SS Botany Bay-library

Two copies of Paradise Lost (top middle, and second from the left) aboard the SS Botany Bay

John Milton was a historical figure from Earth history. He was the author of the poems Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained.

In 2267, Khan Noonien Singh referred to Milton in reply to Captain Kirk's inquiry as to whether he could "tame a world." Unsure what Khan meant, Montgomery Scott later stated to Kirk, "It's a shame for a good Scotsman to admit it, but I'm not up on Milton." To which, Kirk replied, quoting from Paradise Lost a statement made by Lucifer when he fell into the pit, "It is better to rule in hell than serve in heaven." (TOS: "Space Seed")

In 2285, two late 20th century books - one containing the poems Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained, the other only Paradise Lost - were among the small collection of books found aboard the SS Botany Bay. Milton's name was seen on the spine of one of the books. (Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan)

In 2368, Berlinghoff Rasmussen mentioned Milton to Geordi La Forge as an individual who was blind. (TNG: "A Matter of Time")

In 2370, when Maques was injured by a rose in the USS Enterprise-D's arboretum, Counselor Troi recited a verse from Milton's Paradise Lost to him: "Flowers of all hue and without thorn the rose." Milton was speculating that in heaven, roses wouldn't have thorns. (TNG: "Dark Page")

Why Scotty should have found it shameful for a Scotsman not to be "up on Milton" was unclear. His country and England were not merged into the kingdom of Great Britain until the 18th century, and Milton was – in every sense of the word – an English poet. If not nationalist, then, Scotty's embarrassment may be religious: Milton was strongly influenced by Calvinism in his years over on the European mainland, and Calvinism was a prime ingredient in Presbyterianism, a powerful force in Scotland's culture.
Another possible explanation comes from A. N. Wilson's "The Life Of John Milton". When James VI of Scotland became James I of England during Milton's childhood, the King was "followed by dozens and hundreds of Scottish university men" who were "even in the seventeenth overeducated race". Scotty may simply have felt that he was letting the side down. However, this was most likely a plot device to give Kirk a reason to explain the comment, as it was very likely that the audience would not be familiar with the quote from Paradise Lost.
Milton's actual birth and death years, 1608 and 1674, were noted in the Star Trek Encyclopedia (4th ed., vol. 2, p. 43).

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