Saturday, January 19, 2008

EVENT A: John Milton E-Variorum

John Milton E-Variorum: “Meethought I saw my late espoused saint”

Welcome to Event A at the Appositions 2008 conference, where we invite your annotations on Milton’s sonnet, “Meethought I saw my late espoused saint.”

If you would like to participate in this E-Variorum, simply add your contribution here via the “post a comment” link at the bottom of this page.

The results of this collaborative project (if sufficient & interesting) may be published, after editorial review, in volume one of the digital journal, Appositions, scheduled to launch in May, 2008.

We invite your questions, comments, and collaborative postings.

“Meethought I saw my late espoused saint,” Poems, &c. upon several occasions by Mr. John Milton; both English and Latin, &c.; composed at several times; with a small tractate of education to Mr. Hartlib (London: Printed for Tho. Dring, 1673), p. 61.

“Meethought I saw my late espoused saint” is the last of Milton’s sonnets. In Poems (1673) the text appears numbered as XIX; however, scholars customarily refer to this poem as sonnet XXIII, which reflects a chronological placement within the complete arc of all of Milton’s sonnets.



Meethought I saw my late espoused Saint
Brought to me like Alcestis from the grave,
Whom Joves great Son to her glad Husband gave,
Rescu’d from death from force though pale and faint.
Mine as whom washt from spot of child-bed taint,
Purification in the old Law did save,
And such, as yet once more I trust to have
Full fight of her in Heaven without restraint,
Came vested all in white, pure as her mind:
Her face was vail’d, yet to my fancied fight,
Love, sweetness, goodness, in her person shin’d
So clear, as in no face with more delight.
But O as to embrace me she enclin’d
I wak’d, she fled, and day brought back my night.


Source: Early English Books Online. Wing / 643:01. Henry E. Huntington Library and Art Gallery. 165 pp


APPOSITIONS: Studies in Renaissance / Early Modern Literature & Culture,, ISSN: 1946-1992, Volume One (2008): Genres & Cultures


Anonymous said...

Here are two links to materials on Sonnet XXIII that I have put together over the last 25 years. The first is an annotated paraphrase of the sonnet. The second is a a concordance of scriptural places in the sonnet.

If you have questions or suggestions, please contact me at

Anonymous said...

Alcestis] Heroine of Euripides' Greek play Alcestis: In this play, Alcestis's husband Admetus has managed to obtain a promse that he can avoid death, if someone else volunteers to die on his behalf, and Alcestis so volunteers, dying in his place. Fortunately, the great hero Heracles hears about her death, and goes down to hell to get her, rescuing her and reuniting her with Admetus.

This seems a fascinating intertext for Milton to bring up in the sonnet, because of the overtones it adds about survivor's guilt (since Alcestis's death is, in a real sense, the fault of her husband); about the problems of imagining reunion with the dead in any way; and, in particular, about the shock of seeing someone who has come back to life (which Admetus talks about at some length). It's also a very nice example of Milton's ongoing love of Euripides, which people normally talk about in association with Samson Agonistes, but here it is in the lyric poetry too.

Anonymous said...

Well written article.