[Milton-L] Areopagitica in the NYPL

Horace Jeffery Hodges jefferyhodges at yahoo.com
Tue Feb 10 14:28:24 EST 2009


James (Fleming), thanks for the information. That makes a lot more sense of the term to me . . . and of the metaphor (even if metaphors don't make sense).
 
Jeffery Hodges

--- On Tue, 2/10/09, James Fleming <jfleming at sfu.ca> wrote:


From: James Fleming <jfleming at sfu.ca>
Subject: Re: [Milton-L] Areopagitica in the NYPL
To: "John Milton Discussion List" <milton-l at lists.richmond.edu>
Date: Tuesday, February 10, 2009, 9:31 AM


"Balm" can be an alchemical word, meaning, if I have it correctly, either the philosopher's stone or the _prima materia_ with which (on a Paracelsan view) the stone is to be associated. Meanwhile, the stone is supposed to be, among other things, medicinal, purifying and prolonging bodily life. So "embalmed" could mean something like "purified and perfected." 

A very good and productive question. But as to whether the metaphor makes sense: it seems to me arguable that no metaphor does; and even if some do, Milton's are often wildly catachretic (mixed and non-sensible). See especially _Samson Agonistes_ for this tendency of his rhetoric. 

JD Fleming

----- Original Message -----
From: "Horace Jeffery Hodges" <jefferyhodges at yahoo.com>
To: "John Milton Discussion List" <milton-l at lists.richmond.edu>
Sent: Monday, February 9, 2009 6:34:33 PM GMT -08:00 US/Canada Pacific
Subject: Re: [Milton-L] Areopagitica in the NYPL



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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