[Milton-L] milton's poor sonnet, installment 5, "mine"

Carol Barton, Ph.D., CPCM cbartonphd1 at verizon.net
Fri Apr 22 16:39:00 EDT 2016


I think you're being perverse in this instance, Greg (no insult intended), because the contrast seems obvious to me, and turns on the implicit contrast of the preceding stanza:

It's a compare and contrast simile--

My late espoused saint is like " Alcestis [brought] from the grave," and just as "Joves great son [her] to her glad Husband gave," Christ rescued and restored her to me, not "Rescu'd from death by force though pale and faint," but rescued by agape, whole and perfect, "washt from spot of child-bed taint, Purification in the old Law," and saved by the sacrifice of the Son--wherefore "as such, . . .  came vested all in white" (and so on).

>From that perspective, I suppose the veiling could be to signify that, saved and purified, she is a bride of Christ--but as she is Milton's wife, that would just further complicate the poem, unnecessarily. I think it's pretty settled that she's veiled because her blind spouse has never actually seen her face.

Best to all,

Carol Barton



From: Gregory Machacek 
Sent: Friday, April 22, 2016 4:12 PM
To: John Milton Discussion List 
Subject: [Milton-L] milton's poor sonnet, installment 5, "mine"


I have three beefs against "Mine."  You'll get two of them in this post.  You'll also get (as looks like is becoming part of my method) one question that is a sincere question, i.e. which isn't designed simply to point to a fault, but is an authentic invitation for you to explain to me how you construe the poem.   (The "save" question worked that way, and did elicit a good answer (though an answer not without attendant problems of its own)).

"Mine" would seem intended to introduce some strong contrast between Alcestis and Milton's late espoused saint.  It comes at a major transition point-start of the second quatrain.  And prosodically, there's a reversal of stress that would seem to assign it contrastive vocal emphasis:  by contrast with Admetus' wife, who was thus and such, mine was so and so. 

1) The poem does not contain, however, the simple, go-to possessive pronoun that would naturally serve as the solid point of opposition for this contrastive "mine," namely "his."  In fact, working from the material the poem does give us, we have elaborately to construct what ought to serve as the balancing thought for "my wife, by contrast" in the following roundabout formulation:  "my wife by contrast with Alcestis's glad husband's wife."  The "mine" wants a solid contrasting pronoun on which to plant its foot (Mine be thy love and thy love's use their treasure), and it steps into a bog instead.

2) Here's the sincere question:  what do you take the actual contrast itself as being?  To me it seems there are two options, both of them bad.  A) by contrast with Admetus' wife, who was pale and faint, mine came dressed in white.  As a contrast, that's underwheming.  or B) by contrast with Admetus' wife, who was pale and faint, mine came dressed in white as one whom, washed from spot of child-bed taint, purification in the old law did save and such as yet once more I trust to have full sight of her in heaven without restraint.  As a contrast, that's muddy.

--Y'all's grudging concession:  Yeah, now that I look at it, by placement and prosodic emphasis "mine" promises a strong contrast, and nothing in the poem crisply does in fact provide that contrast.

(By the way, these scripted concessions are designed 1) to summarize how much of the critical case I've made so far and 2) to spur your rebuttals, when you have them.  But they are not designed as a rhetorical stratagem by which everyone who does not object will be counted in my camp.  The silent majority will not be assumed to stand with Grump.  I have a positive obligation to win adherents.  (So if I ever do make sense, please don't hesitate to say so!)).


Greg Machacek
Professor of English
Marist College 


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