The great religious tracts of the Reformation are his best known works.
Yet John Milton was also a Cambridge student, a traveller and thrice married propagandist for the Commonwealth of Oliver Cromwell who lost his sight at the age of 44.
A dry corn-husk of a religious fanatic with an ouvre of religious poetry and elegy’s to friends who left too early.
It seems that, despite being a Cambridge man, academics at Oxford University have discovered what appears to be a bawdy poem by John Milton while sifting through their archives. The work, a coarse innuendo-laden ditty titled “An Extempore Upon A Faggot”, was found in the university’s Harding Collection, the world’s largest collection of popular poetic anthologies and songbooks.
Milton was known for his abandonment of rhyme, irregular rhythms and a dignity and stateliness in his diction. His poems tended to centre on religious allusions, the political nature of the times – he served as a civil servant under Oliver Cromwell’s government – and the biblical downfall of man, most notably in his epic poem Paradise Lost.
But the new work, which was discovered by Dr Jennifer Batt, a lecturer in English literature at the university, employs a childishly simple and earthy rhythm of rhyming couplets.
“To see the name of John Milton, the great religious and political polemicist, attached to such a bawdy epigram, is extremely surprising to say the least,” Dr Batt said.
The newly-discovered work seems to be an early version of “Paradise Found.”
Have you not in a Chimney seen
A Faggot which is moist and green
How coyly it receives the Heat
And at both ends do’s weep and sweat?
So fares it with a tender Maid
When first upon her Back she’s laid
But like dry Wood th’ experienced Dame
Cracks and rejoices in the Flame.