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date: 22 September 2020

Abstract and Keywords

Wordsworth thought that John Milton used the sonnet as a ‘trumpet, whence he blew/Soul-animating strains’. It is true that Milton begins some sonnets with a clarion call, and Wordsworth recreates this effect when he trumpets a soul-animating strain in Milton's honour. Milton's sonnets are renowned for their ‘quiet’ endings. Milton's sonnet to Edward Lawrence and its famous crux concerning the word ‘spare’ is addressed in this article. The article also investigates the endings of Milton's sonnets and the tensions they create by their opposed impulses towards opacity and tranquility. It then hopes to show that difficulty is an integral part of the Miltonic sonnet, which contributes in no small measure to its special character. Sonnet XVII is not the only place in Milton's poetry where ‘spare’ and ‘interpose’ come together. Milton's sonnets are frequently rough and sinewy, but their touch is light and choice as they warble immortal notes and Tuscan air.

Keywords: John Milton, English sonnets, Wordsworth, quiet endings, Edward Lawrence, opacity, tranquility

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