The Value of Classical Allusions in Six of Milton’s Minor Poems (L’Allegro, Il Penseroso, Cornus, Lycldas, Samson Agonistes, and Arcades)
Schneider, Ella A.
Classical allusions form so integral a part of Milton's poetry that one can scarcely conceive of the poems without them. Deprived of these allusions, the poetry would lose a large part of its charm; certainly it would lose its most characteristic feature. In many instances the classical allusions do not add to the beauty or meaning of a poem; they are the poem. It becomes, therefore, a bit difficult to evaluate an element without which the poetry could scarcely exist. |The range of classical subjects which Milton introduces is no less astounding than the frequency with which he refers to them. The better known Greek and Roman deities - Jove, Venus, Juno, Minerva, Mercury, Apollo, Diana, and so on - are mentioned with the ease and nonchalance with which one would speak of an old acquaintance. The lesser known Individuals of classical literature - Hippotades, Cotytto, Tethys, Parthenope, Glaucus, Arethuse, and many others - also appear throughout the poems. Milton does not limit hi3 classical allusions to individuals, however, but frequently mentions various groups - such as the Dryads, Muses, Satyrs, Sirens, Fates, Titans, and the like - as well as the various aspects of nature which the ancients surrounded with legend or preserved in their literature. In this latter group come the references to the river Acheron, the Cimmerian desert, Elysium, Mount Ida, the Stygian cave, Scylla and Charybdls, the dog Cerberus, the star of Arcady, and numerous others. We thus see that the whole rich fabric of classical thought, as it dealt with theology, geography, history, and literature, is used by Milton to give unfading color to his own tapestry of beauty.
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