Milton, the arch-Puritan and outspoken critic of the stereotyped rituals of the established churches, has been regarded by most scholars as a writer who is unlikely to have employed liturgical materials in his poetry. Thomas B. Stroup shows to the contrary that Milton made extensive use of Christian liturgy not only as material within the body of his poems but also as a force in shaping them.
In a survey of both Milton's major works and his minor poems, prayers of thanksgiving, the General Confession, similarities to hymns, echoes from canticles, and many other rites and ceremonies of the church are noted. But what is even more significant is the way in which these liturgical forms are used by the poet, for their appearance is not incidental to the works but contributes to their structural development. The reflections of the rites and ceremonies and the allusions to them seem to have been chosen deliberately as a means of heightening the poems' action and deepening their meaning.