Top John Milton Quotes That Have Inspired Many

, Staff Writer
Updated February 16, 2022
Portrait Of John Milton With Quote
    Portrait Of John Milton With Quote
    duncan1890 / DigitalVision Vectors / Getty Images
    Used under Getty Images license

John Milton was a celebrated English poet who expressed his thoughts on philosophy, politics and religion in his works. His immortal poem Paradise Lost is considered one of the greatest and most influential works of English literature. He was also a passionate advocate for freedom of speech and the press, which paved the way for the words of his contemporaries, future writers and his own works to live on.

Quotes From Paradise Lost

Milton’s best-known and most frequently quoted work is the epic poem Paradise Lost, which retells the biblical story of the Fall of Man and Adam and Eve’s temptation by the fallen angel Satan. Many lines from Paradise Lost have been quoted in various media, most notably in the novel Frankenstein.

  • “The mind is its own place, and in itself/ Can make a heav'n of hell, a hell of heav'n.”

  • “To reign is worth ambition though in Hell:/ Better to reign in Hell, than serve in Heaven.”

  • “What hath night to do with sleep?”

  • “Solitude sometimes is best society.”

  • “Long is the way and hard, that out of Hell leads up to light.”

  • “Awake, arise or be for ever fall’n.”

  • “All is not lost, the unconquerable will, and study of revenge, immortal hate, and the courage never to submit or yield.”

  • “Never can true reconcilement grow where wounds of deadly hate have pierced so deep...”

  • “I sung of Chaos and Eternal Night,/ Taught by the heav'nly Muse to venture down/ The dark descent, and up to reascend...”

  • “What is dark within me, illumine.”

  • “Did I request thee, Maker, from my clay/ To mould me man? Did I solicit thee/ From darkness to promote me?”

  • “This horror will grow mild, this darkness light.”

  • “For so I created them free and free they must remain.”

  • “A mind not to be changed by place or time./ The mind is its own place, and in itself/ Can make a heav'n of hell, a hell of heav'n.”


Quotes From John Milton’s Poetry

John Milton was best known as a poet during his lifetime. He was inspired by the bard himself, William Shakespeare, who he eulogized in the poem “On Shakespeare.”

  • “How soon hath Time, the subtle thief of youth,/ Stol'n on his wing my three-and-twentieth year.” - “On His Having Arrived at the Age of Twenty-three

  • “Peace hath her victories/ No less renowned than war.” - “To the Lord General Cromwell

  • “They also serve who only stand and wait.” - “When I Consider How My Light is Spent

  • “Where the bright seraphim in burning row/ Their loud uplifted angel trumpets blow.” - “At a Solemn Music

  • “Fly, envious Time, till thou run out thy race.” - “On Time

  • “Such sweet compulsion doth in music lie.” - “Arcades

  • “What needs my Shakespeare for his honoured bones,/ The labor of an age in pilèd stones,/ Or that his hallowed relics should be hid/ Under a star-y-pointing pyramid?/ Dear son of memory, great heir of fame,/ What need'st thou such weak witness of thy name?” - “On Shakespeare

  • “And so sepúlchred in such pomp dost lie,/ That kings for such a tomb would wish to die.” - “On Shakespeare”


Quotes From John Milton’s Prose

Milton was also an intellectual who voiced his thoughts on matters in a series of pamphlets and other publications. He used his platform to criticize the Church of England, argue for the legalization of divorce and the ability to remarry, and theorize about the formation of commonwealths and constitutionalism.

  • “He who would not be frustrate of his hope to write well hereafter in laudable things ought himself to be a true poem.” - Apology for Smectymnuus

  • “His words ... like so many nimble and airy servitors trip about him at command.” - Apology for Smectymnuus

  • “Truth is as impossible to be soiled by any outward touch as the sunbeam.” - The Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce

  • “Men of most renowned virtue have sometimes by transgressing most truly kept the law.” - Tetrachordon

  • “None can love freedom heartily, but good men; the rest love not freedom, but license.” - Tenure of Kings and Magistrates

  • “No man who knows aught, can be so stupid to deny that all men naturally were born free.” - Tenure of Kings and Magistrates

  • “None can love freedom heartily, but good men; the rest love not freedom, but license.” - Tenure of Kings and Magistrates

  • “Beholding the bright countenance of truth in the quiet and still air of delightful studies.” - The Reason of Church Government

  • “By labor and intent study (which I take to be my portion in this life), joined with the strong propensity of nature, I might perhaps leave something so written to after-times, as they should not willingly let it die.” - The Reason of Church Government, Book II

  • “I neither oblige the belief of other person, nor overhastily subscribe mine own.” - The History of England

  • “... those men of great wisdom and courage, that are either desirous of liberty, or capable of using it. “ - The Prose Works of John Milton


Quotes From Areopagitica

Besides being a skilled wordsmith, Milton was also a passionate defender of freedom of speech and freedom of the press. One of his most significant works was Areopagitica, which was a passionate defense of the written word and a condemnation of censorship.

  • “If we think to regulate printing, thereby to rectify manners, we must regulate all recreations and pastimes, all that is delightful to man.”

  • “For books are not absolutely dead things, but do contain a potency of life in them to be as active as that soul was whose progeny they are; nay, they do preserve as in a vial the purest efficacy and extraction of that living intellect that bred them.”

  • “Give me the liberty to know, to utter, and to argue freely according to conscience, above all liberties.”

  • “A good book is the precious life-blood of a master spirit, embalmed and treasured up on purpose to a life beyond life.”

  • “Who kills a man kills a reasonable creature, God's image; but he who destroys a good book, kills reason itself, kills the image of God, as it were, in the eye.”

  • “We boast our light; but if we look not wisely on the run itself, it smites us into darkness.”

  • “Let her [Truth] and Falsehood grapple; who ever knew Truth put to the worse in a free and open encounter? Her confuting is the best and surest suppressing.”

  • “The light which we have gained, was given us, not to be ever staring on, but by it to discover onward things more remote from our knowledge.”


Milton’s Legacy

John Milton served as a civil servant under Oliver Cromwell, who in turn inspired his poem “To the Lord General Cromwell.” Additionally, Milton was a great admirer of Shakespeare, and Samuel Johnson was an admirer of Milton. This cycle of literary influences is one of the things Milton defended with his advocacy for freedom of the press and celebration of the written word.