[Milton-L] Sonnet for our Friend
resden at yahoo.com
Thu Mar 17 18:12:13 EDT 2011
My heartfelt thanks to Hugh Wilson for his splendid John Shawcross tribute,
which so beautifully links John to other beloved scholars whose deaths have
diminished my own life. Hugh fittingly ends his sonnet on the word "brood". In
1985, at a six-week NEH Paradise Lost Summer Institute in Tempe, AZ, John spent
much of the first lesson on "brooding". We broke for lunch, and when we
returned in the afternoon, one of the professors triumphantly informed John and
the class that according to the OED, "brood" was not used in John's sense until
a quite later date. John threw up his hands and exclaimed, "Oh, you know the
OED!" He moved more deeply into the poem and said nothing else about the
meanings of "brood." The class settled down in incredulous silence, obviously
unconvinced. After class, John bustled about in the ASU library, especially the
rare books collection. The following morning, he opened our class with numerous
quotations and sources predating Paradise Lost and contemporary with it, all
using the word "brood" as John was explaining that Milton had used it. After
that, we had a very different understanding of the depth and breadth of John
Shawcross's scholarship, his firmness of purpose, and his desire to be an
informed guide to our class. Rest in peace, John; you were deeply revered and
loved, and you made a difference in people's lives.
From: Hugh Wilson <wilsonh at gram.edu>
To: John Milton Discussion List <milton-l at lists.richmond.edu>
Sent: Wed, March 16, 2011 12:23:53 AM
Subject: RE: [Milton-L] Sonnet for our Friend
I think Kemmer has set a courageous precedent and
a good one. As a fool must occasionally indulge his
own folly, I follow suit.
John Shawcross, notwithstanding minor limitations like sun-spots
or solar flares, was a great scholar who illuminated whatever he studied;
he shared—and made more accessible—the poetry of Milton and Donne;
he deserves some poetry of his own. If only we could be as learned
and diligent, as thoroughly decent, as he and his peers were, or as
urbane as the gentlemen and gentlewomen we study. . .
Bill Hunter, Al Labriola and Kate Frost,
have passed; now Shawcross counts among the lost.
It’s curious, what we remember now:
not when, but where; not what they did, but how.
The aging master scholar passes on:
the world’s diminished by the glimpse of dawn;
now they are gone, we stand a cubit less:
we take the news perforce, as by duress;
no one discourses of their feats of mind,
we most remember whether they were kind.
Ephemeral pictures dance upon the verge
of memory, the pictures blend and merge;
a sadness seeps inside, suffusing moods
where melancholy comes to roost, and broods.
From:milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu
[mailto:milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu] On Behalf Of Kemmer Anderson
Sent: Tuesday, March 15, 2011 11:56 AM
To: Milton-L at lists.richmond.edu
Subject: [Milton-L] Sonnet for our Friend
Sonnet Making for John Shawcross
Mentor, Nestor, Chiron: John Shawcross, Friend,
With bibliographical mind stops to
Consider a question to guide us through
That Miltonic labyrinth while we bend
A line beyond intent, meaning to render
Our design to what sound we thought was true.
Through conversation, he pours out what knew:
From Eden his voice whispers through the wind.
Eyes rest on a copy of Milton’s Prose
Straining to remember questions asked
During a breakfast here in Tennessee.
Those unfinished thoughts will bloom like a rose
Tilled in gardens far from Paradise tasked
With loving labors that set our minds free.
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