[Milton-L] The War in Heaven

jfleming at sfu.ca jfleming at sfu.ca
Wed Jul 12 15:24:57 EDT 2006

On Wed, 12 Jul 2006 15:08:14 -0500 milton-l at lists.richmond.edu wrote:
> Re J.D. Fleming's remarks:
> But again, it begs the question to say that "the poem (PL) make[s] 
> the rule-proving exception of God . . . [from the charge of tyranny] 
> exceptionally clear," since that is exactly what is at issue.  

It is not begging the question. It is the argument that M makes. One may
find the argument wanting, but this is not the same as finding it not made.
To propose, a la Empson, that it is not really made, because the Empsonian
finds it wanting -- now, _that_ is begging the question. 

> point, of course, is not what Milton would say, if asked (or even 
> when asked), but what the poem presents.	

Well, precisely.

This may never be settled, 
> but can only be properly entered into through analysis of the text, 
> not through appeals to what Milton would have or did say.  The 
> question, as Blake and Shelley knew so well, is whether the poem 
> shares the orthodoxies (as well as the unorthodoxies) of the poet. 
> Shelley certainly did not think that M consciously intended to make 
> God and Satan morally indistinguishable, but that because he was a 
> "true poet" (Blake's phrase), M wrote a poem that transcended his own 
> conscious moral scheme (as did Dante, etc.).

But _this_, surely, is the kind of question-begging psycho-intentionalism
that will never be settled! And not because its questions are difficult --
not even because they are about imaginary objects -- but because they are
not questions. Blake's Hellish speaker knows _in advance_ that true poets
are Hellish. 

James Dougal Fleming, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of English,
Simon Fraser University,
(604) 291-4713
cell: 778-865-0926

Laissez parler les faits.

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