Introduction. Milton wrote Sonnets 11 and 12, probably early in 1646, as satirical responses to the widely negative reception enjoyed by his divorce tracts, The Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce, Tetrachordon and The Judgement of Martin Bucer. In what scans like a Petrarchan love sonnet, Milton responds with ridicule and acid sarcasm to those who attacked his treatises from the pulpit. He pokes fun at the ignorance of those who cannot even pronounce the title, let alone follow the arguments. Colasterion responds in satiric prose in much the same vein.

Milton's petty-sounding slur on Scottish names was probably meant as an insult to the Glasgow preacher, Robert Baillie, who thought Milton a worse heretic than the Brownists: "Concerning Divorces, some of them goe farre beyond any of the Brownists, not to speak of Mr Milton, who in a large Treatise hath pleaded for a full liberty for any man to put away his wife, when ever hee pleaseth, without any fault in her at all, but for any dislike or dyspathy of humour" (A Dissuasive from the Errours of the Time [London 1645] 116). Baillie and other Presbyterians associate Milton with radical heretics of the day. Milton's references to Sir John Cheke (1514-1557) and King Edward VI allude to what he regards as England's now lost golden age of Greek learning.

These satires, however bitter in tone, give voice to some of Milton's most cherished republican values even as it appears to despair of them every being realized in an England so full of corruption and ignorance.

Both sonnets were numbered "12" on the same sheet in the Trinity MS. Sonnet 12 ("I did but prompt the age ...") came first on this sheet of the TMS, with the following heading:

these sonnets follow ye 10. in ye printed booke
    On the detraccon which followed upon my writeng certaine treatises

1 vid. ante                      12
Collin O'Mara, Amar Dhand and Thomas Luxon

Line 10. The Trinity MS has "And hate the truth wherby they should be free." See Fletcher 444.

cloggs. Loads that obstruct motion; an impediment, encumbrance, or hindrance. See OED2.

known rules. The rules of divorce as described in Deuteronomy 24:1-2.

transform'd to Froggs. Jove transformed some Lycian peasants into frogs for disturbing a pond where Latona's twin babies Apollo and Diana wanted to drink the water. See Ovid's Metamorphoses 6. 555-620.

in fee. In English law, to hold in fee is to keep as one's absolute and rightful possession. See OED2.

casting Pearl to Hoggs. See Matthew 7:6.

truth would set them free. See John 8:32.

Licence. A distinction between license and liberty can be found in Plato's Republic 359. See also Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce 2.3.