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

Paul Miller pm9 at comcast.net
Mon Feb 25 15:49:47 EST 2008


I agree with most of what you said except in regards to the passage we have 
in view, the ambiguity of the prayer. In the passage below from SA we have 
what seems to be Milton's prayer to God bewailing the plight of his fellow 
Puritans after the Restoration:

      But such as thou hast solemnly elected,
      With gifts and graces eminently adorned
      To some great work, thy glory,
      And people's safety, which in part they effect.
      Yet toward these, thus dignified, thou oft,
      Amidst their highth of noon,
      Changest thy countenance and thy hand, with no regard
      Of highest favours past
      From thee on them, or them to thee of service
        Nor only dost degrade them, or remit
      To life obscured, which were a fair dismission,
      But throw'st them lower than thou didst exalt them high-
      Unseemly falls in human eye,
      Too grievous for the trespass or omission;
      Oft leav'st them to the hostile sword
      Of heathen and profane, their carcasses
      To dogs and fowls a prey, or else captived,
      Or to the unjust tribunals, under change of times,
      And condemnation of the ungrateful multitude.
      If these they scape, perhaps in poverty
      With sickness and disease thou bow'st them down,
      Painful diseases and deformed,
      In crude old age;

Now in this passage below that follows the above we have what appears to be 
Milton's very personal prayer to God.

      So deal not with this once thy glorious Champion,
      The image of thy strength, and mighty minister.
      What do I beg? how hast thou dealt already!
      Behold him in this state calamitous, and turn
      His labours, for thou canst, to peaceful end.

      In a poem where there is so much prayer how can
      the ambiguity of a prayer be so positively affirmed?
      Perhaps Milton is between those pillars about to lower the boom on
      Restoration kings and courts.

      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: "Beth Quitslund" <quitslun at ohio.edu>
To: "John Milton Discussion List" <milton-l at lists.richmond.edu>
Sent: Monday, February 25, 2008 12:05 PM
Subject: Re: [Milton-L] RE: Samson's prayer for revengr

> PAUL:  Does anyone think Milton's first readers saw ambiguity when they 
> read that section of SA or any readers before the post modern age?  ... 
> This discussion may have broader implications in that it seems to draw on 
> the post modern trend toward ambiguity and relativism.  I have often felt 
> that the post modern mind needed a little mucking out.
> BETH: Actually, yes--this is syntactically prescribed ambiguity, not 
> "post-modernism." I really have to second Hannibal's suggestion that the 
> Spenserian "as" or "seems" is an obvious model here. In both poets, 
> ambiguity often a way of creating more complex meaning *and* of forcing 
> the reader to consciously make (correct and absolute, not subjective or 
> relative) moral judgments.
> ==============================================
> Beth Quitslund
> Assistant Professor of English
> Department of English
> Ohio University
> Athens, OH 45701
> phone: (740) 593-2829
> FAX: (740) 593-2818
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