“Evil Be Thou My Good”: Milton and Abyss-Redemption

in Courting the Abyss

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print April 2005 | ISBN: 9780226662749
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226662756 | DOI:
“Evil Be Thou My Good”: Milton and Abyss-Redemption

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John Milton, the fierce Puritan radical and one of the greatest English poets, is a more conventional nominee in the intellectual tradition of free expression than Paul of Tarsus. His Areopagitica, “a speech for the liberty of unlicen'd printing” addressed to Parliament in 1644, is often hailed as a landmark in the English tradition of liberty. This chapter examines Areopagitica and Milton as the inspiration for a more general analysis of the cast of characters that continues to act out the dramas of free speech. Milton's defense of liberty is moved by the conviction that God's forces will win in the end but that, in the meanwhile, passage through a fallen world is needed for moral and mortal tempering. For him, art is a chief means of such tempering, because it allows trial by contraries that could not safely be attempted in life.

Keywords: Paul of Tarsus; Areopagitica; liberty; English poets; mortal tempering

Chapter.  14502 words. 

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