Tuesday, December 09, 2008

On the 400th anniversary of the birth of John Milton

'I might perhaps leave something so written to after-times, as they shall not willingly let it die' (The Reason of Church Government, 1642).

There are no commemorative postage stamps, as there were to mark the 400th anniversary of the birth of William Shakespeare. There are no bank notes or coins bearing his image, and no medals cast in his honour. There will be no services of thanksgiving in Westminster Abbey, where he is not buried but ought to have been, and no national expression of appreciation to be attended by Her Majesty the Queen.

John Milton is fading into oblivion, remembered principally by the society which bears his name and the great university he attended. He matters most because of his impact on the English literary tradition: his writings – alongside those of Shakespeare – remain at the heart of the language, politics, theology and philosophy of England. Indeed, he was Shakespeare’s finest pupil, also able to remould words to bear new meanings, to create a word or phrase where the language offered none, and to stretch imagery and syntax in the effort to represent emotion and thought.

He lived in the age of polarity between church and state, and acquired an anticlericalism which hardened into republicanism. Faced with a king who asserted his divine right and a crypto-Catholic archbishop, it is no surprise that one so gifted with spiritual, theological, political and philosophical insight should side with many of the reformers and non-conformists against clerical hierarchy.

Such insight, however, never grasped the significance of the Trinity, and his ‘broadly Protestant’ views were actually Arian and what became known as Unitarian. Milton came to stand apart from all sects, though he found the Quakers most congenial. He eschewed religious services altogether in his later years.

Milton wrote in A Treatise of Civil Power (1659) ‘that it is not lawfull for any power on earth to compell in matters of religion'. He argued against the Erastian position, yet favoured the platonic model of government by philosopher-rulers – an ‘aristocracy of virtue’. He did not favour democracy, though he strongly supported meritocracy, and was at the forefront of defining the liberalism which so shaped Whig-Tory philosophy and which became foundational to the creed of Conservatism. As he meditated on forms of government, he helped to define the best way to ensure the health and glory of the English nation, and forged an understanding of tyranny, liberty and servitude, alongside notions of civic identity and political subjectivity.

He was quite simply a religio-politico-philosophical genius who articulated some of the most fundamental and valuable insights about politics, society, morality, and human nature.

He was a prophetic philosopher poet.

We shall not look upon his like again.

16 Comments:

Anonymous shaven-headed tattooed knuckledragger said...

We certainly shall not look upon his like again - he'd be classed as a thought-criminal under Eurabian laws.

9 December 2008 at 08:53  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hear, hear Your Grace.

"Truth comes into this world, not unlike a bastard, that is never without ill fame to him who gives her issue."

9 December 2008 at 08:58  
Anonymous Martin Sewell said...

We could have used him yesterday with the Oxford Dictionary nonsense and the shameful performance of the likes of Gerald Kaufman in the Commons

9 December 2008 at 09:45  
Anonymous Preacher said...

John Milton R.I.P you may not have agreed with Cranmer or myself but you were a great thinker and a free spirit. Had you lived today the powers that be would have either 're-educated' you or ignored you.

9 December 2008 at 11:41  
Blogger Sackerson said...

I recall that my postwar Encylopaedia Britannica noted that Milton did not show much sign of any form of religious observance in his latter years. Perhaps all the disputation had taken away the zest.

9 December 2008 at 13:49  
Blogger Christian-Jedi-Alliance said...

While not pretending to have any great knowledge, or familiarity with Milton's writings, The Alliance is in tune with the FORCE, and there is no denying the fact that we are in urgent need of such qualities as, "understanding of tyranny, liberty and servitude, alongside notions of civic identity and political subjectivity"

But we no longer have a fertile landscape in order produce men of this quality, and we fear that the human race will be overwhelmed with mass stupidity and devolve into a wholly superficial cow, which will once again exist merely to chew the cud.

9 December 2008 at 15:26  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well said your Grace.

Yet another of our bulwarks left untended and to moulder by the piss-ant swamp.

9 December 2008 at 18:21  
Blogger McKenzie said...

I think we have too many distractions these days. The ability for prologued concentration has diminished in the western world. There does seem to be a wealth of intelligence in the blogsphere. Maybe sitting in front of a PC monitor has the effect of concentrating the mind, who knows?

Maybe the next Milton will rise up out of the Blogsphere. To be honest I really do hope so, we need a unique mind to rescue us from our own nature. It just takes that one person to pop up and say the right things.

If you are out there my old son, then when your ready Bob, but don't be shy for God's sake, we are in serious bloody trouble mate!

9 December 2008 at 19:32  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To be fair, he has been on Radio 3 rather a lot this week.

Hans Wildebeest

9 December 2008 at 19:48  
Blogger Homophobic Horse said...

"Milton wrote in A Treatise of Civil Power (1659) ‘that it is not lawfull for any power on earth to compell in matters of religion'. He argued against the Erastian position, yet favoured the platonic model of government by philosopher-rulers – an ‘aristocracy of virtue’. He did not favour democracy,"

A unitarian. This variety of protestantism is the wellspring of the modern liberalism, the anti-human enemy that relates to it's pre 1914 version of liberalism like a vampire relates to a healthy man.

10 December 2008 at 01:01  
Blogger Homophobic Horse said...

"It just takes that one person to pop up and say the right things."

Try reading Srdja Trifkovic's analysis of Neo-Conservatism.

NEOCOSERVATISM,
Where Trotsky Meets Stalin and Hitler


"Some form of gradual but irreversible and desirable withering away of the state is a key tenet of the Trotskyite theoretical outlook. The neoconservatives, by contrast, are statists par excellence. Their core belief—that society can be managed by the state in both its political and economic life—is equally at odds with the traditional conservative outlook and with the non-Stalinist Left. In this important respect the neoconservatives are much closer to Stalinism and National Socialism. They do not want to abolish the state; they want to control it—especially if the state they control is capable of controlling all others."

10 December 2008 at 01:06  
Blogger Homophobic Horse said...

The contemporary whigs: The neoconservative view of America as a hybrid, “imagined” nation had an ardent supporter eight decades ago: in Mein Kampf Adolf Hitler argued for a new, tightly centralized Germany by invoking the example of the United States and the triumph of the Union over states’ rights. He concluded that “National Socialism, as a matter of principle, must lay claim to the right to force its principles on the whole German nation without consideration of previous federated state boundaries.”

10 December 2008 at 01:10  
Blogger Homophobic Horse said...

"Towards the end of the Second World War Josef Goebbels welcomed the Allied bombing for its destruction of the old bourgeois cuckoo-clock and marzipan Germany of the feudal principalities. "

"Do schoolchildren no longer live in counties?" Cranmer asks in yesterdays post.

Marzipan. A word that was removed from the OUP's new and "up to date" dictionary for children.

Our elites are Nazi-like in the fervour for "progress".

10 December 2008 at 01:16  
Anonymous steadmancinques said...

Your Grace, you should have mentioned Milton's 'Aeropagatica', one of the most reasoned and comprehensive defences of the freedom of speech ever published. No wonder he's gone out of fashion with our quasi-stasi elite!

10 December 2008 at 12:28  
Blogger Sackerson said...

@steadmancinques: if I'm not mistaken, they made him the official censor after that.

10 December 2008 at 15:29  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gay-fearing pony, please block up your spout hole. Since when were 'our elites' neoconservative?

What in me is dark
Illumin, what is low raise and support;That to the highth of this great Argument I may assert Eternal Providence, And justifie the wayes of God to men

11 December 2008 at 19:31  

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