[Milton-L] Satan's repentance; response to Alan Rudrum

John K Leonard jleonard at uwo.ca
Thu Jul 20 17:21:37 EDT 2006


Steve Fallon is a formidable scholar and critic, and I usually find myself
agreeing with him, but not this time.  The lines Steve quotes from book 3
constitute a false parallel with the lines Alan Rudrum quoted from book 5
because the book 3 lines refer to a self-ordained Fall while the book 5 lines
refer to a divinely imposed punishment.  Alan Rudrum never claimed that God
ordains the Fall;  Alan's point was that God ordains eternal *punishment* for
those angels who choose freely to fall.  If Steve's argument is to fly (and I
admit he performs rhetorical wonders), he has to convince us that the word
"ordained" in book 5 (not just book 3, where the context is very different)
refers to a self-ordained Fall, not a divinely-ordained punishment.  I find it
hard to hear the lines that way: 

                                    him who disobeys
Me disobeys, breaks union, and that day
Cast out from God and blessed vision, falls
Into utter darkness, deep engulfed, his place
Ordained without redemption, without end.

Grammatically, the object of "Ordained" is "place," which surely refers to Hell,
and so to the punishment, not the crime.  There is a very close parallel in book
one, where "ordained" again refers to "place":

Such place eternal justice had prepared
For these rebellious, here their prison ordained
In utter darkness, and their portion set
As far removed from God and light of heaven
As from the centre thrice to the utmost pole. (1.70-74) 

Satan ordains his own fall, as Steve rightly insists (no quarrel there), but God
ordains Hell as his "prison," his "place" of punishment, and this "place" is
"Ordained without redemption."  To my ears, this suggests that the ordainer (of
the punishment, not the crime) is God, not Satan.  I submit that the book one
lines I have just quoted constitute a closer parallel with the book 5 lines
under dispute than do the book 3 lines brilliantly but irrelevantly cited by
Steve.  What is "ordained" in book 5 is the punishment, not the crime, and the
ordainer is none other than Big G.  

John Leonard

----- Original Message -----
From: Stephen Fallon <fallon.1 at nd.edu>
Date: Thursday, July 20, 2006 11:09 am
Subject: [Milton-L] Satan's repentance; response to Alan Rudrum
To: John Milton Discussion List <milton-l at lists.richmond.edu>

> Good question, Alan.  I see the force of the theological language. 
> The language of ordination perhaps undermines my distinction 
> between 
> prescriptive and descriptive.  But perhaps not.  The word appears 
> also in the passage at issue in Book 3:
> 
> I formed them free, and free they must remain,
> Till they enthrall themselves: I else must change
> Their nature, and revoke the high decree
> Unchangeable, eternal, which ordained
> Their freedom; they themselves ordained their fall.
> The first sort by their own suggestion fell,
> Self-tempted, self-depraved: man falls deceived                 
> By the other first: man therefore shall find grace,
> The other none: in mercy and justice both,
> Through Heav'n and Earth, so shall my glory excel,
> But mercy first and last shall brightest shine.  (3.124-34)
> 
> This is (significantly, I think) the only use of any form of 
> "ordain" 
> in Paradise Lost in which God is not the ordainer.  The Father uses 
> theological language here ironically. If the fall is ordained, as 
> some claim, it is ordained by creature and not creator.  If Satan 
> ordains his own fall, and if he chooses not to repent, then in a 
> sense "his place [is] / Ordained without redemption, without end."
> 
> Steve Fallon
> 
> >
> >
> >But look at Book 5, lines 611-615:
> >
> >him who disobeys
> >Me disobeys, breaks union, and that day
> >Cast out from God and blessed vision, falls
> >Into utter darkness, deep engulfed, his place
> >Ordained without redemption, without end.
> >
> >       . . . .
> >
> >Does Steve Fallon think the word "ordained" is prescriptive, or 
> >merely descriptive?
> >
> >Alan Rudrum
> 
> -- 
> **********************************************************
> Stephen M. Fallon
> Professor of  Liberal Studies and English
> 368 Decio Hall
> U of Notre Dame
> Notre Dame, IN 46556
> 
> 574/631-6598 o
> sfallon at nd.edu
> 


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