[Milton-L] Flaws

srevard at siue.edu srevard at siue.edu
Thu Oct 24 16:07:02 EDT 2013


Glad to hear from you, Neil--have not seen you since you joined us for dinner at
the Chateau de Lavigny in June 2011. (The collection of poems I was working on
during the residency there is about to be published.)

Yes, the 2 Sam and 1 Chron differ radically; one says God urged David to conduct
a census, the other says Satan did it, and this drew lots of commentary; in PR
Milton's Jesus goes with Satan as tempter. As John Leonard and Louis Schwartz
know, I have lately published an essay (in a collection co-edited by Louis)
proposing that Sam/Chron episode as covertly evoked in the 2-handed Engine line
in Lycidas. Later, in Eikon Basilike, Charles quotes David's penitent plea to
spare his people (sheep), and in Eikonoklastes Milton says in effect that
Charles in doing this is effectively pleading guilty (as Sin?)of plaguing
England. I should probably have cited your discussion, but Louis had had to cut
a lot of footnotery out of the essay as it was.

As for Milton's contemporary readers, I'd guess he has never had a better reader
than Andrew Marvell, whose poem set before Paradise Lost tells us Milton scared
hell out of him, for fear Milton would ruin the Sacred Truths to fables old. 
However, that (cowardly finagler?) Marvell thought Milton wrote wonderfully
well and does not say a thing about his mixing representational and
allegorical.  Strange that so keen a mind should fail to do that, no?

Quoting Neil Forsyth <neil.forsyth at unil.ch>:

> Many thanks to Carter and Stella for the plug. Interestingly enough, the
> version of the plague story is quite different in 2 Samuel  24 and
> 1Chronicles 21.1. In the latter it is indeed Satan who provokes David to call
> for the census, for which the plague is a punishment, but in the Deuteronomic
> Historian's earlier version it is Yahweh. I discuss the difference, and what
> it has to do with the development of the Satan figure, in The Old Enemy at
> pages 119-123.
>
> Yes, Johnson does discuss Spenser from time to time. Curiously, in view of
> the topic of this thread, he writes at one point that 'Allegory is perhaps
> one of the most pleasing Vehicles of Instruction.'
>
> Neil Forsyth
> neil.forsyth at unil.ch
>
>
>
> On Oct 24, 2013, at 3:04 PM, Achsah Guibbory wrote:
>
> > Carter, as usual you and Stella are brilliant!!!!
> > Achsah
> >
> > Sent from my iPhone
> >
> > On Oct 24, 2013, at 2:33 AM, srevard at siue.edu wrote:
> >
> >> This is Carter Revard again.  Stella and I have followed with interest
> this
> >> thread.  Something that it seems to me (as to her also) has been
> completely
> >> ignored, which matters very much, is that Milton did not just invent these
> >> figures out of his English poet's mind. He drew them, did he not, in part
> from
> >> Hebrew/Old Testament/Apocryphal/Talmudic/New Testament/Early Christian
> >> writings? So it is somewhat sophomoric, jejune, pedantically mistaken, to
> sniff
> >> and snuff and whoof (okay, shoot me?) without considering Sin and Death as
> to
> >> some extent "found art." Any critical reading of Paradise Lost should
> consider
> >> these facts. Milton "found" them, then he re-created them so as to advance
> the
> >> action of his epic poem. He used the Greek birth of Athena as one "source"
> for
> >> the birth of Sin; this is a part of his epic's reshaping all of Greek myth
> as
> >> damned lies put about by demons.  He is rewriting, not just referencing,
> the
> >> Bible and Homer and EVERY God-damned God-blessed THING.
> >>
> >> Look, Milton knew a great many epic and other versions of Satan--Neil
> Forsyth
> >> has done a great deal on a'that and a'that, eh what?--but his Satan is not
> >> Dante's, nor Tasso's, nor Matthew's, and yet his Satan certainly comes
> directly
> >> at one point in Paradise Regained out of 2 Samuel and 1 Chronicles, when
> Jesus
> >> asks him bluntly about his having tempted David and brought down a plague
> upon
> >> Jerusalem and the Israelites. Milton drew on damned near (literally
> damned?)
> >> everything from everywhere to create his figures. Audacious is far too
> timid a
> >> word to describe Milton's ambitious epic.
> >>
> >> To take another instance of Milton's creating a dramatic character, Comus
> is not
> >> allegorical, exactly, but like Sin and Death, has a very complex
> "parentage."
> >> So should Comus not be interacting with the "real historical" children of
> a
> >> particular noble English family in an actual English town and its castle?
> >>
> >> Just for fun, how many of you want to stomp on Spenser for "mixing"
> historical
> >> English figures in with the allegorical ones in The Faery Queene?  I can't
> >> recall whether Sam Johnson ever read that poem, or had anything to say
> about
> >> it.
> >>
> >>
> >>
> >> Quoting "Hugh M. RICHMOND" <hmr at berkeley.edu>:
> >>
> >>> I do agree that our generic tastes are more circumstantial than absolute.
> I
> >>> always saw Satan as a mere element of human consciousness (an allegorical
> >>> figure?) not a complete personality, and his associates (and Sin and
> Death)
> >>> as aspects or consequences of that frustrated egotism, which we see
> >>> integrated into full human consciousness only in the psychological
> >>> progressions of Adam and Eve. This is how they all emerged in our
> >>> production of "Paradise Lost" (see "John Milton's Drama of 'Paradise
> Lost'
> >>> ", Peter Lang, 1992). In our production, the encounter of Satan, Sin and
> >>> Death was a real shock to the audiences - perhaps Milton's violation of
> >>> decorum was deliberate. Best wishes, Hugh richmond
> >>>
> >>>
> >>> On Wed, Oct 23, 2013 at 5:38 PM, alan horn <alanshorn at gmail.com> wrote:
> >>>
> >>>> We may regard our own standards of taste as natural and correct, but it
> is
> >>>> interesting to note how different standards have prevailed at other
> times.
> >>>> Addison and Johnson were offended by the mixing of modes and genres they
> >>>> found in Shakespeare, a judgment which seems peculiar now when such
> >>>> conventions no longer have the same significance. But overt allegory has
> >>>> been out of fashion long enough that the allegorical interlude involving
> >>>> Sin and Death tends to bother contemporary readers of PL as much as it
> did
> >>>> certain eighteenth-century critics--we’re not used to THIS kind of
> mixture.
> >>>> Registering our distance from the work in this respect is important to
> do
> >>>> and can be instructive. But to take the conventions we’re used to for
> >>>> timeless norms is, it seems to me, to fall into a rather old-fashioned
> >>>> error.
> >>>>
> >>>>
> >>>>
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> >>>
> >>
> >>
> >>
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