[Milton-L] online diagrams of Milton's cosmos?

Mario DiCesare dicesare1 at mindspring.com
Tue Sep 18 11:39:23 EDT 2007

Dear Dennis Danielson,

Thanks for a clear and useful presentation of what we need to have in 
mind when we try to think about or talk about Milton's cosmos. I often 
felt I distorted it when I tried to answer students' questions, so I 
finally gave up the attempt. Now, in my dotage talking with interested 
seniors about PL, I have something sensible to say.



Dennis Danielson wrote:
> When it comes to the cosmos, I worry that to depict is to distort. In 
> modern Standard Model (big bang) cosmology, baryonic matter--the kind 
> that is potentially visible--is now estimated to make up about 4% of the 
> mass of the universe. In other words, if you try to depict our physical 
> cosmos in any straightforward sense of the term, you automatically leave 
> out 96% of it.
> Efforts to depict Milton's cosmos (I'm thinking of the diagram I believe 
> W. C. Curry made, which was reprinted in the Hughes Complete Poems) 
> almost inevitably make Milton more Ptolemaic than he was. Even within 
> the "skin" or "crust" of the universe that Satan enters through that 
> famous hatch, there are lots of Copernican/Galilean features: the moon 
> and the earth are both viewed from the sun as sharing their light with 
> each other (they are both stars); the stars past which Satan flies don't 
> seem to be borne by crystalline spheres--at least he doesn't bump into 
> any, etc.
> But most dramatically, that whole cosmos ("this pendent world") is an 
> almost indiscernibly small point of light when viewed from far out on 
> the fringes of Chaos. Thus we need some word more encompassing than 
> "cosmos" to describe Milton's heaven, hell, chaos, and (relatively 
> speaking) tiny cosmos.
> And if our powers of description here fail, then so too perhaps must our 
> powers of depiction.
> Best wishes to all,
> Dennis D
> Burbery, Timothy wrote:
>> Dear List,
>> I'm looking for a good, easily downloaded, diagram/illustration of
>> Milton's universe, which of course combines Ptolemaic and Copernican
>> features. While there are a lot of good diagrams of Ptolemy's system
>> online, I have yet to come across any that show Milton's particular
>> combination of Ptolemy and Copernicus/Digges. I've also found some of
>> Tycho Brahe's system, which is also a hybrid system, but none that
>> illustrate Milton's cosmos.  
>> Thanks in advance,
>> Tim Burbery
>> Marshall University

More information about the Milton-L mailing list