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Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria University College, Wellington N.Z. Vol. 20, No. 11. August 1, 1957

Pro Miltono

Pro Miltono

I am fascina Jed by Keith Walker's assertion that in verse I show "the influence of Milton at its worst." 'Being totally unaware of the influence, but acknowledging that if it exists I probably do show it at its worst. I would still like to take issue with his implication that Milton's influence is always deplorable (citing Johnson and Eliot in support) and that Milton was not one of the great intellects in our literary tradition.

First, Johnson certainly did not deplore Milton's influence in fact, his famous essay on Milton contains the sentence "He was master of his language in its full extent: and has selected the melodious words with such diligence that from his book alone the Art of English Poetry might be learned."

Secondly, Eliot makes it abundantly clear in his 1936 essay (which, incidentally, he at least partially retracts in another of 1947 that his real argument with Milton is that he finds him "unsatisfactory" as a thinker. (It is in this that Eliot agrees with Johnson, who described Milton's political ideas as those of "an acrimonious and surly republican." but way too big-minded to let this prejudice his respect for Milton as a poet.)

All Eliot's literary judgments are similarly coloured by his peculiar views on the ideas of the people whose work he judges There is no doubt that the work of a writer cannot be considered apart from his basic outlook on moral questions. Often his greatness is integrally connected with his attitude to the predominant issues of his time And I believe that all the great literary figures at whom Eliot has sniped at one time or another—Thomas Hardy. Bums. Shelley, Milton, even Shakespeare—were all m a humanist tradition which Eliot himself is well outside, and that there is m his judgments quite a bit of spiteful realisation that their greatness will continue to be recognised long after Eliot has been forgotten.

Finally, I would point out that the only really scholarly statement of the Case against Milton's allegedly bad influence on subsequent English poetry has come from Dobree. And he has been adequately knocked on the head by Grierson in "Milton and Wordsworth" 1937 ("It is so easy to attribute to the influence of one man what is due to a more general movement") and [unclear: Pearsill] Smith m "Milton and His Modern Critics" 1940 ("His syntax, his diction, by enriching the poetry of Gray. Thomson Cowper, and above all, Keats, was one source of the splendour of our great Romantic movement")

—C. V. Bollinger.