[Milton-L] two queries

astoll at sandiego.edu astoll at sandiego.edu
Mon Dec 20 10:18:52 EST 2004

Re Nick Dodd's two queries:

There is a fascinating book on the sabbath in Milton’s period:Sabbath and 
sectarianism in seventeenth-century England by David S. Katz. I don’t recall a 
lot on Milton, however. 

About the catalog of the gods in Book One: I think it is important that these 
are actually not classical gods, but polytheistic gods mentioned in the bible. 
Only at the end, in the figure of Mulciber, does Milton connect these gods to 
the classical gods. While his model for the catalog is classical epic, his  
source for the polytheistic detail is John Selden, De Dis Syris. De Dis is a 
unique kind of mythography, both because it handles only the gods of the bible, 
and because it treats them with an anthropological objectivity. It reads like 
early comparative religion. Selden, and Milton I think, are interested in the 
process by which religion devolved from monotheism to polytheism, and take an 
historical approach to the gods. This suggests that there is a kind of 
historical verisimilitude which Milton is after. The figure of Mulciber and the 
classical gods, by coming after the ancient near eastern gods of the bible, are 
placed as an even further stage of devolution from original monotheism.

Abraham Stoll
University of San Diego

Two queries:


What was Milton’s attitude to the Sabbath?  I ask this wondering about the idea 
that the description of Pandemonium is a satire of the building of St Peters in 
Rome.  Did the Puritan suspicion of temples or ‘steeple houses’ (as George Fox 
had it) extend to the Sabbath i.e. was the idea that there were no especially 
sacred places, because all places were equally God’s creations, extended to the 
idea that there were no days essentially more sacred than others? 
Is it right to suggest that the procession of the Fallen Angels offers a way of 
reading classical myth? Does it suggest that classical myth is always the 
product of humanity’s willingness to be seduced by the speciousness of the 
devils?  The pagan gods are the form in which humanity turns the devils into 
idols, so classical myth is the ‘scripture’ of humanity’s mistaken worship of 
the devils.  If this is the case for Milton, can one then suppose that the 
allusions in the poem carry systematically distinct veracity?  The Biblical 
allusions demonstrate the true inspiration of the poem’s narrator/poet, and 
count for more than the allusions to the natural world and the world of 
humanity, which in turn have more of truth, because they are a testimony to a 
virtuous apprehension of God’s creation and the trials of a true believer 
within it, than the allusions to Greek and Roman Epics.

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