Read his Sonnet 7
Career: Poet, essayist, playwright, historian, and diplomat
Milton was born in Cheapside, London, in 1608, the son of John Milton, Sr., a prosperous scrivener, notary, and composer, and Sara Jeffrey Milton. Because of the family's financial standing, Milton received an excellent education in Greek, Latin, Hebrew, French and Italian. Music and literature were particular favorites with the boy, and Milton began composing his own poetry at a young age. From 1618 to 1620 he was privately tutored at the family home. He then attended St. Paul's School before moving on to Christ's College, Cambridge, at the age of sixteen. His handsome face, delicate appearance, and lofty but unpretentious bearing earned him the nickname "The Lady of Christ's." At first unpopular, Milton eventually made a name for himself as a rhetorician and public speaker. Upon leaving the university in 1632 with a master's degree, Milton retired to Hammersmith for three years and later to Horton, Buckinghamshire, where he devoted himself to intense study and writing. In May of 1638 Milton embarked on an Italian journey which was to last nearly fifteen months. The experience, which he described in Pro populo anglicano defensio secunda (Second Defence of the People of England, 1654), brought him into contact with the leading men of letters in Florence, Rome, and Naples, including Giovanni Battista Manso, Marquis of Villa, who had been an intimate of the epic poet Torquato Tasso. Scholars view the Italian tour as seminal in Milton's literary development; a new self-confidence emerged in the letters he wrote during his travels, and it was in Italy that Milton first proposed to write a great epic.
With the coming of the English Civil War and the Commonwealth, Milton's life changed completely as his attentions shifted from private to public concerns. Abruptly he left off writing poetry for prose, pouring out pamphlets during the early 1640s in which he opposed what he considered rampant episcopal tyranny. Having, as he related, embarked from a sense of duty upon "a troubled sea of noises and hoarse disputes," he declared his Puritan allegiance in tracts in which he argued the need to purge the Church of England of all vestiges of Roman Catholicism and restore the simplicity of the apostolic church. In 1642 he married his first wife, Mary Powell, who left him shortly after the wedding (but returned to him three years later; paradoxically, though Milton was to marry two more times, he was never divorced). With the execution of Charles I in 1649, Milton entered the political fray with The Tenure of Kings and Magistrates, an assertion of the right of a people to depose or execute a ruling tyrant. This view constituted a complete about-face for Milton, who had written as a good monarchist in his early works. Henceforth Milton was permanently on the political left. He accepted an invitation to become Cromwell's Latin secretary for foreign affairs and issued a number of tracts on church and state issues. The restoration of the monarchy in 1660 left Milton disillusioned and hastened his departure from public life; as a former member of the Commonwealth, he lived for a time in peril of his life, but for reasons not entirely clear he was spared harsh punishment.
The remaining fourteen years of Milton's life were spent in relatively peaceful retirement in and around London. Completely blind since 1652, he increasingly devoted his time to poetry. Amanuenses, assisted sometimes by Milton's two nephews and his daughter Deborah, were employed to take dictation, correct copy, and read aloud, and Milton made rapid progress on projects he had put off many years before. During the writing of Paradise Lost, Milton spent mornings dictating passages he had composed in his head at night. Paradise Lost was published in 1667, followed in 1671 by Paradise Regained. Samson Agonistes, a verse tragedy, appeared in the same volume asParadise Regained. He died in November 1674, apparently of complications arising from gout. His funeral, wrote John Toland in 1698, was attended by "All his learned and great Friends in London, not without a friendly concourse of the Vulgar."
Source: Exploring Poetry, Gale.