[Milton-L] solemn pronouncing & numbers hit by hand

JCarl Bellinger dionhalic at gmail.com
Fri Jul 6 16:49:40 EDT 2012


Quite unfair if I implied, requesting comment on a passage in PR, that the
generous respondent to my previous query is now the sole, happy target
of my subsequent request. Sincere apologies to Mr. Prawdzik, who certainly
owes no further offering.

I had meant in my 2nd query, citing PR 4.254-339, to broaden the topic
towards the vexed issue of M's possible interest in such "occult
sciences" as seem to percolate throughout the Renaissance, running from
Ficino right through to Agrippa, whose "Three Books" on the
subject appeared in English within five years or so of Milton's, 1645,
Poems.
    Those (classical) literatures whose sounds and gestures --properly
performed-- [as we discussed] can endue the student "even with the spirit
and vigor of Demosthenes, etc." derive their power to effect such
radical alterations not from pagan gnosis but from formal
literary principals native to the Hebrew scriptures. So the text might be
read in any case which, at the beginning, advertises Athens as the great,
high hill where to learn "the secret power ... of numbers hit by hand or
voice" but, at the end, identifies the Hebrew tradition as the original and
genuine source of [could we say?] the _effetti_.

<<
      All our Law and Story strewed
With hymns, our Psalms with artful terms inscribed,
Our Hebrew songs and harps, in Babylon
That pleased so well our victor's ear, declare
That rather Greece from us these arts derived,
Ill imitated.              PR 4.339
>>
Best to all,

Carl Bellinger

Any recent studies on M and the occult sciences?

On Mon, Jul 2, 2012 at 1:09 PM, Brendan Prawdzik <brendanprawdzik at gmail.com>
wrote:
>
> Thank you kindly, J Carl, for the nod.  I hope to be able to respond to
your observations shortly.
>
> Best wishes,
>
> Brendan
>
>
>
> On Fri, Jun 29, 2012 at 10:58 AM, JCarl Bellinger <dionhalic at gmail.com>
wrote:
>>
>>
>>
>> Many thanks [but a bit tardy] to Brendan Prawdzik for his generous and
learned response to my query.
>>
>>    I had not been aware how closely associated in the tradition of
rhetorical training was the art of physical expression (e.g. hand gesture)
with that of voice performance.
>>
>>   I appreciate also Prawdik's observations re the unequal valuation of
the arts of voice versus those of espression by motions of the body. In
 the passage at hand from Of Education he Prawdik points out the apparent
incongruity that whereas Milton "takes pains to reproduce these ... scenes
of gestural instruction" he at the same time "works to tone down the
presence of "actio..." The first holds "vigor," is masculine, the second is
histrionic, feminized. "A similar tension" he notes "runs through
discourses of early modern sacred rhetoric generally."
>>
>>   There is one passage in Milton that runs stunningly contrary to said
bias, but the passage (Paradise Regained, bk 4] only supports the argument,
it would seem, because it's the Devil that offers it speaking in one of the
temptations. I say "it would seem" because 'Messia's" counter, so far from
rejecting the "secret power" of these arts seems rather to subsum them
within the rhetorical traditions of ancient Hebraic lyric.
>>
>> I'd be most grateful for observations on the passage
>>
>>            Within the walls then view
>> The schools of ancient sages-his who bred
>> Great Alexander to subdue the world,
>> Lyceum there; and painted Stoa next.
>> There thou shalt hear and learn the secret power
>> Of harmony, in tones and numbers hit
>> By voice or hand, and various-measured verse,
>> Aeolian charms and Dorian lyric odes,
>> And his who gave them breath, but higher sung,
>> Blind Melesigenes, thence Homer called,
>> Whose poem Phoebus challenged for his own.
>> Thence what the lofty grave Tragedians taught
>> In chorus or iambic, ...
>>     Messia: Or, if I would delight my private hours
>> With music or with poem, where so soon
>> As in our native language can I find
>> That solace? All our Law and Story strewed
>> With hymns, our Psalms with artful terms inscribed,
>> Our Hebrew songs and harps, in Babylon
>> That pleased so well our victor's ear, declare
>> That rather Greece from us there arts derived—
>> Ill imitated
>>
>>
>> __________[ from B Prawdzik:]_____________
>> Dear all,
>>
>> Some observations about the Of Education passage noted by J Carl
Bellinger:
>> This passage reworks two iconic scenes of oratorical education that
Milton would have confronted in Quintilian and Plutarch, who describe the
transformation of Demosthenes and Cicero into expert orators through the
arts of delivery (actio/pronuntiatio, gesture).  Plutarch describes
Cicero's training by the tragedian Aesopus and the famed comedian Roscius.
 More to the point, Plutarch describes the actor Satyrus's use of,
specifically, texts by Sophocles and Euripides to train Demosthenes.
>>
>>
>> In Milton's passage from Of Education, the actors and comedians
disappear.  Moreover, where another author might see in these scenes of
education a training in imitation, Milton emphasizes the transmission of
authentic feeling from book to reader, and the expression of that "vigor"
and "spirit" (protestantized) through the voice.  This seems fully in
keeping with Areopagitica's passion-centered ethics of textuality.
>>
>>
>> It is of interest to me that Milton both takes pains to reproduce these
iconic scenes of gestural instruction in the concise passage from Of
Education and at the same time works to tone down the presence of "actio"
by obscuring the actors (esp. Roscius) and their focus on bodily gesture.
 And it would seem that "vigor" contributes to the more masculine view of
oratorical instruction intended by Milton here.  Thus, the passage depicts
reading and declamation as embodied and spiritual but also strives to tone
down the presence of the histrionic, feminized body.  A similar tension
runs through discourses of early modern sacred rhetoric generally.
>>
>>
>> William Marshall, the artist who engraved the notorious frontispieces to
both the 1645 Poems and the Eikon Basilike, features the scenes of Cicero's
and Demosthenes's instruction (the latter with looking-glass included) in
the frontispiece of John Bulwer's 1644 Chironomia which, with Chirologia,
is Bulwer's treatise on the rhetorical gestures of the hands and fingers
(available in EEBO).
>>
>>
>> Best,
>>
>>
>> Brendan Prawdzik
>>
>> On Tue, Jun 19, 2012 at 10:20 AM, JCarl Bellinger <dionhalic at gmail.com>
wrote:
>>
>> A number of benefits to students memorizing and pronouncing important
>> texts have been listed in this thread but nothing approaching the
>> radical re-wiring of mind & force Milton seems to promise in OF
>> Education.
>>     Query: Should we dismiss M's claim here as a hyped-up,
>> rallying-the-troops-of-an-English-eduction, or some such?
>>   >> and some of them got by memory,and solemnly pronounced ... would
>>
>> endue them even with the spirit and vigor of Demosthenes or Cicero,
>> Euripides, or Sophocles. <<<
>> -Carl
>>
>>
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