“None ever wished it longer” was Samuel Johnson’s lasting, if not final, judgment of Paradise Lost. In its excuse, Milton’s epic does contain a universe. Gordon Teskey’s latest book is 550 pages, plus notes, appendixes, and index. But while it covers Milton’s whole career, it omits most of the prose; hence its title, The Poetry of John Milton. In its excuse, there are already battalions of books on Milton’s theology, his politics, and his views on marriage. Surely there is room in our libraries for at least one new book on Milton’s poetry qua poetry. It will not be free of ideas—a book on Milton couldn’t be, or wouldn’t satisfy Milton if it could—but the analogies that it ventures most frequently will be with music, an art of pure form.

Teskey treats Milton’s poetry chronologically and exhaustively; there is something...

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