Poetry Month: Day Twenty-Four

Until I was fourteen, I thought that William Blake and John Milton were the same person. I’d also thought this of George Carlin and Ringo Starr at a much younger age, but that first confession is far more embarrassing, especially considering how many drunken and sleep-deprived rants on Milton I subjected my nearest and dearest to in my last year of college. Today’s post is not from Paradise Lost, Samson Agonistes, or any of Milton’s better-known and lengthier works. It’s one little poem that my professor declared his favorite, not just by Milton, but by anyone ever, and I think that’s a special thing to say.

On His Deceased Wife

Methought I saw my late espoused saint
    Brought to me like Alcestis, from the grave,
    Whom Jove's great son to her glad husband gave,
    Rescued from death by force, though pale and faint. 
Mine, as whom wash'd from spot of child-bed taint
    Purification in the old Law did save,
    And such, as yet once more I trust to have
    Full sight of her in Heaven without restraint,
Came vested all in white, pure as her mind:
    Her face was veil'd; yet to my fancied sight
    Love, sweetness, goodness, in her person shin'd 
So clear, as in no face with more delight.
    But O, as to embrace me she inclin'd,
    I wak'd; she fled; and day brought back my night.

Image: John Milton’s “Paradise Lost“ by Gustave Doré, 1866

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