[Milton-L] re Michael Gillum on Abdiel etc

Alice Crawford Berghof aberghof at uci.edu
Fri Jun 27 19:20:25 EDT 2008


Michael,
Thank you for reminding us of the phrase "the excess of glory 
obscured."  John Leonard has fascinating things to say about the nature 
of excess, and this brings all of our threads together, I believe.  
Yes, I agree with your interpretation of divine and human kingship, 
hence the problem of the echo between two very different kinds of 
eclipses - this was in the back of my mind when finding the parallel.  
The distinction between divine and human kingship makes the echo all 
the more problematic.  Other than gratitude for the clarity and 
usefulness of your interpretation of gratitude, all I would add, in my 
rudimentary understanding of Augustine, would be the two-step process 
of the freely willed aligning of one's will with God's in a gesture of 
gratitude that requires divine grace (accessed through prayer) as a 
necessary but not sufficient cause.  In an Augustinian sense, one prays 
for the ability to be properly grateful, etc.
Alice

On Jun 27, 2008, at 10:17 AM, Michael Gillum wrote:

> Alice,
> 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.
>
> Michael
>
> 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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