[Milton-L] Milton Judges in SA

Paul Miller pm9 at comcast.net
Sun Feb 24 14:05:41 EST 2008


Most argument does assert something and as for descending I will leave that 
alone. I didn't say that Milton wrote SA as a direct narrative 
representation of the biblical account just that where he differs from 
scripture it is usually obvious. We only have the messenger's account in SA 
and from that vantage point he couldn't hear the prayer and seeing the 
moving lips of an inclined head at a distance may not be in the realm of the 
possible. Your swimming analogy is not apt because it's obvious from a 
distance that someone is swimming unlike praying where from a distance it 
would be unclear.  As I stated in my previous post  the messenger transfered 
into the narrative of Judges and located in the same spot would have seen 
about the same thing as when in the SA narrative flow. I believe the onus of 
proof is on the assertion of non prayer or even on the appeal to ambiguity 
considering source material and no evidence for a variant reading.

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

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "James Rovira" <jamesrovira at gmail.com>
To: "John Milton Discussion List" <milton-l at lists.richmond.edu>
Sent: Sunday, February 24, 2008 11:53 AM
Subject: Re: [Milton-L] Milton Judges in SA

> Paul --
> You're descending from argument into assertion.  The assumption being
> questioned here is whether or not Milton wrote SA with the purpose of
> providing a direct narrative representation of the same story in
> Scripture in which all details are faithful to the original.  If we
> accept this assumption, then of course we should assume from the lines
> quoted that Samson prayed.  If we do not, then we can observe that the
> narrative:
> 1. Does not record a prayer.
> 2. Does not explicitly say that Samson was praying, just that
>     a. Samson's posture appeared to be that of someone praying: "as
> one who prayed."
> The word "as" denotes a comparison of some sorts.  When someone is
> engaged in an activity -- say, swimming -- you don't say, "That person
> looks like he's swimming."  And you don't say, "That person is moving
> his arms just like someone swimming."  You say, "That person is
> swimming."  Similarly, when the messenger says that Samson's head was
> inclined "as one who prayed," the messenger is not asserting that
> Samson was praying.  He could not make that assertion from his
> position, just that, "it looks like he could be praying from here."
> It's not too different from being in church, really.  Every head is
> bowed and every eye is closed, but some people are praying, some
> people are sleeping, some people are passing notes, and some people
> are playing video games on their cell phones.
> What the text of SA needs, I think, is an attentive usher with a long 
> stick.
> What you're ignoring is the direct discontinuity within the text of SA
> with the Biblical story at this point.  Since, in the Biblical story,
> Samson articulated a prayer, he was clearly praying out loud.  The
> messenger in SA, even from a distance, would be able to tell if
> Samson's mouth was moving in a spoken prayer.  It's probably safest to
> assume from the description that it was not, but either way, it's not
> mentioned -- just that Samson's head was inclined.
> I don't think I can spell out any more clearly SA's ambiguity on this
> point, which stands in stark contrast to Scripture's complete lack of
> ambiguity.  There's simply no room for question in the Biblical
> account.  Yes, Samson prayed, and here's his prayer.  That Milton's
> text leaves room for question is, I think, very telling.  Attention to
> Milton's own personal and social history accounts for this ambiguity,
> but attention only to the details of his Biblical source material does
> not.  Assuming you know authorial intent is, of course, begging the
> question -- unless we have a personal letter or a record of a
> conversation in which Milton claims to have intended to write a clear
> representation of a praying Samson.
> If he did, he did a very bad job of it.
> Jim R
> On Sun, Feb 24, 2008 at 10:38 AM, Paul Miller <pm9 at comcast.net> wrote:
>> "with head a while enclin'd,
>> And eyes fast fixt he stood, as one who pray'd",
>> Let's take the messenger out of SA and put him into the narrative of 
>> Judges.
>> Place him close to an exit so he can escape the cataclysm but close 
>> enough
>> where he can observe Samson.  Samson prays as he does in Judges. Wouldn't
>> the subjective observation of the messenger from his spacial placement in
>> the narrative of Judges be the very same as what is written above from 
>> SA?
>> Literary criticism so often resembles a Rorschach test where people feel
>> free to see whatever instead of unpacking a text with authorial intent,
>> context, history, and such.  It makes me think of William Blake who's
>> interpretation of Milton I find facinating but does it have much to do 
>> with
>> Milton, I doubt it.
>> Paul Miller
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