Reaching a European Audience: Milton's Neo-Latin Poems for Charles Diodati, 1625–39

The European Legacy 17 (2):165 - 184 (2012)
Abstract
Although relatively neglected, Milton's three Latin poems for his school friend Charles Diodati are arguably amongst the most self-revelatory poems in the 1645 collection. As well as evidence of the strength of their literary friendship, each of these poems adumbrates aspects of Milton's vocational dilemma and provides an intriguing example of how Latin afforded Milton an imaginative freedom that he did not exercise when composing in English at this time. The disillusionment that clouded Milton's first impressions of Cambridge is voiced feelingly in the wittily nuanced Elegia Prima, while Elegia Sexta, for all its affable and accommodating manner, also offers serious reflections on the conditions necessary to nurture poetic creativity, and captures what seems to be a pivotal moment in Milton's understanding of his own poetic vocation. Although both these verse-epistles are directed at Diodati as their immediate recipient, they enabled Milton to engage a European audience when recitations of his Latin verses won him acclaim in the Florentine academies. The Epitaphium Damonis, written after Milton's return from Italy, laments the death of Diodati, his first ?fit audience,? and celebrates the literary fellowship he had enjoyed in Florence. Separated from his school-friend by death and the Florentine literary community by the unbridgeable distance between them, the full force of his isolation found expression in a letter to Carlo Dati in which he described his feelings of inner exile
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John Milton (1991). Political Writings. Cambridge University Press.
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