Oxford academics discover "bawdy" Milton poem

Thu Sep 23, 2010 3:46pm EDT
 
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LONDON (Reuters Life!) - A bawdy poem attributed to "Paradise Lost" author John Milton has been discovered by academics at Oxford University.

The innuendo-filled poem, entitled "An Extempore Upon A Faggot," was found in a collection of poetic anthologies at Oxford while the collection was being put online, the university said in a statement.

However experts are unsure of the poem's authenticity as it is in a style unlike Milton's, and it is thought the poem may have been attributed to Milton by a jealous rival to cause a scandal.

"To see the name of John Milton, the great religious and political polemicist, attached to such a bawdy epigram, is extremely surprising to say the least," Jennifer Batt, the Oxford academic who discovered the poem said in the statement.

Batt said the poem was so out of tune with the rest of Milton's work, that if the attribution is correct, it would prompt a major revision of our ideas about Milton.

"It is likely that Milton's name was used as an attribution to bring scandal upon the poet, perhaps by a jealous contemporary," she said.

Batt found the poem while sorting through the Harding Collection - the world's largest collection of popular poetic anthologies and songbooks, owned by Oxford's Bodleian Library.

The university is in the process of digitizing the collection to allow the public to access it online.

(Reporting by Paul Casciato, editing by Patricia Reaney)