[Milton-L] prohi-BITS / The Sky Scraper

Dario Rivarossa dario.rivarossa at gmail.com
Wed Jan 13 14:52:12 EST 2010


Anon out of the earth a fabric huge
Rose like an exhalation...
                           (PL I: 710 ff)

Milton’s approach to architecture is very intriguing. Pandemonium is an
unbelievably high, maybe fluid-shaped building (“like an exhalation”), the
kind of nowadays skyscrapers in the Arabian and Far Eastern countries; even
with sliding doors (see vv. 723-724).
On the other hand, Milton mentions as a comparison such marvels as the
temples and palaces in Babylon, Egypt, Assiria -- and he adds Alcairo. So,
he steps beyond the usual references to the Bible, showing his interest in
modern archeology, indeed predating it, since the gold age of Archeology
would start only in the 18th century.

Nor less interesting is the designer of Pandemonium, Mulciber. His majestic,
awful, hellish style looks partially based on Michelangelo Buonarroti’s
churches and frescoes, so that the building includes a satyre against the
Basilica of St. Peter in Rome, as well as against other seats of Established
Religion. But, it is remarkable that Mulciber designed the “towered
structures” in heaven also (vv. 732-734), which have NOT been destroyed
after the Fall, in fact angels still live in them. Civilizations pass,
architecture doesn’t. William Blake’s “Marriage of heaven and hell” is here
accomplished through solid stone.
It is a pity that in PL Mulciber is given no further performances, except
indirectly in 4.714 (Pandora was a she-cyborg manifactured by him, who is
identified with the Greek god Ephestos, the Latin Vulcanus). One could write
one hundred poems with the spare parts of Milton’s.
Finally, here Milton once again nicely disproves Dante, who - referring to
the buildings in hell - had said “whoever made them”, without choosing
between God’s providence and the infernal powers.

Already in the 16th century Ludovico Ariosto had revived Vulcanus in his
long poem Orlando Furioso, by letting a knight find the net the divine
blacksmith had made in order to catch Venus (the episode was told in Homer’s
Odyssey). Ancient myths keep young and lively when they are re-used in some
witty way, as e.g. the works by Ovid, Dante, Milton, Giacomo Leopardi,
Herman Melville, Arnold Böcklin, Walt Disney, Primo Levi show.
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