Idiomatic Diction In Paradise Lost

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17/PELA/034
Language in Milton’s Paradise Lost
Milton is an English poet and a civil servant for the Commonwealth of England under Oliver Cromwell. He is best known for his epic poem Paradise Lost, which is written in blank verse. William Hayley’s 1796 biography called him the “greatest English author” (McCalman 605). His poetry and prose reflects his self-determination and need for freedom. For a long time Milton served as a Latin secretary to Oliver Cromwell. His main job in this position was to compose the English Republics Foreign correspondence in Latin.
The epic poem Paradise Lost deals with the major theme of Man’s disobedience to God’s will. Therefore in a way it documents the history of mankind and its relationship with God. By attaining
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Their physical description is to be filled in by the author. As the poem progresses, Milton gives the reader epithets. Raleigh says that “From beginning to the end of the description, the aim of the poet is to preserve the right key of large emotions, and the words that he chooses are chosen chiefly for their emotional value”(133).
Milton uses a wide range of vocabulary and diction in Paradise Lost. He also uses idiomatic dictions in various contexts. Milton mainly uses the idiomatic diction in three contexts. One is satire. Milton uses satire against the fallen angels or at the folly of men. He also uses idiomatic diction when human and spiritual meet and also in the context of world after the fall. We can see idiomatic diction in the line, “Where he fell flat, and sham’d his worship” (I 461)
Use of Latinism was a main technique used by Milton in his epic poem Paradise Lost. From the very beginning of the poem we can Milton’s use of Latin words. Addison says regarding Milton’s Latinism. “Milton, in conformity with the practice of the ancient poets and with Aristotle’s rule, has infused a great many Latinism as well as Graecisms, and sometimes Hebraisms, into the language of his poem.” (41). He begins his poem in in medias res. Here the sentence begins midway “ Sing Heav’nly Muse, that on the secret top/Of Oreb, or of Sinai, didst inspire” (I
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Here a same word might have the root in Latin, but it does have a meaning in English too. For example in the line,”Met such imbodied force, as nam’d with these/Could merit more then that small infantry” (I 574-575).
The phrase ‘small infantry’ has two meanings, one of the meaning is warlike pygmies, and the other meaning is little people like infants. So here he uses Latinism as a means of pun.
Patterson, in her book Milton’s Words talks about Paradise Lost and the D- word. Here she says that Milton “uses a keyword, not circulating in the public discourse of the day, but brought into prominence by Milton himself and the intensity of his focus, his particular obsession. For rhetorical suspense, I call this the D-word.” (94). She identifies his D-word as Death, because it appears one twenty times in the epic poetry, whereas Adam appears eighty eight times and Eve ninety five times. Milton use this D-word during the time where the word death was considered as taboo.
Thus Paradise Lost by Milton, is an epic poetry, which portray the grand style of Milton. Raleigh in his essay, The style of Milton says, “since Milton died, his name is become the mark, not of a biography nor of a theme, but of a style – the most distinguished in our poetry”
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