The Poetry of Debate

  • Philip Hobsbaum


Too much has been written about Milton’s Grand Style. His apologists, from Arnold through Saintsbury to Christopher Ricks, deny this great poet one undoubted virtue: that of variety. Even so, the variety is mostly in what may be called the public sector. Milton can be statesmanlike, dogmatic, courtly, indignant, seductive, but he seldom appeals to the inner ear of the reader. This is not merely a personal characteristic. The temper of Milton’s time was attuned to politics; and politics, moreover, spelt out loudly rather than—as in previous periods—whispered behind an arras. The governing tradition in poetry was declamatory, suited to the arena of debate. It is poetry where narrative structure, amongst other advantages, is likely to be sacrificed in the interests of argument.


Paradise Lost English Verse Strange Point Prior Adapt Great Poet 
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© Philip Hobsbaum 1979

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  • Philip Hobsbaum

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