[Milton-L] Bk 3

Richard A. Strier rastrier at uchicago.edu
Wed Oct 30 21:17:08 EDT 2013


"And my question: how would we determine that Milton is pretending - especially pretending to himself as well as the world? That is, what would count as evidence for the claim that Milton is pretending to be a "normal Christian" (what is that, by the way?) both to himself (especially to himself) and the world?"

That is indeed the question, Samuel.  I wish I knew.  Requires a whole set of subtle judgments.  Not the kind of thing that allows for being settled once and for all!


________________________________
From: milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu [milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu] on behalf of samuelsmith112 at comcast.net [samuelsmith112 at comcast.net]
Sent: Wednesday, October 30, 2013 6:58 PM
To: John Milton Discussion List
Subject: Re: [Milton-L] Bk 3

Richard,

This evokes your earlier comment:

My overall point is that God's speech at the beginning of the Book -- a
> purely rationalistic, legalistic, and philosophical speech -- actually takes
> care of the problem of the fate of mankind.  I would hold that this speech is
> how M actually thinks, and the rest is M pretending -- perhaps to himself as
> well as to the world -- that he is a more normal sort of Christian than he
> actually was.  If M wrote CD -- which most Miltonists now seem to agree that
> he did -- then it's pretty clear that M was NOT a normal Christian.

And my question: how would we determine that Milton is pretending - especially pretending to himself as well as the world? That is, what would count as evidence for the claim that Milton is pretending to be a "normal Christian" (what is that, by the way?) both to himself (especially to himself) and the world?

"If Milton wrote CD" - we find both orthodox doctrine (substitutionary atonement for sin effected through the blood of Christ at the crucifixion) and unorthodox doctrine (non-Trinitarianism, ex Deo creation) in CD. So sometimes "Milton" is "normal" and sometimes he is not. My Evangelical (orthodox) minister father would find most of CD quite compatible with his orthodox theology, only stumbling over the Arianism and the ex Deo creationism. He might be surprised by Milton's mortalism, and disagree with it, but his respect for Luther would allow for it.

Samuel




________________________________
From: "Richard A. Strier" <rastrier at uchicago.edu>
To: "John Milton Discussion List" <milton-l at lists.richmond.edu>
Sent: Wednesday, October 30, 2013 7:02:11 PM
Subject: Re: [Milton-L] Bk 3

I am a bit puzzled by one thing in Michael B's remarks-- the very opening.  If M was so committed to "uttering freely," why would he have not wished to reveal his own heretical views?  Perhaps something more complicated is going on here -- perhaps he was not quite willing to admit to himself what an odd sort of Christian he was. Or perhaps he genuinely wanted to seem orthodox (for whatever reason).

Best,
RS


________________________________________
From: milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu [milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu] on behalf of Bryson, Michael E [michael.bryson at csun.edu]
Sent: Wednesday, October 30, 2013 4:42 PM
To: John Milton Discussion List
Subject: Re: [Milton-L] Bk 3

I think Milton did not wish to reveal, in his epic, how non-Christocentric his "Christianity" was. This seems obvious to me, coming as it does from a man who regarded knowledge as the path to being like God, who regarded the liberty to know and utter freely according to conscience (not *Christian* conscience, merely conscience) as the axiomatic liberty from which all others took their origin, and who showed Paradise being regained through will and adherence to principle, not blood and crucifixion. I have often thought, that after "On the Morning of Christ's Nativity," that Milton had little use for the traditional figure of Christ, and even less use for the ransom sacrifice theory of Christian redemption.

And the Chariot of Paternal Deity story strikes me as Milton's sly way of working in a reference to the old story of Edward III giving the16-year-old Black Prince the opportunity to win his spurs at Crecy, while using that story to comment on the absurdity and ultimate futility of war. For what, exactly, is it that wins the war in heaven? Right? Principle? Correct understanding of Christian doctrines largely worked out as political compromises in the 4th-century? No. Power is what wins the war. Might makes "right" in that scenario. The scene--if taken seriously/literally--has a certain Thrasymachean or Euthyphro-esque quailty to it, arguing that justice is determined by the stronger, and that the just is so because the gods love it, not because it is just in itself. So much of Paradise Lost seems to hinge on issues of force, and the conquests that are achieved/enabled by the possession and wielding of greater force--military force (Book 6), persuasive force (Book 9), that it continually amazes me that any reader can take seriously the notion that Adam and Eve (or the heavenly powers) can be in any other than the most narrowly legalistic sense be described as "sufficient to stand."

As for Milton needing the Son to provide the occasion for Satan's envy, I wholly agree, and I think that is made evident in M's borrowing of the rhetorical structures and geopolitical realities reflected in Psalm 2 (where the "kings of the Earth" take up arms against Yahweh and his anointed in an historically henotheistic context perhaps best explained with reference to the Moabite stone, with its commemoration of Mesha of Moab praising Chemosh for giving him the victory over Omri of Israel, and his god Yahweh) in order to tell the story of how conflict in the universe first comes into being. He takes the frame of pre-existing conflict assumed by Psalm 2 and uses it to narrate the *creation* of conflict and division in Book 5 of PL. What this implies about the Son has always interested me--was he, like David, a lowly sheep herder among the "Israelites" of Milton's Heaven? A relative nobody? And is *that* the provocation that effects the transformation of a peaceful Heaven into a martial one, while also transforming Lucifer into Satan?

Finally, it also seems to this reader, anyway, that an insistence on reading Sin and Death as *merely* allegorical serves very nicely to remove the difficulties the present in the basic plot of a poem that puts Satan in a securely locked dungeon, only to put the key into the hands of his own "creation" ("daughter/lover/mother-of-child"), *and* place her *inside* the gates. Allegory, yes, but a nasty and deliberate piece of plotting and characterization (of the *placer* not the *placed*).

Michael Bryson
________________________________________
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: Wednesday, October 30, 2013 1:48 PM
To: John Milton Discussion List
Subject: Re: [Milton-L] Bk 3

Needless to say, I agree with Mr. Campbell as cited by Mr. Schwartz.  I have the great advantage of coming to Milton (and Shakespeare and the whole period) from first having spent ten years in deep engagement with George Herbert's poetry.  To come to Milton from GH is to feel strongly how utterly different they are as sensibilities, and how different M is from a poet to whom the atonement and our profound need for it are central.  I do not need Carter and Stella to remind me of these doctrines; I think that they need to acknowledge how far from central they are to Milton.  Not to see how utterly characteristic of Milton's thought God's speech -- brilliantly modeled on one by Zeus early in The Odyssey (where Zeus notes that the gods are blamed by mortals for outcomes that mortals bring on themselves) -- is, I think, not to confront the deep rationalism and ethical axis of his thought.  The issue of free will and its misuse is his obsession (for better or worse).  God's speech deals with this directly, and explains how justice can be done in the face of misuse of free will by man.  Nothing further is needed for man to, as He says, "find grace."

The question then becomes why M put in the Son's sacrifice.  Certainly it was meant to contrast with Satan's taking on his mission in Book 2.  But whether this works is another matter (Satan's mission seems to me more truly motivated in the story [diegetically]-- which is not to say that the values involved are more admirable).  I think that M either wasn't prepared to face up to how utterly non-Christocentric his version of Christianity was, OR, he did not wish to reveal this to the public who would read his great poem -- that I do not know, and would be interested in hearing other folks thoughts about.  But in my view that is what we should be discussing.

And just to add another point along these lines, the Son's role in the War seems to me entirely contrived -- dad letting the son do something that could easily have been done without him.  Dad let's the son mow down the actually harmless enemies in dad's souped up car.  Simply greater power being exercised -- no moral dimension there.

>From my point of view, the only real importance the Son has in the poem is to provide the occasion for Satan's envy.  That M needs for the story.

Cheers,
RS

________________________________
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: Wednesday, October 30, 2013 11:34 AM
To: John Milton Discussion List
Subject: Re: [Milton-L] Bk 3

Steve Fallon says:

“On top of this is the oft-noted fact that Milton does not emphasize the passion in the epic (and that he is unable to finish the early poem on the passion).  He seems more interested in the Son as an exemplar of heroic obedience, a model for us, than as a God whose blood saves us.”

I think this is the crux of the matter (so to speak).  I’d suggest also that he simply did not have much in the way of artistic genius for the representation and engagement with the passion and its associated doctrines.  As my friend Gardner Campbell once pointed out to me with characteristic incisiveness, if you want a great poet of the passion, you need to look at a poet like Herbert, not at Milton.  Even if, as Steve suggests, Milton did not reject “the orthodox doctrines of resurrection and atonement,” his greatness as an artist was for other aspects of Christianity, and its borderlines with certain heresies.

Louis



===========================
Louis Schwartz
Professor of English
English Department
University of Richmond
28 Westhampton Way
Richmond, VA  23173
(804) 289-8315
lschwart at richmond.edu<mailto:lschwart at richmond.edu>




From: milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu [mailto:milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu] On Behalf Of Steve Fallon
Sent: Wednesday, October 30, 2013 12:20 PM
To: John Milton Discussion List
Subject: Re: [Milton-L] Bk 3

Carter,

I have agreed with virtually everything you have posted in recent days, but I think that Richard Strier has the inside track on the Father's speeches in Book 3. The Father does, as you say, outline the Resurrection and the Atonement, but the Father is required by justice to produce the mechanics of salvation.  Eating the fruit, humankind enthralls itself, the ironic result of the misuse of the free will irrevocably granted by God.  The Father indicates that, given the circumstances of Adam's and Eve's fall, mercy and justice require that "man therefore shall find grace." Mercy and justice so dictating, the question for the Father is how to engineer the process.  The answer will be the orthodox doctrines of resurrection and atonement, doctrines that Milton supports in Christian Doctrine I.xiv-xvi.  But even before the Father articulates the stumbling block, "Die he or justice must," he has made the case for man finding grace.  That case, in my view, is logically as well as temporally prior.

On top of this is the oft-noted fact that Milton does not emphasize the passion in the epic (and that he is unable to finish the early poem on the passion).  He seems more interested in the Son as an exemplar of heroic obedience, a model for us, than as a God whose blood saves us.

Steve Fallon

On Oct 27, 2013, at 8:14 PM, <srevard at siue.edu<mailto:srevard at siue.edu>> wrote:


Time to herd you cats, who are all singing in the dark of Book Two, out into the
Holy Light of Book Three, which none of you appears to have read with either
interest or understanding. Richard, my brilliant and scholarly friend, I have
to try and explain why you need to consider what God and the Son say more
carefully:  they outline for us two central Christian doctrines, that of the
Atonement (the Son will die for mankind) and the Resurrection (the Son
vanquishes Death), which Milton found in Paul and James and other New Testament
texts, which are not only orthodox but commonplace and I think common to all
Christian sects.  God begins by explaining that he knows Satan will get out,
bamboozling Sin and bribing Death:  this is a point that most of our colleagues
who are discussing this seem unaware of (one of us even said he had not yet gone
on to look at Book 3!).

I know it is supererogatory, but I will try to write out as briefly as possible
and post separately an explanation of what I have just obstreperously asserted
above.  Meantime, I hope you all get many treats for your tricks this
Halloween.

I should acknowledge here that Stella has been the scholar who made ME read Book
3, beginning when we were at Yale Grad School and used to go up into the dim
stacks and like Adam and Eve taste of the Tree of Knowledge, not unmixed
perhaps with amorous thoughts and oeillades. It behooves me therefore to pass
along to colleagues some of what she has taught me, which you are all of course
free to partake of or to abstain from.

Carter Revard


Quoting "Richard A. Strier" <rastrier at uchicago.edu<mailto:rastrier at uchicago.edu>>:


SUPPOSED PROBLEM FOR MY VIEW:   "at line 202 [the Father] goes on to say
HOWEVER, even though by grace-given penitence he [man] may live obediently,
nevertheless justice demands that he and all his posterity shall
die--UNLESS ..."

MY RESPONSE:  The problem of "justice" has already been taken care of when
the Father explains why man can be forgiven, but Satan not.  His point is
that justice does NOT require that mankind be condemned to death, etc.

My overall point is that God's speech at the beginning of the Book -- a
purely rationalistic, legalistic, and philosophical speech -- actually takes
care of the problem of the fate of mankind.  I would hold that this speech is
how M actually thinks, and the rest is M pretending -- perhaps to himself as
well as to the world -- that he is a more normal sort of Christian than he
actually was.  If M wrote CD -- which most Miltonists now seem to agree that
he did -- then it's pretty clear that M was NOT a normal Christian.  The
critique of the Trinity there is thoroughly rationalistic, as is the critique
of Calvinism (see my piece in the New Milton Crit volume, or the earlier
longer version of it in Milton Studies 38).

RS


________________________________________
From: milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu<mailto:milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu>
[milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu] on behalf of srevard at siue.edu<mailto:srevard at siue.edu>
[srevard at siue.edu]
Sent: Saturday, October 26, 2013 4:27 AM
To: John Milton Discussion List
Subject: Re: [Milton-L] Bk 3

But Richard, you seem to have stopped reading Book III at line 202.  Up to
that
point God has explained why he through grace will forgive Man; but at line
202
he goes on to say HOWEVER, even though by grace-given penitence he may live
obediently, nevertheless justice demands that he and all his posterity shall
die--UNLESS "for him/ Some other able, and as willing, pay/ The rigid
satisfaction, death for death./ Say, heavenly powers, where shall we find
such
love,/ Which of you will be mortal to redeem/ Man's mortal crime, and just
the
unjust to save:/ Dwells in all heaven charity so dear?" (lines 210-16)

And here of course is where the Son volunteers to die for Man, saying
(241ff):
"On me let Death wreak all his rage;/Under his gloomy power I shall not long/
Lie vanquished..../ But I shall rise victorious, and subdue/ My vanquisher,
spoiled of his vaunted spoil;/ Death his death's wound shall then receive,
and
stoop/ Inglorious,/ Of his mortal sting disarmed..../ While by thee raised I
ruin all my foes,/ Death last, and with his carcass glut the grave."

You do notice that Milton here personifies (OOOH, Allegory, that serpent of
the
Nile, rears its ghastly head!!!) Death, gives him a "sting" that is the same
one he held in Book Two?  And if you would like to see where Milton found
Death
with a sting, and found him and Sin personified, you might want to read
Paul's
Epistle to the Romans, especially for instance Chapter 5, verses 12 etc.


Quoting "Richard A. Strier" <rastrier at uchicago.edu<mailto:rastrier at uchicago.edu>>:

SUPPOSEDLY KNOCK-DOWN POINT:  "not JUST granting humans "forgiveness" but
redeeming them from Death."

It's not clear to me that these are different.  What else could divine
forgiveness mean?


________________________________________
From: milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu<mailto:milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu>
[milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu] on behalf of srevard at siue.edu<mailto:srevard at siue.edu>
[srevard at siue.edu]
Sent: Friday, October 25, 2013 7:11 PM
To: John Milton Discussion List
Subject: Re: [Milton-L] Bk 3

Aieee!  you not only stepped in it, but as Molly Bloom said of a somewhat
different activity, "up to the neck almost"!

I think if you go back and READ the dialogue between Father and Son (which
I
have just done), you will see that the issue is not JUST granting humans
"forgiveness" but redeeming them from Death, which is what the Son steps up
to
do by suffering death for them. Let fellow listers correct me if I am
wrong,
but this, I think, is hardly sham Christian; I think it is doctrine shared
by
Puritans and Catholics, Laudians and Calvinists. God does explain this
quite
clearly and the Son echoes and amplifies it (and incidentally, that other
lion
named Aslan illustrates how it works, if you want to reread the Narnia
stories
where C. S. Lewis invents another female version of Sin). Milton draws here
on,
among other narrative traditions, the Harrowing of Hell, a story that
quivers
within the Sin/Death/Satan episode but is not "realized" until God and the
Son
explicitly evoke it.


Quoting "Richard A. Strier" <rastrier at uchicago.edu<mailto:rastrier at uchicago.edu>>:

OK, now I'll really step in it.

About Book 3:  as far as I can tell, the Son's offer to bear death, etc,
is
completely unnecessary to Milton's conception (further proof of how far
he
is/was from traditional, normal Christianity).  It's all a sham, and
another
case (like moments that sound Calvinist) of M trying to appear/sound
orthodox.  Here's why it's a sham:  Milton has already, at the very
beginning
of Bk 3, had God the Father (the only real God) explain that He intends
to
forgive man's fall on purely moral/philosophical grounds -- man was
misled
by
another -- and contrasting this with Satan's fall, which He will not
forgive.
No further mechanism or explanation for man's forgiveness is needed.
And
it's all decided  on that basis.  Already.

It seems to me that the normal reading of Bks 2 and 3 in this regard has
it
backwards -- Satan's heroism is real (he really doesn't know what's going
to
happen), while the Son's is totally superfluous.  I'm not saying that
Satan
doesn't indulge in some manipulation and theatrics, but that he his doing
something that, from the point of view of the fallen angels, really
can't/won't be done otherwise.  But this is less important than the point
above.  And I'm not saying that M doesn't get some of the normal
experience
of Christianity from the episode, just that it is not actually needed for
his
story and his overall position.

Coeur de Lion

________________________________________
From: milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu<mailto:milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu>
[milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu] on behalf of srevard at siue.edu<mailto:srevard at siue.edu>
[srevard at siue.edu]
Sent: Friday, October 25, 2013 3:41 PM
To: John Milton Discussion List
Subject: Re: [Milton-L] oops, I forgot one

Well asked, Alan. For instance, how about Hypocrisy, who shows up when
Satan
is
disguising himself as a stripling angel in order to bamboozle Uriel?

Does everyone agree that Milton carefully placed the Death/Sin/Satan
drama
near
the end of Book II in order to set up the opening of Book III, the poem's
doctrinal center in which the dramatic encounter of God and Son so
precisely
and on so many levels contrastingly parallels that between Satan and
Death?

Quoting alan horn <alanshorn at gmail.com<mailto:alanshorn at gmail.com>>:

Is all the figurative language to be stripped from the poem or just
this
one episode?

I want to second Jim R’s suggestion to look back at Harold Skulsky’s
series
of posts from a couple of years ago explaining the genre and function
of
the passage in question and citing precedents in classical epic for
Milton’s use of this convention.

Alan Horn




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