant than meets the ear.
    • Line 120
  • When the gust hath blown his fill,
    Ending on the rustling leaves
    With minute drops from off the eaves.
    • Line 128.
  • Hide me from day's garish eye,
    While the bee with honied thigh,
    That at her flowery work doth sing,
    And the waters murmuring
    With such consort as they keep,
    Entice the dewy-feathered sleep.
    • Line 141.
  • And storied windows richly dight,
    Casting a dim religious light.
    There let the pealing organ blow,
    To the full-voiced choir below,
    In service high, and anthems clear
    As may, with sweetness, through mine ear
    Dissolve me into ecstasies,
    And bring all heaven before mine eyes.
    • Line 159.
  • Till old experience do attain
    To something like prophetic strain.
    • Line 173.

Lycidas (1637)

  • Yet once more, O ye laurels, and once more
    Ye myrtles brown, with ivy never sere,
    I come to pluck your berries harsh and crude,
    And with forced fingers rude
    Shatter your leaves before the mellowing year.
    • Line 1.
  • He knew
    Himself to sing, and build the lofty rhyme.
    • Line 10.
  • Without the meed of some melodious tear.
    • Line 14.
  • Under the opening eyelids of the morn,
    We drove afield; and both together heard
    What time the gray-fly winds her sultry horn,
    Batt'ning our flocks with the fresh dews of night.
    • Line 26.
  • But O the heavy change, now thou art gone,
    Now thou art gone and never must return!
    • Line 37.
  • The gadding vine.
    • Line 40.
  • Alas! what boots it with incessant care
    To tend the homely slighted shepherd's trade,
    And strictly meditate the thankless Muse?
    Were it not better done as others use,
    To sport with Amaryllis in the shade,
    Or with the tangles of Neaera's hair?
    Fame is the spur that the clear spirit doth raise
    (That last infirmity of noble mind)
    To scorn delights, and live laborious days;
    But the fair guerdon when we hope to find,
    And think to burst out into sudden blaze,
    Comes the blind Fury with th' abhorrèd shears,
    And slits the thin-spun life.
    • Line 64. Compare: "Erant quibus appetentior famæ videretur, quando etiam sapientibus cupido gloriæ novissima exuitur" (Translated: "Some might consider him as too fond of fame, for the desire of glory clings even to the best of men longer than any other passion"), Tacitus, Historia, iv. 6; said of Helvidius Priscus.
  • Fame is no plant that grows on mortal soil.
    • Line 78.
  • It was that fatal and perfidious bark,
    Built in th' eclipse, and rigged with curses dark,
    That sunk so low that sacred head of thine.
    • Line 100.
  • Last came, and last did go,
    The Pilot of the Galilean lake;
    Two massy keys he bore of metals twain,
    (The golden opes, the iron shuts amain).
    • Line 108.
  • Blind mouths! That scarce themselves know how to hold
    A sheep-hook.
    • Line 119.
  • The hungry sheep look up, and are not fed,
    But swoln with wind and the rank mist they draw,
    Rot inwardly, and foul contagion spread:
    Besides what the grim wolf with privy paw
    Daily devours apace, and nothing said;
    But that two-handed engine at the door
    Stands ready to smite once, and smite no more.
    • Line 123.
  • Throw hither all your quaint enamell'd eyes
    That on the green turf suck the honied showers,
    And purple all the ground with vernal flowers.
    Bring the rathe primrose that forsaken dies,
    The tufted crow-toe, and pale jessamine,
    The white pink, and the pansy freakt with jet,
    The glowing violet,
    The musk-rose, and the well-attir'd woodbine,
    With cowslips wan that hang the pensive head,
    And every flower that sad embroidery wears.
    • Line 139.
  • Whether beyond the stormy Hebrides,
    Where thou perhaps under the whelming tide
    Visit'st the bottom of the monstrous world.
    • Line 156.
  • Look homeward, Angel, now, and melt with ruth.
    • Line 163.
  • For Lycidas your sorrow is not dead,
    Sunk though he be beneath the watery floor;
    So sinks the day-star in the ocean bed;
    And yet anon repairs his drooping head,
    And tricks his beams, and with new-spangled ore
    Flames in the forehead of the morning sky.
    So Lycidas sunk low, but mounted high,
    Through the dear might of him that walked the waves.
    • Line 166.
  • He touch'd the tender stops of various quills,
    With eager thought warbling his Doric lay.
    • Line 188.
  • At last he rose, and twitched his mantle blue:
    Tomorrow to fresh woods and pastures new.
    • Line 192.

Tractate of Education (1644)

  • Litigious terms, fat contentions, and flowing fees.
  • I shall detain you no longer in the demonstration of what we should not do, but straight conduct ye to a hillside, where I will point ye out the right path of a virtuous and noble education; laborious indeed at the first ascent, but else so smooth, so green, so full of goodly prospect and melodious sounds on every side that the harp of Orpheus was not more charming.
  • Inflamed with the study of learning and the admiration of virtue; stirred up with high hopes of living to be brave men and worthy patriots, dear to God, and famous to all ages.
  • Ornate rhetoric thought out of the rule of Plato... To which poetry would be made subsequent, or indeed rather precedent, as being less subtle and fine, but more simple, sensuous, and passionate.
  • In those vernal seasons of the year, when the air is calm and pleasant, it were an injury and sullenness against Nature not to go out, and see her riches, and partake in her rejoicing with heaven and earth.
  • Attic tragedies of stateliest and most regal argument.

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