[Milton-L] Who would not sing for Ralph?

Kemmer Anderson kanderso at mccallie.org
Wed Sep 30 15:43:51 EDT 2015


Next dog burial I will some lines from Lycidas as well as Book 17 from the
Odyssey. Kemmer Anderson

On Wed, Sep 30, 2015 at 8:17 AM, john rumrich <rumrichj at gmail.com> wrote:

>
> ​It's the time of term when I have no time, and yet this year managed to
> read a novel, *Speak,* by Louisa Hall, out just this past summer.  It
> features among other narrative threads extracts from the diary of Mary
> Bradford, a woebegone 13 year old pilgrim on board a ship heading to the
> new world, accompanied by her parents and the man she is supposed to
> marry.  She smuggles her beloved dog Ralph on board because she cannot bear
> to leave him behind, but the dog is then swept away in a storm at sea.  The
> girl is devastated, and the surprisingly sympathetic man she is being
> forced to marry alone attempts to console her for her loss.  But being
> unable to say much on his own, he chooses a book of poems to read from to
> the homesick girl sunk in her grief:
>
> "Ralph dead ere his prime (he said), but must not go unwept.
>
> Heart caught in writer's chest, and awful confusion . . . . Felt tears
> hotly rising: nearly sent Whittier away, for did not want him to witness my
> sorrow.  But he faced out to sea. Did not gape at my tears, but spoke only
> of Ralph's love for green lawns and driving afield in the morning,
> battening flocks whilst the dew was still fresh.  Found myself caught by
> remembrance, of Ralph going forth, guarding our meadow, standing on
> hilltops.  His bark, and the weight of his lean.  Whittier continued, and I
> awash  in desire for the place that we lost.  For flowers of our home:
> amaranthus, jessamine.  For his body under the sea.  For Ralph, on deck
> being seasick and vomiting, yet looking homewards with sorry expression.
> For his familiar body swept away by the waves. For Ralph, being still with
> us."
>
> I can't count the many ways that this passage works within the larger
> story but was particularly taken by the way sympathy for a character's
> wrenching sorrow somehow coinhabits with gentle mirth in these sentences
> and those that follow.  It may be a readerly experience reserved for those
> who know their Milton.  So I thought I'd share it here with a
> recommendation for the novel.
>
> John Rumrich
>
>
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