[Milton-L] Samson's prayer of revenge

jenniferjoe jenniferjoe at sprynet.com
Thu Feb 28 13:11:38 EST 2008


>Could it not be that a blind man, concentrating with every fiber of his 
>being on something inward, in this case more spiritual, might apparantly 
>"stare" pointedly in a direction looking at something only he can see?

Yes, this could be--providing that the blind man had eyes that might appear to stare.  But Samson has no eyes.

I think that Milton imagines Samson's inner state to one of intense concentration, such as you desribe;  and that to convey that state to us, speaks (through the messenger) of Samson's eyes, thus taking liberty with the literal reality of the play.  'If Samson did have eyes, at that moment they would be fixed in thought' is probably what we are to understand.

Your idea of Samson looking inwardly at something spiritual agrees with the Chorus's mention of him as being "With inward eyes illuminated" (1689). Milton does not always observe the distinction between inward and outward (as when the Son's upright moral posture on the temple spire is also an upright physical posture).  So Samson's inward eyes could easily become outward too.

Thanks for your comment.

Joe Mayer  


-----Original Message-----
>From: "Lorayne C. Mundy" <mundylc at sbcglobal.net>
>Sent: Feb 27, 2008 4:30 PM
>To: John Milton Discussion List <milton-l at lists.richmond.edu>
>Subject: Re: [Milton-L] Samson's prayer of revenge
>
>Could it not be that a blind man, concentrating with every fiber of his 
>being on something inward, in this case more spiritual, might apparantly 
>"stare" pointedly in a direction looking at something only he can see?  It 
>seems to me Milton would have understood that so completely, and the words 
>"some great matter in his mind" would seem to agree.
>lcmundy
>
>----- Original Message ----- 
>From: "jenniferjoe" <jenniferjoe at sprynet.com>
>To: "John Milton Discussion List" <milton-l at lists.richmond.edu>
>Sent: Wednesday, February 27, 2008 1:11 PM
>Subject: Re: [Milton-L] Samson's prayer of revenge
>
>
>>
>>           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.
>>
>> These lines, I think, are problematic not just because of the ambiguity 
>> already much discussed.  In addition, there's the apparent absurdity of 
>> Samson's eyes being fast fixt.  He doesn't have any eyes:  he is "eyeless 
>> in Gaza", both his eyes "put out".  How can his missing eyes be fast fixt?
>>
>> I'm not sure what to make of this.  Samson's face may give the appearance 
>> of a fixed gaze; putting this appearance together with the inclination of 
>> his head, the messenger infers  that Samson is deep in some kind of 
>> thought.  But as the fixed gaze is only an appearance, so the inference 
>> may be mistaken.  There's no way of knowing the state of Samson's mind at 
>> this moment. Perhaps that is what Milton is telling us.
>>
>> Or, Milton wants us to know that Samson collects himself before his final 
>> action.  Whereas his earlier actions are instinctive, this one is 
>> deliberate, and as such conveys a certain understanding of his stituation. 
>> (By counching his defeat of the the Philistines as the final, 
>> show-stopping act of his idolatrous performance  before Dagaon, he 
>> acknowlegdges that he is too compromised to make his exit in the earlier 
>> role of God's champion and deliverer.)  Samson's gathering of thought 
>> might not be sufficiently evident from an inclination of the head alone, 
>> so Milton adds the eyes fast fixt.  This second explanation of the eyes 
>> fast fixt seems to me the likelier.  I'd be interested in hearing other 
>> explanations.
>>
>> Joe Mayer
>>
>>
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