[Milton-L] Milton and "the majesty of darkness" (was "Credited Wiki")

Margaret Thickstun mthickst at hamilton.edu
Sat Nov 4 10:44:26 EDT 2017


Thank you for this illuminating post. I would also like to point out the
danger of associating a rich skin tone with "darkness."

On Sat, Nov 4, 2017 at 9:23 AM, John Leonard <jleonard at uwo.ca> wrote:

> In the note he appends to his illustration of Satan as “a black man,”
> Terrance Liddell writes: “In Paradise Lost clearly dark is bad and light is
> good. So Satan as a black man might be symbolically appropriate. . .” But
> is it really the case in *Paradise Lost* that “dark is bad and light is
> good”? The statement has a certain prima facie plausibility based on some
> memorable lines (“Hail holy light”, “what in me is dark,” “the dark
> unbottomed infinite abyss”) which is no doubt why the topic of “dark and
> light” has so often (and boringly) been assigned for student essays. (I
> wonder if that is where Terrance’s image comes from?) Milton’s imagination
> is much richer than this crude binary. Some of his most hauntingly
> beautiful images come from the mingling of light and dark, and the
> challenging of our easy assumption that “dark is bad and light is good.”
> Recall the eclipse simile in book one where Satan “darkened so, yet shone.”
> Milton’s Satan is the Prince of Twilight, not the Prince of Darkness.  If
> there is something light about Hell’s darkness, there is also something
> dark about Heaven’s light. God also has his dark side, and not in a bad way:
>
>                                                        This deep world
>
>       Of darkness do we dread? How oft amidst
>
>       Thick clouds and dark doth Heav’n’s all-ruling Sire
>
>       Choose to reside, his glory unobscured,
>
>       And with the majesty of darkness round
>
>       Covers his throne; from whence deep thunders roar
>
>       Must’ring their rage, and Heav’n resembles Hell?
>
>       As he our darkness, cannot we his light
>
>       Imitate when we please? (PL 2.262-70)
>
> The speaker is admittedly Mammon, but the lines also have a ring of truth
> (biblical truth): “he made darkness his secret place” (Ps. 18); “the Lord
> hath said he would dwell in thick darkness” (II Chron. 6.1). Terrance
> coarsens both Milton’s art and his own with that flat statement “in
> Paradise Lost clearly dark is bad and light is good.” Mammon claims
> darkness for Hell, but his acknowledgement of God’s “majesty of darkness”
> gives him the lie. Hell’s darkness, no less than its light, is plagiarized
> from Heaven (“cannot we . . . Imitate when we please?”)
>
> John Leonard
>
>
> _______________________________________________
> Milton-L mailing list
> Milton-L at richmond.edu
> Manage your list membership and access list archives at
> https://lists.richmond.edu/mailman/listinfo/milton-l
>
> Milton-L web site: http://johnmilton.org/
>



-- 
Margaret Thickstun
Jane Watson Irwin Professor of Literature
Chair, Literature and Creative Writing
Hamilton College
198 College Hill Road
Clinton, NY 13323
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <http://lists.richmond.edu/pipermail/milton-l/attachments/20171104/4ea57dec/attachment-0001.html>


More information about the Milton-L mailing list