December 9, 2008

Little Awkward

John Milton turns 400

Today, December 9, celebrates the 400th birthday of John Milton, an English poet (born in 1608). Our good buddy John is likely best known for his epic poem Paradise Lost amongst a library of other great works. In short, this poem concerns the Fall of Man and though I haven’t read it in its entirety, that I have read, is nothing short of divine.

Paradise Lost
Image Source: “The Rebel Angels” by Gustave Dore, from his series of engravings for an 1865 edition of Paradise Lost. Hulton Archive/Getty Images

I was compelled to draft this post today for a couple of reasons. Long story short: I was driving home from Corvallis, Oregon this past Sunday afternoon after having visited with one of my older brothers and his sweet little family. Over dinner, I conversated with my brother at great length about the dissertation he is currently drafting for his PhD in Physics. As per usual, he blew my mind with his theories and white board discussion. You see, he is well versed in not only physics, but also philosophy and religion; It makes for great conversation and I always learn a ton.

Speaking of older brother’s, and getting back to the purpose of this post, my other older brother is also currently finalizing his PhD in Literature. His dissertation revolves entirely around the aforementioned work of Paradise Lost. I found the timing of all of this odd/neat because I was speaking with one brother about his Physics PhD and then coincidentally on the drive home an NPR story came on the radio announcing the upcoming birthday of John Milton, who is the subject of my other brother’s dissertation. Weird timing indeed.

Paradise Lost
Image Source: Blake, William (English, 1757–1827), “Satan Watching the Caresses of Adam and Eve” (Illustration to ‘Paradise Lost’), 1808, pen; watercolor on paper, 50.5 x 38 cm, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

One piece of information I learned that I found particularly unbelievable was the unique circumstance under which John’s poem was written: When Milton began writing the poem in 1658, he had been blind for four years. He recited the entire work to an assistant, 40 lines each morning for five years, says William Kerrigan. When the secretary was late, Milton was said to have grumbled around the house, “I want to be milked. I want to be milked.” This poem is nearly 10,000 lines long and that me friends, is a lot of milking.

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Speaking of Paradise, as I type this, I am listening to one of my favorite online radio stations:
Radio Paradise – give it a listen

Garett Croft Stenson

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