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ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

The Reason of Church-Government urg'd against Prelaty.

The Reason of Church-Government urg'd against Prelaty by Mr. John Milton. In Two Books.

John Milton


John Milton alludes to Redcross and the Dragon in Faerie Queene 1.11.

Samuel Johnson: "Milton's republicanism was, I am afraid, founded in an envious hatred of greatness, and a sullen desire of independence; in petulence impatient of controul, and pride disdainful of superiority. He hated monarchs in the state and prelates in the church; for he hated all whom he was required to obey. It is to be suspected that his predominate desire was to destroy rather than establish, and that he felt not so much the love of liberty as repugnance to authority" "Life of Milton" in Lives of the English Poets (1779-81); ed. Hill (1905) 1:157.

Henry Francis Cary: "Read Milton's Reason of Church Government urged against Prelacy, in two books. In the introduction to the second book is that noble passage where he speaks of the great poetical works on which his mind sometimes mused" Literary Journal for 2 February 1799; in Memoir of Henry Francis Cary (1847) 1:131-32.

Henry Neele: "The most stirring and turbulent times are not the most unfavourable to the productions of poetry. The muse catches inspiration from the storm, and genius rides upon the whirlwind, while perhaps it should only slumber during the calm. Chaucer wrote amidst all the irritation and fury excited by the progress of the reformation; Spenser and Shakspeare, while the nation was contending for its very existence against the colossal power of Spain; and it was during the political and religious frenzy of the times of which we are now speaking, that Milton stored his mind with those sublime imaginings, which afterward expanded into that vast masterpiece of human genius, the Paradise Lost" Russell Institution Lectures on English Poetry, 1827; in Remains (1829) 26-27.

Roberta Florence Brinkley: "In Reason of Church Government he shows that he thinks of 'our own ancient stories' as a fruitful field for epic subjects, and is considering 'what king or knight before the conquest might be chosen in whom to lay the pattern of a Christian hero.' Since Arthur was considered the third Christian Worthy and was British, since the other two Christian Worthies, Godfrey and Charlemagne, had already been used as epic subjects, and since Milton is under the influence of Spenser, it is natural to expect that he would eventually treat the Arthurian story. But when, after writing the divorce tracts, he could turn for a time from controversy, it was not in an epic but in the History of Britain that he became engaged" Arthurian Legend (1932) 127-28.




Which the Prelats make so little conscience of, that they are ready to fight, and if it lay in their power, to massacre all good Christians under the names of horrible schismaticks for only finding fault with their temporal dignities, their unconscionable wealth and revenues, their cruell autority over their brethren that labour in the word, while they snore in their luxurious excesse. Openly proclaming themselvs now in the sight of all men to be those which for a while they sought to cover under sheeps cloathing, ravenous and savage wolves threatning inrodes and bloody incursions upon the flocks of Christ, which they took upon them to feed, but now clame to devour as their prey. More like that huge dragon of Egypt breathing out wast, and desolation to the land, unlesse he were daily fatn'd with virgins blood. Him our old patron St. George by his matchless valour slew, as the Prelat of the Garter that reads his Collect can tell. And if our Princes and Knights will imitate the fame of that old champion, as by their order of Knighthood solemnly taken, they vow, farre be it that they should uphold and side with this English Dragon; but rather to doe as indeed their oath binds them, they should make it their Knightly adventure to pursue and vanquish this mighty sailwing'd monster that menaces to swallow up the Land, unlesse her bottomlesse gorge may be satisfi'd with the blood of the Kings daughter the Church; and may, as she was wont, fill her dark and infamous den with the bones of the Saints. . . .


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