John Milton



John Milton is buried in St. Giles' Church without Cripplegate, London, England. (St. Giles now lies in the heart of the  Barbican development.)

Burial Stone of John Milton

Milton was educated at St Paul's School in London and then studied languages at Cambridge University for seven years. In 1638 he travelled to Italy - where he may have met Galileo. On his return to England  Milton became a fierce exponent of Cromwell.

In 1643 he married the 17 year-old Mary Powell (he was 33) - but their marriage lasted only a month after she paid a visit to her Royalist family and never returned. However, when the Royalist cause started to decline she begged to be taken back and Milton agreed. Mary died in childbirth in 1652. He also lost his second wife Catharine Woodcock in childbirth. He married his third wife, Elizabeth Minshull, in 1662.

By the age of 43 Milton was blind and as a result he was forced to dictate his poetry. (See his famous sonnet On His Blindness.)

Following the execution of Charles I Milton published The Tenure of Kings and Magistrates - arguing that power resided in the hands of the people. As a result he was appointed secretary for foreign languages to Cromwell's Council of State. After the Restoration, he lost his position and was briefly arrested.

For the last twelve years of his life Milton lived in Bunhill Row, Finsbury. It was here that he started his epic poem Paradise Lost and the sequel Paradise Regained. However, during the Great Plague he moved out to a cottage at Chalfont St Giles in Buckinghamshire - where the poem was completed.  

John Dryden described Paradise Lost as: 'one of the greatest, most noble and sublime poems which either this age or nation has produced.'  But Dr Johnson was less enamoured by it and famously said: 'Paradise Lost is one of the books which the reader admires and lays down, and forgets to take up again.'

Milton's use of blank verse was hugely influential for subsequent poets. His work was also a major influence on John Keats.

Milton's other famous works include: Hymn on the Morning of Christ's nativity, Composed 1629, L'Allegro (1632), Il Penserosa (1632), Comus (1634), Lycidas (1637), and Samson Agonistes (1671).

Milton died of gout in 1674.

John Milton

He was buried next to his father in St Giles' Church. A disputed account suggested that Milton's grave was desecrated in 1790 when repairs were carried out to the church. William Cowper was horrified by this story and subsequently wrote: Stanzas on the Late Indecent Liberties Taken with the Remains of Milton.

There is also a commemorative window to Milton in St. Margaret's Church, Westminster Abbey. 

Of Man's first disobedience and the fruit
Of that forbidden tree, whose mortal taste
Brought death into the world and all our woe,
With loss of Eden, till one greater Man
Restore us and regain the blissful seat,

From Paradise Lost  (Book 1)

Read more of Milton's poetry






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