Matthew C. Augustine
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‘He saw a greater Sun appear’
Waiting for the apocalypse in Milton’s Poems 1645
in Aesthetics of contingency
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Many scholars of Milton’s early verse have discerned in The Poems of Mr John Milton (1645) a prophecy of the English revolution and of the unsung poet’s transformation into the bard of Paradise Lost. This chapter attempts to read the poetry of young Milton within the uncertain horizons of his own lived history. It thus focuses on the problematic of becoming at the heart of Poems 1645. For if notes of apocalyptic and rebirth sound throughout the volume, this chapter nonetheless shows how the staging and re-staging of this theme ultimately folds hoped-for millenarian rupture back into the fabric of secular time. What is argued of the Nativity Ode has general application to Milton’s inaugural collection of verse: despite all that it would confirm about Milton’s genius, the shape of his career, and the direction of English history, the most that it can do is resolve upon an indeterminate waiting.

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Aesthetics of contingency

Writing, politics, and culture in England, 1639– 89


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