[Milton-L] Milton-L Digest, Vol 75, Issue 14

John Leonard jleonard at uwo.ca
Tue Feb 19 13:14:55 EST 2013

I can hear nothing trite in 'bear up and steer / Right onward'.  I can 
see that 'uphillward' might convey that impression (especially after the 
nautical imagery in 'bear up' and 'steer'), but Jim is surely right on 
when he says 'Right onward' is 'heroic in the face of adversity'. Both 
the language and imagery (sailing against a head wind) look forward to 
Satan's journey through Hell and Chaos, when he is likened to a merchant 
fleet 'Close sailing from Bengala' as it plies 'Stemming nightly toward 
the pole'. ('Close' and 'stemming' are also nautical terms.) 'Bear up' 
also plays on the senses 'uphold principles' and 'keep up courage' (OED 
21), ideas that Milton took seriously.

John Leonard

On 19/02/2013 12:39 PM, James Rovira wrote:
> I read the tone as heroic in the face of adversity, Milton believing 
> that he suffered a loss of eyesight because of his defense of liberty 
> in England.  I don't mean to argue that "steer / Right onward" might 
> sound trite, but it could be that he hoped the serious tone of the 
> poem up until that point would carry that construction through as 
> well, and that the reference to his "noble task" would elevate it 
> afterwards.  He also seems to consider the fame he won for his 
> engagement of this noble task as compensation for his loss of eyesight.
> So I would say that the "still bear up and steer / Right onward" is 
> not later to be rejected, but is supported by the rest of the poem, 
> while the previous clause beginning with "Yet I argue not..." is the 
> idea to be rejected: that Milton might argue with God about his loss 
> of eyesight.  He seems to be positioning himself as facing the 
> temptations of Job here and coming out on top.
> Jim R
> On Tue, Feb 19, 2013 at 12:28 PM, Christopher Baker 
> <christopher.baker at armstrong.edu 
> <mailto:christopher.baker at armstrong.edu>> wrote:
>         Dear scholars,
>         I have read every article and chapter on "To Cyriack Skinner
>         upon his Blindness" that I could get my hands on and am
>         working through the tone of lines 6-9:
>         Yet I argue not
>         Against Heaven's hand or will, nor bate a jot
>         Of heart of hope; but sill bear up and steer
>         Right onward. What supports me dost thou ask?
>         Many editors note the revisions to the poem, including
>         replacing "Uphillward" with "Right onward." In addition to
>         more clearly initiating the sense of traveling/sailing  that
>         other elements of the poem produce, "Right onward" sounds to
>         me as purposefully trite, more along the lines of Milton's
>         reference to the "fatal and perfidious bark" in "Lycidas," a
>         trite explanation called in to be ultimately rejected. I see
>         the four aspirated "h" sounds in the first halves of lines 7
>         and 8 as contributing to that tone.
>         What are your thoughts? Many thanks.
>         Adios,
>         Angelica Duran
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