John Milton and Keats's Imitation of Spenser...

Discussion on the works of John Keats.

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John Milton and Keats's Imitation of Spenser...

Postby Oceansea » Mon Oct 10, 2016 5:20 am

Hi everyone,

I discovered something quite interesting today in John Milton's Paradise Lost.

Here is John Milton...(this is the Archangel Raphael relating to Adam and Eve the creation of the world)

(Paradise Lost, Book 7: Lines 438-440)

the Swan with Arched neck
Between her white wings mantling proudly, Rowes
Her state with Oarie feet:

And here is the second stanza of "Imitation of Spenser" by John Keats, with the similar passage in BOLD...

There the king-fisher saw his plumage bright
Viewing with fish of brilliant dye below;
Whose silken fins, and golden scales' light
Cast upward, through the waves, a ruby glow:
There saw the swan his neck of arched snow,
And oar'd himself along with majesty
Sparkled his jetty eyes; his feet did show
Beneath the waves like Afric's ebony,
And on his back a fay reclined voluptuously.

Does anyone see the similarity between the two passages?

Milton has "arched neck", Keats has "neck of arched snow". Milton has "mantling proudly", Keats has "with majesty". Milton has "Rowes/Her state with Oarie feet", Keats has "oar'd himself along".

Keats was a great reader of John Milton, and yet I could not find this echo of John Milton mentioned anywhere. Editions of Keats's works only ever mention his reading of Edmund Spenser (obviously) and also especially the Irish poet Mary Tighe (1772-1810) who wrote a work called "Psyche" (1805) in the style of Edmund Spenser. Mary Tighe was a very big influence on Keats's early works. Tragically she also died of tuberculosis.

What does everyone else think? A clear influence? I have read Keats far more often than I have Milton. But when I was reading the abovementioned Milton passage I thought that I had read something similar elsewhere. I wracked my brains, and then finally found the Keats passage in "Imitation of Spenser". I just thought that it was interesting in a way.
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Re: John Milton and Keats's Imitation of Spenser...

Postby Saturn » Mon Oct 10, 2016 8:57 pm

That's a good discovery, can't remember seeing that mentioned, though I'm sure in the vast swath of Keatsian criticism there are many studies of Keats' 'Miltonic' period.
He was so under Milton's spell in that early period, as much as he was under the sway of Hunt, and of course later the original version of Hyperion is his greatest tribute to Milton.
"Oh what a misery it is to have an intellect in splints".
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Re: John Milton and Keats's Imitation of Spenser...

Postby BrokenLyre » Tue Nov 01, 2016 3:16 pm

Excellent observation Oceansea. I enjoyed seeing that connection. Thanks for sharing it - it is fun to see the way in which Keats plays with Milton in his unique way. Nice post!
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