[Milton-L] Antinomian Occupations. musical platonist it might be argued.

Michael Dobiel michaeldobiel2003 at yahoo.com
Thu Mar 22 23:49:08 EDT 2007


I would like to respond to Mr. Bellinger's musical analogy by saying that I also detect a very musical quality in Milton's work.  In fact Milton's blank verse is very much in line with a common type of musical aesthetic.  For example, Paradise Lost has very much in common with music which does not follow the strictest structural parameters.  The term "through-composed" can refer to music which does not follow a traditional structure.  In the Western European tradition an example of "traditional" or "classical" form would be a piano sonata by Mozart.  The structure of a typical sonata movement by Mozart would have certain structural parameters that would pertain to factors like the introduction of melodic motives or the harmonic content of each section.  Yet the same composer wrote music with fewer structural parameters.  After all, the primary factor in the form of Don Giovanni is the action which takes place on stage.  Music which makes use of less rigid structure is not
 limited to dramatic settings either.  For example, Berlioz' "Symphonie Fantastique"  attempts to musically communicate a story, disregarding the formal structures which were still used by some of his contemporaries.  
  I fear that I have gotten away from Milton a bit. However, I do see a relationship between poetic forms which is similar to the musical one.  Take, for example, a sonnet.  While they have existed in many incarnations, sonnets generally follow certain structural parameters.  These include rhyme scheme, meter, and number of lines.  By contrast PL does not make the same use of these parameters.  Just as in Don Giovanni, the story guides the use of structural elements.  Incidentally, Milton's sonnets are quite interesting to me for their use of this form.  
Mr. Bellinger's mention of the memorization of long poems also resonates with me as a musician.  The process of memorization is part of the life of a musician.  A conductor must more or less memorize scores.  Solo performers of Western European music often memorize their parts of a piece.  Jazz musicians memorize melody and harmony of a tune to better facilitate improvisation.  Native Americans Generally do not use a system of notation and therefore perform music from memory.  
  I do not quite know how to relate everything I have just said to "divine philosphy," as Mr. Bellinger phrases it.  In that regard I would be interested what anyone has to say about the subjects I have mentioned.  To provide focus to my questions, I will limit it to PL. What poetic elements unify PL?  In what ways do they unify it?  Did Milton have musical training, perhaps received from his father, which informed the musical qualities of his poetry?  There are many mentions of musical instruments and of musical action in PL.  For example, the angels sing in Book 7 after the story of the creation of the earth is related.  What function do these musical descriptions serve?  
  I fear that I have asked questions which may be of considerable magnitude.  But I would very much appreciate any responses that provide insight into them.  

   
  Haydnbcarlb at comcast.net> wrote:
  Carter Kaplan asks:
> By this internalization, do we mean that we "automatically" follow the 
> law, or, instead, do we follow the law because it is internalized as a 
> passive reference we can, as it were, consult as part of the larger 
> process of making an appropriate decision about our conduct?
>
> A science fiction analogy is apt: is the new law "chip" the 
> angels/God/Jesus inserts into out heads meant to control our character and 
> behavior, or is it a legal reference library that merely provides 
> information, and we act upon that information at our personal discretion?
> ....


What is apt about the "chip" analogy is that initially the active agent is 
outside the body/mind and by some operation that agent eventually becomes 
lodged on the inside. Beyond that it isn't apt I think; Milton's conception, 
surely, is far less cold, clinical, rationalistic than the model Mr. Kaplan 
has proposed where an embedded micro-chip either forcibly controls behavior 
and character, or acts merely as a "legal reference library."
I would have liked to offer, instead, a "music" analogy: music starts 
outside the body/mind, it penetrates, and eventually transforms thought, 
emotion, behavior; this would be the Orphic analogy. (And by "music," I 
mean _everything_ Milton calls music, including for instance the 
recitational rhythms of the blank verse of Paradise Lost, which he calls the 
"true musical delight," and also for instance the cadences of Adam & Eve's 
spontaneous rhetorical eloquence, their pre-lapsarian hymnody "more tuneable 
than needed lute or harp to add more sweetness.") I would have liked to 
suggest this analogy; big problem however; for Milton, this is not an 
analogy at all! His salvation theology --it might be argued-- IS a 
genuinely practical, musical gnosis of enlightenment clearly visible beneath 
the elaborate surface of Protestant notions and Biblical narratives. The 
ethos and method is thoroughly neoPlatonic and it is clothed (I don't say 
"cloaked"), it is clothed in a bright, gorgeously woven brocade of 
Reformation language, narrative, invective.
Such an argument would appeal to such texts as that near the 
culmination of Milton's education of young christian men where they must 
first read, and then "get by memory" [here comes that microchip!], and 
finally recite "out loud" the great Greek and roman texts. And such stuff 
as in Church Govenment, at that prominent place where M specifically is 
talking about the function and process of Law. There M develops the force of 
his argument entirely in Plato and only at the end does he point out that 
the Bible is the first and best text of them all when it comes to the 
effective power of language to infiltrate, and to "in a sense CHARM the 
multitude." We might want to ferret out M's use of the word "charm" various 
places in his works. Milton is careful not overtly to play the Magus, 
Christians don't, but the intense vigor of his rhetorical ethos "in prose or 
numerous verse" lies in the music of it. How musical is divine philosophy!

-Carl


would be better than the micro-chip one for Milton's conception of the 
transformative process we are discussing


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