[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 Miltons period:Sabbath and
sectarianism in seventeenth-century England by David S. Katz. I dont 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.
University of San Diego
What was Miltons 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 Gods 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 humanitys 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 humanitys 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 poems 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 Gods creation and the trials of a true believer
within it, than the allusions to Greek and Roman Epics.
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