January 13, 2011


"Where earlier critics had chided Milton for writing English as if it were Latin, Ricks credits Milton with verbal wit and imaginative precision in playing English and Latin senses against each other. A famous example is the new created river that moves "with serpent error wand'ring" (7.302). Here "serpent" and "error" have Latin senses (serpere, "to creep"; errare, "to wander") but both words are also ominously proleptic in a poem where the serpent Satan will indeed lead man into error."

—John Leonard, "Milton, John" in The Classical Tradition (Harvard, 2010)

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