ABSTRACT

John Aubrey singled out the concept of hupsos—sublimity—in two of Milton’s political sonnets. This article examines the importance of this effect, as theorized by Longinus, in four of Milton’s other poems. Longinus identified striking thought and pathos or strong feeling (pathema) as two natural sources of hupsos; both of these origins are explored in Lycidas. Longinus’s analysis of the truth of emotion in an ode by Sappho and that poem’s fusion of opposite sensations is then applied to Milton’s three sonnets on his blindness. Of these, “Methought I saw my late espousèd saint” is the best appreciated in the context of Longinus’s insights, in particular the intensification by displacement. The article’s larger argument is that Longinus can both defamiliarize Milton and gloriously uphold him.

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