Study Guide

Methought I Saw my Late Espoused Saint (Sonnet 23) Principles

By John Milton

Principles

The vision of his wife that our speaker has in "Methought I Saw my Late Espoused Saint" is all about love and purity. Seriously, she's practically glowing with the stuff. The seamlessness between the wife's outer appearance and her spiritual qualities signifies that the boundary between body and soul has collapsed now that she is in heaven, which means the (perfect) state of her soul is evident in her outward appearance.

Questions About Principles

  1. How does the poem convey the late espoused saint's possession of selfless love? How does that relate to the allusion to Alcestis?
  2. How does it convey her chastity and purity?
  3. What do you think the white clothing and veil symbolize? Why are they significant?
  4. We have a pretty good idea of what "love" and "goodness" are, but what character traits might "sweetness" refer to?

Chew on This

All that business comparing his wife to a female figure from the Hebrew Bible is to drive home the fact that now that she's in heaven, the speaker's wife is free from sin and totally pure.

The speaker's ability to make out his wife's virtues in her "person" indicates the collapse between the soul and the body that occurs after death.

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