[Milton-L] swerve / secure

jfleming at sfu.ca jfleming at sfu.ca
Sun Sep 30 14:58:22 EDT 2007



On Sat, 29 Sep 2007 21:18:50 -0400 milton-l at lists.richmond.edu wrote:
> I think Prof. Fleming's response mistakes qualities or behaviors that
> can reasonably be ascribed to persons (such as Adam) with qualities or
> behaviors that can reasonably be ascribed to things (such as atoms,
> the crown jewels, Air Force One, or the space shuttle).  Persons can
> swerve because they -feel- too secure, while objects need some
> compelling external force.  Surely Adam's security isn't being
> pictured here like a bolt on a machine, is it?

Surely the word means just whatever it means, wherever it appears. Secure is
secure, for an atom or a person, just as cold is cold, existent is existent,
etc. To be sure, the entailments of security will differ from atoms (or
other objects) to persons. But this is simply to recognize the metaphoric
extension of the word; and to recognize metaphor as the basic mechanism of
semantic extension. By writing the line in question, M has asked us to
perform both recognitions. 


Re: the below:
1) it certainly underlines the importance of "swerve" and "secure," with the
connections to Lucretius etc., as PL keywords; 
2) it is part of Adam's last throw in an argument that he loses, while Eve
drives home the fact -- difficult, mercurial, paradoxical, etc. -- of
unfallen freedom; 
3) most importantly, it DOES NOT repeat the nonsensical suggestion that
security might produce freeom. On the contrary, A tells E, quite logically,
that "Firm we subsist, _yet possible_ to swerve." Or:" Even though [to use
our keyword] we are secure [firm], we might swerve. Precisely not "if we get
too secure, we might swerve." 
> 
> I think we should note Adam's repetition of the warning to Eve in Bk 8:
> 
> To whom thus ADAM fervently repli'd.
> O Woman, best are all things as the will
> Of God ordaind them, his creating hand
> Nothing imperfet or deficient left
> Of all that he Created, much less Man,
> Or ought that might his happie State secure,
> Secure from outward force; within himself
> The danger lies, yet lies within his power:
> Against his will he can receave no harme.
> But God left free the Will, for what obeyes
> Reason, is free, and Reason he made right,
> But bid her well beware, and still erect,
> Least by some faire appeering good surpris'd
> She dictate false, and missinforme the Will
> To do what God expresly hath forbid.
> Not then mistrust, but tender love enjoynes,
> That I should mind thee oft, and mind thou me.
> Firm we subsist, yet possible to swerve,
> Since Reason not impossibly may meet
> Some specious object by the Foe subornd,
> And fall into deception unaware,
> Not keeping strictest watch, as she was warnd.
> 
> The words "swerving" and "security" are clearly associated here with
> adherence to the divine command.
> 
> Jim R
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James Dougal Fleming
Department of English
Simon Fraser University
(778)-782-4713
cell: 778-865-0926


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