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Poets in the News: John Milton and William Golder in Early Wellington

Democratic Media

Democratic Media

Milton’s presence in the news in Wellington in 1869-1870, in commentary and discussion about contemporary events associated with a new form of entertainment, the panorama, and the reading of a new poem, is a clear demonstration of his continuing importance in British culture and specifically in its migration to New Zealand. Golder’s reviewer’s reference to ‘this prosaic age’ and the displacement of literary eloquence by philosophy and pictorial realism points to new cultural contexts and forces in relation to which Milton’s poetry, and especially Paradise Lost, continued to be read (and to be reinterpreted, including by means of the panorama), and in which Golder’s poetry was written. That Milton’s poem was capable of being read panoramically is a remarkable testimony to his anticipation of the enlarged conception of space and time being effected by science, technology, exploration and imperial expansion in the nineteenth century, and popularised through print media and institutions like Athenaeums and Mechanics’ Institutes. The Philosophy of Love itself, as a material artefact, performs and signifies the democratic potential of print media; Golder wrote the poetry, printed it on his own press, and bound and distributed the work himself. But, as the reviewers demonstrate, Milton as the exemplar of poetic accomplishment also provided the means for the misrecognition of the energies and purposes which were embodied in the new, popular media form of the panorama, and in the panoramic and democratic poetics practised by William Golder.