MILTON: A MASTER OF RUN-ON SENTENCES:I'm about halfway through the collected works of John Milton. It's a project that's taking some time. Mercifully the poetry is at the front of the volume. That's good because most of Milton's prose writings have little intrinsic interest. Aside from a few exceptions they are religious polemics against the high church prelates of his day. Reading such things tends to lower one's estimate of the author. Especially as their tone is beneath even the usual level of political polemics. I'll see if the tone improves with the more political pieces later in the book. It's hard to imagine the author of things like Paradise Lost and Sampson Agonistes using "fart jokes" as arguments, but it's there all right.
Be that as it may there is another problem besides crudity to Milton's prose. I've discovered that he may be the ultimate master of the run-on sentence in the English language. Just to give the flavour of things here's a quote from one of his essays, 'Reason of Church Government Urged'. Take a deep breath:
"For not to speak of that knowledge that rests in the contemplation of natural causes and dimensions, which must need be a lower wisdom, as the object is low, certain it is, that he who hath obtained in more than the scantiest measure to know anything distinctly of God, and of his true worship, and what is infallibly good and happy in the state of man's life, though vulgarly not so esteemed; he that hath obtained to know this, the only high valuable wisdom indeed, remembering also that God, even to a strictness, requires the improvement of his intrusted gifts, cannot but sustain a sorer burden of mind, and more pressing, than any sustainable toil or weight which the body can labour under, how and in what manner he shall dispose and employ those sums of knowledge and illumination, which God has sent him into this world to trade with."
Yes, that's all one sentence, and it is not an exception. I think it makes grammatical sense, but I'm not certain. Reading this sort of things is about as fun and as "educating" as reading post-modernist nonsense. I hereby nominate John Milton as the patron saint of post-modernism.