Thus Milton’s influence is most notable during the late-eighteenth century and the nineteenth century, the period in which the sonnet revival occurred.
Whilst various sonneteers, such as Thomas Edward, Thomas Warton, Anna Seward, and Mary Robinson professed that Milton was their master, their emulation of Milton’s sonnet is entirely superficial. With even more austerity than their Elizabethan predecessors, they preserved the formal octave-sestet division, which Milton had rejected, whilst imitating Milton’s use of run-on lines and caesurae to create a thematic unity in their sonnets.
Milton’s rejection of the Petrarchan conventions allowed for the distinctive vogue for melancholy, sensibility, and appreciation of nature in the eighteenth century sonnet. Thomas Gray, and Thomas Warton were proponents and architects of this use of the sonnet in this era.
Gray published a single sonnet in 1775 entitled “On the Death of Mr. Richard West”, in which he adopts an elegiac mode to reveal private feelings of sadness, which was emulated by poets such as Charlotte Smith, Mary Robinson and W. ...
... middle of paper ...
...ed Milton in their meditative expressions of profound affinities between themselves and nature, or in the contradictions between imagination and experience.
Though conventionally pertaining to love, the sonnet has been capable of reifying opposites throughout its tradition, but it was Milton who became cognizant of its ability to depict ones psychological landscape in the conflict of opposites; Milton established a thematic procedure which progresses towards the divine which was drawn upon to develop the Romantic meditative poem.
Milton vastly broadened the scope of the sonnet’s subject matter by bestowing divinity, austerity, and simplicity upon the form, inspiring a resurgence of its use in the eighteenth-century, thus Milton perpetuated the use and popularity of the form by inspiring successive sonneteers to deviate from the Petrarchan conventions of the sonnet.
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