[Milton-L] What Milton's Paradise Lost is all about

Terrance Lindall tlindall at gmail.com
Sat Dec 18 11:12:02 EST 2010

In my opinion Paradise lost is not just for scholars, it is for everybody of
every race, religion, etc. It is for Nairba to jump up on tables and recite
with joy, it is for me to paint illustrations with joy, it is something to
celebrate and admire, even if we do always understand the deeper
significance. It is JM's great gift to the world, not for just a few. I and
many others are grateful to those of you who study Milton in depth and give
us insights that we do not have or could not have attained, and then offer
your understandings to the world in turn. That is a great society. I have
learned so much from all of you Milton scholars and I am in your debt. So, I
sent you the introduction to the Elephant Folio yesterday in part because of
what this great Milton scholar, Robert J. Wickenheiser, said near the
end. Experts
(National Endowment for Humanities) called his curriculum "ground breaking"
and referred to it as "a national model". He understood that Paradise Lost
should be given to students as a joy, not a task. Here is what he says:

"Milton's great epic has unfortunately been doomed to that category of poems
which is called “intellectual” or worse, “philosophical” and “theological,”
as if “epic” weren't tough enough to comprehend. “Where are the footnotes” I
was asked by a young student when viewing a copy of the first edition
of *Paradise
Lost* in my collection, an epic which you obviously cannot understand or
even read without footnotes and various other aids to assist the reader.

"My reply to all of that is: Ye gads, what balderdash!  Poetry is meant to
be read out loud and experienced in rewarding ways by each reader, very
similar to music, which is readily available to the various tastes of
individuals of all ages and which can be listened to in such a wide variety
of ways that it sometimes boggles the mind.

"Would you pass up a new musical system out of fear that you don't know how
to set it up or what it means, and because the documentation which came
along with the new system seems more confusing than helpful.  Such an
approach will never allow you to hear and to love music!"

Poetry, even such a long epic poem as Milton's *Paradise Lost*, is like
music: it is meant to be read out loud and to be heard; to be embraced,
comparable not only to experiencing the music we love, but also the art we
love and which we display on our walls in our homes because of our love for
that art."

Robert J. Wickenheiser, Ph. D.
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