[Milton-L] What have we become?

Nancy Charlton pluscachange at comcast.net
Tue Apr 17 03:16:30 EDT 2007

Carol Barton earlier today wrote most eloquently 
and passionately of the horror at Virginia Tech, 
and of several things that may be involved in it. 
The center of Carol's post is this:

>My heart goes out to any and all of you who are 
>grieving for the children and faculty members 
>who lost their lives in Blacksburg today, as I am.

Like our author JM, we might find in grief a 
reason to look to greater significances—and 
thanks, Ryan Paul, for the passage from Lycidas. 
Carol finds such in her assessment of the 
amorality and perversion of social mores on 
campuses, in gun control issues, and in security 
practices that tend to total neglect in some things and overkill in others.

Carol concludes, in an echo of "Avenge, O Lord thy slaughter'd saints":
>God bless the slaughtered innocents, and comfort 
>their families and those who were witness to this atrocity.
>Carol Barton

Is it too much to expect that people of immense 
erudition and presumed sophistication, empathy, 
and good will would respond in kind, and that 
their own feelings would echo the sentiments 
expressed, rather than fixating on minor points 
such as "which God?" or go rambling off into a hinterland of generalizations?
. . .

I had to leave off this writing, and since then 
the reasoned and reasonable posts from Jim Rovira 
and others have come in like oil upon troubled waters.

Nobody has commented on Carol's extending of 
sympathy to a set of folks not usually mentioned: 
"those who were witness to this 
atrocity."  Hovering over heat vents and sleeping 
in church doorways are many of those from Vietnam 
or even Korea who fall into this category. Our 
first attention rightly turns to the "slaughtered 
innocents," but those traumatized must often make 
do only with a little counseling.

                         . . . Their [the slaughtered] moans
    The Vales redoubl'd to the Hills, and they
       To Heav'n.

Those between the dying and the "Hills," however, 
hear the "moans" up close and personal, and their 
loss of peace, innocence, equilibrium may go 
unnoticed. It serves, Milton says, as a warning 
and a hope, that the ashes of the Piemontese . . .

                                 . . . may grow
       A hunderd-fold, who having learnt thy way
       Early may fly the Babylonian wo.

In other words, I would hope that Virginia Tech 
and the larger academic community unite in 
helping the survivors turn their grief and horror 
eventually to positive ends. This may not be the 
most pertinent passage to quote, but I think 
often of Adam and Eve's psalm of praise in Book 
V, which opens with "These are thy glorious 
works, Parent of good" (line 153) and after cataloguing them, conclude:

Hail universal Lord, be bounteous still
To give us onely good; and if the night
Have gatherd aught of evil or conceald,
Disperse it, as now light dispells the dark. (205-209)

I have used this as a blessing before holiday 
meals, and unrealistic or impossible as it may 
seem, I would hope the victims and the witnesses 
of this and all less newsworthy crimes committed 
this day be able to pray to the "universal Lord" 
that light will dispel the dark.

Nancy Charlton
"Awake, arise, or be forever fallen." 
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