Fair Infant

Fair Infant - INTRODUCTION As his first major poem in...

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INTRODUCTION As his first major poem in English, "A Fair Infant" may serve as a starting point from which to examine the development of Milton's craft (see Gayle Wilson ). Thematically, the poem contains elements which appear throughout the body of Milton's work. As James Holly Hanford argues, Milton's first poem in English establishes patterns for his later poetry. In particular, the poem enriches the study of Milton's "On the Morning of Christ's Nativity," as the two share similar thematic concerns and formal structure. The largest controversy surrounding Milton's "Fair Infant" concerns the date of its authorship. According to Edward Phillips, Milton's nephew, the poem is about Milton's niece, Anne Phillips, who was buried in the winter of 1628 ( Raffel 93). Anne's mother was pregnant with Milton's other niece, Elizabeth, during this period, which is consistent with the expected child in the poem ( Lewalski, Life 43). Problematically, Milton dated the poem to his seventeenth year, though he was nineteen when Anne was buried. Because Edward Phillips was born after Anne's death, those who wish to trust Milton's account of the date believe this weakens the claim that the poem is about Anne ( Raffel 96). Furthermore, 1625 was a great plague year, which supports the 1628 date, given the content of the poem ( Woodhouse 120). However, A. S. P. Woodhouse notes that Milton also mis-dated "In Obitum Procancellarii"; for whatever reason, he may well have mis-dated "Fair Infant" ( Woodhouse , 119). Ultimately, as Raffel explains, critics reluctantly conclude that the poem is the work of a nineteen year old university poet, and not the work of a seventeen year old boy ( Raffel 93). Perhaps their reluctance stems from a desire to distance the poet of "Fair Infant" from that of the "Nativity Ode," which was written in 1629. Regardless, critics mostly agree that the poem was written about Anne Phillips in 1628. There are, of course, many reasons why Milton might have incorrectly backdated his poem. In
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This note was uploaded on 08/24/2010 for the course ENGL 220 taught by Professor Rogers during the Winter '08 term at Yale.

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Fair Infant - INTRODUCTION As his first major poem in...

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