[Milton-L] RE: Samson's prayer for revengr

Derek Wood dwood at stfx.ca
Sat Feb 23 17:16:21 EST 2008

I wonder how Milton could have dramatised Samson's prayer, making it audible. It is an intimate, intensely private communion with God, not something to be shouted out for a crowd of unbelievers to share. The divine redactor in the Bible is inspired to know what Samson thinks or prays silently. Milton's messenger is not. He cannot know.The key word in SA is 'prayed;' .The echo directs us to Judges which tells us exactly what the prayer was.The dynamics of 'Imitating' from a divine text (we might say 'fictionalising') are different from imitating ordinary fiction. In Troilus and Criseyde, for instance, Chaucer cuts away huge passages of Il Filostrato to make Criseyde a quite different character from the shallow, sexy stereotypical woman in the original -- the original has no authority. With the Bible, it does. Many readers trying to civilise Samson' s murderous brutality imagine Milton is softening and humanising the harsh revenger of Judges by omitting the words of the prayer. Not so. He does not write 'planned' or 'hesitated.'  His own people think his revenge was 'dreadful'; much more than an eye for an eye here. The word 'revenge' occurs, I think, six times in the last part of the play
Carey's review is, as usual, brilliantly original and provocative, compared with Ackroyd's rathher dull summary.Thank you Paul and Roy for the URL's. dw
Derek N. C. Wood,
Senior Research Professor,
St. Francis Xavier University,
Canada,    B2G 2W5
ton could have 
e-mail: dwood at stfx.ca
phone: 902-867-2328 (w)
           902-863-5433 (h)
fax:      902-867-5400
web:     http://www.stfx.ca/people/dwood <http://www.stfx.ca/people/dwood/Welcome.html> /Welcome.html 


From: milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu on behalf of Paul Miller
Sent: Sat 23-Feb-08 1:43 PM
To: John Milton Discussion List
Subject: Re: [Milton-L] Peter Ackroyd examines Milton

James Rovira ---> "The Ackroyd piece isn't nearly as interesting as Carey's
review of
Beer's biography"

I missed the link the first time and as I read his review I came across

Carey ---> "In Samson Agonistes, too, Beer misses the crucial point. In the
Book of Judges Samson prays to God for strength, and is granted it, before
pulling down the building on the heads of the Philistines. But in Milton's
account the prayer is omitted"

No Milton really didn't omit the prayer he uses his own poetic nuance in the
depiction of it.

"He unsuspitious led him; which when Samson
Felt in his arms, with head a while enclin'd,
And eyes fast fixt he stood, as one who pray'd,
Or some great matter in his mind revolv'd". SA Milton

Paul Miller

So Hills amid the Air encounterd Hills
Hurl'd to and fro with jaculation dire,
That under ground, they fought in dismal
shade --- Paradise Lost

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