[Milton-L] Norway

maltzahn at uottawa.ca maltzahn at uottawa.ca
Thu Nov 17 14:59:12 EST 2005

The biblical and hence traditional association of Satan with the north
seems the main reason for these references.  Moreover these Miltonic
similes are characteristically dynamic in comparing things extremely
remote (e.g. Satan on the fiery lake) to things just remote.

But as sometimes occurs in Milton, his reference to something remote
proves also to have a nearer association.  For example, Norwegian masts
were also of special interest to the English owing to the geopolitics of
the late 1650s, when Milton was getting underway with _Paradise Lost_.  In
the contest between Sweden and Denmark, Norway's fate hung in the balance,
and thus also many of the Norwegian resources on which English shipyards
depended, not least masts (but also tar and the like).  Norwegian masts
were thus a strategic resource at this date and had a part in
parliamentary debate, state correspondence and so forth.

Nicholas von Maltzahn

> As we were looking at similes in PL 1, a student pointed out something I
> hadn't noticed before: Norway appears in two of these.  There's
> Leviathan "slumbering on the Norway foam" at line 203, and "the tallest
> pine / Hewn on Norwegian hills" at 293.  When asked whether there is any
> significance to the recurrence of Norway, I had to confess I have no
> idea.  It could just be a coincidence, of course, but does anyone know
> if this question has ever come up in the criticism?  (An MLA search for
> Milton and Norway yields nothing.) Or happen to have a take on it?
> Thanks,
> Mary Bowman
> University of Wisconsin - Stevens Point
> mbowman at uwsp.edu
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