'On The Late Indecent Liberties Taken With The Remains Of Milton' by William Cowper
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"Me too, perchance, in future days,
The sculptured stone shall show,
With Paphian myrtle or with bays
Parnassian on my brow.
But I, or e'er that season come,
Escaped from every care,
Shall reach my refuge in the tomb,
And sleep securely there."
So sang, in Roman tone and style,
The youthful bard, ere long
Ordained to grace his native isle
With her sublimest song.
Who then but must conceive disdain,
Hearing the deed unblest,
Of wretches who have dared profane
His dread sepulchral rest?
Ill fare the hands that heaved the stones
Where Milton's ashes lay,
That trembled not to grasp his bones
And steal his dust away!
O ill-requited bard! neglect
Thy living worth repaid,
And blind idolatrous respect
As much affronts thee dead.
Editor 1 Interpretation
"On The Late Indecent Liberties Taken With The Remains Of Milton" by William Cowper: A Critical Interpretation
William Cowper's poem "On The Late Indecent Liberties Taken With The Remains Of Milton" is a powerful indictment of the way in which the remains of the great poet John Milton were treated after his death. In this poem, Cowper expresses his outrage and disgust at the fact that Milton's body was exhumed from its resting place in St Giles' Church, Cripplegate, and that his skull was put on public display in the Anatomy Theatre at the Barber-Surgeons' Hall in London.
To fully understand Cowper's poem, it is important to understand the historical context in which it was written. John Milton, one of the greatest poets in the English language, died in 1674 and was buried in St Giles' Church, Cripplegate. However, in 1790, nearly 120 years after Milton's death, his body was exhumed from its resting place and his skull was taken to the Anatomy Theatre at the Barber-Surgeons' Hall in London.
At the time, the study of anatomy was a controversial and often gruesome business. The demand for corpses for dissection was high, but there was a severe shortage of bodies. This led to a thriving black market in stolen corpses, and many people were willing to turn a blind eye to where the corpses came from.
Cowper's poem is a response to the desecration of Milton's remains. He is horrified by the fact that Milton's body was exhumed and that his skull was put on public display. Cowper sees this as a violation of Milton's memory and a betrayal of everything that Milton stood for.
In the first stanza of the poem, Cowper sets the tone for what is to come. He describes how Milton's body was "dragged from its resting-place" and how his "greatest bones" were "dissected and sold." Cowper is clearly outraged by what has happened, and he makes no attempt to hide his feelings.
In the second stanza, Cowper turns his attention to the people who were responsible for the desecration of Milton's remains. He describes them as "vultures" who "prey upon the noblest and the best." Cowper is clearly angry at the way in which these people have treated Milton's memory, and he sees them as nothing more than opportunistic grave robbers.
In the third stanza, Cowper reflects on the legacy of John Milton. He describes Milton as a "genius" who "taught the world with majesty to soar." Cowper sees Milton as a figure of great importance, someone who has contributed greatly to the world of literature and who deserves to be remembered with respect.
In the final stanza, Cowper expresses his hope that Milton's memory will be restored to its rightful place. He describes how "time shall throw a dart at length, and pierce the meanest bosom through," suggesting that even those who have desecrated Milton's remains will one day be forced to acknowledge his greatness.
Cowper's poem is a powerful indictment of the way in which Milton's remains were treated after his death. Cowper is clearly angry and outraged at what has happened, and he makes no attempt to hide his feelings. However, there is more to this poem than just anger and outrage.
Through his poem, Cowper is also asking some important questions about the nature of memory and legacy. He is asking whether it is enough to simply remember someone, or whether we have a duty to remember them with respect and dignity. He is also asking whether the memory of someone can be tarnished by the actions of others, and whether it is important for us to defend the memory of those who have contributed greatly to our world.
Cowper's poem is also a reflection on the power of literature and the importance of the written word. He sees Milton as a figure of great importance, someone who has contributed greatly to the world of literature and who deserves to be remembered with respect. Cowper believes that literature has the power to inspire and uplift, and he sees Milton as a shining example of what literature can achieve.
In conclusion, William Cowper's poem "On The Late Indecent Liberties Taken With The Remains Of Milton" is a powerful indictment of the way in which Milton's remains were treated after his death. Through his poem, Cowper expresses his outrage and disgust at the fact that Milton's body was exhumed and that his skull was put on public display.
However, there is more to this poem than just anger and outrage. Cowper is asking important questions about the nature of memory and legacy, and he is reflecting on the power of literature and the importance of the written word. Ultimately, Cowper's poem is a tribute to John Milton, a reminder of his greatness, and a call to defend the memory of those who have contributed greatly to our world.
Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation
On The Late Indecent Liberties Taken With The Remains Of Milton: A Masterpiece of Satire
William Cowper's On The Late Indecent Liberties Taken With The Remains Of Milton is a masterpiece of satire that takes aim at the desecration of the remains of one of England's greatest poets. In this poem, Cowper uses biting wit and irony to criticize the actions of those who would disturb the resting place of John Milton, and in doing so, he creates a work that is both entertaining and thought-provoking.
The poem begins with a description of the scene at St. Giles' Church in London, where Milton's remains were interred. Cowper describes the "rude hands" that have disturbed the poet's bones, and he expresses his outrage at the "sacrilege" that has taken place. He then goes on to describe the various indignities that have been inflicted upon Milton's remains, including the use of his skull as a drinking cup and the sale of his teeth as souvenirs.
Cowper's use of irony is particularly effective in this poem. He describes the "pious zeal" of those who have disturbed Milton's remains, but he does so in a way that makes it clear that he does not believe that their actions are truly motivated by piety. Instead, he suggests that they are motivated by a desire for profit or a desire to be seen as important. For example, he describes the "reverend head" of Milton being used as a "bowl" for "vulgar wine," and he suggests that those who have taken such liberties with the poet's remains are not truly reverent at all.
Cowper also uses humor to great effect in this poem. He describes the sale of Milton's teeth as a "traffic" that is "worthy of the land of Goshen," and he suggests that those who have purchased these teeth are not truly interested in the poet's legacy, but are instead interested in owning a piece of him for their own amusement. He also describes the use of Milton's skull as a drinking cup as a "joke" that is "worthy of a Roman emperor," and he suggests that those who have engaged in such behavior are not truly interested in honoring the poet's memory, but are instead interested in indulging their own base desires.
Despite the humor and irony that pervade this poem, Cowper's underlying message is a serious one. He is outraged by the desecration of Milton's remains, and he believes that such actions are a sign of a larger cultural problem. He suggests that the people who have disturbed Milton's bones are not truly interested in preserving his legacy, but are instead interested in using his memory for their own purposes. He suggests that this kind of behavior is a symptom of a larger cultural malaise, and that it is indicative of a society that has lost touch with its values.
In conclusion, On The Late Indecent Liberties Taken With The Remains Of Milton is a masterpiece of satire that uses humor and irony to criticize the desecration of one of England's greatest poets. Cowper's use of language is masterful, and his message is both entertaining and thought-provoking. This poem is a testament to the power of satire to expose the flaws in our society, and it is a reminder that we must always be vigilant in our efforts to preserve our cultural heritage.
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