[Milton-L] swerve / secure

jfleming at sfu.ca jfleming at sfu.ca
Sat Sep 29 20:52:30 EDT 2007


It has been suggested that the line "swerve not too secure" should be
emended to "swerve not, too secure," in the interests of divine
disambiguity. In my view, already stated, this suggestion (and its ilk) is
didactic, objectivistic, and anti-dialogic. However, such imprecations can
matter little to people who hear them as compliments. So let's consider
"swerve not, too secure" on its merits.

Can anything swerve because it is too secure? Is swerving a semantic or
logical consequence of security? Clearly "swerve" invokes Lucretius (which
is how we got here from Chaos). Does the Lucretian atom swerve because it is
too secure? Does its security produce, foster, or encourage its swerving?
There is it is, whizzing along through the void, on a trajectory that is
straight, determinate, and unchanging -- in a word, secure; when all of a
sudden, it swerves. The Lucretian atom swerves _even though_ it is secure.
Its security is entirely inconsistent with its swerving. And we could say
the same for any secure or excessively secure thing (a bolt on the space
shuttle, the crown jewels, Airforce One) that suddenly and unaccountably
swerves.

The proposed punctuation, in short, makes God speak nonsense, or completely
at cross-purposes with the line's alleged intension. Not a result that
serves the interest of disambiguity. 

JD Fleming

James Dougal Fleming
Department of English
Simon Fraser University
(778)-782-4713
cell: 778-865-0926


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