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In 1640, John Milton was given the official government position of Secretary of Foreign Tongues. This fancy-sounding job (it dealt with diplomatic correspondence) was a reward for Milton's support of the republican government, which came to power two months earlier following the beheading of King Charles I. Milton was feeling on top of the world. Born to a respectably middle-class family and groomed for a scholarly life, Milton was known as a gifted writer of poetry and political treatises. His political faction was in power, he had a great job, and he believed that he would become one of the Great English Poets.
Cut to 27 years later. Milton, now twice-widowed and completely blind, was forced by his disability to abandon the public life he so enjoyed. He was arrested and briefly imprisoned for his political beliefs, which had fallen out of favor with the Restoration of the throne under Charles II. He lived in semi-exile in the countryside. Yet his personal collapse strengthened his faith and his poetic abilities. Ironically, once all else was lost, Milton finally achieved his dream of becoming a great poet. Milton was at heart a Christian writer, and his strongest themes were those that preoccupied seventeenth century Puritans: morality, righteousness, salvation. Paradise Lost, the epic saga of good and evil that he published in 1667, blew its readers away. Like all of us fallen sinners, Milton couldn't see what he really had until he lost everything else.