[Milton-L] Re: Stella Revard, Rose Williams, and God as tyrant

Jason Kerr aelfric at gmail.com
Fri Jul 21 21:37:35 EDT 2006

To Stella Revard: As always, I welcome the correction. I was of coursefamiliar with the Cronos story, but I am not familiar with Pindar'sPythian 1. I cede to your greater knowledge, and I'll add the Pindarto the Borgesian library that my reading list seems to have become.The erudition on display in the recent discussions has been at oncethrilling and daunting.
To Rose Williams: the distinction between Jupiter and Zeus isinteresting. I wonder if Milton's portrayal of the Father derives morefrom the pre-Etruscan numinous god ("majestic, extremely powerful, andslightly dull") than from Zeus. Are there relevant literary sources,and could Milton have known them? Does the text of PL bear upassertions of their relevance? Of course, apropos Prof. Revard's pointabout the war in heaven and the overthrow of Cronos, Milton probablywould have seen the influence flowing the other way, i.e., that the"pagan" gods were shadowy remnants of the "true" God. But I think thequestion is a fair one to ask if its terms are limited to literaryrepresentation.
Jason A. Kerr
> Message: 4> Date: Fri, 21 Jul 2006 03:59:53 -0500> From: srevard at siue.edu> Subject: Re: [Milton-L] Re: God as tyrant> To: John Milton Discussion List <milton-l at lists.richmond.edu>> Message-ID: <1153472393.44c0978987ac0 at webmail.siue.edu>> Content-Type: text/plain; charset=ISO-8859-1>> On the question of Zeus's tyranny.  I will not speak for the Romans,> but the Greeks thought Zeus ruled by law.  He overthrew the real> tyrant, Cronos (who had overthrown his own father,>  and established law, dividing his kingdom between> Poseidon and Hades (see Milton's reference in Comus, 18-20, where> he apparently conflates Jove with God).> Zeus had to defend his rule against the Titans and giants with> their assault on Olympus, and did so with the aid of his sibling> and children.  (This war was thought to be the ancient's muddled> version of Satan's war in Heaven). The Greeks looked on the Titans and the other> monstrous foes of Zeus as the anarchic elements in nature and> society.  See Pindar, Pythian 1. Although Homer sometimes has> Zeus behavior in so-called tyrannical ways (as, for example,> his treatment of Hera), other Greek poets (like Pindar) defend> his rule by law.> Since Milton uses Zeus as a model for God in PL, this is not> irrelevant.  Zeus, of course, was not the creator either of> man or gods, though he had the title of father of men and> gods.>> Stella Revard>> Quoting Jason Kerr <aelfric at gmail.com>:>> > One more thought, in reference to the past (continuing?) discussion of God's> > potential tyranny: I am very interested in Milton's treatment of classical> > sources in PL. Many of the classical allusions seem to have an ironic twist> > (cf. the various references to the muses). Milton was not comfortable, as it> > seems Spenser was in _The Faerie Queene_ (please correct me if I am wrong),> > to let Jove stand in for the Christian God and leave understanding the> > difference to the reader. This is relevant because Jove was a tyrant in the> > classical sense, i.e., he occupied a throne that did not belong to him by> > right. Does the Father in PL fall into this category? The question of> > tyranny arises for Satan and crew in the elevation of the Son, which Satan> > frames in the terms of classical tyranny:> >> >                              since by Decree> > Another now hath to himself ingross't> > All Power, and us eclipst under the name> > Of King anointed (5.774-77)> >> > Only later, when challenged by Abdiel, does Satan indirectly extend the> > language of tyranny to the Father, if only in attempting to justify his own> > attempted tyranny:> >> > That we were formd then saist thou? and the work> > Of secondarie hands, by task transferd> > From Father to his Son? strange point and new!> > [. . .]> > We know no time when we were not as now;> > Know none before us, self-begot, self-rais'd> > By our own quick'ning power,> > [. . .]> > Our puissance is our own, our own right hand> > Shall teach us highest deeds, by proof to try> > Who is our equal (5.853-55, 859-61, 864-66)> >> > By arguing that he and his followers were "self-rais'd," Satan implies that> > the Father was also "self-rais'd," and that he therefore occupies his throne> > not by right, or at least not by any right that Satan himself could not> > claim. Satan undercuts whatever force this argument may have by making force> > the standard of proof (though he rejects this standard when it no longer can> > support his claims). For Satan, at least at this point in the poem, might> > makes right.> >> > The question then becomes one of what the poem posits as the basis for the> > Father's rule. The answer seems to lie in his attributes ("Omnipotent,/> > Immutable, Immortal, Infinite, / Eternal King") and then his status as> > creator ("thee Author of all being") followed by his glory ("Fountain of> > Light") (3.372-75). In these lines, the epic voice describes the praise> > lavished on the Father by the angels after the elevation of the Son, thus> > marking the parallel response to Satan's in Book 5. Is tyranny only in the> > eye (or perhaps knees) of the beholder?> >> > Jason A. Kerr> > Boston College> > --> > "Den som vover mister Fodfæste et Øieblick;> > den som ikke vover mister Livet."> >                                     -Søren Kierkegaard> >>>> -------------------------------------------------> SIUE Web Mail>>>>> ------------------------------>
> Message: 6> Date: Fri, 21 Jul 2006 08:15:00 -0500> From: "rose williams" <rwill627 at cox.net>> Subject: Re: [Milton-L] Re: God as tyrant> To: "John Milton Discussion List" <milton-l at lists.richmond.edu>> Message-ID: <005001c6acc7$ac5ccc70$b5f50144 at cx2477359a>> Content-Type: text/plain;       format=flowed;  charset="iso-8859-1";>         reply-type=original>> Jupiter  (Jove in the objective and possessive cases) or Jove Pater, the> supreme god of the Roman pantheon, was somewhat different from Zeus. At the> founding of Rome, the gods were 'numina', divine manifestations, faceless,> formless, but very powerful. The idea of gods in human form came later, with> the influence from Etruscans and Greeks. The Poet Ennius in the 3rd Century> bc lists as most honored by the Romans a group of twelve Gods called Dii> Consentes: Iuppiter, Iuno, Minerva, Vesta, Ceres, Diana, Venus, Mars,> Mercurius, Neptunus, Volcanus, and Apollo. Their gilt statues stood in the> Forum, later apparently in the Porticus Deorum Consentium. They were> probably the twelve worshipped in 217 bc at a lectisternium, which> tongue-twisting term means a banquet of the gods at which the statues of the> gods were put upon cushions and were offered meals. Although the Etruscans> also worshipped a main pantheon of 12 Gods, the Dii Consentes were not> identified with Etruscan deities but rather with the Greek Olympian Gods.> The twelve Dii Consentes were lead by the first three, Jupiter, Juno, and> Minerva. These form the Capitoline Triad whose rites were conducted in the> Capitoleum Vetus on the Capitoline Hill. Though he shared the great> Capitoline temple with Juno and Minerva, but Jupiter was the most prominent> of the three. Jupiter, or Jove Pater, in classical times corresponded in> many aspects to Zeus. Like Zeus he wielded the lightning bolt, and the eagle> was both his symbol and his messenger. In addition to being the ruler of the> sky, he was also the protector of the state and its laws. As Jupiter Victor> he led the Roman army to victory, and was the protector of the Latin League> (an ancient confederation of Italian city-states independent but bound> together by the necessity of defending themselves against their various> enemies).  Before the eyebrow-raising stories about Zeus were added to his> biography, he was a very majestic, extremely powerful, and slightly dull> father figure.> Rose Williams>> >On the question of Zeus's tyranny.  I will not speak for the Romans,> >but the Greeks thought Zeus ruled by law.  He overthrew the real> >tyrant, Cronos (who had overthrown his own father,> > and established law, dividing his kingdom between> >Poseidon and Hades (see Milton's reference in Comus, 18-20, where> >he apparently conflates Jove with God).
-- "Den som vover mister Fodfæste et Øieblick;den som ikke vover mister Livet."                                    -Søren Kierkegaard

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