[Milton-L] L'Allegro and Il Penseroso

Carl Bellinger bcarlb at comcast.net
Wed Apr 1 09:56:05 EDT 2009

L'Allegro, lines 82-83:

> From betwixt two aged oaks,
> Where Corydon and Thyrsis met

Is this a reference to Virgil's Eclogue VII, where Corydon and Thyrsis 
strive for victory in a brave match of alternate verses?

That contest had a declared winner, Corydon, whose verses seem to me, in 
English translation, more on the blithe side while Thyrsis's are more dark, 



----- Original Message ----- 
From: "John Hale" <john.hale at otago.ac.nz>
To: "John Milton Discussion List" <milton-l at lists.richmond.edu>
Sent: Tuesday, March 31, 2009 6:43 PM
Subject: RE: [Milton-L] L'Allegro and Il Penseroso

> Quoting "Chernaik, Warren" <warren.chernaik at kcl.ac.uk>:
> The companion poems are not a ebate, but (as tillyard noted) something
> like  University disputation, where opposue sides were taken, but NO
> winner was declared. If modern "debating" has to end with a vote, then
> Milton's should be called something else.
>> Since I was at the excellent Young MIlton conference and gave a paper
>> on this topic, I thought I might add to the list of those worrying over
>> Milton's stance in the companion poems. Neville Davies and I were the
>> two people at the conference who discussed "L'Allegro" and "Il
>> Penseroso", and we split evenly in arguing one or the other position.
>> In John Carey's long introductory note in the Longman edition, he
>> points out that critics are divided on the question of whether Milton
>> expresses or implies a preference for "Il Penseroso", listing a series
>> of references for both views, with more critics endorsing Neville's
>> position than mine, but a respectable, long line for both. My view is
>> more or less that of Tillyard, long ago, that Milton, in the tradition
>> of arguing in utrumque partes,  taking one or another side of a debate,
>> presents two complementary views, without having one win out over the
>> other. To quote a sentence from my essay at the conference: Milton is
>> not expressing h!
>>  is own preferences for contemplative melancholy over joy, so much as
>> opposing two opposite and complementary perspectives, setting up a
>> debate where neither participant can claim exclusive possession of
>> truth. Harold Skulsky says in an interesting contribution to this
>> discussion that a debate has to have a winner (or a vote of those
>> listening), but that seems to me to define "debate" too narrowly. It's
>> related to the idea of negative capability: a dramatist like
>> Shakespeare will present opposite perspectives without overloading the
>> scale on either side, and the same is true of paired poems--Marvell's
>> Dialogue of the Soul and Body is another example of a poem in the form
>> of a debate, where neither side can be said to come out a winner. Each
>> one is valid from its own point of view, and Milton presents each case
>> as effectively as he can.
>> Warren Chernaik

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