[Milton-L] Abdiel and Treason law

Michael Gillum mgillum at unca.edu
Fri Jun 27 13:17:11 EDT 2008

One small point: a further connection between the similes about Satan and
the angels' paradox about God's appearance is the phrase "the excess of
glory obscured" at 1.593-94. Also there are two similes of Satan, and in one
the sun is clouded rather than eclipsed. Forms of "dark" and "bright" appear
in both descriptions. Good get!

. . . he above the rest
In shape and gesture proudly eminent [ 590 ]
Stood like a Towr; his form had yet not lost
All her Original brightness, nor appear'd
Less then Arch Angel ruind, and th' excess
Of Glory obscur'd: As when the Sun new ris'n
Looks through the Horizontal misty Air [ 595 ]
Shorn of his Beams, or from behind the Moon
In dim Eclips disastrous twilight sheds
On half the Nations, and with fear of change
Perplexes Monarchs. Dark'n'd so, yet shon
Above them all th' Arch Angel. . . .

Thanks to John Leonard for explaining about the natal eclipse of Charles II.
It does give the passage a subversive cast.

Alice, I think Milton believed divine and human kingship are unrelated, so
political and theological treason would be radically different. Divine
kingship is based on the ontological difference between omniscient creator
and limited creature (angel or human). The basis of theological treason
would be ingratitude. Gratitude would be the natural response of a rational
creature (as we see in newborn Adam's thoughts), and obedience would follow
from gratitude. These notions are based on my reading of Milton. I'm not
qualified to address your question about Augustine.


On 6/27/08 12:03 PM, "Alice Crawford Berghof" <aberghof at uci.edu> wrote:

> John,
> "Dark with excessive bright thy skirts appear" comes to mind.  I am
> wondering about the problem of treason in what I am taking to be a
> subtle echo of the simile of eclipse.  What do you and others think?
> (Is this, in III, also a gesture toward the necessity of the guide,
> Beatrice, in Dante?)
> (An aside on what is motivating my posting, in a broader sense: the
> conundrum Satan as king / God as king...  How does the reader
> distinguish between political and theological allegories?)
> Although there is a world of difference between a sun eclipsed and
> clouded, there is a connection between these two passages, I believe.
> Satan is likened to the sun in your example, God with the sun in mine.
> Is the eclipse of the sun as a mock-heroic Satan perhaps less an icon
> of regicide than it might be a comment on the failures and injustices
> of the oppressive rule that follows regicide?  I am thinking of this in
> general, but also have in mind parallels in the Levellers' petitions
> regarding Cromwell's failure produce a writ of habeas corpus, or its
> like, in arresting and imprisoning his opponents.
> How would you and others on the list reconcile treason in its aspect as
> mock-epic and militaristic with its theological dimension?  I am
> thinking of Augustine's influence on Milton, particularly the crisis at
> the midpoint of the Confessions as well as passages in the City of God,
> where salvation can depend on the manner of contemplation.  (I see that
> your immediately relevant reference to Augustine would be "The fallen
> angels are those who turned away from God to everlasting night" - p.
> 109 of your book - a phrase that unites my two lines of inquiry.)  I am
> wondering what you and others, particularly Richard Strier, Michael
> Gillum, Carol Barton, Peter Herman, Jameela Lares, Jim Rovira and the
> admirably concise and ingenious Kim Maxwell think about Augustine and
> contemplation in relation to theological treason.  Particularly
> Augustinian, in my opinion, is Milton's view of the necessity to plead
> for grace in order to have the strength to align one's will with God's.
>   In this sense it is theological treason to take matters into one's own
> hands without first consulting divine authority.  Are divine and
> secular authority at odds, then, finally?

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