[Milton-L] Contract bridge column

Nancy Charlton pastorale55 at yahoo.com
Tue Dec 30 23:47:26 EST 2008


Thanks, Salwa. I shall look for Marina Warner's book and read it ASAP. 

One minor contention or qualification:
You say that  "Milton is 
denouncing the works of Mammon as evil (the word "art" closely associated with 
alchemy and magic), and I believe, he  contrasts it with God's work 
which is creation, causing the inanimate to become animate,  the most 
glorious metamorphosis of all. Devils can't do that."

Was not Milton well aware of Biblical accounts of magic, of phony metamorphoses such as the plagues of Egypt? And also of Paul's and Jesus' warnings against false prophets who seem to replicate divine wonders but who are eventually shown up to be frauds.

Nancy Charlton
New yeare forth looking out of 
Ianus gate, 
Doth seeme to promise hope of new delight. 
                                --Spenser, Amoretti iv

Nancy Charlton

http://groups.google.com/group/paradiselostdaily



. . . Ring out, ye crystal spheres

--- On Tue, 12/30/08, Salwa Khoddam <skhoddam at cox.net> wrote:
From: Salwa Khoddam <skhoddam at cox.net>
Subject: Re: [Milton-L] Contract bridge column
To: "John Milton Discussion List" <milton-l at lists.richmond.edu>
Date: Tuesday, December 30, 2008, 6:06 PM



 
 

Nancy,
Thanks for inviting us to contemplate 
on Milton's pregnant passage that you refer to in your post and 
for your exquisite interpretation of it.  I like it when Milton 
occasionally intrudes and bashes the devils and everything they do 
or say.  I have just finished a book by Marina Warner, an Oxford 
scholar, on metamorphoses, titled Fantastic Metamorphoses, Other 
Worlds:   Ways of Telling the Self.  In it she divides the process of metamorphoses into three 
types:  1), supernaturally caused, whether for punishment or creation 
(Pandora); 2), organic, natural (the develpment of the pupa into a 
butterfly); and 3), artificial ( through magical art, shape 
shifting).  The last kind is the work of the devil and is hellish, which 
reminded me of the passage you have quoted.  I think Milton is 
denouncing the works of Mammon as evil (the word "art" closely associated with 
alchemy and magic), and I believe, he  contrasts it with God's work 
which is creation, causing the inanimate to become animate,  the most 
glorious metamorphosis of all.  Devils can't do that.  Warner's 
book is a deep and erudite work.   I apologize for rendering 
her complex ideas so simplistically.
Happy New Year to all. 
Salwa Khoddam

  ----- Original Message ----- 
  From: 
  Nancy 
  Charlton 
  To: Milton-L at lists.richmond.edu 
  
  Sent: Tuesday, December 30, 2008 5:31 
  PM
  Subject: [Milton-L] Contract bridge 
  column
  

  
    
    
      Just got around to the paper. To my delight, "Aces on 
        Bridge" today has as its headnote a passage from PL that always makes me 
        laugh:


        …admiring more
The riches of 
        Heav'n's pavement, trodd'n Gold,
Than aught divine or holy else 
        enjoy'd
In vision beatific:    (I.681-683)

The 
        bridge in question is a slam that can only be made by looking upward, as 
        it were, to a divided diamond (wouldn't you know?) suit. The "Mammon" 
        view would have you do the kneejerk action taking a finesse. The hand 
        can be made only by carefully taking the high cards and endplaying so 
        that when East takes the Q, it can't get back to West's long 
        heart.

I'd question whether a tactical consideration such as this 
        would really qualify as a "vision beatific" but it should be heartening 
        to see JM quoted in a popular newspaper and to some practical end. 
        Somebody outside the academy is still reading him!

I read lines 
        670-699 to my roommate, who doesn't see how I can be so taken with 
        Milton, but after I had paraphrased it, and she actually laughed. At my 
        Milton Birthday Dinner a couple weeks ago she really enjoyed most of 
        what I had to say, but liked the salmon more. Only two guests came, the 
        other invitees scared off by looming snow. One--who asked me months ago 
        to tell her more about Milton--was with me all the way, and the other 
        frankly snoozed. He is the one who had never heard of Milton at all, but 
        he said upon leaving that he enjoyed the pie. Alas.

In this 
        reading just now I was reminded of agonizing as an undergraduate over 
        the sentence beginning at "And" in line 693. "Strength and Art are 
        easily outdone by Spirits reprobate" is a nice sententia, an aphoristic 
        nugget easily lifted out of context and remembered without being 
        memorized. It must have been a sign of growth that I could later say, 
        no, that was not the best conclusion. The poet here might have 
        emphasized the HOW 
        in the sentence. What intrigues me now is why JM using the Poet's voice 
        interjected this sentence and the one just previous at this point. Does 
        he really want the reader to stop and "learn" at this point?  Is 
        the sentence a  prophecy concerning what happens to works "made," 
        i.e. poesie? If so, does it echo a dominant strain in Shakespeare's 
        sonnets?  It was the "riches" of the golden pavements that Mammon 
        admired, not the "vision beatific". Mining is a "spacious wound" from 
        which are "digged out" not just "ribs of Gold" but by implication all 
        other of earth's riches--formless, toxic, ugly--deserving only of Hell. 
        It's a stretch, but is there a parallel with the creation of Eve (which 
        hasn't happened yet): while that operation was pretty smooth, not 
        "digg'd out" in the violent and painful manner implied here, and Adam 
        formed of clay and Eve from his rib are artifacts and not 
        creations?

Nancy Charlton
Snow all melted and floods 
        threatening


Nancy 
        Charlton
http://groups.google.com/group/paradiselostdaily

Ring 
        out, ye crystal spheres . . .

  
  

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