Article

The Troubled, Quiet Endings of Milton's English Sonnets

John Leonard

in The Oxford Handbook of Milton

Published in print November 2011 | ISBN: 9780199697885
Published online September 2012 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199697885.013.0007

Series: Oxford Handbooks of Literature

 The Troubled, Quiet Endings of Milton's English Sonnets

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Wordsworth thought that John Milton used the sonnet as a ‘trumpet, whence he blew/Soul-animating strains’. It is true that Milton begins some sonnets with a clarion call, and Wordsworth recreates this effect when he trumpets a soul-animating strain in Milton's honour. Milton's sonnets are renowned for their ‘quiet’ endings. Milton's sonnet to Edward Lawrence and its famous crux concerning the word ‘spare’ is addressed in this article. The article also investigates the endings of Milton's sonnets and the tensions they create by their opposed impulses towards opacity and tranquility. It then hopes to show that difficulty is an integral part of the Miltonic sonnet, which contributes in no small measure to its special character. Sonnet XVII is not the only place in Milton's poetry where ‘spare’ and ‘interpose’ come together. Milton's sonnets are frequently rough and sinewy, but their touch is light and choice as they warble immortal notes and Tuscan air.

Keywords: John Milton; English sonnets; Wordsworth; quiet endings; Edward Lawrence; opacity; tranquility

Article.  8853 words. 

Subjects: Literature ; Literary Studies (1500 to 1800) ; Literary Studies (Poetry and Poets)

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