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

Horace Jeffery Hodges jefferyhodges at yahoo.com
Tue Sep 18 16:38:59 EDT 2007

Thanks, Caroline, for providing me with blogging material this morning (Seoul Time):
  While I love sketches of this sort, I wonder how accurate it is. As Dennis Danielson remarked concerning the term "Cosmos": 
  [T]hat 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.I agree. The image above is far more than the 'cosmos'. Moreover, it makes everything look rather 'round', whereas Milton seems to depict something indescribable by any limited three-dimensional shape. Chaos, for instance, would seem to extend indefinitely down, as suggested here in PL 2.890-897, where Satan, Sin, and Death first glimpse chaos:   Before thir eyes in sudden view appear [890] 
The secrets of the hoarie deep, a dark 
Illimitable Ocean without bound, 
Without dimension, where length, breadth, & highth, 
And time and place are lost; where eldest Night 
And Chaos, Ancestors of Nature, hold [895] 
Eternal Anarchie, amidst the noise 
Of endless Warrs, and by confusion stand. (PL 2.890-897)Chaos would seem to extend far below the region of hell, for after Satan finally steels himself to brave the dangers of chaos and leaps into the abyss, he soon finds himself plummeting downward:   ...At last his Sail-broad Vannes 
He spreads for flight, and in the surging smoak 
Uplifted spurns the ground, thence many a League 
As in a cloudy Chair ascending rides [ 930 ] 
Audacious, but that seat soon failing, meets 
A vast vacuitie: all unawares 
Fluttring his pennons vain plumb down he drops 
Ten thousand fadom deep, and to this hour 
Down had been falling, had not by ill chance [ 935 ] 
The strong rebuff of som tumultuous cloud 
Instinct with Fire and Nitre hurried him 
As many miles aloft: (PL 2.927-938)  A "league" is about three miles, and a "fathom" is about six feet. We don't know how many leagues Satan ascended, but his fall was precipitous, dropping him some 60,000 feet instantly, it would seem, and he would have been plummeting still if not for the "ill chance" of being lifted by some 'flatulence' from deep within chaos. 
  Jeffery Hodges

"Hunt, Caroline C." <HuntC at cofc.edu> wrote:
  One of the Hughes diagrams is online here:


Caroline Hunt
Charleston, SC


From: milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu on behalf of Russell Hillier
Sent: Tue 9/18/2007 10:45 AM
To: John Milton Discussion List
Subject: RE: [Milton-L] online diagrams of Milton's cosmos?

Dear Tim,

There is a useful sketch (not online I'm afraid) in Merritt Hughes's edition of Milton's Complete Poems and Major Prose, on page 180 of my 1957 edition (New York: Odyssey Press). This may be available online as well. Hope that this helps.

Best, Russell 


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Ph.D., History, U.C. Berkeley
(Doctoral Thesis: "Food as Synecdoche in John's Gospel and Gnostic Texts")
M.A., History of Science, U.C. Berkeley
B.A., English Language and Literature, Baylor University

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