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ROSS G. WOODMAN Milton's Urania and Her Romantic Descendants When Milton in Paradise Lost invokes Urania he calls upon the 'meaning' rather than the 'Name' (VII, 5).' While the 'Name' is pagan, grounded in the Greek mythology that includes Olympus, the nine Muses, and Pegasus, the 'meaning' is Christian, which is to say before the foundation of the world or, in the wording of Milton's text, 'before the Hills appeerd, or Fountain flow'd' (VII, 8). Milton's distinction between the pagan and Christian Urania calls attention to the fact not only that he is writing a Christian epic but, more important, that it is a work 'unattempted yet in Prose or Rhime' (I, 16). In the laborious working out of his own heretical Christian position, the cornerstone of which is the doctrine of Christian liberty, Milton believed he had gained direct access to the will of the Father through the agency of the mind of Christ present to him in the operations of his own regenerate reason. By virtue of that access he could write not merely as a poet but as a prophet. The 'Heav'nly Muse' (I, 6) who inspired his song was the Muse who inspired Moses to write the first five books of the Old Testament. Indeed, numbering himself among 'the Lord's people' whose God preferred 'before all Temples th' upright heart and pure' (I, 18), Milton, as a result of his long and arduous work of reformation, came to the composition of Paradise Lost a 'more considerate [builder], more wise in spiritual architecture' (Areopagitica, p 749). Though the outer work of 'great reformation' (p 749) had apparently failed, though he had 'faWn on evil dayes' and 'evil tongues' and was 'with dangers compast round, I And solitude' (VII, 25-8), the inner work had gone forward. If the 'fit audience' of the Lord's people had been reduced to the 'few' (VII, 31) capable of receiving his radical work, both he and audience were nevertheless the fulfilment of Moses' 'memorable and gloriOUS wish' that 'all the Lord's people ... become prophets' (p 749). Thus, if Moses joins with Milton in lamenting the Restoration, he yet 'may sit in heaven rejoicing to see' (p 749) Milton's 'Heav'nly Muse' dictating to him his 'unpremeditated Verse' (IX, 23). Paradise Lost is Milton's completed work of reformation; his invocation to the Muse celebrates the Christian liberty that confers prophethood upon the Lord's people. The inspired company of Christian poet and chosen readers is Milton's challenging answer to the Restoration. Milton's prophetic stance in Paradise Lost, a stance previously 'unatUNIVERSITY OF TORONTO QUARTERLY, VOLUME XLVIII, NUMBER 3, SPRING 1979 0042-0247179!0500-0189$c)1.50!O © UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO PRESS 1979 190 ROSSG. WOODMAN tempted ... in Prose or Rhime: is, among other things, a personal testimony to the fulfilment in Christ of the Hebrew promise of a 'Paradise within ... happier farr' (XII, 587) than the Eden Adam lost. This inner Paradise of 'th' upright heart and pure' is at once the poem's fountain or source and its 'answerable style' (IX, 20). It is proclaimed through the epic's 'great Argument' (1,24) and, more pervasively, in its 'unpremeditated Verse.' Particularly in his invocations Milton stands at the centre of his own visionary work revealing the inner and creative process of redemption towards which 'evil dayes: 'evil tongues: and 'solitude' had driven him. In his prose works Milton had already articulated the 'great Argument' that resides in the Christian's right use of reason. What to him had become apparent with the Restoration and the failure of the Commonwealth was the failure of the English to heed his utterance. What was now needed was something even more radical, something 'unattempted yet' for which Homer and Virgil provided the obvious classical models, though, being pagan, in 'Name' only. The 'meaning' of those models lay elsewhere in the Semitic tradition of the prophets, the fulfilment of which was for Milton now in the act of poetic composition itself. Milton's previously unattempted task was, within the form of the epic, directly to invoke the 'Heav'nly Muse' not only as'Argument...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 189-208
Launched on MUSE
2014-07-02
Open Access
No
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