Milton's Epitaphium Damonis: The Debt to Neo-Latin Poets

The European Legacy 17 (3):309 - 316 (2012)
Abstract
Epitaphium Damonis, Milton's lament for his friend Charles Diodati, is usually described as most strongly indebted to Theocritus? idylls, to Virgil's eclogues, and to Ovid's lament for Tibullus. However, closer examination reveals that Milton was even more closely indebted to Neo-Latin poets such as Sannazaro, Buchanan, Castiglione, Mantuan, and Zanchi. Whereas there are lines in Epitaphium Damonis that resemble those in Virgil and Ovid, there are just as many that resemble those in Neo-Latin poets. Although a pastoral, the tone and atmosphere of the epitaph resemble more its Renaissance contemporaries than its more distant Latin and Greek forebears. This is especially evident in the intimate tone Milton assumes in addressing Damon-Diodati and in the elaborate digression he incorporates into the poem when he confides to his dead friend his plans for a future epic on an Arthurian theme. Milton's attempt to wed a Christian sensibility to a classical form also signals his indebtedness to his Renaissance predecessors, who similarly used classical pastoral to express Christian consolation
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