I knew I should have written this before the Oscars, because now it's paused on the Tivo and I'd rather see that than write about "L'Allegro" and "Il Penseroso." So I'll be brief, especially because what do I have to say about "L'Allegro" and "Il Penseroso"? Just a couple of things:
1. I can't believe I had to read this in high school. Actually, I don't remember reading this in high school, but I can remember how the print looked in one of my high school English textbooks. But what American since, maybe, the (T.) Roosevelt administration can read with a straight face:
Haste thee, Nymph, and bring with theeAlthough the alliteration in the last two lines is nicely done. It's still a little -- how shall I put this? -- wedgie-worthy.
Jest, and youthful Jollity,
Quips, and Cranks, and wanton Wiles,
Nods, and Becks, and wreathed Smiles,
Such as hang on Hebe's cheek,
And love to live in dimple sleek
2. I vote for Il Pensoroso, and I suspect Milton wants us to, because here's his idea of a good time:
And the milkmaid singeth blithe,The reader is perforce like that guy in Animal House who smashes the dude's guitar against the wall.
And the mower whets his scythe,
And every shepherd tells his tale
Under the hawthorn in the dale.
3. The only other thing I will say about that laff riot Il Pensoroso is that I didn't realize that it's in part the story of an all-nighter (" Thus, Night, oft see me in thy pale career,/Till civil-suited Morn appear").
4. Milton is irritating because he drops all these Greek myth references; he's like someone who just got back from Junior Year Abroad. That's not the only reason he's irritating, however.
Okay, honey, unpause the Tivo! Here I come!