silly joy at silly things; and they call it being merry. In my
mind there is nothing so illiberal, and so ill bred, as audible
laughter. True wit, or sense, never yet made anybody laugh; they
are above it: they please the mind and give a cheerfulness to
the countenance. But it is low buffoonery, or silly accidents,
that always excite laughter … a plain proof, in my mind
Though we hardly associate Milton with middle ways or half measures, this chapter nonetheless charts a path between more extreme nodes of ‘revision’, one that would reformulate Milton as ‘antiformalist, unrevolutionary, and illiberal’, and another that would rewrite his radicalism in essentially secular terms – a strenuously Baconian Milton, an ‘atheist’ Milton. 106 The poet’s godliness and his commitment to some form of virtue politics that might be called ‘republican’ cannot be altogether erased – and why should
75 Hill, ‘Milton and Marvell’, p. 1.
76 S. Jablonski, ‘Ham’s vicious race: slavery and John Milton’, SEL , 37:1 (1997), p. 174. For a polemically sceptical account of Milton’s attitude toward democratic political sovereignty, see W. Walker, Antiformalist, Unrevolutionary, Illiberal Milton: Political Prose, 1644–1660 (Farnham: Ashgate, 2014), Ch. 3.
77 PL , 9.706–8, ‘…your Eyes that seem so cleere, / Yet are but dim, shall perfetly be then / Op’nd and cleerd…’.
78 For the ‘liminal’ Marvell, see J