[Milton-L] Great, unhappy souls

Jason Kerr aelfric at gmail.com
Wed Jan 27 14:50:33 EST 2010


Thanks for clearing up another little evidence of my ignorance that I've
foolishly unburdened on the list. Isn't it amazing, though, that Milton
could smile in spite of being gravely misunderstood--or understood all too
well, as when his books were ordered to be burned at the Restoration?

Back to the pursuit of unhappiness (or something),

On Wed, Jan 27, 2010 at 2:36 PM, Dario Rivarossa
<dario.rivarossa at gmail.com>wrote:

> Hi Jason ---
> well, I should explain things a bit better. First of all, "unhappy" is
> the way Leopardi describes Milton, not necessarily a portrait of
> Milton "as is".
> But, more than that, Leopardi was a neo-Enlightenment thinker rather
> than a Romantic dreamer, and his atheistic philosophy is the top of
> rationality ever produced by culture in Italy. So "unhappy" means
> basically "not understood", "too great to be appreciated by his own
> fellow citizens".
> Finally, "unhappy" in this case styles somebody who dares look into
> the world's most unpleasant truths.
> >Didn't one of Milton's wives (I think it was Elizabeth Minshull) object to
> the engraved portraits because they made Milton look dour--entirely unlike
> the smiling person she knew? I don't have the exact reference to hand at
> the
> moment (no doubt some other listmember does). Of course, I recognize that
> Dario's talking about something like romantic melancholy, which isn't
> necessarily incompatible with being happy in the usual sense--at least I
> hope not...
> Jason A. Kerr
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The purpose of poetry is to remind us
how difficult it is to remain just one person,
for our house is open, there are no keys in the doors,
and invisible guests come in and out at will.

          —Czeslaw Milosz, from "Ars Poetica?"
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