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History of Vegetarianism - Europe: The Middle Ages to the 18th Century
John Milton (1608-1674)

 


Milton, c. 1629.

In the Elegy VI, which was originally written in Latin and dedicated to his friend Charles Diodati, Milton recommends a simple vegetarian diet like that of Pythagoras:

But they who Demigods and Heroes praise
And feats perform'd in Jove's more youthful days,
Who now the counsels of high heav'n explore,
Now shades, that echo the Cerberean roar,
Simply let these, like him of Samos live,
Let herbs to them a bloodless banquet give;       
In beechen goblets let their bev'rage shine,
Cool from the chrystal spring, their sober wine!
Their youth should pass, in innocence, secure
From stain licentious, and in manners pure,
Pure as the priest's, when robed in white he stands
The fresh lustration ready in his hands.
[…]
For these are sacred bards, and, from above,
Drink large infusions from the mind of Jove.

From: POEMATA: LATIN, GREEK AND ITALIAN POEMS BY JOHN MILTON, Translated by William Cowper), http://www.gutenberg.org/dirs/etext04/poema10.txt

From an online Introduction to that poem:

 “Temperance is the appropriate way of life for the epic poet, an idea that Milton advanced in the preface to Book 2 of his Reason of Church Government as well as in The Apology to a Pamphlet. Milton aligns himself with the sober, "water-drinking" Homer of Greek epic. He deftly rejects his friend's exhortations to put aside serious study for awhile and enjoy himself, maintaining that even the early years of an epic poet must be absolutely devoted to unyielding temperance in life and in art.”

(http://www.dartmouth.edu/~milton/reading_room/elegiarum/elegy_6/index.shtml)

 From Howard William’s The Ethics of Diet:

 “In a note to the original poem Thomas Warton justly remarks that “Milton’s panegyrics on temperance both in eating and in drinking, resulting from his own practice, are frequent.”” (University of Illinois Press, 2003, p. 111)

 There are also are some interesting passages in his epic poem Paradise Lost, such as:

 And Eve within, due at her hour prepared
For dinner savoury fruits, of taste to please
True appetite and not disrelish thirst
Of nectarous draughts between, from milky stream,
Berry or grape: to whom thus Adam called.
(Book V)

Springs lighter the green stalk, from thence the leaves
More aery, last the bright consummate flower
Spirits odorous breathes: flowers and their fruit,
Man's nourishment, by gradual scale sublimed, […]

If I refuse not, but convert, as you
To proper substance. Time may come, when Men
With Angels may participate, and find
No inconvenient diet, nor too light fare;
And from these corporal nutriments perhaps
Your bodies may at last turn all to spirit,
Improved by tract of time, and, winged, ascend
Ethereal, as we; or may, at choice,
Here or in heavenly Paradises dwell;

(Book V)

In his first shape on Man; but many shapes
Of Death, and many are the ways that lead
To his grim cave, all dismal; yet to sense
More terrible at the entrance, than within.
Some, as thou sawest, by violent stroke shall die;
By fire, flood, famine, by intemperance more
In meats and drinks, which on the earth shall bring
Diseases dire, of which a monstrous crew
Before thee shall appear; […]

(Book XI)

[info from Nuno Metello, Portugal] 

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