[Milton-L] Is Paradise Lost

Nancy Charlton ncharlton2009 at hotmail.com
Tue Apr 14 13:33:00 EDT 2009


I can't believe it! A community that includes most of the best and brightest in Milton studies caviling over a non-issue we'd rap our students' knuckles for! There has not been one scintilla of definition of "greatness" or "poet" laid out in this whole discussion. The most that can be said is that it at least makes us focus on this omission. And maybe not take it too seriously.

But I can't define them either, and I'm too busy to look up any pat quotations (not "quotes," please) and extrapolate from there. But what did go through my thought was the Gospels passages where the disciples seek clarification of the question of who should be considered the greatest.  Jesus tells them,  it's (a) he who does God's will; (b) he who is humble as a little child, (c) who serves. 

Surely Milton strove for (a), may have had difficulty with (b), and--as John Leonard mentioned in his beautiful encomium for B. Rajan awhile back--by serving made of his life and of himself, a poem. Shakespeare didn't worry too much about (a) but noted both the grandeur and the occasional tediousness of those who do. No poet is probably ever totally comfortable with (b) in the humility department, though a certain openness and receptivity for the lignes données is necessary. Serving? Hardly to be asked of one who told the truth or truths so winningly.

If Shakespeare is not a poet and Milton is, how does jonnyangel define the term? 

This is more attention than the topic deserves, or that I intended to give it, and I agree with Tony D: "… I will say this thread is inane at best, boorish at worst. All this
pseudo-assessing of "greatness" just adds more wattle to Harold Bloom's
underchin and does nobody any good. The older a reader gets, the more
open to greatness and brilliance his/her mind becomes."

Nancy Charlton
longen to gon on pilgrimage …

From: tonydemarest at hotmail.com
To: milton-l at lists.richmond.edu
Subject: RE: [Milton-L] Is Paradise Lost
Date: Tue, 14 Apr 2009 11:15:36 -0400








I should not reply to this, but having taught courses in Shakespeare, Milton, and Chaucer (a small college expands its definitions of "medieval"), I will say this thread is inane at best, boorish at worst. All this pseudo-assessing of "greatness" just adds more wattle to Harold Bloom's underchin and does nobody any good. The older a reader gets, the more open to greatness and brilliance his/her mind becomes. For some reason, I thought competition went out with Petrarch.And Shakespeare not a poet- indeed.
Tony

Date: Tue, 14 Apr 2009 08:05:37 -0400
Subject: Re: [Milton-L] Is Paradise Lost
From: junkopardner at comcast.net
To: milton-l at lists.richmond.edu





Re: [Milton-L] Is Paradise Lost


Thank you Marlene. 



But Shakespeare *wasn’t* a poet. Not that it’s a “bad” thing, but he was a playwright. 



Milton...now that’s a poet. And I will deny Shakespeare as a poet till the day I die, unless a real poet shows me something I missed. 



“I've been a puppet, a pauper, a pirate, a poet, a pawn and a king

I've been up and down and over and out and I know one thing

Each time I find myself layin' flat on my face

I just pick myself up and get back in the race.”



(Thank you Frank.)



And yes, I say Shalom and mean it, but Shakespeare isn’t going to dig himself out of his grave and write poetry either way. 



And BTW, Keats, Chaucer and Pope couldn’t catch Milton if you dug them all up now and gave them a 200 year head start. You see, time doesn’t exist. 



And it sure as hell ain’t ever gonna change the facts. 



Peace, Love, and Billy Jack, 





J













On 4/14/09 6:40 AM, "Marlene Edelstein" <malkaruth2000 at yahoo.co.uk> wrote:



Shalom? Shalom? If it's peace and harmony you're after don't go about calling Shakespeare a one-trick pony and denying that he's a poet. Why the need to establish a hierarchy of the greatest? My love of poetry and language was nurtured by by both Shakespeare and Milton (and Keats, Chaucer and Pope, by the way); returning to either is a rebirth.



              Marlene R. Edelstein



                  



believe everything, believe nothing



--- On Tue, 14/4/09, jonnyangel <junkopardner at comcast.net> wrote:



From: jonnyangel <junkopardner at comcast.net>

Subject: Re: [Milton-L] Is Paradise Lost

To: "John Milton Discussion List" <milton-l at lists.richmond.edu>

Date: Tuesday, 14 April, 2009, 10:55 AM



Re: [Milton-L] Is Paradise Lost Yes, Yes, and Yes. PL is the greatest work of literature in the “English” Language; how could it not be? And you really can’t compare Shakespeare to Milton (or vice versa), because Bill was a playwright and John was (first and foremost) a poet. But you you can compare them with regard to the fact that both were writer’s, and both wrote in the English language. Shakespeare was a phenomenal verbal linguist, and you can’t deny that. But Milton was a poet (which is something Shakespeare simply wasn’t), AND Milton could also handle an epic narrative, multiple characters, temporal space, and the single largest topic that exists: Man/Woman, Heaven/Hell, God/Satan, and all of the binaries of life’s Black/White morality forming grey areas that are still being sought, fought, and argued over in the 21st century. 



Look, when it comes to the heavyweights, whether it’s Milton/Shakespeare or Frazier/Ali, it’s all subjective. Is Godzilla “greater” than King Kong? Is an electrolyte imbalance “greater” than cancer? They can (and often will) take you to the same place at the end of the day. 



But if I could be fortunate enough to have an escort to that place, I hope Milton is my escort. 



Shakespeare, for all of his brilliance, was a one trick pony. Milton was a jack of many trades, and the master of most of them. 



Even though you can argue someone till you’re blue in the face that PL is the greatest work of English Literature ever written, you will still get arguments to the contrary – but there are other factors/variables in the equation to be considered. 



Shakespeare carved out his slice of the pie, and Milton served up the rest. 



Shalom, 



Jonathan B. Colburn 













On 4/14/09 12:22 AM, "Alan Rudrum" <alanrudrum at gmail.com> wrote:



the greatest single work of literature in the English language, as was stated on this list recently?



Certainly it might be argued that it is; but when I raised the question with the scholar nearest to hand, we said simultaneously "What about King Lear?"



And then there is Wordsworth's Prelude, which begins with a meaningful echo of Samson Agonistes, - not every Milton scholar of my acquaintance managed to see this for himself,- and speaks at least as well as Paradise Lost to the concerns of many people one would hesitate to condemn as stupid.



Alan Rudrum











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