[Milton-L] Re: Strier and the deception of Satan's followers

Jason Kerr aelfric at gmail.com
Thu Jul 20 19:19:46 EDT 2006

The question of whether or not Satan's followers were deceived in the same
way as Adam and Eve, thereby becoming eligible for the same offer of grace,
as suggested by Richard Strier, gets complicated when the temporal framework
of the events surrounding Satan's rebellion is taken into account. John S.
Tanner does a good job of parsing these temporal difficulties in the chapter
entitled "Satan and Sin" in his book _Anxiety in Eden_. The crucial lines
are these:

Deep malice thence conceiving and disdain,
Soon as midnight brought on the duskie houre
Friendliest to sleep and silence, he [Satan] resolv'd
With all his Legions to dislodge, and leave
Unworshipt, unobey'd the Throne supreme
Contemptuous, and his next subordinate
Awak'ning, thus to him in secret spake. (5.666-72)

So, in one sentence we have both Satan and all his legions "resolv'd"
(finite verb, not progressive) at the fateful hour of midnight, seemingly in
unity, and then Satan leaning over to Beelzebub to "[infuse] / Bad
influence" (5.694-95) into his "Companion dear" (5.673) and command him to
assemble "all those Myriads which we lead the chief" (5.684). If the second
were the only account, then Strier's point might have some traction. But the
former contradicts it. Tanner buttresses his argument for the relatively
simultaneous nature of Satan's rebellion and that of all his angels by
noting Abdiel's need to travel all night to return to heaven:

All night the dreadless Angel unpursu'd
Through Heav'ns wide Champain held his way, till Morn (6.1-2)

A further parallel occurs in the allegorical leap of Sin from Satan's head
in Book 2, something that Tanner argues reconciles nicely with the poem's
overall account of sin.

I would argue that this paradoxical chronology serves to land Satan's
followers in the category of self-deceived. Tanner interestingly uses the
framework provided by Kierkegaard's account of the Fall in _The Concept of
Anxiety_ to address the question of how Abdiel ended up with Satan's
followers and still retained access to grace. I refer those interested in
this question or a further untangling of the chronology of Satan's fall to
Tanner's book.

Jason A. Kerr
Boston College

> Message: 5
> Date: Thu, 20 Jul 2006 12:50:58 -0500
> From: Richard Strier <rastrier at uchicago.edu>
> Subject: Re: [Milton-L] re Fallon & man falls deceived
> To: John Milton Discussion List <milton-l at lists.richmond.edu>
> Message-ID: <p05100327c0e571a23e15@[]>
> Content-Type: text/plain; charset="us-ascii" ; format="flowed"
> But, Steve, weren't Satan's followers at least equally deceived?  You
> are assuming that the Father's defense of giving fallen man
> preference over the fallen angels makes sense.  It doesn't-- not even
> in its own terms.
"Den som vover mister Fodfæste et Øieblick;
den som ikke vover mister Livet."
                                    -Søren Kierkegaard
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