[Milton-L] Miltonic Sonnet: Blacksburg

Greg Lowe irnbrigade at hotmail.com
Wed Apr 18 14:21:27 EDT 2007


Having grown up about 40 miles from the Blacksburg campus, just hearing the 
familiar (but yesterday suffering) lilt of the southwestern Virginia voices 
heightens the pain I feel from my Atlanta vantage point.

Kemmer, a very fitting homage to Nikki Giovanni's eloquent words.

When I got to school yesterday, I prefaced the lesson I had planned on 
Robert Burns with some words from PL that I and my students had examined 
together during the first few weeks of this new year. Trying to imagine the 
mind-set that might lead to such senseless destruction and carnage I pointed 
them to Satan's soliloquy in Book IV.

Me miserable! which way shall I fly
Infinite wrath, and infinite despair?
Which way I fly is Hell; myself am Hell;
And, in the lowest deep, a lower deep
Still threatening to devour me opens wide

And then later,

So farewell, hope; and with hope farewell, fear;
Farewell, remorse! all good to me is lost;
Evil, be thou my good...

And then I sent them to Book VI and Raphael's admonition regarding the 
development of weapons after his narration of Satan's invention of the 
cannon,

               ...Yet, haply, of thy race
In future days, if malice should abound,
Some one intent on mischief, or inspired
With devilish machination, might devise
Like instrument to plague the sons of men
For sin, on war and mutual slaughter bent.

And then finally I got on to Burns (although real connections to the event 
could be made to "the best laid schemes..." for there is no other place so 
full of hopeful plans than a university campus)

And then I came home and had my spirits uplifted by Giovanni's closing 
remarks at the convocation service televised from Blacksburg. Only then did 
I realize how dark the Milton's words were that I had shared with my 
students earlier that day (my only defense is that these words had  matched 
my dark mood). Giovanni helps to turn my mind from "Evil, be thou my 
good..." and "mutual slaughter" to a better and more hopeful passage from 
Book XII,

O Goodness infinite, Goodness immense!
That all this good of evil shall produce,
And evil turn to good; more wonderful
Than that which by creation first brought forth
Light out of darkness!

Giovanni's repeated "we will prevail" is a first step toward turning this 
terrible evil into good.

Greg Lowe
Collins Hill High school
Suwanee, Georgia

>From: Nancy Charlton <pluscachange at comcast.net>
>Reply-To: John Milton Discussion List <milton-l at lists.richmond.edu>
>To: John Milton Discussion List <milton-l at lists.richmond.edu>
>Subject: Re: [Milton-L] Miltonic Sonnet: Blacksburg
>Date: Wed, 18 Apr 2007 10:11:28 -0700
>
>Fine sonnet, Kemmer. You should send it to Nikki Giovanni and/or to your 
>local newspaper and the Blacksburg paper.
>
>--nc
>
>At 09:18 AM 4/18/2007 -0400, you wrote:
>>                        "We Are Virginia Tech"
>>                        for Nikki Giovanni
>>
>>From Blacksburg poetry rises from this hour
>>of grief that shrouds the Blue Ridge Mountain plain
>>with students, faculty, and parents whose pain
>>drives language to break sound barriers and flower
>>in the compost of despair.  The power
>>of metaphor wraps round this tragic stain
>>defined by blood and writ through time since Cain
>>committed the first murder that tells our
>>story.  The exponents of flesh explode
>>in memory.  Names, faces dissolve through
>>a holocaust of tears.  Recorded dust
>>forms into prayer and breaks into an ode
>>called out from the campus bard who knew
>>how to bring us back to words we trust.
>>
>>                         Kemmer Anderson
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