To explore this, I introduce an example of another literary polemicist who strikes a little closer to home for us. Ezra Pound (1885-1972) was an Idaho-born expatriate poet who is widely considered one of the greatest influences on modern poetry.
As you can see from the picture of Pound, he obviously was involved in much more than poetry. During World War II, he was living in Italy and publishing profusely. Most of his letters, articles, and radio broadcasts were construed as anti-American, so he was arrested and tried with treason during the Army's occupation of the country. While in captivity, he suffered a mental breakdown and was admitted to St. Elizabeth's mental hospital for 14 years.
It is easy for us to side with Milton's arguments, because they eventually won out. Pound's arguments, however, are still relevant. A lot of the literary community like to dismiss them as the ramblings of a broken mind, and focus instead on his literary achievements. I personally feel that his political arguments aren't going away. For instance, he strongly opposed large-scale banking, claiming that it robbed people of culture and adulterated democracy-- an issue that is still present in modern political thought, especially with our economy.
|First drafts of Pound's Cantos written |
on toilet paper during his imprisonment.
An interesting counter-example of an author who was accepted politically in his time is that of Octavio Paz, a Mexican publisher and poet (and a good one at that-- he won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1990) who was selected to serve as a diplomat for his country and acted as a strong influence on his nation's government.
So what do we do with our modern prophet-poets? How qualified to we consider our poets, authors, etc. to engage in the realm of politics? Was Pound, like Milton, ahead of his time, and can we rely on his views to guide us in the future?