[Milton-L] technical challenges in the excision of s&d from 10 (long, involved post)

Watt, James jwatt at butler.edu
Fri Oct 25 16:34:14 EDT 2013

Thank you, Louis Schwartz. I agree with you completely. What I was trying to do, in a mild way, was suggest something of the actual reading experience with my post. That what happens to us when we actually READ P.L. (or listen to it read) is a sort of grasping and turning this way and that of a lot of threads (Genesis, of course, but also the Aeneid --and many many more for the more widely read among us). All these things God, the Father and Son, Heaven & Hell, Satan & the Serpent, the Garden and the Fall are, ultimately allegorical, after all. None are in our actual or lived experience; they're simply ways of trying to talk about origins and destinations (both of which are also outside our experience). Even my brother, who remembers being in the premature baby section of the hospital, has no memory of what he knows, like all of us, from observation, must have happened --I mean the successful union of sperm and ovum. And even THAT isn't the origin; more like the big bang, because one has to ask, where was I before that?  The I, in other words, keeps insisting on a temporal spatial situation that makes sense. And, of course, there's no such thing. As I said, it's a poem. A great poem. But perfection it ain't. Personally, it's perfection that I think is a null class.

oh well, on we go with wandering steps etc. etc.

Jim Watt
From: milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu [milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu] on behalf of Schwartz, Louis [lschwart at richmond.edu]
Sent: Friday, October 25, 2013 12:37 AM
To: John Milton Discussion List
Subject: Re: [Milton-L] technical challenges in the excision of s&d from 10 (long, involved post)

It is fun, but you're right.  Although it would be very difficult to imagine the poem without the allegory.  It's very hard--maybe impossible--to measure just how much imagining it, composing it, affected the way Milton conceived of and composed the rest.  I suspect that composing some of those passages had quite a profound effect on him.

The only thing I'm certain of, however, as one particular reader, is that for me the poem would be significantly diminished without those strange and affectively complex episodes.  Who knows what Milton would have come up with without them, but it would be a different poem, and I think probably not a better one.


Louis Schwartz
Professor of English
University of Richmond
Richmond, VA  23173
(804) 289-8315
lschwart at richmond.edu
From: 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: Thursday, October 24, 2013 11:42 PM
To: John Milton Discussion List
Subject: Re: [Milton-L] technical challenges in the excision of s&d from 10 (long, involved post)

I hope this is fun for everyone, but excision is not the point.  Thew point is what would the poem look like if Milton had not decided to put those episodes in in the first place.  To take them out now only minimally helps us in imagining that.

Richard Strier
Sulzberger Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus
Editor, Modern Philology
Department of English
University of Chicago
1115 E. 58th St.
Chicago, IL 60637
From: milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu [milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu] on behalf of David Urban [dvu2 at calvin.edu]
Sent: Thursday, October 24, 2013 9:57 PM
To: John Milton Discussion List
Subject: Re: [Milton-L] technical challenges in the excision of s&d from 10 (long, involved post)

Greg--can we call you "Ritchie B" for a nickname?


From: milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu <milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu> on behalf of Gregory Machacek <Gregory.Machacek at marist.edu>
Sent: Thursday, October 24, 2013 10:33 PM
To: John Milton Discussion List
Subject: [Milton-L] technical challenges in the excision of s&d from 10 (long, involved post)

For anyone who him or herself wants to play the game of improving Paradise Lost by cutting out the inconsistent-in-representational-mode Sin and Death:

The cut will start at 229-30.  The Son has returned to heaven and recounts to the Father his judgment, Meanwhile Sin and Death...  Here it is:

Recounted, mixing intercession sweet.
Meanwhile ere thus was sinn'd and judg'd on Earth
Within the Gates of Hell sat Sin and Death

[Odd expression:  "Meanwhile ere thus" Shouldn't it be one or the other?  Can anyone help me get a fix on what just these three words are saying?]

They talk and snuff (I will miss "snuff"; I do like "snuff") and start building their bridge, and at 325 they've descried their way to earth

when behold 326
Satan in likeness of an angel bright

steers his Zenith toward them.  He's disguised but they can tell it's him.

The stuff we probably do want to follow "intercession sweet" starts at 332. "He after Eve seduc't unminded slunk."  But as phrased, it grammatically depends on the lines where Sin and Death can recognize their parent;  the pronoun "he" needs that as a referent.  Otherwise, 332-346 should all be in.  It recounts what Satan did between seducing Eve and the judgment.

[One thing that's odd, though, that I'm noticing for the first time is 341-345.  It says that Satan fled when the Son came to judge (which we know was at evening time), but then came back at night and heard from Adam and Eve's "sad discourse" that his own doom would be in the future.  But the poem doesn't narrate that "sad discourse" until much later: 720ff.  Is this a known glitch in the poem?  Milton is having to manage lots of "meanwhiles," with action in heaven, on earth, and with two sets of agents in Chaos, but 341-5 seems weirdly proleptic.]

A discordance in lines 346-7 perhaps suggest the late-composition theory.  Line 346 say of Satan, "to hell he now returned," but line 347 backs us up to the foot of Chaos and S & D's bridge, for a conversation with them.

He has a conversation with them, dismisses them, continues on his journey.  There's another odd bit when he reaches the gate (418) he finds it desolate because those appointed to keep it had "flown to the upper world."  It hardly feels like we should need to be told that, having as recently as 411 been told so, particularly that he's finding it that way; duh, you just said farewell to the guards well outside the gate and going the opposite direction.  Anyway, there are also other guards (devils, I don't think we knew about them) who have fled inward, to Pandaemonium.  Satan sneaks in there, reveals himself.  His speech to the devils mentions Sin and Death at 473 and 490 [Also odd, he talks like they know who S&D are, but he'd forgotten them prior to his encounter; had they not? and does he now know they'd not?].  The devils turn to snakes.  At 585 a "Meanwhile" has moved Sin and Death to Paradise.  At 617, th'Almighty sees them and comments on how they and the devils think He's let them free to misrule the earth, but they're in fact there just to lick up the pollution of man's sin.  The angels sing halleluiah, God's decrees are righteous.

It's going to take a lot of doing to trim them from this book.

Greg Machacek
Professor of English
Marist College
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