[Milton-L] Re: The War in Heaven

Greg Lowe irnbrigade at hotmail.com
Wed Jul 12 02:47:17 EDT 2006


Perhaps just the way I prefer to see PL, but I see Book VI as evidence of 
Miltonic pacifism. Days one and two accomplish nothing but an allowance for 
bids for glory by the combatants on each side. Day three is hardly a battle 
at all but rather an expurgation. War is an unholy activity in which only 
lesser creatures participate. I think of the Father's command to the son on 
the morning of the 3rd day. "War wearied hath performed what war can do," 
Allow me to quote Edwin Starr, from a song from my youth, "War, good God, 
What is it good for... absolutely nothing..." War, in retrospect, is always 
tragic. Enemies of one generation beome friends in the next. Unfortunately 
carnage is left behind ("Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair). I like 
to think that Milton comes to see war for the waste that it is as he 
approaches "the yellow leaf." I see many peace messages sprinkled about in 
PL.
In Book 2 is this great passage

O shame to men! Devil with devil damned
Firm concord holds; men only disagree
Of creatures rational, though under hope
Of heavenly grace, and, God proclaiming peace,
Yet live in hatred, enmity, and strife
Among themselves, and levy cruel wars
Wasting the earth, each other to destroy:
As if (which might induce us to accord)
Man had not hellish foes enow besides,
That day and night for his destruction wait!

And then there is Michael's disgusting presentation of the war-making in 
Book 11

                                        ...so violence
Proceeded, and oppression, and sword-law,
Through all the plain, and refuge none was found.

So far from being a "a paean to Power," PL, including Book VI, is a paean to 
"the meek-eyed Peace." For Milton, in Book VI, it is not "might that makes 
right" but rather "right that makes might."

Greg Lowe
Collins Hill High School

>From: milton-l-request at lists.richmond.edu
>Reply-To: milton-l at lists.richmond.edu
>To: milton-l at lists.richmond.edu
>Subject: Milton-L Digest, Vol 33, Issue 7
>Date: Tue, 11 Jul 2006 16:26:30 -0400
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>Today's Topics:
>
>    1. Re: The War in Heaven (jfleming at sfu.ca)
>    2. Re: The War in Heaven (rose williams)
>    3. Re: The War in Heaven (gilliaca at jmu.edu)
>    4. Re: The War in Heaven (gilliaca at jmu.edu)
>    5. RE: The War in Heaven (gilliaca at jmu.edu)
>    6. Re: The War in Heaven (Harold Skulsky)
>    7. Re: The War in Heaven (James Rovira)
>    8. RE: The War in Heaven (Wittreich, Joseph)
>    9. PL VI as Paen to Power (Michael Bryson)
>
>
>----------------------------------------------------------------------
>
>Message: 1
>Date: Tue, 11 Jul 2006 11:32:26 -0700
>From: jfleming at sfu.ca
>Subject: Re: [Milton-L] The War in Heaven
>To: milton-l at lists.richmond.edu
>Message-ID: <200607111832.k6BIWQPC009109 at rm-rstar.sfu.ca>
>Content-Type: text/plain
>
>
>
>On Tue, 11 Jul 2006 13:52:32 -0400 milton-l at lists.richmond.edu wrote:
> > "Esoteric readings are always possible, because the evidence for them,
> > more-or-less by definition, is absent or secretive. But ought we not,
> > for
> > that reason, be rather cautious with our esoteric readings?"
> >
> > When there's no evidence for a reading, or the evidence was withheld
> > from the intended audience, the reading is an appropriation and not a
> > reading. From where I sit, the appropriate level of caution for esoteric
> > readings is abstention.
>
>With this I entirely agree; but it contradicts, in my view, the reading you
>offered, as well as your explanation below. A "cue," which may or may not 
>be
>"meant" -- is this not the very definition of an esoteric reading?
>
>And in any case, what are the "learned but well-known cues" in this case?
>The word "chariot"? Is that not just a word? Regards, JDF
>
> >
> > The stuff about the chariot is not very learned by the relevant
> > standard; it's common knowledge among 17th-c. readers qualified to catch
> > Miltonic allusions. The learned but well-known cues are there (see
> > background in Revard and Lieb). It's always possible that Milton didn't
> > mean the cues to function here as cues, that they're so much
> > gingerbread. But that doesn't change their status as cues; a language
> > user can't silently and unilaterally opt out of the conventions by which
> > he lives.
> > _______________________________________________
> > Milton-L mailing list
> > Milton-L at lists.richmond.edu
> > Manage your list membership and access list archives at
> > http://lists.richmond.edu/mailman/listinfo/milton-l
> >
>
>
>James Dougal Fleming, Ph.D.
>Assistant Professor of English,
>Simon Fraser University,
>(604) 291-4713
>cell: 778-865-0926
>
>Laissez parler les faits.
>
>------------------------------
>
>Message: 2
>Date: Tue, 11 Jul 2006 13:35:06 -0500
>From: "rose williams" <rwill627 at cox.net>
>Subject: Re: [Milton-L] The War in Heaven
>To: "John Milton Discussion List" <milton-l at lists.richmond.edu>
>Message-ID: <01e101c6a518$bc540960$b5f50144 at cx2477359a>
>Content-Type: text/plain;	format=flowed;	charset="iso-8859-1";
>	reply-type=original
>
>Endless havoc is wrought by modern persons who take it upon themselves to
>reenact Biblical events in modern times, with themselves as God's personal
>emissaries, of course. There was a good reason why Jesus talked so much
>about humility. Too bad most of the human race was not listening.
>Rose Williams
>----- Original Message -----
>From: "Feisal Mohamed" <feisalm at hotmail.com>
>To: "'John Milton Discussion List'" <milton-l at lists.richmond.edu>
>Sent: Tuesday, July 11, 2006 1:16 PM
>Subject: RE: [Milton-L] The War in Heaven
>
>
> > One has to draw the Iraq/Book VI parallels with caution: the last thing
> > needed below the Mason-Dixon line is encouragement to lend cosmic
> > significance to moronic foreign policy.
> >
> > Not too long ago, I stumbled upon a TV broadcast of John Hagee's sermon
> > _The
> > End of an Age: Beyond Iraq_.  Pastor Hagee reminded his flock of San
> > Antonio
> > Evangelicals time and again that "modern Iraq is biblical Babylon," a
> > coincidence not simply of geography, but also in Iraq's status as
> > birthplace
> > of a false religion (Rev 17 Gen 10), and in Saddam Hussein's desire to
> > launch Scud Missiles into Israel, making him a sort of Nebuchadnezzar
> > redivivus.  Further evidence for this parallel is provided by Jeremiah's
> > prophecy of Operation Desert Storm: when Babylon was overtaken by a "a
> > company of great nations" (50.9), when CNN's non-stop coverage 
>"Declare[d]
> > to the nations" that "Babylon is taken" (50.2), when Smart Bombs were
> > "like
> > the arrows of a skilled warrior" (50.9), and the lighting of oil wells
> > made
> > surrounding "nations weary themselves only for fire" (51.58).  The clear
> > implication of this view of biblical history is that Operation Iraqi
> > Freedom
> > has brought about the permanent fall of Babylon described in Rev 18, and
> > is
> > thus not only inevitable, but also desirable in indicating a step toward
> > Apocalypse. (See the ministry's official magazine on Iraq at
> > http://www.jhm.org/mag-pdfs/may-june03mag.pdf)
> >
> > One of the features of Book VI that I don't think has been emphasized 
>thus
> > far is how Milton invites consideration of it as the stuff conventional 
>to
> > epic only to steer us in an entirely different direction.  Raphael tells
> > us
> > after the first day that memorializing the combatants is not the point
> > (6.373-85), a statement that shows us that this is not at all epic 
>battle
> > in
> > the spirit of a Homer or Vergil.  Pope and Johnson were right to think
> > that
> > the second day departs from decorum; they were wrong not to see this as
> > part
> > of Milton's design.  The pointlessness and absurdity illustrated by the
> > first two days not only anticipate the triumph of the Son, but also the
> > more
> > explicit critique of epic tradition offered in the proem to Book IX.
> >
> > Best,
> > Feisal
> > (Texas Tech)
> >
> >
> >
> > -----Original Message-----
> > From: milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu
> > [mailto:milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu] On Behalf Of 
>gilliaca at jmu.edu
> > Sent: Tuesday, July 11, 2006 11:20 AM
> > To: John Milton Discussion List
> > Subject: Re: [Milton-L] The War in Heaven
> >
> >
> > I will be teaching our Milton course this fall, and as always, will
> > probably
> > find teaching the War in Heaven contextualized by the war in Iraq.
> >
> > At JMU we have a large contingent of ROTC students, and we have a good
> > number of students with military family connections - siblings, uncles,
> > aunts, parents in the military and in many cases serving active duty
> > abroad
> > - so that the reality of earthbound warfare is a present part of life to
> > many students.
> >
> > C
> > Cynthia A. Gilliatt
> > English Department, JMU
> > JMU Safe Zones participant
> > "You have made God in your own image when God hates the same people you
> > hate." Fr. John Weston _______________________________________________
> > Milton-L mailing list
> > Milton-L at lists.richmond.edu
> > Manage your list membership and access list archives at
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> > _______________________________________________
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> > Manage your list membership and access list archives at
> > http://lists.richmond.edu/mailman/listinfo/milton-l
> >
>
>
>
>------------------------------
>
>Message: 3
>Date: Tue, 11 Jul 2006 14:30:48 -0400 (EDT)
>From: <gilliaca at jmu.edu>
>Subject: Re: [Milton-L] The War in Heaven
>To: John Milton Discussion List <milton-l at lists.richmond.edu>
>Message-ID: <20060711143048.ACF89705 at mpmail1.jmu.edu>
>Content-Type: text/plain; charset=us-ascii
>
>
>
> >
> >You might find it useful to google Stan  Goff.
> >
> >Here is a particular entry from his web site, in which he
>looks at
> >Haditha through the perspective of his military service in
>Vietnam:
> >
> >http://stangoff.com/?p=296
> >
> >The last I knew, his son was in the military serving in
>Iraq. Stan was
> >one of the founders and is a member of the coordinating
>committee of
> >Bring Them Home Now, a campaign of military families,
>veterans, active
> >duty personnel, reservists against the war in Iraq. His last
>military
> >service was in the 1994 U.S. invasion of Haiti. It turned
>him red.
> >
> >Carrol
>
>Thanks. As I type I am listening to Talk of the Nation
>discussing the statement from DOD today that OF COURSE all
>terrorist prisoners are already under the Geneva Convention
>Common Aryicle 3 and ALWAYS HAVE BEEN. Makes my head spin.
>
>C
>Cynthia A. Gilliatt
>English Department, JMU
>JMU Safe Zones participant
>"You have made God in your own image when God hates the same people you 
>hate." Fr. John Weston
>
>------------------------------
>
>Message: 4
>Date: Tue, 11 Jul 2006 14:35:23 -0400 (EDT)
>From: <gilliaca at jmu.edu>
>Subject: Re: [Milton-L] The War in Heaven
>To: John Milton Discussion List <milton-l at lists.richmond.edu>
>Message-ID: <20060711143523.ACF90223 at mpmail1.jmu.edu>
>Content-Type: text/plain; charset=us-ascii
>
>
> >Of course the Chariot is
> >> technological. It has wheels!
> >>
> >> Carrol
> >
> >An analogous argument: "of course primitive societies are
>capitalistic. They
> >have money!" True?
>
>
>Um ... Carrol, were you thinking 'machine?'  A lever is a
>simple machine and so is an inclined plane - is a wheel? This
>is a genuine question from the depths of my ignorance, not a
>smart-alec response.
>
>In college long ago my history professor in a fit of pique
>pulled down too hard on the classroom's roll-down map of
>Europe, ripping the whole shebang off the wall. He said, "Oh
>well - I never had any luck with machinery!"
>
>C
>
>C
>Cynthia A. Gilliatt
>English Department, JMU
>JMU Safe Zones participant
>"You have made God in your own image when God hates the same people you 
>hate." Fr. John Weston
>
>------------------------------
>
>Message: 5
>Date: Tue, 11 Jul 2006 14:56:00 -0400 (EDT)
>From: <gilliaca at jmu.edu>
>Subject: RE: [Milton-L] The War in Heaven
>To: John Milton Discussion List <milton-l at lists.richmond.edu>
>Message-ID: <20060711145600.ACF92521 at mpmail1.jmu.edu>
>Content-Type: text/plain; charset=us-ascii
>
>
>
> >
> >One has to draw the Iraq/Book VI parallels with caution: the
>last thing
> >needed below the Mason-Dixon line is encouragement to lend
>cosmic
> >significance to moronic foreign policy.
>
>Quite right, but parallels were not what I was thinking of -
>more along the lines of having kids in class whose family
>members are involved in a  conflict in which real bullets and
>bombs maim and kill real human beings on both sides, reading
>about a war that is fought by creatures who cannot die and,
>at least in the battles, cannot be permanently injured - of
>course, the fallen angels eventually are forced to change
>form against their will when Satan returns to report on
>his 'triumph,' and their continued existence is shown not to
>be desirable.
>
>I will also be teaching a class in Greek mythology, and that
>will involve our study of the Trojan War and the Iliad - a
>different way of seeing war too.
>
>As a scholar and as an Episcopal priest, I am wary indeed of
>those who can read contemporary events in the Revelation to
>St. John. Many of my neighbors here in Virginia who write
>letters to the editor of the local paper are experts in this
>kind of exegesis!
>
>C
>Cynthia A. Gilliatt
>English Department, JMU
>JMU Safe Zones participant
>"You have made God in your own image when God hates the same people you 
>hate." Fr. John Weston
>
>------------------------------
>
>Message: 6
>Date: Tue, 11 Jul 2006 15:36:49 -0400
>From: "Harold Skulsky" <hskulsky at email.smith.edu>
>Subject: Re: [Milton-L] The War in Heaven
>To: <milton-l at lists.richmond.edu>
>Message-ID: <44B3C591020000DA00000802 at gwemail.smith.edu>
>Content-Type: text/plain; charset=US-ASCII
>
>It's clear, to me at least, that we are speaking at cross purposes. My
>answers to (1) and (2) below will have to do, I'm afraid.
>
>
>(1) A "cue," which may or may not be "meant" -- is this not the very
>definition of an esoteric reading?
>
>Answer to (1): There is always a possibility--in Milton's case no more
>than a bare possibility--that a speaker manages to say something he
>doesn't mean; in many cases this involves the misuse of a convention,
>either lexical or pragmatic (e.g., a cue). Conventions need not be
>esoteric.
>
>(2) In any case, what are the "learned but well-known cues" in this
>case? The word "chariot"? Is that not just a word?
>
>Answer to (2): The chariot passage is a passage, not a word; words are
>nothing out of context, and here the context is richly allusive.
>Regretfully, I have no time, space, or energy for a commentary. I am
>more than happy to let Lieb and Revard speak for me.
>
>
>
>------------------------------
>
>Message: 7
>Date: Tue, 11 Jul 2006 15:41:41 -0400
>From: "James Rovira" <jamesrovira at gmail.com>
>Subject: Re: [Milton-L] The War in Heaven
>To: "John Milton Discussion List" <milton-l at lists.richmond.edu>
>Message-ID:
>	<411af8540607111241g7d0a0bc9j62d467989851437d at mail.gmail.com>
>Content-Type: text/plain; charset=ISO-8859-1; format=flowed
>
>I think even simplistic mappings of contemporary events onto
>apocryphal texts deserve serious attention.  I think that's what these
>texts were meant to accomplish: to provide an interpretive framework
>for mundane history, to teach us how to read it.  It's not hard to
>read Roman history in the book of Revelation, or the English Civil war
>in Paradise Lost. Once we confront the facts of history we need some
>way to lend them meaning, hence, apocryphal literature.  This approach
>can proceed from theist or atheist presuppositions.  The difference
>between a fundamentalist pastor doing this with the Iraqi war and
>Carrol Cox doing this with the text of Paradise Lost is a difference
>in politics and assumptions, but not in approach (a comparison I'm
>sure Prof. Cox will love me for making...).
>
>Jim R
>
>------------------------------
>
>Message: 8
>Date: Tue, 11 Jul 2006 16:08:11 -0400
>From: "Wittreich, Joseph" <JWittreich at gc.cuny.edu>
>Subject: RE: [Milton-L] The War in Heaven
>To: "John Milton Discussion List" <milton-l at lists.richmond.edu>
>Message-ID:
>	<6889DDC1CE0D7845912CB738AEE21A0A0CF1F2 at MAILBE.acad.gc.cuny.edu>
>Content-Type: text/plain;	charset="US-ASCII"
>
>Milton's poetry has often been read in this way as, for example, by F.
>R. Leavis (it seems) fighting in the trenches during the First World War
>and heavily marking his copy of PL and by G. Wilson Knight in Chariot of
>Wrath.
>
>-----Original Message-----
>From: milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu
>[mailto:milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu] On Behalf Of
>gilliaca at jmu.edu
>Sent: Tuesday, July 11, 2006 2:56 PM
>To: John Milton Discussion List
>Subject: RE: [Milton-L] The War in Heaven
>
>
>
> >
> >One has to draw the Iraq/Book VI parallels with caution: the
>last thing
> >needed below the Mason-Dixon line is encouragement to lend
>cosmic
> >significance to moronic foreign policy.
>
>Quite right, but parallels were not what I was thinking of -
>more along the lines of having kids in class whose family
>members are involved in a  conflict in which real bullets and
>bombs maim and kill real human beings on both sides, reading
>about a war that is fought by creatures who cannot die and,
>at least in the battles, cannot be permanently injured - of
>course, the fallen angels eventually are forced to change
>form against their will when Satan returns to report on
>his 'triumph,' and their continued existence is shown not to
>be desirable.
>
>I will also be teaching a class in Greek mythology, and that
>will involve our study of the Trojan War and the Iliad - a
>different way of seeing war too.
>
>As a scholar and as an Episcopal priest, I am wary indeed of
>those who can read contemporary events in the Revelation to
>St. John. Many of my neighbors here in Virginia who write
>letters to the editor of the local paper are experts in this
>kind of exegesis!
>
>C
>Cynthia A. Gilliatt
>English Department, JMU
>JMU Safe Zones participant
>"You have made God in your own image when God hates the same people you
>hate." Fr. John Weston
>_______________________________________________
>Milton-L mailing list
>Milton-L at lists.richmond.edu
>Manage your list membership and access list archives at
>http://lists.richmond.edu/mailman/listinfo/milton-l
>
>
>------------------------------
>
>Message: 9
>Date: Tue, 11 Jul 2006 13:25:18 -0700 (PDT)
>From: Michael Bryson <michael.bryson at csun.edu>
>Subject: [Milton-L] PL VI as Paen to Power
>To: milton-l at lists.richmond.edu
>Message-ID: <20060711132518.ADP00827 at cuckoo.csun.edu>
>Content-Type: text/plain; charset=us-ascii
>
>In response to Richard and Feisal particularly, I can't help but think of 
>the Son's military "victory" in book 6 as a version of "Shock and Awe" (the 
>active--and immediately destructive--arm of a "moronic foreign policy"). A 
>military operation that merely hardens the enemy's resolve to continue 
>hostilities ("he no less / At length from us may find, who overcomes / By 
>force hath overcome but half his foe." 1.647-49) seems all too familiar 
>these days. While I agree that the resolution of the war in heaven is, as 
>Richard puts it, "a paean to Power" (Might, not Right wins the war in 
>heaven, making Satan's calculations about the nature of the place and those 
>who run it rather more credible--at least to this reader--than other 
>Miltonists have often argued), I also agree with Feisal's point that 
>"pointlessness and absurdity" characterize the war (though I would extend 
>that to the *entire* war, not just the first two days).
>
>As for Richard's "feeling more and more like Empson," well, I've been 
>accused of trying to "out-Empson Empson" in one or two places recently. I 
>gather that the accusation was intended to be devastating. (I rather 
>enjoyed it.) I still love that book, all the more so because of its 
>provocative nature. I find the fact that a nearly 50-year-old work of 
>literary criticism still has such power as a taboo at once heartening and 
>hilarious (true story: the Northwestern University library has a copy of 
>"Milton's God" upon the title page of which some enterprising reader has 
>written, "This book is the work of the Devil"--always nice to have a 
>helpful guide to one's reading, isn't it?).
>
>Back to the war, though, I think that there is a fairly clear reference to 
>merkabah lore in the idea of the "The chariot of Paternal Deity, / Flashing 
>thick flames, wheel within wheel undrawn" (6.750-51), which is not at all 
>incompatible with the idea that the war's resolution is a paean to power. 
>What is more problematic--indeed, more interesting, to me anyway--is the 
>way in which such a use of the merkabah imagery might function as a 
>critique of the ultimate usefulness of such power. Michael Lieb talks much 
>about the ways in which the "visionary mode" reveals more about the 
>visionary (and the exegete) than that which is being envisioned (and 
>interpreted) in his discussion of the merkabah lore--perhaps a similar 
>dynamic is at work in the portrayal of the war in heaven: the war, and its 
>resolution, reflects *us* (readers, interpreters), and our ways of 
>insisting on imagining deity. I'm bracketing the poet off from that for the 
>moment, because I think Milton is working both s!
>  id!
>!
>es of the street here, both indulging and critiquing his own imaginings of 
>God (affirming and negating all at once).
>
>Michael Bryson
>
>------------------------------
>
>_______________________________________________
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>End of Milton-L Digest, Vol 33, Issue 7
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