[Milton-L] swerving ...delayed

carl bellinger bcarlb at comcast.net
Fri Sep 28 18:46:10 EDT 2007


...hard disk is failing, sorry for delayed post.

     Fish's view distresses me. Lucidly argued as I am reading it, but there 
must be something wrong when not only this or that comma but the whole plane 
of the text simply doesn't matter. Milton wishes to leave something to 
aftertimes which they won't willingly let die, and this critic declares it 
dead on arrival! Paradise Lost is just the dry hardpack left underfoot on 
the outskirts of sublime belief.
     My post was to help me sort. I was testing elements in our current 
discussions (perspectivism, chaos, the polysemous) against some of Fish's I 
had recently dipped into. I wasn't expressing my own view.
     Sincere thanks to Rovira, Cox, Gillum, and Fleming for helping me sort. 
Not sure about Hodges' flame-throwing reply...
     I was genuinely taken with Prof. Fleming's catalogue, "the ostensibly 
nonsensical -- the paradoxical, the mercurial, the polysemous, etc.," and it 
seems to me it is precisely that dizzying coruscated rhetorical sphere that 
has stumbled Prof. Fish.
    Milton claims for the versification Paradise Lost a "true musical 
delight" crucially dependent on a sense-driven 'techne' of composition: "the 
sense variously drawn out..."  Is Milton's an easy rhetoric, an easy music? 
No, it is fabulously mercurial & complex; it is the "giddy cunning" of 
L'Allegro: "the melting voice, through mazes running." The music in Paradise 
Lost, to which "God's own ear listens delighted," is that same giddy music: 
"mazes intricate, eccentric, intervolved."
     But if we conclude that the vocal realization of Milton's versification 
instantiates the Musica Mundana, Fish's claim that in Milton's work 
"eloquence is disjoined from speech" falls rather apart. [How M. Works, 118]
     I do hope Milton-l will help me sort this a bit further.
     The moment we conclude Milton, at PL 3.38, is more than just posturing 
a divine inspiration, "then feed on thoughts that voluntary move harmonious 
numbers," then Fish's point about Milton's rhetoric, below, seems to begin 
not to matter:

**It is an emperor's-clothes strategy in reverse: Milton is asking that we 
see him as naked at the very moment when, as a rhetorician, he seems most 
adorned--the moment when his words perform exactly the action they are 
reporting, and "like so many nimble and airy servitors trip about him at 
command, and in well order'd files, as he would wish, fall aptly into their 
own places." We have not correctly read this sentence, ... unless we know 
with a moral certainty that "well order's files" refers to no order that any 
rhetoric could capture, but to the inner order of a rightly constituted 
soul.** [ibid. 120]

     I'm not sure what in my 'swerving' posts triggered Prof. Hodges' 
thundering kerygma but it has me quaking in the pew. "Sheep or Goat, which 
side is Carl on?" Which side of what, Pastor? God save us all. The comma?

-Carl

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "James Rovira" <jamesrovira at gmail.com>
To: "John Milton Discussion List" <milton-l at lists.richmond.edu>
Sent: Tuesday, September 25, 2007 6:18 PM
Subject: Re: [Milton-L] swerving


>I agree with that reading of the line, Carrol, but see how Prof.
> Fleming could legitimately point to apparent ambiguities in
> grammatical construction.  It seems to me that all the recent
> references to Milton's English resembling common Latin constructions
> settles even that point, as it's perfectly reasonable to assume
> Milton's English would be Latin inflected.  But looking at the
> sentence purely as a written English sentence, it is a little odd.
>
> But then, it's poetry.
>
> Jim R
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