The Sunday Post (Inverness)

It happened onthisday 09.12.1608


This extract from Dan’s book remembers a landmark event that happened on this day. “The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven a hell, a hell a heaven...” Three hundred and fifty years ago, 10,000 lines of blank verse were published, telling the story of the fall of man.

Paradise Lost has shaped English literature and its creator, John Milton, was born on this day in Cheapside in 1608. A radical thinker, a prolific pamphletee­r for republican­ism, and, after the death of Charles I, a diplomat with the title of Secretary for Foreign Tongues.

Milton mourned the death of Oliver Cromwell and began his epic poem as an attempt to make sense of a fallen world; in his own words: “To justify the ways of God to men”.

Milton started Paradise Lost in the mid-1650s, and over the course of a decade it was dictated to a scribe as he slowly went blind. His enemies considered this to be a kind of divine justice. Paradise Lost inspired writers such as Mary Shelley, Keats, Wordsworth and the art of William Blake.

It is undoubtedl­y one of the greatest poems in the history of world literature. But Milton was lucky it was published at all. He had been a leading supporter and propagandi­st for the Republic.

The restoratio­n of King Charles II sent him into hiding. His works were burned and he was arrested. After some debate he was included in a general pardon issued by the new king and his Parliament. Charles opted, on the whole, for conciliati­on.

The case of Milton shows the wisdom of this course. Not only did he publish one of the great works of literature in the years that followed, but he lived a quiet life and posed no threat to the restored regime. His execution would have been a pointless act of savagery that would have only cost Charles support.

His pardon illustrate­s a canny political sense, so lacking in Charles’s father and younger brother.

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