The seeming abstractness of Milton's imagery results from its intellectual structure, particularly from the way metaphors are recreated through typological fulfillment. The letter of a pagan or Hebraic type is first analyzed, then reconstituted in a Christian spirit which contains it, as “the spiritual and rational faculty contains the corporeal.” Milton's imagery is not sacramental; neither is it simply abstract, for Milton re-creates his own incarnational symbolism by a process of analysis, purification, and reembodiment. Images function typologically according to the law of Coleridge's secondary Imagination, which first “dissolves, diffuses, dissipates, in order to re-create.” In Sonnet 23, the shadowy image of Alcestis is transformed, through typological allusions, into a Christian reality. The same pattern recurs in Samson's final reply to the Philistine Officer and in Christ's Incarnation of the Word in Paradise Regained. The basis of analogy in Milton's poetry is moral and psychological. His images are often difficult to apprehend immediately, because their effect depends largely on a conscious awareness; they are, nonetheless, concretely metaphorical, because they are grounded in the psychic activity of the protagonist. By this means the dead letter of imagery is reborn in the spirit, whose active and saving faith embodies itself in works of poetry.

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