John Milton is, next to William Shakespeare, the most influential English poet, a writer whose work spans an incredible breadth of forms and subject matter. The Complete Poetry and Essential Prose of John Milton celebrates this author’s genius in a thoughtfully assembled book that provides new modern-spelling versions of Milton’s texts, expert commentary, and a wealth of other features that will please even the most dedicated students of Milton’s canon. Edited by a trio of esteemed scholars, this volume is the definitive Milton for our time.
In these pages you will find all of Milton’s verse, from masterpieces such as Paradise Lost–widely viewed as the finest epic poem in the English language–to shorter works such as the Nativity Ode, Lycidas,, A Masque and Samson Agonistes. Milton’s non-English language sonnets, verses, and elegies are accompanied by fresh translations by Gordon Braden. Among the newly edited and authoritatively annotated prose selections are letters, pamphlets, political tracts, essays such as Of Education and Areopagitica, and a generous portion of his heretical Christian Doctrine. These works reveal Milton’s passionate advocacy of controversial positions during the English Civil War and the Commonwealth and Restoration periods.
With his deep learning and the sensual immediacy of his language, Milton creates for us a unique bridge to the cultures of classical antiquity and medieval and Renaissance Christianity. With this in mind, the editors give careful attention to preserving the vibrant energy of Milton’s verse and prose, while making the relatively unfamiliar aspects of his writing accessible to modern readers. Notes identify the old meanings and roots of English words, illuminate historical contexts–including classical and biblical allusions–and offer concise accounts of the author’s philosophical and political assumptions. This edition is a consummate work of modern literary scholarship.
“Over the coming months, [John Milton’s] 400th anniversary will be celebrated in many different ways, but it is highly unlikely that any of the tributes he receives will do as much for him as the appearance of the Modern Library edition of his collected poetry and selected prose. The edition is a model of its kind, well designed and attractively produced. There are scholarly but unintimidating footnotes and helpful introductions to the major works. Spelling and punctuation have been modernized -- a difficult decision but the right one….A great deal has been packed in, but Milton has still been left room to breathe. The whole enterprise is meant to be reader-friendly, and it succeeds.” — The Wall Street Journal
“This magnificent edition gives us everything we need to read Milton intelligently and with fresh perception. You could take it to a desert island, or just stay home and further your education in a great writer.”
–William H. Pritchard, Amherst College
“For generations of readers Milton has been the measure of both eloquence and nobility of mind. For the next generation this new Modern Library volume will be the standard: it is meticulously edited, full of tactful annotations that set the stage for his work and his times, and it brings Milton, as a poet and a thinker, vividly alive before us.”
“Years ago I began a series of poems about Milton and his daughters. Ever since, I have been combing through Milton’s poems and prose for those moments when the poet would turn and speak to the poet in me. It is in the new Kerrigan-Rumrich-Fallon edition that I now find prompt rejoinders to questions, ready clarifications of problems, and a more intimate dimension of that formidable adjective Miltonic.”
“A superb edition of the great poet, with modernized spelling, lucid introductions to each work, illuminating footnotes, and fresh prose translations of poems in Latin, Greek, and Italian. This will surely be the edition of choice for teachers, students, and general readers too.”
–Leo Damrosch, Harvard University
“The introductions alone constitute a fine new book on Milton, beautifully written, challenging and balanced, with equal care and insight given to textual, biographical, historical, literary-historical and literary-critical concerns. It is a book to last a lifetime.”
–James Earl, University of Oregon
“In this landmark edition, teachers will discover a powerful ally in bringing the excitement of Milton’s poetry and prose to new generations of students. In the clarity of its overall conception, its thoroughness, and its never-faltering attention to literary and historical detail, the Modern Library Milton serves almost as another teacher–patient, thoughtful, endlessly concerned with genuine comprehension.”
–William C. Dowling, Rutgers University
“The editors display a remarkable combination of scholarly rigor and sensitivity to literary values, expressed in prose of exemplary clarity and extraordinary grace; even the notes, concise as well as precise, approach a kind of epigrammatic brilliance. A superb edition.”
–Edward W. Tayler, Columbia University
“The editors succeed gloriously, meeting the needs of the whole spectrum, from general readers to advanced students. A modernized text, one sensitive to Milton’ s poetic rhythm, illuminates both the author’s meaning and artistry. It’s a beautiful edition–a home worthy of its subject.”
–Marina Favila, James Madison University
About the Author
John Milton, English scholar and classical poet, is one of the major figures of Western literature. He was born in 1608 into a prosperous London family. By the age of 17, he was proficient in Latin, Greek, and Hebrew. Milton attended Cambridge University, earning a B.A. and an M.A. before secluding himself for five years to read, write and study on his own. It is believed that Milton read evertything that had been published in Latin, Greek, and English. He was considered one of the most educated men of his time. Milton also had a reputation as a radical. After his own wife left him early in their marriage, Milton published an unpopular treatise supporting divorce in the case of incompatibility. Milton was also a vocal supporter of Oliver Cromwell and worked for him. Milton's first work, Lycidas, an elegy on the death of a classmate, was published in 1632, and he had numerous works published in the ensuing years, including Pastoral and Areopagitica. His Christian epic poem, Paradise Lost, which traced humanity's fall from divine grace, appeared in 1667, assuring his place as one of the finest non-dramatic poet of the Renaissance Age. Milton went blind at the age of 43 from the incredible strain he placed on his eyes. Amazingly, Paradise Lost and his other major works, Paradise Regained and Samson Agonistes, were composed after the lost of his sight. These major works were painstakingly and slowly dictated to secretaries. John Milton died in 1674.
William Kerrigan is a professor of English at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. His books include The Idea of the Renaissance, written with Gordon Braden, and Hamlet's Perfection, both available from Johns Hopkins.
John P. Rumrich is Thaman Professor of English at the University of Texas at Austin. He is the author of "Matter of Glory and Milton Unbound" as well as numerous articles on seventeenth-century literature. He is co-editor of "Milton and Heresy". Gregory Chaplin is Assistant Professor of English at Bridgewater State College. He is the author of several articles on seventeenth-century literature.