Milton's views developed from his very extensive reading, as well as travel and experience, from his student days of the 1620s to the English Civil War.[4] By the time of his death in 1674, Milton was impoverished and on the margins of English intellectual life, yet famous throughout Europe and unrepentant for his political choices.

Milton's first datable compositions are two psalms done at age 15 at Long Bennington. One contemporary source is the Brief Lives of John Aubrey, an uneven compilation including first-hand reports. In the work, Aubrey quotes Christopher, Milton's younger brother: "When he was young, he studied very hard and sat up very late, commonly till twelve or one o'clock at night".[8]

Milton has a Non-League football club, Milton United F.C., whose home ground is at Potash Lane.

In June 1642, Milton paid a visit to the manor house at Forest Hill, Oxfordshire and returned with 16 year-old bride Mary Powell.[28][29] Mary found life difficult with the severe 35 year-old schoolmaster and pamphleteer, and she returned to her family a month later. She did not return until 1645, partly because of the outbreak of the Civil War.[28]

A second aspect of Milton's blank verse was the use of unconventional rhythm:

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Mary Powell died on 5 May 1652 from complications following Deborah's birth. Milton's daughters survived to adulthood, but he always had a strained relationship with them.

In 1625, Milton began attending Christ's College, Cambridge. He graduated with a B.A. in 1629,[9] and ranked fourth of 24 honours graduates that year in the University of Cambridge.[10] Preparing to become an Anglican priest, Milton stayed on to obtain his Master of Arts degree on 3 July 1632.

Milton's ode At a solemn Musick was set for choir and orchestra as Blest Pair of Sirens by Hubert Parry (1848-1918), and Milton's poem On the Morning of Christ's Nativity was set as a large-scale choral work by Cyril Rootham (1875-1938). Milton also wrote the hymn Let us with a gladsome mind, a versification of Psalm 136. His 'L'Allegro' and 'Il Penseroso', with additional material, were magnificently set by Handel (1740).

William Blake considered Milton the major English poet. Blake placed Edmund Spenser as Milton's precursor, and saw himself as Milton's poetical son.[88] In his Milton a Poem, Blake uses Milton as a character.

There was an early, partial translation of Paradise Lost into German by Theodore Haak, and based on that a standard verse translation by Ernest Gottlieb von Berge. A subsequent prose translation by Johann Jakob Bodmer was very popular; it influenced Friedrich Gottlieb Klopstock. The German-language Milton tradition returned to England in the person of the artist Henry Fuseli.

In his political writing, Milton addressed particular themes at different periods. The years 1641–42 were dedicated to church politics and the struggle against episcopacy. After his divorce writings, Areopagitica, and a gap, he wrote in 1649–54 in the aftermath of the execution of Charles I, and in polemic justification of the regicide and the existing Parliamentarian regime. Then in 1659–60 he foresaw the Restoration, and wrote to head it off.[47]

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Milton has one public house. For many decades was called the Admiral Benbow, and latterly it was controlled by Greene King Brewery. It is now renamed The Plum Pudding.[18]

Milton embraced many heterodox Christian theological views. He rejected the Trinity, in the belief that the Son was subordinate to the Father, a position known as Arianism; and his sympathy or curiosity was probably engaged by Socinianism: in August 1650 he licensed for publication by William Dugard the Racovian Catechism, based on a non-trinitarian creed.[61][62] A source has interpreted him as broadly Protestant, if not always easy to locate in a more precise religious category.

42A and 42B High Street is an early 14th-century timber-framed cruck cottage, extended in the 15th century. It is a Grade II* listed building.[14]

Two watermills in the parish are recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086 and again in a record from 1401. There is still a Milton Mill on Ginge Brook.[2]

By 1924 Milton had a nonconformist corrugated iron chapel.[2] Milton Methodist church now has a modern brick building and is a member of the Wantage and Abingdon Methodist Circuit.[13]

Despite the Restoration of the monarchy, Milton did not lose his personal faith; Samson shows how the loss of national salvation did not necessarily preclude the salvation of the individual, while Paradise Regained expresses Milton's continuing belief in the promise of Christian salvation through Jesus Christ.

Milton Country Park Visitor Centre with a cafeteria selling snacks

In his 1641 treatise, Of Reformation, Milton expressed his dislike for Catholicism and episcopacy, presenting Rome as a modern Babylon, and bishops as Egyptian taskmasters. These analogies conform to Milton's puritanical preference for Old Testament imagery. He knew at least four commentaries on Genesis: those of John Calvin, Paulus Fagius, David Pareus and Andreus Rivetus.[63]

By 1654, Milton had become totally blind; the cause of his blindness is debated but bilateral retinal detachment or glaucoma are most likely.[36] His blindness forced him to dictate his verse and prose to amanuenses (helpers), one of whom was poet Andrew Marvell. One of his best-known sonnets is presumed to date from this period, When I Consider How My Light is Spent, titled by a later editor "On His Blindness".

In 1732, the classical scholar Richard Bentley offered a corrected version of Paradise Lost.[83] Bentley was considered presumptuous, and was attacked in the following year by Zachary Pearce. Christopher Ricks judges that, as critic, Bentley was both acute and wrong-headed, and "incorrigibly eccentric"; William Empson also finds Pearce to be more sympathetic to Bentley's underlying line of thought than is warranted.[84][85]

Palmer expressed his disapproval in a sermon addressed to the Westminster Assembly. The Scottish commissioner Robert Baillie described Palmer's sermon as one “of the most Scottish and free sermons that ever I heard any where.”[73]

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The Cambridge Science Park lies within the civil parish boundaries.[14]

On 25 February 2015 the UK Footgolf Association opened its East of England headquarters in Milton on the site of the former Milton Park Golf Course.[17]

There was also a dower house, where Admiral Benbow lived in the 1690s. Tsar Peter the Great of Russia is said to have stayed at Milton House around this time, probably in order to consult Benbow on shipbuilding. No trace of the dower house remains.[2]

T. S. Eliot believed that "of no other poet is it so difficult to consider the poetry simply as poetry, without our theological and political dispositions... making unlawful entry".[102]

Milton

In [Florence], which I have always admired above all others because of the elegance, not just of its tongue, but also of its wit, I lingered for about two months. There I at once became the friend of many gentlemen eminent in rank and learning, whose private academies I frequented—a Florentine institution which deserves great praise not only for promoting humane studies but also for encouraging friendly intercourse.[20]

Milton died of kidney failure on 8 November 1674 and was buried in the church of St Giles Cripplegate, Fore Street, London.[37] According to an early biographer, his funeral was attended by “his learned and great Friends in London, not without a friendly concourse of the Vulgar.”[38] A monument was added in 1793, sculpted by John Bacon the Elder.

Nevertheless, reaction among Puritans to Milton's views on divorce was mixed. Herbert Palmer (Puritan) condemned Milton in the strongest possible language. Palmer, who was a member of the Westminster Assembly, wrote:

He contributed his pastoral elegy Lycidas to a memorial collection for one of his Cambridge classmates. Drafts of these poems are preserved in Milton’s poetry notebook, known as the Trinity Manuscript because it is now kept at Trinity College, Cambridge.

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Jane Coston cycle bridge between Milton and Cambridge over the A14

An open field system of farming continued in the parish until 1808–09, when Parliament passed an Inclosure Act for Milton.[2]

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In the 1970s a new dual carriageway was built through the parish as part of the realignment and enlargement of the A34 road. Milton Interchange was built just south of the railway line as a junction between the A34 and the A4130.

John Milton was a poet of radical politics living in one of the most volatile times in English history. Paradise Lost, his epic work published in 1667, can be interpreted as political allegory - the fall of man in Eden reflecting the lost paradise of Milton's cherished Republic. Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy of books takes its inspiration directly from Paradise Lost.