Lament for a Nation?

Paul Stevens

in The Oxford Handbook of Literature and the English Revolution

Published in print November 2012 | ISBN: 9780199560608
Published online January 2013 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks of Literature

Lament for a Nation?

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  • Literature
  • Literary Studies (1500 to 1800)



Scholars consider John Milton's The Readie and Easie Way as one of the great canonical works of neo-Roman political theory in mid-seventeenth-century England. However, the pamphlet's figurative density, especially its engagement with the complex metaphor of the city as it is idealized, endangered, besieged, or destroyed — that is, its highly imaginative engagement with classical and biblical narratives that are far removed from the everyday reality of England's immediate political situation — suggests that it may also belong to another canon. This article addresses the question: to what extent might Milton's pamphlet more profitably be read as literature than political polemic or theory. It considers the pamphlet's constitution as a highly wrought expression of emotion, an expression which through Milton's rhetorical skills acquires a formidable aesthetic force. In so doing, it seeks to better understand the singularity of Milton's temperament and its relation to his evolving imagination of England, particularly as he sees the nation at the moment of extreme crisis.

Keywords: John Milton; political theory; pamphlets; literature; England

Article.  9969 words. 

Subjects: Literature ; Literary Studies (1500 to 1800)

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