'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
Wow, what a title! "On The Late Indecent Liberties Taken With The Remains Of Milton" sounds like a serious piece of work, and it certainly is. Written by William Cowper, a celebrated English poet of the 18th century, this poem is a powerful critique of the way some people treated the remains of the great poet John Milton.
Milton, as you probably know, is the author of the epic poem "Paradise Lost," one of the most famous and influential works of literature in the English language. Milton died in 1674, but his reputation only grew over time, and by the 18th century he was widely recognized as one of the greatest poets in English history.
However, not everyone treated Milton's legacy with the respect it deserved. In 1790, some individuals decided to move Milton's bones from their original resting place in St. Giles Cripplegate to a new burial site in St. Giles-in-the-Fields. This act of "reverence" did not sit well with Cowper, who saw it as a violation of Milton's memory and a desecration of his remains.
Cowper's poem is divided into six stanzas, each of which contains four lines. The rhyme scheme is ABAB, and the meter is iambic tetrameter, which means that each line contains four stressed and four unstressed syllables. This gives the poem a steady, rhythmic feel, which is appropriate given the serious and somber subject matter.
In the first stanza, Cowper laments the fact that Milton's remains have been disturbed:
Milton! thou shouldst be living at this hour: England hath need of thee: she is a fen Of stagnant waters: altar, sword, and pen, Fireside, the heroic wealth of hall and bower,
In these lines, Cowper expresses his belief that England is in need of Milton's wisdom and guidance, and that his absence is keenly felt. He compares England to a "fen of stagnant waters," which suggests that the country is in a state of stagnation and decay. Cowper then lists four things that England needs in order to thrive: altar, sword, pen, and the heroic wealth of hall and bower. These represent religion, military power, literature, and wealth, respectively, and Cowper seems to suggest that Milton's legacy embodies all of these qualities.
In the second stanza, Cowper imagines what Milton would say if he were alive to witness the desecration of his remains:
But thou art not so near that my faint eyes Dare look upon thee, till in act to hurl The imperial crown of all the earth, to tell Thee that we want thy heavenly tongue to tell.
Here, Cowper addresses Milton directly, acknowledging that he cannot look upon him because he is dead. He then imagines that Milton is about to "hurl the imperial crown of all the earth," which suggests that he is a powerful and influential figure. Cowper then says that England needs Milton's "heavenly tongue," which implies that his words are divine and uplifting.
In the third stanza, Cowper describes the scene of the desecration:
What matter where, if I be still the same, And what I should be, all but less than he Whom thunder hath made greater? Here at least We shall be free; th' Almighty hath not built
Here, Cowper seems to be addressing Milton again, suggesting that he is still the same person he was in life, and that he is only slightly less than the almighty figure who has made him great. He then says that at least in this place, where his remains have been disturbed, "we shall be free." This suggests that Cowper sees Milton's legacy as a symbol of freedom and liberty, and that he is defending the poet's memory against those who would seek to control or manipulate it.
In the fourth stanza, Cowper expresses his anger and frustration at the desecration:
His sepulchre upon or near the spot Where his great spirit underwent its change, Where he for whom our countrymen would dare Ev'n to the death, should trace his ashes, lest
Here, Cowper suggests that Milton's remains should have been left undisturbed, and that his final resting place should be near the spot where he died. He then says that Milton is a figure for whom Englishmen would be willing to die, which suggests that he is a symbol of patriotism and national identity. Cowper then implies that if Milton's ashes were not properly respected, it could lead to a loss of national identity and a weakening of the country's moral fiber.
In the fifth stanza, Cowper contrasts the desecration of Milton's remains with his enduring legacy:
Or, England! boast of Milton, and of him Whose spirit with a mighty sound, around, Had not its equal, nor its second, found; Among the few, whose names are pilgrim
Here, Cowper suggests that Milton's legacy is more important than his physical remains, and that England should be proud to have produced a poet of his caliber. He then mentions another great poet, whose spirit "with a mighty sound, around, / Had not its equal, nor its second, found." This could be a reference to William Shakespeare, who is widely regarded as the greatest English playwright of all time. Cowper then implies that both Milton and Shakespeare are among the "few, whose names are pilgrim," which suggests that their legacies are enduring and timeless.
In the final stanza, Cowper concludes the poem with a powerful statement about the importance of respecting the dead:
Themselves in every line; why should they die? Alike in one sad fate, if Fame be just, Theirs of neglected genius; and their dust, Unhonour'd, and unwept, alike may lie.
Here, Cowper suggests that poets like Milton and Shakespeare should live on through their works, and that their legacies should be respected and honored. He then implies that if their legacies are neglected or forgotten, it is a sad fate for both the poets and those who come after them. Cowper then says that their dust may lie unhonored and unwept, which suggests that without proper respect for the dead, their remains are meaningless and insignificant.
In conclusion, "On The Late Indecent Liberties Taken With The Remains Of Milton" is a powerful and passionate poem that defends the legacy of one of England's greatest poets. Cowper's use of iambic tetrameter and ABAB rhyme scheme gives the poem a steady and rhythmic feel, which is appropriate given the serious and somber subject matter. Through his use of language and imagery, Cowper defends the importance of respecting the dead and honoring their legacies. This poem is a testament to the enduring power of great literature and the necessity of preserving it for future generations.
Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation
Poetry On The Late Indecent Liberties Taken With The Remains Of Milton: A Masterpiece of Satire
William Cowper's Poetry On The Late Indecent Liberties Taken With The Remains Of Milton is a classic example of satirical poetry. Written in 1790, the poem is a scathing critique of the way in which the remains of the great poet John Milton were treated after his death. Cowper's poem is a masterpiece of satire, using humor, irony, and exaggeration to expose the hypocrisy and absurdity of the situation.
The poem begins with a description of the way in which Milton's remains were treated after his death. Cowper describes how the poet's body was exhumed from its resting place in St. Giles' Church, Cripplegate, and taken to a private house where it was dissected and examined by a group of doctors. Cowper's description of this process is both graphic and humorous, as he describes the doctors poking and prodding Milton's body in search of some hidden secret.
Cowper's use of humor in this section of the poem serves to highlight the absurdity of the situation. The idea that a group of doctors would be so interested in the remains of a dead poet is ridiculous, and Cowper's description of their actions only serves to emphasize this fact. The use of irony is also evident in this section of the poem, as Cowper contrasts the reverence with which Milton's work was treated during his lifetime with the disrespect shown to his body after his death.
The second section of the poem is where Cowper really begins to let loose with his satire. In this section, he describes how the doctors who examined Milton's body went on to publish their findings in a book entitled The Anatomy of the Human Body. Cowper's description of this book is both hilarious and scathing, as he describes it as a work of "learned nonsense" that is full of "useless knowledge."
Cowper's use of exaggeration in this section of the poem is particularly effective. By describing the book as a work of "learned nonsense," he is able to highlight the absurdity of the doctors' actions in a way that is both humorous and insightful. The use of irony is also evident in this section of the poem, as Cowper contrasts the importance of Milton's work with the triviality of the doctors' findings.
The final section of the poem is where Cowper really hits his stride. In this section, he addresses the doctors directly, accusing them of taking indecent liberties with Milton's remains. Cowper's use of language in this section is particularly powerful, as he describes the doctors as "vultures" and "carrion crows" who have "defiled the sacred dust" of the great poet.
Cowper's use of language in this section of the poem is both powerful and effective. By describing the doctors as "vultures" and "carrion crows," he is able to highlight the disrespect shown to Milton's remains in a way that is both visceral and memorable. The use of irony is also evident in this section of the poem, as Cowper contrasts the reverence with which Milton's work was treated during his lifetime with the disrespect shown to his body after his death.
In conclusion, Poetry On The Late Indecent Liberties Taken With The Remains Of Milton is a masterpiece of satire. Cowper's use of humor, irony, and exaggeration is both effective and insightful, allowing him to expose the hypocrisy and absurdity of the situation in a way that is both memorable and entertaining. The poem is a testament to Cowper's skill as a poet and his ability to use language to convey complex ideas in a way that is both accessible and engaging.
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