[Milton-L] "Particular Falls"

Nancy Charlton charltonwordorder1 at gmail.com
Wed Jan 21 14:44:26 EST 2015


O Carter! what oft was thought but ne'er so well exprest! I started to
write something like this, but between a sick dog, broken pipes, and the
surrounding hassles, I didn't finish it.

I did have one thought, however, hoky though it may be. Suppose the title,
Particular Falls, is taken as a sentence in which "particular" is the
subject and "falls" the verb.The particular(s) fall, but those in the first
stanza all rise or go back to what they were before. In the second, the
falling may (the trapeze acrobats) or may not (the snowmelt and the spider)
have consequences or be final. With the nestling, the decayed fruit, and
most chillingly the fallen in battle--these have fallen into something from
which there is no return  Finally, the angels. As noted, they had the
potential to remain unfallen, or even to rise if they did fall. But they
are "irredeemable" in the "chasm of blindness" Not only are they never to
rise, but never to HOPE to rise. Where there is no hope, there must be the
despair that is a denial of God. A god who cannot offer succor is to be
pitied: not only felt sorry for, but unsympathized with.

Yes, I will send this correspondence off to Pattiann at the Georgia Review.
In an interview found online she did say that she doesn't analyze her own
poetry much, which would corroborate Carter's observation. But I hope
she'll enjoy this exchange as much as we have!

On Wed, Jan 21, 2015 at 9:36 AM, Stella Revard <srevard at siue.edu> wrote:

> Interesting that Empson's influence is so strong.  My take is quite
> different, probably because I think Empson so mistaken about Milton's God.
> I propose that "Pity their god" recognizes the actual Miltonic account,
> carefully laid out in Book III and reinforced in Books X, XI, and XII:  God
> created a universe of perfect beings who were also given free will so they
> could go utterly wrong, and even if they did go wrong those who by grace
> repented would be freed from Hell and death.  But (in Milton's version,
> which correlates mostly with Christian doctrine) the means to achieve this,
> as the dialogue between God and Son in Book III carefully explains, is the
> begetting of God's only Son, who takes upon himself the guilt and the
> punishment due to those who fell (this salvation was available to Satan and
> his cohorts, but repeatedly refused, as Milton makes amply clear in Books
> I, II, IV and V and VI as well as throughout the poem).  The Son, fully
> divine, must therefore suffer inexpressibly and endure death itself, but as
> we hear in his dialogue with God the Father in Book III, he will not be
> left, but will be taken from the grave and brought back up to Heaven--as
> will all those who by grace are saved and will at the end of time enter
> into Heaven.
>
> So I propose that "Pity their god" may evoke the suffering of the Son:  we
> are asked to pity the god who created angels and humans and a beautiful
> perfect universe, and who after a third of the angels and all the humans
> fell, must see his only begotten Son suffer and die to redeem them.
> Milton's God, like the old curmudgeon of the Book of Job, seems
> impervious--but the point of Book III is that the Son expresses the mercy,
> love, and compassion of the Father.  Father and Son together are to be
> pitied....
>
> What so disgusted Empson, I assume, is that Milton's God never says he's
> sorry, and lays the blame on those who fell.  The analogy I would draw is
> to a judge hearing the lawsuit against a drunken driver who crashed the car
> and killed all the family, as well as those in another car--even though
> roads, weather, car, and traffic were ideal.  One would expect at least
> that the judge, however strict in laying legal blame, would express pity
> and compassion for all those killed.  So I will point out that just such
> pity and compassion is expressed in Paradise Lost by the Son, and that
> Empson really should have read not only Book III but also Books X, XI, and
> XII, a bit more carefully--though I realize that would ask more than
> brilliant readers are willing to do once they have made up their minds
> about matters.  I venerate Empson's Studies in Words, and Pastoral Poetry,
> and many essays--truly one of the most brilliant and original readers in
> all the history of English letters.  I think however he is quite wrong
> about Milton's God.
>
> AND: NANCY, IT WOULD BE LOVELY IF YOU COULD BUNDLE AND SEND SOME OF THESE
> COMMENTS ON THE POEM BY PATTIANN ROGERS TO THE *GEORGIA REVIEW.  *If she
> is like most poets she may not want to address our discussion, but it would
> be interesting if she did.
>
> I'd add only:  my compliments to her on a fine poem.  I wish I'd written
> it!
>
> Carter Revard
>
> On 01/20/15, *"Richard A. Strier" * <rastrier at uchicago.edu> wrote:
>
>  Of course the last three words are meant to be a shock.  No preparation
> for this shift.  But I think the point is indeed pure Empson.  The divine
> being who wills such a situation is a horrible moral being.  One could, of
> course, fear this being, but that would be what it wants.  The poet has the
> right perspective, the truly moral one.  A divine being who cannot conceive
> of loving its enemies is indeed pathetic in its limitations.  Milton's God.
>
>  RS
>   ------------------------------
> *From:* milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu [
> milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu] on behalf of Matthew Jordan [
> matthewjorda at gmail.com]
> *Sent:* Tuesday, January 20, 2015 6:10 PM
> *To:* John Milton Discussion List
> *Subject:* Re: [Milton-L] "Particular Falls"
>
>
>  John: is your implication something like - "if there is such a god as
> the one they imagine / have dreamt up, it's one we should pity"?
>
>  Again, stating the obv.: "bleakest" a (the?) crucial word...
>
> On 20 January 2015 at 23:55, Matthew Jordan <matthewjorda at gmail.com <
> matthewjorda at gmail.com>> wrote:
>
>> Which then suggests God as inconsolable parent...
>>
>> On 20 January 2015 at 23:53, Matthew Jordan <matthewjorda at gmail.com <
>> matthewjorda at gmail.com>> wrote:
>>
>>> I'm also thinking of the famous Herbert poems which stage divine
>>> intercession...
>>>
>>> On 20 January 2015 at 23:44, Matthew Jordan <matthewjorda at gmail.com <
>>> matthewjorda at gmail.com>> wrote:
>>>
>>>> Ie. there are falls which are part of a larger movement or harmony, and
>>>> falls which, er, aren't...there is pattern or order to the late falls,
>>>> here, but it's static - or at least not, aha, regenerative...or summat...
>>>>
>>>> On 20 January 2015 at 23:41, Matthew Jordan <matthewjorda at gmail.com <
>>>> matthewjorda at gmail.com>> wrote:
>>>>
>>>>> Sometimes particular verbal cruces get me going, sometimes more
>>>>> nebulous notions.
>>>>>
>>>>>  I'm starting vague, here: Fortunate Fall (obv.), plus something I
>>>>> think I once read in Michael McKeon, tho I can hardly believe he was the
>>>>> first: that the idea of "poetic justice" takes hold in a world that no
>>>>> longer believes in the other kind...
>>>>>
>>>>>  Please bear in mind it's rather later, here; at least for me...
>>>>>
>>>>> On 20 January 2015 at 21:44, john rumrich <rumrich at austin.utexas.edu <
>>>>> rumrich at austin.utexas.edu>> wrote:
>>>>>
>>>>>>
>>>>>>
>>>>>>  The last three words are intriguing metrically, too, since after
>>>>>> the initial trochee (Never) the line changes from two successive iambic
>>>>>> feet (to hope to rise) to a trochee (Pity) and then to what in the metrical
>>>>>> context reads to me like an ambiguous iamb with a lot of stress on "their."
>>>>>>  *Their* god might not be god unmodified by a possessive.
>>>>>>
>>>>>>  I'm not denying the Empsonian ambiguity; it strikes me as as even
>>>>>> more ambiguous than that, however.
>>>>>>
>>>>>>  {This was bounced at first; I'm now sending a slightly modified
>>>>>> version from my institutional address.}
>>>>>>
>>>>>>
>>>>>> On Tue, Jan 20, 2015 at 3:26 PM, john rumrich <rumrichj at gmail.com <
>>>>>> rumrichj at gmail.com>> wrote:
>>>>>>
>>>>>>> The last three words are intriguing metrically, too, since the line
>>>>>>> changes from two successive iambic feet to a trochee and then to what reads
>>>>>>> to me like an ambiguous iamb with a lot of stress on "their."
>>>>>>> *Their* god might not be god unmodified by a possessive.
>>>>>>>
>>>>>>>  I'm not denying the Empsonian ambiguity; it strikes me as as even
>>>>>>> more ambiguous than that, however.
>>>>>>>
>>>>>>> On Tue, Jan 20, 2015 at 2:36 PM, Matthew Jordan <
>>>>>>> matthewjorda at gmail.com <matthewjorda at gmail.com>> wrote:
>>>>>>>
>>>>>>>> Just very quickly (for now): the notion I had in mind was a kind of
>>>>>>>> step beyond Empson's view of Milton's God - that He's a horror, but horrors
>>>>>>>> are also pitiable and pitiful...I haven't thought through the rest of the
>>>>>>>> poem in light of that possibility...yet...
>>>>>>>>
>>>>>>>>
>>>>>>>>
>>>>>>>> On 20 January 2015 at 20:14, Stella Revard <srevard at siue.edu <
>>>>>>>> srevard at siue.edu>> wrote:
>>>>>>>>
>>>>>>>>> Okay, the real challenge of the poem is its last three words, in
>>>>>>>>> which I assume Rogers shocks us with what seems a request to her readers
>>>>>>>>> (us) to have pity on "their" god, and I assume the antecedent of "their" is
>>>>>>>>> the fallen angels.  (A possible alternative reading might take "pity" as a
>>>>>>>>> noun....)  What do you expert readers of poetry think is her point in those
>>>>>>>>> last three words, which seem to bring the whole poem to such a (to me)
>>>>>>>>> surprising completion?  Why pity, and why pity for "their god," not for the
>>>>>>>>> fallen beings in their hopeless eternal torment?  And would a good answer
>>>>>>>>> here bring out even more strongly the "Miltonic" dimensions of the poem?
>>>>>>>>> Maybe useful questions for MLK Day.
>>>>>>>>>
>>>>>>>>> With best wishes,
>>>>>>>>> Carter
>>>>>>>>>
>>>>>>>>> On 01/20/15, *Matthew Jordan *<matthewjorda at gmail.com <
>>>>>>>>> matthewjorda at gmail.com>> wrote:
>>>>>>>>>
>>>>>>>>>  It may be almost too obvious to say, but the "Not...not..."
>>>>>>>>> thing (and "nec...nec"?) is typically Miltonic / epic...
>>>>>>>>>
>>>>>>>>> On 20 January 2015 at 16:15, Matthew Jordan <
>>>>>>>>> matthewjorda at gmail.com <matthewjorda at gmail.com> <
>>>>>>>>> matthewjorda at gmail.com <matthewjorda at gmail.com>>> wrote:
>>>>>>>>>
>>>>>>>>>>  Good stuff! Thanks.
>>>>>>>>>>
>>>>>>>>>>  As a comparison / contrast, my recollection is that in eg.
>>>>>>>>>> Augustine, rather gruesomely (morbidly??), one of the pleasures of the
>>>>>>>>>> saved is precisely their good view of the suffering of the damned . . . (?)
>>>>>>>>>>
>>>>>>>>>>  Best, Matt
>>>>>>>>>>
>>>>>>>>>> On 20 January 2015 at 16:06, Stella Revard <srevard at siue.edu <
>>>>>>>>>> srevard at siue.edu> <srevard at siue.edu <srevard at siue.edu>>> wrote:
>>>>>>>>>>
>>>>>>>>>>> Thanks, Nancy, for sending on the poem by Pattiann Rogers.  She
>>>>>>>>>>> is one of the best poets now writing in the US, but has not been given her
>>>>>>>>>>> due by the cliquers and claquers of the Award Giving dumbasses.  And the
>>>>>>>>>>> Georgia Review prints a lot of veryt fine work. Nice to know you are
>>>>>>>>>>> reading it well.
>>>>>>>>>>>
>>>>>>>>>>>
>>>>>>>>>>> On 01/20/15, *Hannibal Hamlin *<hamlin.hannibal at gmail.com <
>>>>>>>>>>> hamlin.hannibal at gmail.com> <hamlin.hannibal at gmail.com <
>>>>>>>>>>> hamlin.hannibal at gmail.com>>> wrote:
>>>>>>>>>>>
>>>>>>>>>>>  Thanks. The use of enjambment (all that carefully positioned
>>>>>>>>>>> falling) also seems somewhat Miltonic.
>>>>>>>>>>>
>>>>>>>>>>>  Hannibal
>>>>>>>>>>>
>>>>>>>>>>>
>>>>>>>>>>>   On Tue, Jan 20, 2015 at 2:36 AM, Nancy Charlton <
>>>>>>>>>>> charltonwordorder1 at gmail.com <charltonwordorder1 at gmail.com> <
>>>>>>>>>>> charltonwordorder1 at gmail.com <charltonwordorder1 at gmail.com>> <
>>>>>>>>>>> charltonwordorder1 at gmail.com <charltonwordorder1 at gmail.com> <
>>>>>>>>>>> charltonwordorder1 at gmail.com <charltonwordorder1 at gmail.com>>>>
>>>>>>>>>>> wrote:
>>>>>>>>>>>
>>>>>>>>>>>>   I felt that you all would enjoy this poem. Since I couldn't
>>>>>>>>>>>> get Poetry Daily to send it from their form, I'll take my chances with the
>>>>>>>>>>>> copyright police and simply copy it into this email.
>>>>>>>>>>>>
>>>>>>>>>>>>  The last stanza (?) is particularly Miltonic.
>>>>>>>>>>>>
>>>>>>>>>>>>  Nancy Charlton
>>>>>>>>>>>>
>>>>>>>>>>>>   Particular Falls
>>>>>>>>>>>>
>>>>>>>>>>>>  Not as three strands of braided hair,
>>>>>>>>>>>> being loosened, fall then together in waves
>>>>>>>>>>>> to touch the shoulders; and not as a white-
>>>>>>>>>>>> winged hawk releases and falls sinking
>>>>>>>>>>>> on the wind until its wings swerve upward
>>>>>>>>>>>> riding the current again toward the sun.
>>>>>>>>>>>>
>>>>>>>>>>>> Not the freefall that comes before
>>>>>>>>>>>> the parachute spreads and opens above
>>>>>>>>>>>> like a prayer and halts the plunge;
>>>>>>>>>>>> and not the tumbling fall of an acrobat
>>>>>>>>>>>> before he catches the trapeze his partner
>>>>>>>>>>>> drops as she falls to catch his feet.
>>>>>>>>>>>> Not any of those falls.
>>>>>>>>>>>>
>>>>>>>>>>>> And not the continual plummeting
>>>>>>>>>>>> fall of mountain snowmelt creating icy
>>>>>>>>>>>> weather in summer; nor the spider gliding
>>>>>>>>>>>> down her string, floating more than falling
>>>>>>>>>>>> in descent just as day falls and drifts
>>>>>>>>>>>> in its own ways into night; and not as one falls
>>>>>>>>>>>> with eyes closed into sleep where faith
>>>>>>>>>>>> is with the falling; nor as one falls
>>>>>>>>>>>> into love where riotous ascent begins
>>>>>>>>>>>> simultaneous with the falling.
>>>>>>>>>>>>
>>>>>>>>>>>> But consider the falling that is immutable:
>>>>>>>>>>>> the naked body of a nestling lying spilled
>>>>>>>>>>>> and broken on the sidewalk; wind-felled fruit,
>>>>>>>>>>>> sick odor of rotting pulp below the tree, slick
>>>>>>>>>>>> mass oozing into earth; the cold, frightening
>>>>>>>>>>>> stillness of those who lie fallen in battle.
>>>>>>>>>>>>
>>>>>>>>>>>> And remember the story of the bleakest
>>>>>>>>>>>> fall, the fall of those who once were angels,
>>>>>>>>>>>> who fell and fell into the deepest chasm
>>>>>>>>>>>> of blindness, irredeemable, never to rise,
>>>>>>>>>>>> never to hope to rise. Pity their god.
>>>>>>>>>>>>
>>>>>>>>>>>>  PATTIANN ROGERS <http://poems.com/feature.php?date=16455>
>>>>>>>>>>>>
>>>>>>>>>>>> The Georgia Review <http://garev.uga.edu/>
>>>>>>>>>>>> Winter 2014
>>>>>>>>>>>>
>>>>>>>>>>>> _______________________________________________
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>>>>>>>>>>>>
>>>>>>>>>>>
>>>>>>>>>>>
>>>>>>>>>>>
>>>>>>>>>>> --
>>>>>>>>>>>  Hannibal Hamlin
>>>>>>>>>>> Professor of English
>>>>>>>>>>> The Ohio State University
>>>>>>>>>>>  Author of *The Bible in Shakespeare*, now available through
>>>>>>>>>>> all good bookshops, or direct from Oxford University Press at
>>>>>>>>>>> http://ukcatalogue.oup.com/product/9780199677610.do
>>>>>>>>>>>  Editor, *Reformation*
>>>>>>>>>>> 164 West 17th Ave., 421 Denney Hall
>>>>>>>>>>> Columbus, OH 43210-1340
>>>>>>>>>>> hamlin.22 at osu.edu/
>>>>>>>>>>> hamlin.hannibal at gmail.com <hamlin.hannibal at gmail.com> <
>>>>>>>>>>> hamlin.hannibal at gmail.com <hamlin.hannibal at gmail.com>> <
>>>>>>>>>>> hamlin.hannibal at gmail.com <hamlin.hannibal at gmail.com> <
>>>>>>>>>>> hamlin.hannibal at gmail.com <hamlin.hannibal at gmail.com>>>
>>>>>>>>>>>
>>>>>>>>>>>
>>>>>>>>>>> _______________________________________________
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>>>>>>>>>>
>>>>>>>>>>
>>>>>>>>>
>>>>>>>>> _______________________________________________
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>>>>>>>>
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>>>>>>
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>>>>>
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>>>>
>>>
>>
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