John Milton
Paradise Lost
Let's face it, Milton had a tough time during the last hundred years.
Ezra Pound ridiculed him for writing English as though it were Latin.  
T.S. Eliot chastised the poet for having a bad influence.  William
Empson suggested that the confusion in Milton's poem simply
reflected the underlying confusion in Christianity itself.  It remains to
be seen whether the new millennium will be kinder to the
seventeenth century poet.  But I am betting that the scales tilt back
to a pro-Milton bias.  And the reason is simple:  the sheer beauty of
this poet's use of language.  There are few more powerful and
individual voices in the history of English poetry.  Resonant,
stentorian, forceful -- the Miltonian manner of expression is precisely
the tone one would expect in a poem that aims to justify God's ways
to man.  Perhaps only Shakespeare, among English writers, speaks
with more sheer authority.   Modern readers, raised on the simple
declarative sentences of Hemingway and his heirs, may struggle
through this work.  But those who seek the finest and most intense
examples of the English tongue must take the time to probe the
nuances of this remarkable work.