Sonnet XII: I did but Prompt the Age to Quit their Clogs

Original Text: 
John Milton, Poems, 2nd edn. (London: Thomas Dring, 1673). Facs. edn. Complete Poetical Works reproduced in photographic facsimile, comp. by H. F. Fletcher (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1943-48). PR 3551 F52 ROBA
3     When straight a barbarous noise environs me
4     Of owls and cuckoos, asses, apes and dogs:
6     Rail'd at Latona's twin-born progeny
7     Which after held the sun and moon in fee.
10     And still revolt when truth would set them free.
11     Licence they mean when they cry liberty;
12For who loves that, must first be wise and good.


1] Written after Milton's published advocacy of freer divorce had brought upon him criticisms from leading Puritans of the Presbyterian party. First printed in Poems, 1673.
clogs: restraints (literally, a heavy piece of wood attached to the leg to prevent escape). Back to Line
2] Milton's divorce pamphlets appeal to the liberty given to the Israelites in the Old Dispensation, and to those given permanently to mankind by the law of nature. Back to Line
5] The reference is to the noise made by the frogs into which Latona transformed the rude rustics who, by muddying the waters, prevented her drinking from the lake Lacia, as she flew from the wrath of Juno, carrying her twin off-spring Phoebus and Phoebe, the destined rulers of sun and moon (see Ovid, Metamorphoses, VI, 317-81. Back to Line
8] Cf. "Give not what is holy unto the dogs; neither cast your pearls before swine" (Matthew 7:6). Back to Line
9] Milton extends his condemnation from those who ignorantly reject his doctrine to those who ignorantly welcome it and in so doing make it an excuse for licence. Back to Line
13] rove: shoot away from the mark. Back to Line
14] despite the expenditure of wealth and human lives in the war for freedom. Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
RPO poem Editors: 
Hugh MacCallum; A. S. P. Woodhouse
RPO Edition: 
3RP 1.236.