[Milton-L] dating Samson

srevard at siue.edu srevard at siue.edu
Fri Dec 6 14:06:18 EST 2013

Excellent point, Louis. Richard's imaginative scenario relegates PR to
makeweight status, whereas yours points--rightly, I believe--to Milton's
deliberate setting of them as counterpointed assessments of how to carry on
religious/political struggle. As for dating the compositions of PL, SA, and PR,
there is well-known evidence that PL includes some bits (e.g. Satan's soliloquy)
from much earlier time, and Milton's compositional procedures in prose and verse
as well as his arrangements of published volumes (e.g. his POEMS) certainly show
his care and subtlety in revising, in putting on final touches, and in situating
texts in significant sequence and juxtapositions. And in his blindness and
surrounded by dangers from 1660 to 1667, and then after even his wouldbe rival
Dryden had realized the achievement of PL and Milton was being courted by the
Royalists in an effort to neutralize him, Milton certainly reshaped PL (ten
into twelve books etc.): so why shouldn't we propose a scenario in which Milton
in dark surrounded by deadly threats was pulling out some earlier beginnings of
SA, say in 1661; and following up on those, and rethinking, rewriting--and
perhaps even while he was finishing PL, deciding NOT to include in what are now
Books 11 and 12 of PL an account of Jesus finding his Sonship by countering
Satan's temptations; then  turning that story into PR, a whole separate poem,
and working it into the counterpoint relation with SA.

And just to comment, Richard, on your earlier-introduced question (with the
quote from Tillyars) of whether Milton would have eaten the Apple and written a
pamphlet defending the deed:  certainly Milton "identifies" with Adam in PL,
certainly Milton's early Latin poems and correspondence with Diodati (see
Cedric Brown's excellent discussion of this in the Oxford Press THE YOUNG
MILTON), and perhaps even his 1638 Latin epigram to the great Neapolitan singer
Leonora Baroni, Milton was "fondly overcome with female charm"--but that was in
his salad days, wasn't it?  By the 1660s, after having taken back that perhaps
too fondly charming first wife and her family (hardly, of course a Mother of
God type I must suppose), after having survived her, married for love and lost
a second wife, and in his late blindness having married again a wife with whom,
despite the fuss with his daughters about it, he seems to have lived very
contentedly:  by the 1660s when he was finishing his account of Adam and Eve
eating the Forbidden Fruit, I think he was older, wiser, and more than capable
of NOT eating the Apple.  So, I think Lewis could have added that Milton not
only identified himself with Satan, but with Adam; and that by the 1660s he was
not the naive Adam but the sadder and wiser one.  And I think his Samson
denouncing Dalila is relevant to this, but so also is his PR Son of God
untempted by Satan's nymphs and houris--and waiting until after Satan is
defeated to enjoy the feast set before him in the wilderness by angels.

Quoting "Schwartz, Louis" <lschwart at richmond.edu>:

> This is an interesting and still live question.  I don't know when it was
> composed, but I do think that the decision to include it in the volume with
> Paradise Regained counts as a (maybe final) act of composition in itself.
> The addition turns that volume into more than just a pair of poems, it
> creates a tension in the mind that can generate considerable "Miltonic"
> energy.

> Louis
> ===========================
> Louis Schwartz
> Professor of English
> English Department
> University of Richmond
> 28 Westhampton Way
> Richmond, VA  23173
> (804) 289-8315
> lschwart at richmond.edu

> -----Original Message-----
> From: milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu
> [mailto:milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu] On Behalf Of William Silverman
> Sent: Friday, December 06, 2013 12:06 PM
> To: John Milton Discussion List
> Subject: Re: [Milton-L] dating Samson
> Richard,
> I cannot help but agree with you. I had the same thoughts in mind when I read
> "Samson Agonistes, Milton's Last great work." I almost immediately responded,
> "Is it?" In fact, this is a topic we just addressed in my current Milton
> course. It is always fun when students participate in this kind of debate
> because they come up with the most fascinating suggestions.
> Thanks,
> William
> Dr. William John Silverman, Jr.
> Assistant Professor of English
> Southern Virginia University
> Vice President, Mormon Scholars in the Humanities
> http://www.mormonscholars.net/ ________________________________________
> From:
milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu<mailto:milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu>
> [milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu] On Behalf Of Richard A. Strier
> [rastrier at uchicago.edu]
> Sent: Friday, December 06, 2013 11:57 AM
> To: John Milton Discussion List
> Subject: Re: [Milton-L] dating Samson
> Finally I see a topic worthy of this list.  Of course it's lamentable and
> stupid that the anthologists do not want translations of OE biblical poems,
> but there's not much to discuss there.  And how one would -- if at all -- use
> this new little anthology isn't that interesting.  BUT when one reads,
> "Samson Agonistes, Milton's last great work" -- there's a topic.  I am
> curious how many scholars on this list do think of SA as Milton's last poem.
> Myself, I don't.  I am quite convinced by the arguments of Woodhouse, Worden,
> and others that the poem was written fairly shortly after the Restoration --
> with the execution of the regicides in mind, and with a profound sense that
> Engand had lost its chance (unless...).  I think M kept it in his desk drawer
> because it was too hot to publish.  After he had written PR -- which I do
> think is his last great work -- I think the publisher thought the manuscript
> too small and asked Mr. M if he had anything with which to bulk it out.  And
> so we got "to which is added."  M thought he could duke it in under the cover
of that much more quietist piece, and as a kind of barely announced supplement.
> (Can't prove any of this, but I believe it, and am eager to start the
> conversation.)
> RS
> ________________________________
> From:
milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu<mailto:milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu>
> [milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu] on behalf of James Rovira
> [jamesrovira at gmail.com]
> Sent: Friday, December 06, 2013 8:05 AM
> To: John Milton Discussion List
> Subject: Re: [Milton-L] New Broadview Anthology of Milton's Poetry
> I thought it was interesting that Broadview attempted this anthology, but
> I've been asking myself the same question: for what course would I purchase
> this volume?  Maybe a course on poetry and revolution? Early Modern poetry
> and religion? Biblical reimaginings? But which of these courses wouldn't also
> want to use at least selections from Paradise Lost?
> The copy for this volume on Broadview's website begins with a series of
> questions that are equally applicable to Paradise Lost:
> "In Samson Agonistes, Milton's last great work, he addresses questions that
> pressed insistently on the imagination of all who were unhappy with the
> changes wrought by the Restoration. How do we respond to the experience of
> defeat, and to fears of having been abandoned by the divine? How do we know
> when our actions accord with divine will, or when they are fueled instead by
> our fallen desires and weaknesses? At what point do accommodation and
> compromise with an enemy become a failure of will? What constitutes true
> heroism? To what extent is violence justified in the cause of freedom?"
> http://www.broadviewpress.com/product.php?productid=1763&cat=0&page=1
> I think they should have pushed up the page count to about 150 pages and
> included at least selections from PL.
> Jim R

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