[Milton-L] To Cyriack Skinner upon his Blindness

Salwa Khoddam skhoddam at cox.net
Tue Feb 19 15:54:00 EST 2013

I agree with those who think the tone of this passage that you quoted of the 
sonnet is heroic and the imagery of sailing onward sustains this tone. It is 
vivid as an image of life's journey and bearing up our "crosses." There 
should not be too much focus on the one phrase "right onward." The over-all 
theme overrides whatever common usage it might suggest. I see no triteness 
of tone in it but more of a tone of heroism in  accepting what God's 
commands and purposes are for us and forging ahead.
Thank you for this interesting and provocative question.

Salwa Khoddam PhD
Professor of English Emerita
Oklahoma City University
skhoddam at cox.net
----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Duran, Angelica A" <duran0 at purdue.edu>
To: "John Milton Discussion List" <milton-l at lists.richmond.edu>
Sent: Tuesday, February 19, 2013 2:04 PM
Subject: [Milton-L] To Cyriack Skinner upon his Blindness

> Dear Jameela et al,
> Just a self-justification (!): my initial posting had the subject heading
> "[Milton-L] To Cyriack Skinner upon his Blindness" which I include again
> as the subject heading of this posting. I agree though with the
> helpfulness of clear subject headings. That said, I apologize for the typo
> in the quotation of Milton's lovely poem.
> Adios,
> Angelica Duran
> Associate Professor, English and Comparative Literature
> Director, Religious Studies
> Purdue University
> 500 Oval Drive - Heavilon Hall
> West Lafayette, Indiana 47907
> U.S.A.
> (765) 496-3957
> <duran0 at purdue.edu>
> <http://www.cla.purdue.edu/complit/directory/?personid=80>
> <http://www.cla.purdue.edu/religious-studies/>
> On 2/19/13 2:47 PM, "Jameela Lares" <Jameela.Lares at usm.edu> wrote:
>>Might I humbly request that anyone posting to this list use a more
>>descriptive subject line than "Milton-L Digest"?
>>Jameela Lares
>>Professor of English
>>The University of Southern Mississippi
>>118 College Drive, #5037
>>Hattiesburg, MS  39406-0001
>>601 266-4319 ofc
>>601 266-5757 fax
>>From: milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu
>>[milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu] on behalf of John Leonard
>>[jleonard at uwo.ca]
>>Sent: Tuesday, February 19, 2013 12:14 PM
>>To: John Milton Discussion List
>>Subject: Re: [Milton-L] Milton-L Digest, Vol 75, Issue 14
>>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>>
>>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.
>>Angelica Duran
>>Milton-L mailing list
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