[Milton-L] Re: "tasteless" Milton (response)

Salwa Khoddam skhoddam at cox.net
Fri Dec 17 10:39:22 EST 2010

  Give me the liberty to know, to utter, and to argue freely, according to conscience, above all liberties.

  "According to conscience," that's the trick.  I wonder how many of Milton's interpreters possess the "conscience" that he demands of people, specially his interpreters, i.e. higher reason, the reading of the scriptures in the original languages, the type of classical education that he favored, and the light of grace.  That's a pretty high standard he demanded of his interpreters. We must not forget that.

Salwa Khoddam, Ph.D.
Professor of English, Emerita
Oklahoma City University
2501 N. Blackwelder
OKC, OK  73106
Phone:  405-208-5127
Email:  skhoddam at cox.net
  ----- Original Message ----- 
  From: Terrance Lindall 
  To: John Milton Discussion List 
  Sent: Friday, December 17, 2010 8:16 AM
  Subject: Re: [Milton-L] Re: "tasteless" Milton (response)

    "If thy eye offend thee, pluck it out!"

    Great! Discussion! God bless they all. Thinking! Not just church, presents, food and family. They are all good too, but for scholars, a little thought is the frosting on the cake. I am sure that I will go to Hell as a heretic for free thinking. However, I will be there with Blake, Luther and Milton (I prefer Milton). I go with Milton who said:

    [T]hough all the winds of doctrine were let loose to play on the earth, so Truth be in the field, we do injuriously, by licensing and prohibiting, to misdoubt her strength. Let her and Falsehood grapple; who ever knew Truth put to the worse, in a free and open encounter?
    I cannot praise a fugitive and cloistered virtue, unexercised and unbreathed, that never sallies out and sees her adversary but slinks out of the race, where that immortal garland is to be run for, not without dust and heat.
    Truth indeed came once into the world with her divine Master, and was a perfect shape most glorious to look on: but when he ascended, and his Apostles after him were laid asleep, then straight arose a wicked race of deceivers, who, as that story goes of the Egyptian Typhon with his conspirators, how they dealt with the good Osiris, took the virgin Truth, hewed her lovely form into a thousand pieces, and scattered them to the four winds. From that time ever since, the sad friends of Truth, such as durst appear, imitating the careful search that Isis made for the mangled body of Osiris, went up and down gathering up limb by limb, still as they could find them. We have not yet found them all, Lords and Commons, nor ever shall do, till her Master's second coming [...]
    Give me the liberty to know, to utter, and to argue freely according to conscience, above all liberties.

  On Fri, Dec 17, 2010 at 7:04 AM, Jameela Lares <Jameela.Lares at usm.edu> wrote:

    Actually, many of Milton's readings reflect standard thinking.  The Bible was thought in his time to be a doctrinally unified, so that one part glossed another. Satan is called "that old serpent, which is the Devil" in Rev. 20:2, at almost the opposite end of the text, which placement has a nice symmetry.  And Paradise Lost quotes from all over the Bible. (See especially Sims, The Bible in Milton's Epics, but even Sims's listing does not include everything.)

    Milton's epic was thought to be completely orthodox until the publication of his De Doctrina Christianity in 1825. Recently, some people have been reading it as fissured. Pendulums swing.

    You are certainly welcome to your own interpretation of life, the universe, and everything, but you might consider whether you are reading an interpretation into Milton that the text cannot support. In another post, you made certain statements about Christianity: "[Milton] not only changed the facts that govern Christianity, he completely deleted the central virtue: the worth of human decision, our inherant power to change the future.  The glory of Christianity is that painful sacrifice is a virtue, and that even a divine being would choose to endure that pain to prove it to all eternity. That we have a choice in life. But Milton's version takes away the choice." That's actually not Christianity, which is rather a statement that man's sins have separated him from God, Christ's sacrifice has permitted us back in, but that we have to accept his government. But Milton's explanation of soteriology in Paradise Lost 12 and elsewhere is orthodox.

    Jameela Lares
    Professor of English
    The University of Southern Mississippi
    118 College Drive, #5037
    Hattiesburg, MS  39406-0001
    601 266-4319 ofc
    601 266-5757 fax
    From: milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu [milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu] On Behalf Of Nairba Sirrah [nairbasirrah at msn.com]
    Sent: Friday, December 17, 2010 12:59 AM

    To: milton-l at lists.richmond.edu

    Subject: RE: [Milton-L] Re: "tasteless" Milton (response)

    Anyhow, none of any of that is how it reads in any form of Judiasm or Christianity. Much of what Milton did was against the law in 1667. The reality that Paradise Lost was approved for publication by the office of the Bishop of Canterbury is astonishing.

    Milton basically changed all of God's reasons for doing everything, and made an epic mockery out of every divine and human decision.

    Essentially saying "if god forsees the future, then there was no chance that Eve had a choice...so why forbid her from doing something fate dictated she wwas going to do anyway."

    I realize the Pandora's Box this opens. But again, in defense of my point, Milton's reworking of the essential narrative is quantum and, I dare say, wrong. He might as well have just made up a whole new religion. At what point does a Milton emmendation become too ridiculous? Saying Raphael warned them is HUGE. Why not say Adam ate the fruit first?

    The license Milton took is too far out of bounds. The main reason it's not talked about is hardly anyone ever reads the whole poem.


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