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

Stephen Fallon fallon.1 at nd.edu
Thu Jul 20 18:47:49 EDT 2006


I'm not surprised that John Leonard, one of the most acute readers of 
Milton today, has picked some holes in my response to Alan Rudrum, 
yet another excellent scholar.  While pulling in my horns might be 
prudent, I'll have another go.

I was aware that Book 5 refers to a divinely ordained punishment as 
opposed to Book 3's self-ordained. fall.  In Book 5 the Father and in 
Book 1 the narrator use the language of ordination to describe God's 
establishment of Hell, as John rightly points out.  I'm interested, 
nevertheless, in the contextually anomalous use of the word 
"ordained" in 3.128.  I'll note again that the use is unique in the 
poem--in every other of the nearly 30 instances the term "ordain" and 
its cognates refers back to God as ordainer.  Only here are creatures 
the subjects of "ordain."  Contemporary usage allowed for "ordain" to 
refer to expressions of creaturely choice as opposed to divine 
decree, but Milton avoids using the term in this way, with this one 
exception. This sole use of "ordain" for creatures' choice breaches a 
wall maintained by Calvin between divine will and creaturely will, 
opening a gap in the otherwise impenetrable face of divine will or 
ordination.  What Calvin sees as willed by God, Milton sees as willed 
by creatures (this much is uncontroversial, I trust).  I see that 
breach then as inflecting the sense of what is ordained in Book 5. 
Satan later in Book 5 (665) "thought himself impaired," he thought 
himself into a state of impairment that turns out to be irreversible.

Having said all this, I'm keenly aware of the indirectness of my 
argument and its susceptibility to John's generously worded warning 
of the dangers of putting rhetoric before substance.

Steve Fallon

>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


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