In the use of color Milton's poetry shows the workings of two influences other than the purposes of description and the dictates of personal taste. One is the influence of emblematic tradition in the meaning of individual colors; the other is the practice of classical literatures. Many of Milton's terms are derived from the color usage of Homer or Virgil rather than from the direct observation of nature. Where emblematic meanings enter, the interpretation is at times complicated by the ambivalence of color symbolism, which shifts meanings with variations of hue and context. It would appear, however, that both in using and in avoiding certain colors, especially in the areas of red and yellow, Milton is affected by emblematic connotations which such colors have had, in both the secular and the religious spheres of meaning. Where Milton's own taste may be thought to govern, there is a marked preference for richness of texture rather than brightness of hue, a preference that is seen in his tendency to favor colors from the midspectrum. As Milton grew older, he inclined toward the use of light and dark rather than effects of color, a development which should be attributed to his own increasingly baroque temper rather than to any physical limitations in vision.

The text of this article is only available as a PDF.
You do not currently have access to this content.