[Milton-L] Areopagitica in the NYPL

James Fleming jfleming at sfu.ca
Sat Feb 14 20:02:16 EST 2009


Quite right, Gardner! I guess the suggestion I was trying to make, in passing and not very well, is that one needs to be open to the full strangeness of metaphor as a core linguistic phenomenon. Strictly speaking, as Davidson points out, every metaphor is a false statement. Moreover, the similarity theory, by which we endeavor to make metaphors true, probably doesn't. For "everything is like everything else, and that in an infinite number of ways." I guess the issue here is that any approach to the figurative that constructs it as a deviation from a normative non-figurativeness is missing the point, or begging the question. 

In any case, perhaps the stronger and more useful point is that Milton's way with metaphor really is irrepressible. An old topic (treated by Christopher Ricks) but a good one. It would be, in a way, stranger to find Milton serving up an unmixed metaphor than a mixed one. JDF


----- Original Message -----
From: "W. Gardner Campbell" <Gardner_Campbell at baylor.edu>
To: "John Milton Discussion List" <milton-l at lists.richmond.edu>
Sent: Tuesday, February 10, 2009 9:32:05 AM GMT -08:00 US/Canada Pacific
Subject: RE: [Milton-L] Areopagitica in the NYPL

James, I can't possibly let your "arguable" assertion pass without comment. You wouldn't respect me if I did. If metaphors don't make sense, nothing does--cf. Lakoff and Johnson, Donne, Milton, Dickinson, Townshend, Mitchell, etc. etc. Catachresis, or should I say unequal concepts yoked together by violence?, often makes the best sense, especially in times of great stress and uncertainty.
 
Taking arms against a sea of troubles,
Gardner

________________________________

From: milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu on behalf of James Fleming
Sent: Tue 2/10/2009 10:31 AM
To: John Milton Discussion List
Subject: Re: [Milton-L] Areopagitica in the NYPL



"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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