A note on Milton’s Grand style

A note on Milton’s Grand style

A note on Milton’s Grand style

Introduction –

Milton is universally admired for his ‘Grand style’. It is the chief characteristic of his poetry. Other characteristics of his poetry are: Sublimity, Sense of beauty, Stateliness of manner, High seriousness, suggestively, superb and exuberant imagination, great artistic skill, autobiographical element. Puritanism, Classicism, deep learning, Versification. These characteristics are interdependent, Milton’s poetry flowed from his soul. He was a religious man. He was the child of both the Renaissance and the Reformation. There was a fusion of Hellenism and Hebraism in his poetry. Milton’s Grand style is chiefly displayed in ‘Paradise Lost’. This is mostly on account of the uniqueness of the theme of ‘Paradise Lost’ which is discussed below

Uniqueness of the Theme of Paradise Lost –

The theme of ‘Paradise Lost’ is unique. So is the form. The Reformation inspired the theme. The Renaissance provided the form. ‘Paradise Lost’ is the story of the Fall of Man. Adam is the first man. Eve is the first woman. They lose paradise on account of the weakness of Eve, the first woman. The scene of the action is the universal space. Time is eternity. The characters are God, his Angels, and his first creations Adam and Eve. Satan and his followers are the fallen angels. This transcends national barriers, Milton’s conception of the epic is sublime, The style is grand. There is organic unity. All the basic essentials of a classical epic have been followed. However, it is the uniqueness of the theme that the hero of the epic could not be confined within the narrow limits of a nation.

Satan’s Speeches –

The character of Satan has been delineated on a grand scale. He is sketched as a true Renaissance figure. His speeches are couched in a grand style. Satan says:

“What though the field be lost

All is not lost the unconquerable will.”

Further, he inspires his legion

Awake, arise, or be far ever fallen.”

These are very powerful utterances, highly inspiring. Satan’s love of Freedom is expressed in the following words:

“Better to reign in Hell

That to serve in Heaven.”

Figures of Speech – Milton’s use of figures of speech is superb. He was the greatest master of similes. He piles similes upon similes. He is matchless in this art. One example will suffice to justify the remark.

“Thus Satan, talking to his nearest mate

Lay floating many a food, in bulk as huge

As whom the fables name a monstrous size,

Titania, or Earth-born that warred on Jove,

Briarios or Typhon whom the Den

By ancient Tarsus, held, or that sea-beast

Leviathan, which God of all his works

Created hugest that swim the ocean stream.”

Cosmic Imagery – Milton was the great master of Poetic Imagery. While his sensuous imagery is excellent, he stands supreme in the use of cosmic imagery. In the very beginning of the poem Milton writes:

“Instruct me, for than know’st, thou from the first

Was present, and with mighty wings outspread,

Dove like sat’st brooding on the vast Abyss,

And mad’st it pregnant; what in me is dark


It was his use of cosmic imagery that added grandeur to his style.

His Versification –

Milton used rhymed verse and blank verse with superb skill. His verse has an unmistakable stamp of majesty in it. The subject of Milton’s poetry is always lofty, the tune is invariably in accordance with the loftiness of the subject. About his style Matthew Arnold said, “In the sure and flawless perfection of his rhythm and diction, he is as admirable as Virgil or Dante, and in this respect he is unique amongst us. None else in English literature possesses the like distinction. Metrical Artist -Musical Milton was a great metrical artist. He was highly musical. His poetry resounds in music. In this respect also Milton is superb.


Milton’s style fully corresponds with his subject which was always lofty. His purpose was moral. He was a highly religious man. There was a blend of the Renaissance and the Reformation in him. He was a Puritan. In his writings his personality was fully rejected. High seriousness is the ever-accompanying ingredient of his ‘Grand style’.

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Pankaja Singh

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