[Milton-L] Areopagitica in the NYPL

Horace Jeffery Hodges jefferyhodges at yahoo.com
Mon Feb 9 21:34:33 EST 2009


James, I had assumed that Milton was thinking of such Old Testament passages as Genesis 9:4: 
 
But flesh with the life thereof, [which is] the blood thereof, shall ye not eat.
 
After all, "the blood is the life" -- a nefesh (person, life, soul) breathed into mankind by God, who is Ruach (Spirit). Of course, Milton may have had lots of things in mind, so I'm not discounting your analysis.
 
But what did "imbalm" mean in Milton's time?
 
Jeffery Hodges

--- On Mon, 2/9/09, James Rovira <jamesrovira at gmail.com> wrote:


From: James Rovira <jamesrovira at gmail.com>
Subject: Re: [Milton-L] Areopagitica in the NYPL
To: "John Milton Discussion List" <milton-l at lists.richmond.edu>
Date: Monday, February 9, 2009, 8:17 PM


I always thought the relationship between the physicality of books and
their role or purposes in A. was pretty interesting.  The first
questions you should be asking are, "How can a spirit have lifeblood?"
"What is the blood of a spirit?"  I think the answer to those
questions in A. is the human rational capacity, in an extended sense
of the word -- not just instrumental reason, but something more like
Stoic reason, what we have in common with the gods.  Reason, thought,
ideas -- these are fundamentally incorporeal, however.  They're
embodied in the human mind, but when the body dies, access to the
product or nature of one person's rational capacity to other human
minds becomes impossible.

Except through books, that is.  So books "embalm" or preserve or
"treasure up" the products of human reason long after the person has
died.  The rational capacity enjoys a "life" -- books continue to
speak, so continue to reason -- beyond "life," meaning, the physical
lifespan of the author.

Milton goes beyond this at points and says our rational capacity is
the best part of ourselves -- not quite as important as our lives, as
if the books we could produce are more important than our lives
themselves.

This is a very powerful argument against censorship, of course, as by
suppressing books we suppress the best part of those who have gone
before.

Jim R

On Mon, Feb 9, 2009 at 4:07 PM, Horace Jeffery Hodges
<jefferyhodges at yahoo.com> wrote:
> Now that I'm focused on this quote from Areopagitica, it strikes me as
> rather odd:
>
> "A good book is the precious lifeblood of a master spirit, embalmed and
> treasured up on purpose to a life beyond life."
>
> Can blood be embalmed? It's usually removed in the embalming process, isn't
> it? What would 'embalmed blood' be? Chemically preserved?
>
> At any rate, an embalming process wouldn't provide the blood "a life beyond
> life," would it? Does this metaphor make any sense?
>
> Jeffery Hodges
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