John Milton & John Bunyan


John Milton’s Biography

(1608-1674), was an English poet and political writer. He is the author of Paradise Lost (1667, revised 1674), considered by many to be the greatest epic poem in the English language. He also wrote Paradise Regained (1671) and Samson Agonistes (1671). Milton composed the first two of these works, and probably also the last, when he was totally blind.
Milton wrote Paradise Lost to "justify the ways of God to man." The 12-book poem retells the Biblical story of the Creation and the fall of Adam and Eve against the backdrop of Satan's rebellion against God and expulsion from heaven. Milton had a thorough knowledge of classical Greek and Latin authors and was greatly influenced by them.
His early life and works. Milton was born in London on Dec. 9, 1608. He attended St. Paul's School and then Christ's College at Cambridge University. Although his early training prepared him for a religious career, he came to believe "tyranny had invaded the church." He chose instead to dedicate himself to God's service as a poet. Upon graduating from Cambridge in 1632, he went to Horton, his father's country home, to study and write.
While in Italy, Milton heard of a growing conflict between the bishops of the Church of England and the Puritans. He returned to England to support the Puritan cause through a series of political writings. Civil discord divided England from 1640 to 1660. During this 20-year period, Milton turned away from poetry to work on behalf of Parliament and the Commonwealth through his prose. In all his writings, he championed radical political and religious views. Milton married 16-year-old Mary Powell in 1643. But their marriage was unhappy. She left Milton after a month or two and did not return for two years. Milton gained notoriety by writing a series of pamphlets in favor of divorce in certain cases. Milton's work and constant study strained his weak eyes, and he was completely blind by 1652. His wife died the same year. He wrote the sonnet "When I Consider How My Light Is Spent" (1655) about his blindness. In 1656, Milton married Katherine Woodcock. She died 16 months later. Milton probably wrote the sonnet "Methought I Saw My Late Espoused Saint" (1658) about her.
Charles II was restored to the throne in 1660, and a number of people held responsible for the execution of Charles I were tried and executed. Milton was arrested, but not harmed. He went into retirement and married Elizabeth Minshull in 1663. Milton wrote Paradise Lost, Paradise Regained, and probably Samson Agonistes, his masterpieces, during his final years. These works are in part a response to his own blindness and the collapse of the Puritans' hopes for the establishment of Christ's kingdom on earth.

Milton's "When I Consider How My Light Is Spent"

When I consider how my light is spent
Ere half my days in this dark world and wide,
And that one talent which is death to hide
Lodg'd with me useless, though my soul more bent
To serve therewith my Maker, and present
My true account, lest he returning chide,
"Doth God exact day-labour, light denied?"
I fondly ask. But Patience, to prevent
That murmur, soon replies: "God doth not need
Either man's work or his own gifts: who best
Bear his mild yoke, they serve him best. His state
Is kingly; thousands at his bidding speed
And post o'er land and ocean without rest:
They also serve who only stand and wait."

”When I Consider How My Light Is Spent” Discussion Questions

1. According to lines 1-2, at what point in the speaker's life does his eyesight fail?
2. What three qualities does the second speaker attribute to God?
3. The first speaker in this poem expresses a sense of failure. What is the nature of that failure?
4. Why, in your opinion, might Milton have felt that his blindness made his talent useless?
5. Explain the last line of the poem: "They also serve who only stand and wait."
6. This sonnet, unlike most other sonnets, is like the dialogue in a play. How does this unusual formal arrangement affect your understanding of the poem?

Milton's "On His Having Arrived at the Age of Twenty-Three"

How soon hath Time, the subtle thief of youth,
Stol'n on his wing my three-and-twentieth year!
My hasting days fly on with full career,
But my late spring no bud or blossom shew'th.
Perhaps my semblance might deceive the truth
That I to manhood am arriv'd so near;
And inward ripeness doth much less appear,
That some more timely-happy spirits endu'th.
Yet it be less or more, or soon or slow,
It shall be still in strictest measure ev'n
To that same lot, however mean or high,
Toward which Time leads me, and the will of Heav'n:
All is, if I have grace to use it so
As ever in my great Task-Master's eye.

"On His Having Arrived at the Age of Twenty-Three" Discussion Questions

1. According to the first line, who or what is the "subtle thief of youth"?
2. According to the second line, what was stolen?
3. What, according to line 3, flies on swiftly?
4. In line 4, what is not shown?
5. In lines 5-6, what is the speaker's image that "might deceive the truth"?
6. According to lines 7-8, what does not appear that others seem to have?
7. According to lines 8-12, to what will the speaker's accomplishments eventually conform?
8. What, according to lines 13-14, is forever ir the "great Taskmaster's eye"?
9. A metaphor is a comparison of two unlike things. In line 4, Milton uses two metaphors: one for the advanced stage of his youth, the other to represent the early or full development of his poetic ability. Which words are the metaphors?
10. Compare and contrast the concerns of the first four and second four lines of the poem.
11. Overall, what concerns the speaker in the first eight lines?
12. How do the last six lines answer the concern expressed in the first eight lines?

from Milton's Paradise Lost

Of Man's First Disobedience, and the Fruit
Of that Forbidden Tree, whose mortal taste
Brought Death into the World, and all our woe,
With loss of EDEN, till one greater Man
Restore us, and regain the blissful Seat,
Sing Heav'nly Muse, that on the secret top
Of OREB, or of SINAI, didst inspire
That Shepherd, who first taught the chosen Seed,
In the Beginning how the Heav'ns and Earth
Rose out of CHAOS: Or if SION Hill
Delight thee more, and SILOA'S Brook that flow'd
Fast by the Oracle of God; I thence
Invoke thy aid to my adventrous Song,
That with no middle flight intends to soar
Above th' AONIAN Mount, while it pursues
Things unattempted yet in Prose or Rhime.
And chiefly Thou O Spirit, that dost prefer
Before all Temples th' upright heart and pure,
Instruct me, for Thou know'st; Thou from the first
Wast present, and with mighty wings outspread
Dove-like satst brooding on the vast Abyss
And mad'st it pregnant: What in me is dark
Illumine, what is low raise and support;
That to the highth of this great Argument
I may assert th' Eternal Providence,
And justifie the wayes of God to men.
Say first, for Heav'n hides nothing from thy view
Nor the deep Tract of Hell, say first what cause
Mov'd our Grand Parents in that happy State,
Favour'd of Heav'n so highly, to fall off
From their Creator, and transgress his Will
For one restraint, Lords of the World besides?
Who first seduc'd them to that fowl revolt?
Th' infernal Serpent; he it was, whose guile
Stird up with Envy and Revenge, deceiv'd
The Mother of Mankinde, what time his Pride
Had cast him out from Heav'n, with all his
Host Of Rebel Angels, by whose aid aspiring
To set himself in Glory above his Peers,
He trusted to have equal'd the most High,
If he oppos'd; and with ambitious aim
Against the Throne and Monarchy of God
Rais'd impious War in Heav'n and Battel proud
With vain attempt. Him the Almighty Power
Hurld headlong flaming from th' Ethereal Skie
With hideous ruine and combustion down
To bottomless perdition, there to dwell
In Adamantine Chains and penal Fire,
Who durst defie th' Omnipotent to Arms.
Nine times the Space that measures Day and Night
To mortal men, he with his horrid crew
Lay vanquisht, rowling in the fiery Gulfe
Confounded though immortal: But his doom
Reserv'd him to more wrath; for now the thought
Both of lost happiness and lasting pain
Torments him; round he throws his baleful eyes
That witness'd huge affliction and dismay
Mixt with obdurate pride and stedfast hate:
At once as far as Angels kenn he views
The dismal Situation waste and wilde,
A Dungeon horrible, on all sides round
As one great Furnace flam'd, yet from those flames
No light, but rather darkness visible
Serv'd only to discover sights of woe,
Regions of sorrow, doleful shades, where peace
And rest can never dwell, hope never comes T
hat comes to all; but torture without end
Still urges, and a fiery Deluge, fed
With ever-burning Sulphur unconsum'd:
Such place Eternal Justice had prepar'd
For those rebellious, here their Prison ordain'd
In utter darkness, and their portion set
As far remov'd from God and light of Heav'n
As from the Center thrice to th' utmost Pole.
O how unlike the place from whence they fell!
There the companions of his fall, o'rewhelm'd
With Floods and Whirlwinds of tempestuous fire,
He soon discerns, and weltring by his side
One next himself in power, and next in crime,
Long after known in PALESTINE, and nam'd
BEELZEBUB. To whom th' Arch-Enemy,
And thence in Heav'n call'd Satan, with bold words
Breaking the horrid silence thus began.
If thou beest he; But O how fall'n! how chang'd
From him, who in the happy Realms of Light
Cloth'd with transcendent brightnes didst outshine
Myriads though bright: If he whom mutual league,
United thoughts and counsels, equal hope,
And hazard in the Glorious Enterprize, J
oynd with me once, now misery hath joynd
In equal ruin: into what Pit thou seest
From what highth fal'n, so much the stronger provd
He with his Thunder: and till then who knew
The force of those dire Arms? yet not for those
Nor what the Potent Victor in his rage
Can else inflict do I repent or change,
Though chang'd in outward lustre; that fixt mind
And high disdain, from sence of injur'd merit,
That with the mightiest rais'd me to contend,
And to the fierce contention brought along
Innumerable force of Spirits arm'd T
hat durst dislike his reign, and me preferring,
His utmost power with adverse power oppos'd
In dubious Battel on the Plains of Heav'n,
And shook his throne. What though the field be lost?
All is not lost; the unconquerable Will,
And study of revenge, immortal hate,
And courage never to submit or yield:
And what is else not to be overcome?
That Glory never shall his wrath or might
Extort from me. To bow and sue for grace
With suppliant knee, and deifie his power
Who from the terrour of this Arm so late
Doubted his Empire, that were low indeed,
That were an ignominy and shame beneath
This downfall; since by Fate the strength of Gods
And this Empyreal substance cannot fail,
Since through experience of this great event
In Arms not worse, in foresight much advanc't,
We may with more successful hope resolve
To wage by force or guile eternal Warr
Irreconcileable, to our grand Foe,
Who now triumphs, and in th' excess of joy
Sole reigning holds the Tyranny of Heav'n.
So spake th' Apostate Angel, though in pain,
Vaunting aloud, but rackt with deep despare:
And him thus answer'd soon his bold Compeer.
O Prince, O Chief of many Throned Powers,
That led th' imbattelld Seraphim to Warr
Under thy conduct, and in dreadful deeds
Fearless, endanger'd Heav'ns perpetual King;
And put to proof his high Supremacy,
Whether upheld by strength, or Chance, or Fate,
Too well I see and rue the dire event,
That with sad overthrow and foul defeat
Hath lost us Heav'n, and all this mighty Host
In horrible destruction laid thus low,
As far as Gods and Heav'nly Essences
Can Perish: for the mind and spirit remains
Invincible, and vigour soon returns,
Though all our Glory extinct, and happy state
Here swallow'd up in endless misery.
But what if he our Conquerour, (whom I now
Of force believe Almighty, since no less
Then such could hav orepow'rd such force as ours)
Have left us this our spirit and strength intire
Strongly to suffer and support our pains,
That we may so suffice his vengeful ire,
Or do him mightier service as his thralls
By right of Warr, what e're his business be
Here in the heart of Hell to work in Fire,
Or do his Errands in the gloomy Deep;
What can it then avail though yet we feel S
trength undiminisht, or eternal being
To undergo eternal punishment?
Whereto with speedy words th' Arch-fiend reply'd.
Fall'n Cherube, to be weak is miserable
Doing or Suffering: but of this be sure,
To do ought good never will be our task,
But ever to do ill our sole delight,
As being the contrary to his high will
Whom we resist. If then his Providence
Out of our evil seek to bring forth good,
Our labour must be to pervert that end,
And out of good still to find means of evil;
Which oft times may succeed, so as perhaps
Shall grieve him, if I fail not, and disturb
His inmost counsels from their destind aim.
But see the angry Victor hath recall'd
His Ministers of vengeance and pursuit
Back to the Gates of Heav'n: The Sulphurous Hail
Shot after us in storm, oreblown hath laid
The fiery Surge, that from the Precipice
Of Heav'n receiv'd us falling, and the Thunder,
Wing'd with red Lightning and impetuous rage,
Perhaps hath spent his shafts, and ceases now
To bellow through the vast and boundless Deep.
Let us not slip th' occasion, whether scorn,
Or satiate fury yield it from our Foe.
Seest thou yon dreary Plain, forlorn and wilde,
The seat of desolation, voyd of light,
Save what the glimmering of these livid flames
Casts pale and dreadful? Thither let us tend
From off the tossing of these fiery waves,
There rest, if any rest can harbour there,
And reassembling our afflicted Powers,
Consult how we may henceforth most offend
Our Enemy, our own loss how repair,
How overcome this dire Calamity,
What reinforcement we may gain from Hope,
If not what resolution from despare.
Thus Satan talking to his neerest Mate
With Head up-lift above the wave, and
Eyes That sparkling blaz'd, his other Parts besides
Prone on the Flood, extended long and large
Lay floating many a rood, in bulk as huge
As whom the Fables name of monstrous size,
TITANIAN, or EARTH-BORN, that warr'd on JOVE,
BRIARIOS or TYPHON, whom the Den
By ancient TARSUS held, or that Sea-beast
LEVIATHAN, which God of all his works
Created hugest that swim th' Ocean stream:
Him haply slumbring on the NORWAY foam
The Pilot of some small night-founder'd Skiff,
Deeming some Island, oft, as Sea-men tell,
With fixed Anchor in his skaly rind
Moors by his side under the Lee, while
Night Invests the Sea, and wished Morn delayes:
So stretcht out huge in length the Arch-fiend lay
Chain'd on the burning Lake, nor ever thence
Had ris'n or heav'd his head, but that the will
And high permission of all-ruling Heaven
Left him at large to his own dark designs,
That with reiterated crimes he might
Heap on himself damnation, while he sought
Evil to others, and enrag'd might see
How all his malice serv'd but to bring forth
Infinite goodness, grace and mercy shewn
On Man by him seduc't, but on himself
Treble confusion, wrath and vengeance pour'd.
Forthwith upright he rears from off the Pool
His mighty Stature; on each hand the flames
Drivn backward slope their pointing spires, & rowld
In billows, leave i'th' midst a horrid Vale.
Then with expanded wings he stears his flight
Aloft, incumbent on the dusky Air
That felt unusual weight, till on dry Land
He lights, if it were Land that ever burn'd
With solid, as the Lake with liquid fire;
And such appear'd in hue, as when the force
Of subterranean wind transports a Hill
Torn from PELORUS, or the shatter'd side
Of thundring AETNA, whose combustible
And fewel'd entrals thence conceiving Fire,
Sublim'd with Mineral fury, aid the Winds,
And leave a singed bottom all involv'd
With stench and smoak: Such resting found the sole
Of unblest feet. Him followed his next Mate,
Both glorying to have scap't the STYGIAN flood
As Gods, and by their own recover'd strength,
Not by the sufferance of supernal Power.
Is this the Region, this the Soil, the Clime,
Said then the lost Arch Angel, this the seat
That we must change for Heav'n, this mournful gloom
For that celestial light? Be it so, since hee
Who now is Sovran can dispose and bid
What shall be right: fardest from him is best
Whom reason hath equald, force hath made supream
Above his equals. Farewel happy Fields
Where Joy for ever dwells: Hail horrours, hail
Infernal world, and thou profoundest Hell
Receive thy new Possessor: One who brings
A mind not to be chang'd by Place or Time.
The mind is its own place, and in it self
Can make a Heav'n of Hell, a Hell of Heav'n.
What matter where, if I be still the same,
And what I should be, all but less then hee
Whom Thunder hath made greater? Here at least
We shall be free; th' Almighty hath not built
Here for his envy, will not drive us hence:
Here we may reign secure, and in my choyce
To reign is worth ambition though in Hell:
Better to reign in Hell, then serve in Heav'n.
But wherefore let we then our faithful friends,
Th' associates and copartners of our loss
Lye thus astonisht on th' oblivious Pool,
And call them not to share with us their part
In this unhappy Mansion, or once more
With rallied Arms to try what may be yet
Regaind in Heav'n, or what more lost in Hell?

Paradise Lost Discussion Questions

1. The first five lines of Paradise Lost allude to the Biblical story of Adam and Eve and their expulsion from Paradise. What are the five elements of the story that Milton chooses to emphasize?
2. Lines 6-26 are the invocation to the muse. Which lines state the help that Milton is seeking?
3. In lines 29-36, Milton fills out a bit of the story of Adam and Eve. What new element does he introduce here?
4. Lines 34-53 tell of another, earlier fall from grace. Who fell that earlier time? What caused that earlier fall?
5. Lines 59-74 describe Hell. What are its main features?
6. In lines 84-155 Satan addresses Beeizebub and speaks of eternal rebellion and war against God. What are his motives for continuing the war? Explain Beeizebub's advice.
7. From lines 193 to 209, Milton describes the size of Satan. To what creatures is Satan compared?
8. Throughout his invocation, from the first line to the twenty-sixth, Milton mixes references to the Hebrew Bible and classical mythology. What effect is created by Milton's combination of Hebrew and Greek-Roman elements?
9. In what ways are the Fall of Adam and Eve paralleled by the Fall of Satan and his cohorts? Point out the parallels in the poem.
10. Between lines 200 and 208 Milton uses an epic simile in which he compares Satan to the sea beast Leviathan. How does Milton convey the huge size of Leviathan, the point of the comparison?
11. From lines 242 until the end of this excerpt at line 270, Satan expresses simultaneously his despair at losing heaven and his resolve to glory in his lost condition. What words, phrases, and lines show Satan's feelings?
12. How would you describe Satan's character? Is he petty, mean, grand, self-pitying, heroic, stubborn, weak, or rebellious? You may combine several of these characterizations, but support your choices with references to the poem.

John Bunyan’s Biography

(1628-1688), an English preacher, wrote The Pilgrim's Progress (1678, 1684). This book has been translated into over 100 languages and read throughout the world. It is a religious allegory, in which people and places represent vices and virtues. Christian, the hero, sets out from the City of Destruction to go to the Celestial City (heaven). On the way, he meets some people who try to harm him, such as Apollyon, and Giant Despair. Others, such as Interpreter and Faithful, help him. After many adventures, Christian finally crosses a river and reaches the Celestial City. See Allegory. Most readers of The Pilgrim's Progress consider it to be a religious message. It is also a good story. Bunyan's style is vivid and racy. It is based on the Bible and on the common speech of Bedfordshire, his home. Bunyan's other main works are Grace Abounding (1666), The Life and Death of Mr. Badman (1680), and The Holy War (1682).
Bunyan was born near Bedford, England. Like his father, he was a tinker (maker and mender of utensils). Bunyan received little education. He served as a soldier from 1644 to 1646. He was married in 1648 or 1649. His wife led him to think seriously of religion. He became convinced that he had led a bad life, and he joined a nonconformist church in Bedford. Soon he began to preach there. Bunyan was arrested for preaching without a license, and was jailed in 1660. He spent most of the next 12 years in jail. He wrote many religious works in jail. He was released in 1672, became pastor of his church, and was returned to jail in 1675. Here he began to write The Pilgrim's Progress. Many schools used it as a text during the 1700's.

from Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress

Then I saw in my dream, that when they were got out of the wilderness, they presently saw a town before them, and the name of that town is Vanity; and at the town there is a fair kept, called Vanity Fair: it is kept all the year long. It beareth the name of Vanity Fair because the town where it is kept is lighter than vanity; and, also because all that is there sold, or that cometh thither, is vanity. As is the saying of the wise, "all that cometh is vanity."
This fair is no new-erected business, but a thing of ancient standing; I will show you the original of it. Almost five thousand years agone, there were pilgrims walking to the Celestial City, as these two honest persons are: and Beelzebub, Apollyon, and Legion, with their companions, perceiving by the path that the pilgrims made, that their way to the city lay through this town of Vanity, they contrived here to set up a fair; a fair wherein, should be sold all sorts of vanity, and that it should last all the year long: therefore at this fair are all such merchandise sold, as houses, lands, trades, places, honours, preferments, titles, countries, kingdoms, lusts, pleasures, and delights of all sorts, as whores, bawds, wives, husbands, children, masters, servants, lives, blood, bodies, souls, silver, gold, pearls, precious stones, and what not.
And, moreover, at this fair there is at all times to be seen juggling cheats, games, plays, fools, apes, knaves, and rogues, and that of every kind.
Here are to be seen, too, and that for nothing, thefts, murders, adulteries, false swearers, and that of a blood-red colour.
And as in other fairs of less moment, there are the several rows and streets, under their proper names, where such and such wares are vended; so here likewise you have the proper places, rows, streets, (viz. countries and kingdoms), where the wares of this fair are soonest to be found. Here is the Britain Row, the French Row, the Italian Row, the Spanish Row, the German Row, where several sorts of vanities are to be sold. But, as in other fairs, some one commodity is as the chief of all the fair, so the ware of Rome and her merchandise is greatly promoted in this fair; only our English nation, with some others, have taken a dislike thereat.
Now, as I said, the way to the Celestial City lies just through this town where this lusty fair is kept; and he that will go to the city, and yet not go through this town, must needs go out of the world. The Prince of princes himself, when here, went through this town to his own country, and that upon a fair day too; yea, and as I think, it was Beelzebub, the chief lord of this fair, that invited him to buy of his vanities; yea, would have made him lord of the fair, would he but have done him reverence as he went through the town. Yea, because he was such a person of honour, Beelzebub had him from street to street, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a little time, that he might, if possible, allure the Blessed One to cheapen and buy some of his vanities; but he had no mind to the merchandise, and therefore left the town, without laying out so much as one farthing upon these vanities. This fair, therefore, is an ancient thing, of long standing, and a very great fair.
Now these pilgrims, as I said, must needs go through this fair. Well, so they did: but, behold, even as they entered into the fair, all the people in the fair were moved, and the town itself as it were in a hubbub about them; and that for several reasons: for--
First, The pilgrims were clothed with such kind of raiment as was diverse from the raiment of any that traded in that fair. The people, therefore, of the fair, made a great gazing upon them: some said they were fools, some they were bedlams, and some they are outlandish men.
Secondly, And as they wondered at their apparel, so they did likewise at their speech; for few could understand what they said; they naturally spoke the language of Canaan, but they that kept the fair were the men of this world; so that, from one end of the fair to the other, they seemed barbarians each to the other.
Thirdly, But that which did not a little amuse the merchandisers was, that these pilgrims set very light by all their wares; they cared not so much as to look upon them; and if they called upon them to buy, they would put their fingers in their ears, and cry, Turn away mine eyes from beholding vanity, and look upwards, signifying that their trade and traffic was in heaven.
One chanced mockingly, beholding the carriage of the men, to say unto them, What will ye buy? But they, looking gravely upon him, answered, "We buy the truth." At that there was an occasion taken to despise the men the more; some mocking, some taunting, some speaking reproachfully, and some calling upon others to smite them. At last things came to a hubbub and great stir in the fair, insomuch that all order was confounded. Now was word presently brought to the great one of the fair, who quickly came down, and deputed some of his most trusty friends to take these men into examination, about whom the fair was almost overturned. So the men were brought to examination; and they that sat upon them, asked them whence they came, whither they went, and what they did there, in such an unusual garb? The men told them that they were pilgrims and strangers in the world, and that they were going to their own country, which was the heavenly Jerusalem, and that they had given no occasion to the men of the town, nor yet to the merchandisers, thus to abuse them, and to let them in their journey, except it was for that, when one asked them what they would buy, they said they would buy the truth. But they that were appointed to examine them did not believe them to be any other than bedlams and mad, or else such as came to put all things into a confusion in the fair. Therefore they took them and beat them, and besmeared them with dirt, and then put them into the cage, that they might be made a spectacle to all the men of the fair.

Pilgrim's Progress Discussion Questions

1. In The Pilgrim's Progress, on what path or route is the town of Vanity located?
2. When in time was the fair established at Vanity?
3. Who were the ones that first set up the fair?
4. What can be seen at the fair?
5. Which individuals must go through the town and hence through the fair as well?
6. What were the three reasons the two pilgrims caused such a stir at the fair?
7. What did the pilgrims say that led to their being examined by "the great one's trusty friends"?
8. Why do the travelers have to pass through the fair to reach their destination?
9. What does the fair represent?
10. Why were the pilgrims so uppity toward the inhabitants of the fair?