[Milton-L] To Cyriack Skinner upon his Blindness

Nancy Charlton nbcharlton at comcast.net
Thu Feb 21 18:18:45 EST 2013


Dear Angelica et al.,

I have followed this thread with great interest, as I am an 
aficionada of Old English as well as of Milton.  So it was with 
delight that I made my daily trek to Poetry Daily, and found this 
lovely meditation by Jacob Polley:

  http://poems.com  (click on Today's Poem.)

It is so easy to overdo alliteration, to have it slip from 
unifying to banal.  Coleridge's "five miles meandering in a mazy 
motion," to me has always sounded overdone. Perhaps it's the 
Latinisms and feminine endings of -ing, -y, =tion, but it just 
doesn't have the punch of "thaes ofereode, thises ealswa maeg."  
And "ofereode," literally 'over-went',  which seems more 
devastating than simply "passed." Somehow, this "brings the 
eternal note of sadness in" far more than the other.  It may not 
be a fair comparison, however, but this line from Sir Gawain 
comes to mind, the "birdes piping for pain of cold."  This may be 
a bit gooey, but in a different way from the Coleridge.  Milton's 
alliteration in "Cyriack" carries a restraint that keeps it from 
the overdoneness of these examples.  Milton needs the 
consciousness of having fought for liberty perhaps more than 
Cyriack does and is not lacking in sympathy for one who fought a 
fight similar to his own.

So I think Roy Flannagan has a point.

Nancy Charlton

P.S.   Some minor asides:  For a corking good story and a 
masterly appropriation of Old English/Icelandic/Norwegian, read 
Judith Lindbergh's 2006 novel "The Thrall's Tale."  It delivers a 
punch much akin to the ending of Downton Abbey, Season 3, just as 
heartbreaking and inevitable.



On 2/19/2013 1:30 PM, Duran, Angelica A wrote:
> Dear all,
>
> This has indeed been helpful, especially but not only Christopher Baker's
> reminder of the Biblical echo in the phrase. I do not consider
> trite-sounding  as a negative per se. This discussion reminds me of how
> much the trite-sounding conclusion of the Old English "Deor's Lament" that
> I was memorizing for my PhD qualifying exams (_Beowulf_ to Billy Collins,
> as we called it),"That too did pass; so shall this" (modern English
> translation) encouraged me, not just for the exams (!) but for all facets
> of life, even as much as I acknowledged that it sounded trite, well-worn
> because so many of us have needed it or wanted it over the centuries.
>
> Adios,
> Angelica
>
>
>
> On 2/19/13 3:54 PM, "Salwa Khoddam" <skhoddam at cox.net> wrote:
>
>> Angelica,
>> 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.
>> Best,
>> Salwa
>>
>> 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>
>>>> 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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