[Milton-L] Eurydice, yes, but also Creusa

john rumrich rumrich at austin.utexas.edu
Fri Apr 22 06:25:27 EDT 2016


I've enjoyed reading the discussion of Sonnet 23.  One point I'd add on the
topic of the sonnet's turn on previous, similar literary dreams, or visits
to the underworld, is that in Milton's account the shade attempts to
embrace the dreamer.  In previous cases, it is the dreamer who futilely
attempts to embrace the shade.  As Gerald Hammond notes in an excellent
treatment of the sonnet (see *Fleeting Things)*, waking and so preventing
the embrace is the one active thing Milton does in the poem, and it is a
rather heroic thing that he does, too, returning to the realm of the
living--his night.  The poem is typically dated at about the time that
Milton was beginning the enormous labor of composing his epic upon waking
in cold mornings.  It was a time when death perhaps might have seemed a
tempting prospect, if that meant reuniting with his beloved.

And speaking of mortal matters and Milton, I just heard of a recently
published novel entitled *Digging Up Milton*, inspired by the pamphlet
written by Philip Neve recounting the events in August 1790, when the body
of Milton was dug up in Cripplegate and parts of his remains were sold as
souvenirs. It is by Jennifer Wallace of Cambridge, and the review I saw
from TLS makes me want to read it.

All best,

John


On Thu, Apr 21, 2016 at 11:54 AM, Schwartz, Louis <lschwart at richmond.edu>
wrote:

> Thank you, John for the kind words about the book!  I agree that Creusa
> (and Eurydice, too) are poignantly relevant for exactly these reasons, and
> I discuss that a bit in the chapter, especially in connection with the
> echoes in Adam’s account of Eve’s creation.
>
>
>
> And Michael:  I’d add to the passages you quote Aeneas’ brief encounter
> with Dido’s shade in the underworld in *Aeneid *Book VI.  More guilt.
>
>
>
> Louis
>
>
>
> ===========================
>
> Louis Schwartz
>
> Professor of English
>
> Chair, English Department
>
> University of Richmond
>
> 28 Westhampton Way
>
> Richmond, VA  23173
>
> Office:  Ryland Hall 308
>
> Phone:  (804) 289-8315
>
> Email:  lschwart at richmond.edu
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
> *From:* milton-l-bounces at richmond.edu [mailto:
> milton-l-bounces at richmond.edu] *On Behalf Of *John K Leonard
> *Sent:* Tuesday, April 19, 2016 4:16 PM
> *To:* John Milton Discussion List
> *Subject:* Re: [Milton-L] Eurydice, yes, but also Creusa
>
>
>
> Those are excellent questions, Michael, and my answer (which I owe
> entirely to Louis Schwartz) would be that guilt is indeed one part of the
> complex of emotions in this great sonnet. Louis many years in a *MQ*
> article that subsequently became part of his splendid *Milton and
> Maternal Mortality *argued that Milton (and other early modern husbands)
> felt guilt at impregnating their wives who then died either as a direct
> result of childbirth or from complications arising from the process
> (including the appalling medical treatments). Not exactly "neglect" (too
> much attention rather than too little), but a sense of "betrayal"
> nevertheless, and the passages you pertinently cite reinforce Louis'
> argument. I think that Milton's verse has many surprising, even jarring,
> connections of this kind. I have long thought that Adam's "To me committed
> and by me exposed" (10.957) contains a guilty echo of the revised (Ed II)
> version of 1.505: "Exposed a matron to avoid worse rape" (Ed I has
> "Yielded", not "Exposed"). There was a sense in which Adam negligently
> "exposed" his matron, as the Levite did in Gibeah. Even if we think that
> Adam was right to respect Eve's freedom, a note of guilt is still audible
> in "by me exposed" and something like that guilt may well infiltrate Sonnet
> 23, as Louis argued and you now confirm.
>
>
>
> All best,
>
>
>
> John Leonard
>
> On 04/19/16, *"Bryson, Michael E" *<michael.bryson at csun.edu> wrote:
>
> Interesting, especially the observation about Aeneas and Creusa, because
> that raises the idea of neglect and/or betrayal. Aeneas, as he is escaping
> Troy, famously takes rather less care of Creusa than he does of Anchises
> and Iulus, leaving her to follow behind as they flee for safety:
>
>
>
> ergo age, care pater, cervici imponere nostrae;
>
> ipse subibo umeris nec me labor iste gravabit;
>
> quo res cumque cadent, unum et commune periclum,
>
> una salus ambobus erit. mihi parvus Iulus
>
> sit comes, et longe servet vestigia coniunx. (2.707-11)
>
>
>
> Predictably enough, while Aeneas, Anchises, and Iulus reach safety, Creusa
> does not, and Aeneas admits he hadn't even given her a first thought, much
> less a second one, along the way:
>
>
>
> heu misero coniunx fatone erepta Creusa
>
> substitit, erravitne via seu lapsa resedit,
>
> incertum; nec post oculis est reddita nostris.
>
> nec prius amissam respexi animumue reflexi
>
> quam tumulum antiquae Cereris sedemque sacratam
>
> venimus: hic demum collectis omnibus una
>
> defuit, et comites natumque virumque fefellit. (2.738-44)
>
>
>
> And I have always tended toward what might be called the Ovidian reading
> of this scene, at least as it is rendered in Heroides 7, in which Dido is
> given her voice:
>
>
>
> omnia mentiris; neque enim tua fallere lingua
>
> incipit a nobis, primaque plector ego:
>
> si quaeras ubi sit formosi mater Iuli—
>
> occidit a duro sola relicta viro! (ll.77-86)
>
>
>
> Ovid's Dido essentially accuses Aeneas of lying about everything, and is
> especially pointed in her accusation that Creusa died because her cruel
> husband left her behind.
>
>
>
> Is there any element of this in Milton's sonnet? Fascinating, if so.
>
>
>
> Michael Bryson
>
>
>
>
>
>
> ------------------------------
>
> *From:* milton-l-bounces at richmond.edu <milton-l-bounces at richmond.edu> on
> behalf of John K Leonard <jleonard at uwo.ca>
> *Sent:* Tuesday, April 19, 2016 12:01 PM
> *To:* John Milton Discussion List
> *Subject:* [Milton-L] Eurydice, yes, but also Creusa
>
>
>
> Orpheus, yes, but also all those moments in classical epic where a hero
> tries in vain to embrace the shade of a loved one. Some memorable
> instances: Achilles and the shade of Patroclus, who appears to him in a
> dream (Il. 23.99-107), Odysseus and the shade of his mother (Od. 11.204-9)
> and Aeneas and the shade of his father (Aen. 6.700-2). Closest to Milton's
> sonnet is Aeneas and the shade of Creusa (Aen. 2.789-95). Closest both
> because it is a husband and the shade of his wife, and because Aeneas tries
> to embrace her three times ("Love, sweetness, goodness") only to be triply
> disappointed ("I waked, she fled, and day brought back my night") as she
> slips from his hands "like light winds or most like a winged dream":
>
>
>
> ter conatus ibi collo dare bracchia circum;
>
> ter frustra comprensa manus effugit imago,
>
> par levibus ventis volucrique simillima somno. (2.792-4)
>
> On 04/19/16, *Michael Gillum *<mgillum at unca.edu> wrote:
>
>
>
> Is Orpheus in sonnet 23, line 14? For me, he wasn't until I read a
> suggestion that he is, so now for me he is in there, vaguely, in an implied
> comparison.
>
>
>
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