[Milton-L] Balachandra Rajan

Richard Durocher durocher at stolaf.edu
Sun Jan 25 13:46:54 EST 2009

Dear John,
    Thank you for your eloquent tribute to a peerless scholar and man.  I
remember fondly reading for the first time, many years ago, Rajan's article
"Simple, Sensuous, and Passionate" in the Arthur Barker collection, and
thinking what a model that was of elegance and accuracy.  Like the man
himself, I see, from your words and others who knew him.  He will be missed.

   Rich DuRocher

On Sat, Jan 24, 2009 at 10:50 AM, John Leonard <jleonard at uwo.ca> wrote:

>  Dear List, with sorrow I report the passing, yesterday, of Balachandra
> Rajan, one of the truly great Miltonists.  Like Milton, Bal devoted his life
> to literature *and* public service. No other Miltonist's career has ever
> exhibited such an elegant Miltonic pattern. Just as Milton turned aside from
> poetry for more than twenty years to serve the cause of the fledgling
> English Republic, before returning to poetry to write some of the noblest
> poems in English, so Bal, having written one of the most influential books
> of Milton criticism, *Paradise Lost and the Seventeenth-Century Reader *(1947),
> left England (where he had been a Fellow at Trinity College, Cambridge) and
> returned to his native India to serve the new Republic in the Indian Foreign
> Service, working with the United Nations, UNESCO and UNICEF before returning
> to literature and literary studies, first at the University of Delhi, then
> at the University of Western Ontario. "He who would not be frustrate of his
> hope to write well hereafter in laudable things," wrote Milton during his
> own period of public service, "ought him selfe to bee a true Poem, that is,
> a composition, and patterne of the best and honourablest things." Bal was
> one such "patterne." If his earlier critical work looks backward, to "the
> seventeenth-century reader," his later criticism looks forward. He was
> always abreast of the latest developments, whether in literary theory, as in
> his seminal 1985 study *The Form of the Unfinished: English Poetics from
> Spenser to Pound*, or post-colonialism, as in his 1999 book *Under Western
> Eyes: India from Milton to Macaulay* and a collection of essays, co-edited
> with Elizabeth Sauer, *Imperialisms: Historical and Literary
> Investigations *(2004). Another collection of Bal's own essays, *Milton
> and the Climate of Reading* (2006) won the Milton Society of America's
> Irene Samuel Memorial Award. I have emphasized Bal's contributions to Milton
> studies, for those are the works I know best, but Bal, unlike most
> Miltonists, had numerous other areas of expertise: Eliot, Yeats, and Pound,
> to name a few–and his books on those poets, *W. B. Yeats: a Critical
> Introduction* (1965) and *The Overwhelming Question: a Study of the Poetry
> of T. S. Eliot *(1976) are still classics in their respective fields. Bal
> also found time to write two novels, *The Dark Dancer* and *Too Long in
> the West*. The story still circulates (it appeared recently on this very
> list) about the remarkable occasion when Bal recited the whole of book
> twelve of *Paradise Lost* from memory. I did not witness that event (it
> occurred before I came to Western), but many of my colleagues did. I did
> have the privilege of hearing several of Bal's lectures, most recently his
> plenary address, "Samson hath quit himself / Like Samson," delivered at the
> Canada Milton Seminar in Toronto on 22 April 2006. I shall never forget the
> occasion, and neither will anyone who witnessed it. Frail with age, Bal
> approached the podium unsteadily and I wondered whether he would be able to
> speak for a full hour. But as soon as he began to utter his inimitable prose
> (not even glancing at a lecture note) it was as if one were hearing Milton
> himself, or "som Orator renound / In *Athens* or free *Rome*, where
> Eloquence / Flourishd, since mute." A beloved teacher and revered
> researcher, Honored Scholar of the Milton Society of America and a Fellow
> and Medallist of the Royal Society of Canada, Balachandra Rajan was indeed a
> true poem.
> John Leonard
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