A Letter & Poem from John Milton
by Glen Draeger
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Dear Readers of Shakespeare,
I am John Milton the famous English poet. If you're fortunate Mr. Draeger will be adding my long poem, Paradise Lost, to this web site sometime in the future or at least he better if he hopes to escape the wrath of God! If he doesn't you can always join me in England and I'll read it to you—assuming you can bring me back from the dead to do so. But it would be worth your while since I'm nothing short of being a genius and Mr. Draeger, well . . . well . . . well, grace and mercy forbid me to make any further comments on that matter.
The reason I'm writing you is because I wrote a poem about William Shakespeare which gives you some idea of what I thought about him. I didn't write one about Mr. Draeger so that should tell you something too. Well, on to the poem. Here it is:
On Shakespeare by John Milton(that's me)
What needs my Shakespeare for his honored bones
The labor of an age in piled stones,
Or that his hallowed relics should be hid
Under a stary-pointing pyramid?
Dear son of memory, great heir of fame,
What need'st thou such weak witness of they name?
Thou in our wonder and astonishment
Hast built thyself a livelong monument.
For whilst to the shame of slow-endeavoring art
They easy number flow, and that each heart
Hath from the leaves of they unvalued book
Those Delphic lines with deep impression took,
Then thou, our fancy of itself bereaving,
Dost make us marble with too much conceiving,
And so sepúlchred in such pomp dost lie,
That kings for such a tomb would wish to die.
Let me expound on this a little and consider yourself extremely lucky to have the poet himself expounding on his own poem—particularly since I'm dead, but Mr. Draeger seems to have spared no expense for this web site despite his shortcomings. Essentially what I'm asking here is what need would Shakespeare have with any kind of physical monument such as a gravestone or a building or a pyramid? It's a rhetorical question, that is, I'm not really asking it. I'm simply pointing out that Shakespeare needs none.
In the second half of the poem I tell you why he doesn't need any of those things. What monument has Shakespeare left? Us. You and me. The pages of the books upon which Shakespeare's words are printed have no value. It is Shakespeare's words, poetry and ideas that turn us into his marble monument because of our meditation upon them and make us into that kind of tomb for which kings would wish to die. Shakespeare has left a living and growing monument and we are it.
It was nice writing to all of you, but I think it's about time to return to heaven. God is still a little upset with me for making Lucifer so convincing a character in Paradise Lost and I'm trying to explain to him that it was easy to write about a finite being, but trying to explain the creator of the universe was way too difficult even for a genius such as myself.
You have a good life.
©2005-2013 Glen Draeger (all rights reserved)
Millstone Education: World Literature / http://www.millstoneeducation.com/worldLit