This is one of my favorite little poems from one of my favorite poets, the great John Milton (1608-1674). Second only to Shakespeare in his esteem as an English poet, and best known for his Christian epic Paradise Lost, Milton was a strange, but very contemporary combination of religious, classical and sensuous thought. Now, most people do not equate Milton with “sensuousness”, yet I have always found his poetry to be some of that most luxuriantly beautiful in the English language. I sense, beneath the religious puritanism of his outward temper, lurked a man of deep passions and desire. His love of beauty was well attested throughout his poetry.
This poem is a beautiful poem, not erotic, but ful of love. It is about his late wife. For those who have lost a loved one, the pain and terror of loss can be truly tortuous. Dreams are particularly painful. In this poem, Milton expresses well the sudden shock and pain that occurs when we dream of lost loved one, only to wake to realize that it was only a dream, a fleeting vision of nothingness but lost hopes and memories.
But it speaks more than anything else of love, and power of love in our lives, even for those who are no longer part of our lives, but still live on in our hearts and minds and souls. Through our belief in God and the eternal spiritual world we hope that we will someday be reunited with them.
METHOUGHT I saw my late espousèd Saint
Brought to me like Alcestis from the grave,
Whom Joves great Son to her glad Husband gave,
Rescu’d from death by 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 sight of her in Heaven without restraint,
Came vested all in white, pure as her mind:
Her face was vail’d, yet to my fancied sight,
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.