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Paradise Lost
by John Milton

Synopsis:
Milton tells the story of Man's creation, fall and redemption--to "justify the ways of God to men."
 

Topic: JULY DISCUSSION -- Paradise Lost by John Milton (1 of 83), Read 84 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Jim Heath (ddrapes@teleport.com) Date: Friday, June 23, 2000 08:04 AM For a great internet guide to Milton try: http://www.dartmouth.edu/research/milton/reading_room/contents/index.html This is the Milton Reading Room,and has footnotes keyed to the text of all of his work. It also links to related sites tracking down the classical precedents for his forms.
Topic: JULY DISCUSSION -- Paradise Lost by John Milton (2 of 83), Read 85 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Barbara Moors (bar647@aol.com) Date: Friday, June 23, 2000 08:25 AM Thank you. It's added to my bookmarks, Jim. After some confusion with the bookstore, I finally picked up my copy of the Norton Critical Edition of Paradise Lost yesterday. 75 more pages to go in The Name of the Rose and then I'll be starting on it. Barb
Topic: JULY DISCUSSION -- Paradise Lost by John Milton (3 of 83), Read 88 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Ann Davey (davey@tconl.com) Date: Friday, June 23, 2000 09:24 AM Thanks, Jim. I'm bookmarking this one as well. I'm still trying to catch up on my rest after returning from vacation (I suspect something's wrong with the way we do vacations). I'm plan to start Paradise Lost this weekend. Ann
Topic: JULY DISCUSSION -- Paradise Lost by John Milton (4 of 83), Read 73 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Ernest Belden (drernest@pacbell.net) Date: Sunday, June 25, 2000 01:03 AM Finding the right edition is not easy. I do have The Norton Anthology of English Literature revised 62. My wife Pat used it in one of her English lit classes. Paradise Lost is in there. The problem for me is the small print. Our local library does not have Milton but I could order it from affiliated libraries which takes time. So I walked into the book store around the corner and they The Complete Poems of John Milton and yes the print is all right for my ancient eyes, but it is not annotated but each chapter contains a short summary. I wonder if you people had the same experience I had reading the first two chapters. My reading speed went down by 50% and there were some mythological names and events that I could barely remember. Pat has taken a good deal of work in English literature and loves it. So we ended up with her reading out loud while I was reading the same stuff in my book. Then she went and offered annotations. Great system! I started to understand and enjoy the poetry. Just like Ann, I am intimidated by this kind of poetry and looking at the number of pages my intimidation increased by leaps and bounds. Well, I shall go on and try it just as I have tried other challenging things in my lifetime and eventually benefit ted from them. I looked at the internet sources Tonya and other mentioned and they will be most helpful. Ernie
Topic: JULY DISCUSSION -- Paradise Lost by John Milton (5 of 83), Read 77 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Jim Heath (ddrapes@teleport.com) Date: Monday, June 26, 2000 12:31 AM My advice is to take it slow. PL is not that demanding once you sort out the sentences, and the mythological references aren't all that important. In fact, once you get used to the style of the sentences, the book is kind of fanciful and wonderful. My favorite spots so far are the building of Pandemonium starting at line 678 in Book I and Satan's entry into Eden in Book IV where he discovers this scene with Adam and Eve: . . . About them frisking played All beasts of th' earth, since wild, and of all chase In wood or wilderness, forest or den; Sporting the lion ramped, and in his paw Dandled the kid; bears, tigers, ounces, pards Gambolled before them, th' unwieldy elephant To make them mirth used all his might, and wreathed His lithe proboscis . . . ****** I have often wanted to wreathe my lithe proboscis. The worst spot is the beginning of book III where God explains the doctrines of predestination and free will. This is deadly, unless you have a keen interest in 17th century theology, and the discourse can be easily ignored as long as you're not too concerned about the fate of your immortal soul. If you are really having trouble with either the references or the type size, go the the web site I cited earlier. It has a complete text of PL with footnotes.
Topic: JULY DISCUSSION -- Paradise Lost by John Milton (6 of 83), Read 78 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Dale Short (dshort5005@aol.com) Date: Monday, June 26, 2000 01:01 PM Jim & All: I came across this capsule observation of the book, and wanted to pass it along: In scope, John Milton's monumental poem about the Fall of Man is reminiscent of Michelangelo's painting on the walls and ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Paradise Lost (1667) tells of Satan's fall from Heaven for the sin of pride, and his temptation of Adam and Eve as revenge against God. The work springs from deep religious faith, but its powerful characterization of Satan as the supreme individualist hints at the winds of intellectual ferment that were beginning to blow in Milton's time. Hmmmm. By the way, a line from Book I is the source for the title of William Styron's memoir about his experience with clinical depression, Darkness Visible: "..yet from these flames no light, but rather darkness visible." Quite an image, huh? >>Dale in Ala.
Topic: JULY DISCUSSION -- Paradise Lost by John Milton (7 of 83), Read 81 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Dale Short (dshort5005@aol.com) Date: Monday, June 26, 2000 01:12 PM PS: Here's a site that looks very promising. It has audio commentary, articles, bios, and illustrations, such as the one below, by Gustav Dore. http://www.richmond.edu/~creamer/milton/index.html >>Dale in Ala.
Topic: JULY DISCUSSION -- Paradise Lost by John Milton (8 of 83), Read 80 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Barbara Moors (bar647@aol.com) Date: Monday, June 26, 2000 03:24 PM I've just finished Book I. I've been reading it a few pages at a time, reading some of the notations, but not worrying much about the references unless they are absolutely integral to the story. So far, I'm finding that Jim is absolutely right. Once I became accustomed to the rhythm and style, it began to flow. Often it helps to read a section, then read a few of the references, than back to reread it. This is all very surprising to me. I feel much like I felt after realizing last year that Ulysses was actually a very good action story. Of course, I still have to get through the beginning of Book III. And, do I understand correctly that Milton created the word Pandemonium? I think I would read the classics just for these little nuggets alone. Barb
Topic: JULY DISCUSSION -- Paradise Lost by John Milton (9 of 83), Read 84 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Beej Connor (connorva@mindspring.com) Date: Monday, June 26, 2000 07:30 PM I was going to skip over this discussion. I attempted this book years ago and had one heck of a time with it. But after reading Daniel's suggestion to read it aloud, I decided to give it a try and was very pleased to discover this actually works for me! I got a late start, but hope to be finished by the 1st. Thanks Daniel!! Beej
Topic: JULY DISCUSSION -- Paradise Lost by John Milton (10 of 83), Read 82 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Ann Davey (davey@tconl.com) Date: Monday, June 26, 2000 08:21 PM Dale, How very interesting that "Darkness Visible" is from Paradise Lost. It's a perfect title for Styron's book, don't you think? Jim, I was hoping you'd come along to spearhead this discussion. Beej, half the books I read here I'd never get through without the impetus of a group discussion. So far, I haven't regretted reading any of them, (with the possible exception of Dickens' Bleak House{G}) Ann
Topic: JULY DISCUSSION -- Paradise Lost by John Milton (11 of 83), Read 83 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Daniel LeBoeuf (dan1066@yahoo.com) Date: Monday, June 26, 2000 09:11 PM Beej: You're welcome. Reading this work aloud has been the only way I've managed to get through it--what? Four times? Five? Gosh, I can't remember anymore. Dale: I've always loved the oxymoron "darkness visible" as well, but I didn't know someone had already used it for a title. I'll have to stick with my second choice, "Gamboling with a lithe proboscis" Dan
Topic: JULY DISCUSSION -- Paradise Lost by John Milton (12 of 83), Read 88 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: George Healy (malword@aol.com) Date: Tuesday, June 27, 2000 04:28 AM I see PL as very demanding, but I consider that a virtue, not a crime. Why shouldn't a reader expend some effort on Milton? He expended nothing BUT effort on us. Milton persisted writing in the face of horrific obstacles: the wrack and ruin of 3 marriages, charges of heresy, oncoming blindness, public outrage, etc., He also crafted the work over some 30-odd years and put in a lifetime of brilliant and unsettling thought. Most astonishing, though, is the simple fact that he overcame his formidable SELF to create PL. Milton obviously is not a satanist. But the best of PL is Satanic (in the sense of the character). Imagine Al Gore writing the Great American Novel with Bush Jr as the enemy... but an enemy written with such sympathy and insight and intellectual honesty that nearly everyone who reads the book ends up voting for Bush in the election. The only way that could happen is if: a. Gore could actually write b. if while he was writing he cared more about the CRAFT of it than about the end result. A rare and wonderful thing. Which leads to that famous comment on PL: "Note. The reason Milton wrote in fetters when he wrote of Angels & God, and at liberty when of Devils & Hell, is because he was a true Poet and of the Devils party without knowing it" -- Blake I find it very interesting that a huge number of angels revolt against God... but nobody in the poem EVER revolts against Satan, not even when they are roasting in lakes of fire, or transformed into snakes...
Topic: JULY DISCUSSION -- Paradise Lost by John Milton (13 of 83), Read 82 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Barbara Moors (bar647@aol.com) Date: Tuesday, June 27, 2000 09:30 AM I love that Gore/Bush analogy, George, brings the point home perfectly. Barb
Topic: JULY DISCUSSION -- Paradise Lost by John Milton (14 of 83), Read 80 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Janet Mego (vsjego@cs.com) Date: Tuesday, June 27, 2000 08:58 PM Years ago, I taught an EXCERPT from PL as one aspect of a chronological survey of Brit Lit to advanced 11th graders. I'm not proud of the excerpt aspect of it--any "quick glossing over" betrays my overall philosophy of teaching: "Teach Less Better." BUT--one thing that is, I think, fascinating, is the premise that Milton's Satan is a sort of "Tragic Hero" throughout the work: romanticized, rebellious, and downright sexy, almost!--in a bad-boy kinda way. (No, actually, the last observation is mine and mine alone {VBG}.) ANYWAY--looking forward to this one. I sure have some reviewing to do. Janet, gleefully anticipating, and as always, in awe of George and his creativity in lit. analysis.
Topic: JULY DISCUSSION -- Paradise Lost by John Milton (15 of 83), Read 85 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Beej Connor (connorva@mindspring.com) Date: Tuesday, June 27, 2000 09:03 PM Tonight I was reading PL aloud, as Daniel suggested, and my 10 year old son sat listening..He said "Mom, that's a nice story". This sort of puzzled me, and I asked him if he understood it. And he said "No, but it sounds really ,really pretty." He and I snuggled on the sofa and he listened to me read for almost an hour, and never took his eyes off me. For some reason, the beauty of these words spoken, seemed to mesmerize this child. Beej
Topic: JULY DISCUSSION -- Paradise Lost by John Milton (16 of 83), Read 89 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Beej Connor (connorva@mindspring.com) Date: Tuesday, June 27, 2000 09:09 PM gee,Janet..your post almost makes me picture Satan in a muscle tee shirt, screaming "STELLA! STELLA!" Beej
Topic: JULY DISCUSSION -- Paradise Lost by John Milton (17 of 83), Read 94 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Janet Mego (vsjego@cs.com) Date: Tuesday, June 27, 2000 09:17 PM Beej, . . . Or maybe "God! GOD!!!" I think I can relate. . . Fascinating response from your son. Has he shown an interest in poetry before this? Janet
Topic: JULY DISCUSSION -- Paradise Lost by John Milton (18 of 83), Read 93 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Beej Connor (connorva@mindspring.com) Date: Tuesday, June 27, 2000 09:35 PM Janet, I've read a few poems to him before, and he's always listened, said "nice,mom.." and galloped away . This is the first time poetry has taken hold of him. I will be reading more to him, needless to say. As far as those bad boys in their muscle shirts.....hmmmmmmmm.... :-) Beej
Topic: JULY DISCUSSION -- Paradise Lost by John Milton (19 of 83), Read 80 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Dale Short (dshort5005@aol.com) Date: Wednesday, June 28, 2000 08:31 AM Beej & Janet: This book's appeal to a youngster reminds me of a story Ray Bradbury tells. One night he was listening to an LP of Dylan Thomas reading his poetry, when his 5-year-old daughter wandered into the room and stood transfixed. Bradbury was thinking about how much the strong accent and the sometimes arcane words must be limiting her understanding of what Thomas was saying. But she listened through the whole record, and before leaving the room commented, "That guy knows what he's doing." Hence my theory, which I've touted here to some folks' boredom, I'm sure, that there's a quality of writing that amounts to "authority of voice," and it works on us at levels way deeper than the literal and the logical. And the iambic pentameter sure can't hurt, either. I don't believe it's the meter of so much great poetry by accident. And those who lie abed in England tonight Shall wish the morrow they had been with us! Lines like that can make even a good pacifist want to go kick some butt. >>Dale in Ala.
Topic: JULY DISCUSSION -- Paradise Lost by John Milton (20 of 83), Read 92 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: George Healy (malword@aol.com) Date: Wednesday, June 28, 2000 11:56 AM Just a (to me) interesting sidenote: Marlowe plays a neat trick in his Faustus... his devil (Mephistopheles) is the only real humanist in the play. By which I mean, the only speeches in the play that describe humanity in terms at all good or pride-inducing are spoken by the devil. The same is not completely true of PL, but, Satan's speech in Book 9 (lines 99-124) seems to me the best that can be said in PL for our good ol' Earth. A little later, beginning at line 424, Satan is struck momentarily powerless by the sight of Eve, and I'll be damned if these lines don't seem to me literature's greatest-ever description of love at first sight. I don't have the slightest idea what conclusion to draw from this... I barely understand what Milton could be up to in these lines. I know that in terms of literary legacy, Milton's Satan has been infinitely more influential and beloved than Milton's God... and weirdly, Satan seems to be returning the favor in advance by loving us better than anyone else in PL, even as he sets about destroying us.
Topic: JULY DISCUSSION -- Paradise Lost by John Milton (21 of 83), Read 90 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Daniel LeBoeuf (dan1066@yahoo.com) Date: Wednesday, June 28, 2000 03:34 PM when any mortal (even the most odd) can justify the ways of man to God i'll think it strange that normal mortals can not justify the ways of God to man e.e. cummings Beej: Glad to hear read aloud is helping you cope. I can read PL aloud for hours on end. I think Dale is on to something about the "authority of the voice" transcending and reaching us in a place where many of us thought we cannot be reached. Alright George--enough on this Satanic hero business. I'm more interested in Curious Adam chatting with Raphael and asking how Celestial Beings do the nasty. Any poet--even Milton--who even comes up with this stuff is, by default, in sympathy with the devil. To paraphrase T.S. Eliot: I love Milton the author and loathe Milton the man. Dan
Topic: JULY DISCUSSION -- Paradise Lost by John Milton (22 of 83), Read 91 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: George Healy (malword@aol.com) Date: Wednesday, June 28, 2000 04:59 PM Dan-- I usually bring up stuff I'm not sure of to see if anyone will help me think it through. Satan is NOT the hero of PL... I never said he was. I said he was PL's greatest aesthetic achievement. As such, he is also its most enigmatic figure, so I'd like to figure out some of what he represents and why. Someone like yourself, who has mentioned repeatedly that you've read PL repeatedly, could be an enormous help with that. If your interest is Miltonic erotica, then maybe I can return the favor and explain to you why Milton really went blind, the etymology of 'proboscis', and why Lycidas spent so much time with sheep. Hopefully this discussion can accomodate both our interests...
Topic: JULY DISCUSSION -- Paradise Lost by John Milton (23 of 83), Read 91 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Janet Mego (vsjego@cs.com) Date: Wednesday, June 28, 2000 07:44 PM Actually, Dan, I mentioned Satan as a Tragic hero, a concept that has only minor overlap with our contemporary concept of the generic hero. The ancient Greeks followed Aristotle's definition: a personage noble in birth and actions, one who falls from grace due to his own Tragic Flaw but also to Circumstances Beyond his Control, one who has an overdose of Hubris or pride within his nature, one who learns from his experiences. Shakespeare followed this model to a large degree, the Romantics of the 19th century revived it with variations, and Milton is lauded by some critics for anticipating the latter in the character of Satan. It's been a long time since I've done my cursory once-over teaching unit on the afore-mentioned excerpt, but I think I'm remembering these points with some degree of accuracy. Satan does, at any rate, become a finely-drawn characterization rather than a stereotype in PL, a facet of the work that has always fascinated me. Janet
Topic: JULY DISCUSSION -- Paradise Lost by John Milton (24 of 83), Read 69 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Jim Heath (ddrapes@teleport.com) Date: Thursday, June 29, 2000 07:44 AM To me Satan is tragic because he simply can't accept the will of God. He doesn't actually object to anything God does, he just wants to be independent. Better to rule in Hell than serve in Heaven. The net result is that Satan is miserable all the time. Thus he looks on the delights of Eden undelighted. What makes Satan such an attractive figure is that most of us share Satan's predicament. Satan's fall from grace isn't much different from Adam's except he has no one to blame but himself. On the question of new words by Milton, the edition that I am reading -- Penguin edited by John Leonard -- is quite helpful. Pandaemonium is indeed a new creation as well as numerous other words that are highlighted in the notes. Mr. Leonard says that he did a computerized search on his OED on CD looking for attributions to Milton, and then did a countersearch looking for suspicious words and phrases attributed to others than might actually belong to Milton. It's wonderful to see how a great work of poetry can be turned into something even more wonderful: an accounting exercise. It works for baseball. Why not poetry? BTW, as I drove to work yesterday morning I saw an elephant wreathing his lithe proboscis from a billboard by the freeway advertising the Portland Zoo. The next billboard was for Bud Light. We do live in another Eden after all.
Topic: JULY DISCUSSION -- Paradise Lost by John Milton (25 of 83), Read 65 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Barbara Moors (bar647@aol.com) Date: Thursday, June 29, 2000 07:53 AM George, do you have Harold Bloom's book on reading, the latest one? I was spending some time at the book store yesterday while I waited to go the dentist and read part of his section on Paradise Lost. He has some fairly interesting comments on Milton's Satan in contrast with his God. If you have the book, can you quote a bit of it here? We're buying the book soon because my oldest son wants it for his birthday. The $25 price stopped me in my tracks a bit though. I'm currently hunting for a discounted copy. I'm now reading Book III in PL but have still not recovered from the images of Sin and Death guarding the gates of Hell and how they were created. What a phantasm! And, reading out loud (when I can) is working very well for me too. Barb
Topic: JULY DISCUSSION -- Paradise Lost by John Milton (26 of 83), Read 68 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Daniel LeBoeuf (dan1066@yahoo.com) Date: Thursday, June 29, 2000 08:17 AM George: Now we're discussing the loss of paradise. Now I know why the angel looks homeward and not towards the pasture. Janet and everyone else: The obsession many (including William Blake) place on Milton's characterization of Satan, to me at least, always smacks of "let's show that the goody-two shoes religious boy really leans towards Satan when the work is done, let's prove that even for Mr. Holier-Than-Thou Satan is more fascinating than Christ." I've read a lot of Milton in my time and he was a very open-minded man (just see his treatise on divorce or on free-speech and compare its message to the tenor of his era) and I don't believe that by "concentrating on artistic relevance" he was forced to acknowledge that Satan had a more mesmerizing quality. Milton was too much the artist to let his work "get away from him." I lean towards the theory that Milton was well-aware of the attraction of Satan and that he carefully constructed a kind of trap for the reader. Does the reader recognize false virtues when he encounters them? Can the reader see the flaws in Satan's character, in Satan's speeches? Can the reader see that the Classical attributes of heroism are not enough to win a decisive victory over God? Take the passage someone mentioned earlier when Satan first spies Eve in Eden: He is so enchanted he almost cancels his insidious mission. Even Satan could recognize goodness when he espied it--can the reader? It is, in the end, Satan's actions and not his character that should prove to the discerning reader that he is not real "hero." For the romantic poets and pretty much us, we tend to idolize the bad-boy image, the character giving the proverbial forked-finger to the man. For Milton, he was illustrating that even Satan--a hero with some of the most classical attributes of heroism--cannot win against God. When Satan's day is over, his triumphant speech of victory is cut-short when he and his minions become serpents. I ask you: If Jason returned from his quest and caused the entire village to turn into horrid beasts in a pit of fire and brimstone, would you consider him "heroic?" "Oh, thanks a lot Satan. You've really returned from your quest with something for all of us to cherish." Dan
Topic: JULY DISCUSSION -- Paradise Lost by John Milton (27 of 83), Read 76 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Janet Mego (vsjego@cs.com) Date: Thursday, June 29, 2000 10:09 AM Dan, Your theories are interesting ones, especially the idea that Milton lays subtle traps for his readers along the lines you mention. That would be in keeping with his style. However, again, I emphasize that one should not interpret the word "hero" in the contemporary literal usage we tend to ascribe it. By Aristotle's definition, Creon, a king in the play ANTIGONE, could be considered a tragic hero, although he orders the death of his own son's fiancee put to death simply for attempting to give her brother a decent burial. Centuries later, Macbeth himself could be considered a Tragic Hero, although he is a bloody and despicable serial killer by today's standards. The fact remains that he fits the above criteria. He has the potential for noble actions and has demonstrated them in the past. He has a tragic flaw: his ambition, or his tendency to be influenced to evil. He learns from his mistakes. He is partially responsible for his actions, but fate and circumstance help him toward his tragic end. However, applying the word "heroic" to him out of context is a misrepresentation of the term TRAGIC HERO. I'm certainly not insisting that Satan is heroic, or even that he is indeed a tragic hero. It is interesting, however, that he shares some if not all of these criteria with other tragic heroes, and that his actions seem to me to stem from a character that is uniquely 3-dimensional and, indeed, tragic in and of that concept itself, and "heroic" as well, arguably, depending on earlier derivations of that word (the Romantics)that have evolved from even more ancient, yet highly-structured definitions (The Greeks). Even if Milton did not consciously consider his key character a "Tragic Hero" as such, it's fun (for me, anyway) to speculate that this idea emerges through the character via Milton's subconscious awareness, or even in the reader's own individual perception. (Hope I've clarified fairly articulately. I'm still having to post and edit, post and edit. We're locked into Compuserve for at least 2 more years. Until then, I'm in constant competition with the system STILL throwing me off in the middle of a long post. In other words, I also have to type FAST, too, which allows for spontaneity, but alas, sometimes begets a lack of clarity.) Janet, enjoying this already!
Topic: JULY DISCUSSION -- Paradise Lost by John Milton (28 of 83), Read 69 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Dick Haggart (law@haggart.com) Date: Thursday, June 29, 2000 12:58 PM I'm going to try keep up here despite a brutal work situation. I'm also reading aloud, something I almost invariably do with works written before 1750 or so. This quote was particularly suited for oral transmission, I thought, almost demanding that you lower your voice progressively as the verse progresses, echoing the actual spiral of the fallen angels downwards into hell: Hurld headlong flaming from th'Ethereal Skie With hideous ruine and combustion down To bottomless perdition, there to dwell In Adamantine Chains and penal Fire, Who durst defie th'Omnipotent to Arms. I've always loved Milton, even as a college student (and I hated everything then, just on principle). You can pick up PL, open it at random, begin reading, and the grandeur of it just rolls out. The Chilbained Lawyer
Topic: JULY DISCUSSION -- Paradise Lost by John Milton (29 of 83), Read 71 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: George Healy (malword@aol.com) Date: Thursday, June 29, 2000 04:46 PM Janet-- Well (and quickly!) said. Dan-- Alexander Pushkin, while in the course of writing his masterpiece Eugene Onegin, wrote a letter to a friend that stated: 'you'll never believe what Eugene did today... he tried to kill himself!' Sometimes a character getting 'carried away' is not a lack of artistry on the part of the author- sometimes its because that character has come to a magical kind of life for its creator, fired his/her imagination, transcended 'literature'. Satan is such a character, in my reading of him. That doesn't mitigate Milton's artistry at all, it proves it. I don't have to 'nail' Milton with charges of secret satanism.... but I do have to nail him for his artistically and morally inadequate God. PL's God is boring, tyrannical, occasionally cruel (he seems to prepare Hell in advance for the rebel angels, apparently to make sure it's sufficiently hot in time- I guess even God preheats his oven)- Milton's writing palpably loses poetic authority when he writes for the Almighty. There aren't many Miltons in literary history... the truly great writers are few and far between. I wish I COULD say that Book 3 matches anything in Books 1-4,or 7-10, but sadly that is not the case. Maybe it's sheer reader's greed, and I wish Milton could have given us something to do with God that rivalled, say, Wordsworth's 'Nature', or any other poetic figuration of the divine that I draw hope from... but Milton's God is a failure. Maybe God should've 'gotten away' from Milton a little bit more...?
Topic: JULY DISCUSSION -- Paradise Lost by John Milton (30 of 83), Read 62 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: George Healy (malword@aol.com) Date: Friday, June 30, 2000 07:00 AM Barbara-- Quotes from Bloom? No problem. "(Milton) was clearly a sect of one and a very heretical Protestant indeed. He was a Mortalist, and believed that the soul and body died together, and would be resurrected together... PL identifies energy with spirit; Satan abounds in both... and so, overwhelmingly, does Milton, though he takes care to make Satan both his double and his parody. One could argue ironically against churchwardenly critics that Satan is a more orthodox Christian (however inverted) than Milton is." "It is hard to find affection for Milton's Christ, seeing him mounted on the flaming Chariot of Paternal Deity... unless one is very fond of tank warfare." "Why read so difficult and so erudite an epic poem? One could make the merely historical plea; Milton is as much the central Protestant poet as Dante is the central poet-prophet of Catholicism. Our (America's) culture and sensibility are hardly to be comprehended without some clear sense of the Protestant spirit. That spirit achieved its apotheosis in PL, and an adventurous reader would be well counseled to brave the difficulties."
Topic: JULY DISCUSSION -- Paradise Lost by John Milton (31 of 83), Read 63 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Daniel LeBoeuf (dan1066@yahoo.com) Date: Friday, June 30, 2000 08:16 AM George: Quaint--but that was not the point I was addressing. I concur that Milton's "God" is one of the weakest character in this epic. I was articulating what Janet re-articulated: that the concept of "hero" needs to be changed when applied to Milton's Satan. Furthermore, I do not believe that Milton allowed his characters free reign--I can see that happening with some authors (i.e. Pushkin), but not our buddy Milton. He was too meticulous and this epic was too well-planned to allow him to "subconsciously" sketch Satan favourably. As I said above--that's a notion the Romantics love: The mere thought that even John Milton could not repress himself. Stanley Fish has always noted that God plays with loaded dice in this epic--he does "pre-warm the oven" and knows well in advance that Adam and Eve will be duped by Satan and that Christ will have to be crucified in the flesh. Imagine the pain of having to deal with a character who knows all (past, present, and future) and cannot have one single flaw. Hell, that's not human--that's divine to the religious, alien to the SF troop. Milton fails with God precisely because it is an impossible task. Great epics are generally written with the result of the action already known. In The Aeneid, we are aware that Rome will be founded and that Aeneas is going to be okay--but Aeneas isn't so sure about that during the epic. In The Iliad, we the readers should know the outcome of the Trojan war--but this does not diminish the enjoyment I get reading of Achilles' grudge and his vengeance for the death of Patrocles. BUT, Milton decides to show the "Battle in Heaven" and have God speak to his Son regarding events. This weakens the epic, for me, considerably. I can enjoy Milton's verse during these sections, amazed at how he borrows from Homer and Virgil and still enhances the clash and clamor of a celestial battle--but he should have left God's thoughts and intentions out of the epic completely. God should not be forced to explain anything, account for anything. In a way (and this is a fresh thought for me), Milton's greatest mistake is allowing God to speak at all. All language has ambiguities, weaknesses, cannot be totally clear. By having God speak--and specifically argue his position--places God on the same pedestal as humanity. He should not speak. He should have kept silent. The moment God utters one syllable, he's one of us and he can be taken down linguistically. Dan
Topic: JULY DISCUSSION -- Paradise Lost by John Milton (32 of 83), Read 63 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Ann Davey (davey@tconl.com) Date: Friday, June 30, 2000 09:23 AM Are you arguing that God is unknowable and that humans should not attempt to understand him or explain his actions? I can relate to that position, but I don't think too many religious people would go along with it. Or, more likely, are you arguing from a purely artistic viewpoint? But then, leaving God such a blank character would have been pretty frustrating for the reader too. Ann, into Book II and finding Satan a pretty attractive guy so far.
Topic: JULY DISCUSSION -- Paradise Lost by John Milton (33 of 83), Read 58 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Dottie Randall (randallj@ix.netcom.com) Date: Friday, June 30, 2000 02:45 PM On 6/30/00 9:23:48 AM, Ann Davey wrote: >Are you arguing that God is >unknowable and that humans >should not attempt to >understand him or explain his >actions? > >I can relate to that position, >but I don't think too many >religious people would go >along with it. Well -- then maybe they should go read the Bible, eh? Says just that in those words in more than one place I do believe. Religious people who truly think they can out think, out talk or know God -- well -- -- that's all I want to say on that. >Or, more >likely, are you arguing from a >purely artistic viewpoint? But >then, leaving God such a blank >character would have been >pretty frustrating for the >reader too. But then again, Dan, God did enough talking according to the Bible -- why not let His words from that source serve in PL? Ann? Would He have been a blank character then or would He have then become frustrating because Milton was playing with the Bible or would that have even entered into it at that time? Oh --- I cannot wait to get at this but I have no time at the moment -- however, I WILL be back and hope someone will still be willing to respond when I get here! Dottie -- who would remind Ann that Satan is usually a pretty attractive guy -- he can be whatever he wishes -- he can be the right thing to get the hook into whatever fish he's playing at the moment -- isn't that the theory? How about The Screwtape Letters? ID is an oxymoron!
Topic: JULY DISCUSSION -- Paradise Lost by John Milton (34 of 83), Read 54 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Jim Heath (ddrapes@teleport.com) Date: Saturday, July 01, 2000 08:29 AM Thinking of Milton as the prototypical Protestant might cast some special light on the problem of Satan. If you go back to Wycliffe and the beginnings of Protestantism in England, you find that one of the big issues was whether anyone outside the clergy should be allowed to read the Bible. The Church in the 14th Century argued that allowing lay people to read the Bible would encourage them to interpret the Bible themselves and lead to heresy. Wycliffe argued Bible reading by the laity was a good thing because each man and woman had a direct relationship with God which wasn't dependent clerical intervention -- an intervention, which in Wycliffe's time, was little better than an excuse for extortion. As the English Protestants triumphed in the centuries that followed, they ran into exactly the problem that the Church predicted. If everyone is considered equally authoritative about the will of God, you've got a world full of heretics and no clear answers. Not only were the Puritans fighting the Anglicans and the Catholics in Milton's time, they ended up fighting each other. Thus, Milton's dilemma. In principle he wants to be totally orthodox. On the other hand, he feels a kinship to Satan because he doesn't want anyone telling him what orthodoxy is.
Topic: JULY DISCUSSION -- Paradise Lost by John Milton (35 of 83), Read 56 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Dottie Randall (randallj@ix.netcom.com) Date: Saturday, July 01, 2000 08:43 AM Thanks for another well-stated viewpoint, Jim. As I said -- I can't wait to get to this -- soon, soon. Dottie ID is an oxymoron!
Topic: JULY DISCUSSION -- Paradise Lost by John Milton (36 of 83), Read 57 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Dale Short (dshort5005@aol.com) Date: Saturday, July 01, 2000 08:49 AM Jim: The clergy were indeed resistant to letting us riffraff read the scriptures firsthand. The first person to translate the Bible into English, for example--William Tyndale--was rewarded for his achievement by being burned at the stake. I find it ironic that one of today's largest religious publishers, Tyndale House, is named in his honor. I wonder what percentage of folks blithely reading their Tyndale Sunday School lessons know about William or his fate. >>Dale in Ala.
Topic: JULY DISCUSSION -- Paradise Lost by John Milton (37 of 83), Read 63 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Beej Connor (connorva@mindspring.com) Date: Saturday, July 01, 2000 09:32 AM I have not finished reading this book yet, and my thoughts may reflect this, but perhaps Milton intentionally down played the beauty of God's words in order to have the reader center on God's sense of justice. I think if Milton had made God's words too flowery, the reader would have had a tendency to relate to Him on human terms, and the omnipotence of this "all just" God would have been sacrificed. Beej
Topic: JULY DISCUSSION -- Paradise Lost by John Milton (38 of 83), Read 64 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Beej Connor (connorva@mindspring.com) Date: Saturday, July 01, 2000 09:39 AM As far as the attractiveness of Satan, my mother used to tell me "you have to be charming to be a good thief." Charm is far from being equivalent to anything good. Actually , isn't it a "manipulation tool"? Yes, Satan is charming, in a bad boy way, and it serves his purpose well. Beej
Topic: JULY DISCUSSION -- Paradise Lost by John Milton (39 of 83), Read 61 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Dale Short (dshort5005@aol.com) Date: Saturday, July 01, 2000 09:55 AM Question: Does anybody here think Milton's Satan qualifies as a sociopath? Here's the official definition: A. There is a pervasive pattern of disregard for and violation of the rights of others occurring since age 15 years, as indicated by three (or more) of the following: (1) failure to conform to social norms with respect to lawful behaviors as indicated by repeatedly performing acts that are grounds for arrest. (2) deceitfulness, as indicated by repeated lying, use of aliases, or conning others for personal profit or pleasure (3) impulsivity or failure to plan ahead (4) irritability and aggressiveness, an indicated by repeated physical fights or assaults (5) reckless disregard for safety of self or others (6) consistent irresponsibility, as indicated by repeated failure to sustain consistent work behavior or honor financial obligations (7) lack of remorse, as indicated by being indifferent to or rationalizing having hurt, mistreated, or stolen from another B. The individual is at least age 18 years. C. There is evidence of Conduct Disorder with onset before age 15 years. D. The occurrence of antisocial behavior is not exclusively during the course of Schizophrenia or a Manic Episode. >>Dale in Ala.
Topic: JULY DISCUSSION -- Paradise Lost by John Milton (40 of 83), Read 63 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: George Healy (malword@aol.com) Date: Saturday, July 01, 2000 11:35 AM Dale-- Satan indeed qualifies as sociopathic... by those criteria. But sociopaths are notorious for being unaware of their own inner workings, which is patently not Satan's case. Nobody (critics included) explains Satan as well as Satan himself. I think the diagnosis here needs to be a bit more complex, particularly considering that God is equally qualified for the mantle of mental illness if it's applied by strict definition. Let's imagine the unimaginable for a moment: Satan wins and God falls. Consider, simply from how PL presents them, how each might act. Maybe I'm insane myself, but I imagine that Satan would create no Hell, and after a period of vicious gloating, I'm sure Satan would come to his truest self and reconcile with his victim. Consider- Satan himself recognizes his debt to God, admires him at times, and only really has a horror of being 'second-best'. On the other hand, Milton's God- who acts with extreme, almost military prejudice to rid Heaven of the rebels he KNEW in advance would rebel, and torment them afterward... how would this God act in impossible exile? Answer: he would be infinitely more vengeful than Satan himself. I may now have gone totally off track (or never been on it!)... but is it an invalid reading of their characters? Beej-- The moment of Satan's that I admire most (and least, alas) is the moment of his self-speaking on Mount Niphates at the beginning of Book 4. This is Satan at his most attractive... and he is alone. Who is he trying to trick? The reader? Or, as Dan would have it, are we being half-deceived by Milton himself? Or... is the scene exactly as it is portrayed, a very intelligent, very torn, (and yes, a very heroic) angel honestly speaking to himself and seeing no way out?
Topic: JULY DISCUSSION -- Paradise Lost by John Milton (41 of 83), Read 62 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Pres Lancaster (plancast@slip.net) Date: Saturday, July 01, 2000 12:18 PM I believe Lord Acton's statement goes: "Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely.
Topic: JULY DISCUSSION -- Paradise Lost by John Milton (42 of 83), Read 67 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Dick Haggart (law@haggart.com) Date: Saturday, July 01, 2000 12:27 PM One of the things we find so attractive about Satan is his humanity, which is the very reason his character can be developed by Milton, whereas God's cannot. George touches on the problem in the previous post: God knew that the rebels would rise, and that He would prevail and that they would all be cast down. Under those circumstances, a human or a Satan would have acted differently and in a comprehensible way. But God -- well, God is just God, and you cannot go there with reason or rationality or empathy or any other very useful human faculty or device. Sometimes I think the entire Satanic rebellion was in direct reaction to God's obtuseness. The fundamental unknowability and inscrutability of a Supreme Being who knows all, from the beginning to the end of time, and controls all, from the beginning to the end of time, and sometimes chooses to act and sometimes chooses not to act, all for reasons that are utterly beyond what we can understand -- really, these are not the characteristics from which high drama can be drawn. All we can ever see of such a God are puzzling bits and pieces, that lead us definitionally into error if we think too deeply on them. We cannot see God; we can only see the outcomes of God's works. But Satan, now, is an entirely different matter. Near to God, jealous of God, fearing God, resenting God, bitter, ambitious, funny, a good dancer: now there's a dramatic character for a writer work with. In the end, Satan's problems are our problems, and that's a major reason why we identify with him in this lovely work. The Chilbained Lawyer
Topic: JULY DISCUSSION -- Paradise Lost by John Milton (43 of 83), Read 69 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Pres Lancaster (plancast@slip.net) Date: Saturday, July 01, 2000 12:54 PM Dick writes: " . . . a Supreme Being who knows all, from the beginning to the end of time, and controls all, from the beginning to the end of time, and sometimes chooses to act and sometimes chooses not to act, all for reasons that are utterly beyond what we can understand . . ." But isn't it presumptuous for a human to assume that an Almighty God acts for reasons? Surely His Will is reason and when we imply "reasons" we are (again) trying to define God ?
Topic: JULY DISCUSSION -- Paradise Lost by John Milton (44 of 83), Read 65 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Dick Haggart (law@haggart.com) Date: Saturday, July 01, 2000 02:06 PM Yup, even trying to talk about how hopeless it is to talk about God, you (I) fall into the trap of talking about God. Stick with Satan. Him, we can deal with. The Chilbained Lawyer
Topic: JULY DISCUSSION -- Paradise Lost by John Milton (45 of 83), Read 66 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Beej Connor (connorva@mindspring.com) Date: Saturday, July 01, 2000 02:11 PM Satan's attractiveness is , I believe, a coat of many colors he dons only for purpose of malignity. Cite lines 634 to 639, where he is trying to sway Arch-Angel Uriel to disclose man's "home"... "But first he(Satan)casts to change his proper shape, Which else might work him danger or delay: And now a stripling Cherube he appears, Not of the prime, yet such as in his face Youth smiled Celestial, and to every Limb Suitable grace diffus'd, so well he fiend; Beej
Topic: JULY DISCUSSION -- Paradise Lost by John Milton (46 of 83), Read 72 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Daniel LeBoeuf (dan1066@yahoo.com) Date: Saturday, July 01, 2000 03:29 PM Ann: My point is that God should be monolithic, inscrutable. Here, in Milton, he explains, explains, and explains his "divine plans." Why? And I disagree with Beej: God's "words" are no more nor less flowery than any other character's words in the epic. Granted, the Bible provides instances of God's "words" to Adam, to Abraham, to Moses, ad infiniitum. The problem lies when one really looks at them, as Jonathan Kirsch does in his bio Moses: A Life. God moves from begging Moses to threatening Moses to attempting to kill Moses (and Kirsch humorously notes the question of a supreme deity "attempting" something as trivial as killing a human being and failing), etc. Jim's Cliff Notes on Protestants doesn't really explain things, however. As Jim states, Milton wants to be orthodox but he has to be orthodox in a rebellious fashion. I don't think so. For me, Milton realized--as someone pointed out above--that Satan had to be attractive, to be persuasive in order to be credible when he causes the Fall of Man. That's all--of course he's attractive and mesmerizing--he's the Prince of Darkness. He's not going to look and act like a snake-in-the-grass until the God forces him to. Satan is not escaping from Milton's pen, threatening to cut loose and burn his way out of the epic. Instead, Milton uses Books I and II to create a dynamic villian which, as unbelievable it may seem, will both succeed and fail in his quest. The real winner, again unbelievably, is God--that boring guy. Dan
Topic: JULY DISCUSSION -- Paradise Lost by John Milton (47 of 83), Read 73 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: George Healy (malword@aol.com) Date: Sunday, July 02, 2000 12:15 AM Please forgive me for this, but let me quote the speech from Book 4 upon which my disagreement rests: 31 Then, much revolving, thus in sighs began. 32 "O thou, that, with surpassing glory crowned, 33 Lookest from thy sole dominion like the God 34 Of this new world; at whose sight all the stars 35 Hide their diminished heads; to thee I call, 36 But with no friendly voice, and add thy name, 37 Of Sun! to tell thee how I hate thy beams, 38 That bring to my remembrance from what state 39 I fell, how glorious once above thy sphere; 40 Till pride and worse ambition threw me down 41 Warring in Heaven against Heaven's matchless King: 42 Ah, wherefore! he deserved no such return 43 From me, whom he created what I was 44 In that bright eminence, and with his good 45 Upbraided none; nor was his service hard. 46 What could be less than to afford him praise, 47 The easiest recompence, and pay him thanks, 48 How due! yet all his good proved ill in me, 49 And wrought but malice; lifted up so high 50 I sdeined subjection, and thought one step higher 51 Would set me highest, and in a moment quit 52 The debt immense of endless gratitude, 53 So burdensome still paying, still to owe, 54 Forgetful what from him I still received, 55 And understood not that a grateful mind 56 By owing owes not, but still pays, at once 57 Indebted and discharged; what burden then 58 O, had his powerful destiny ordained 59 Me some inferiour Angel, I had stood 60 Then happy; no unbounded hope had raised 61 Ambition! Yet why not some other Power 62 As great might have aspired, and me, though mean, 63 Drawn to his part; but other Powers as great 64 Fell not, but stand unshaken, from within 65 Or from without, to all temptations armed. 66 Hadst thou the same free will and power to stand? 67 Thou hadst: whom hast thou then or what to accuse, 68 But Heaven's free love dealt equally to all? 69 Be then his love accursed, since love or hate, 70 To me alike, it deals eternal woe. 71 Nay, cursed be thou; since against his thy will 72 Chose freely what it now so justly rues. 73 Me miserable! which way shall I fly 74 Infinite wrath, and infinite despair? 75 Which way I fly is Hell; myself am Hell; 76 And, in the lowest deep, a lower deep 77 Still threatening to devour me opens wide, 78 To which the Hell I suffer seems a Heaven. 79 O, then, at last relent: Is there no place 80 Left for repentance, none for pardon left? 81 None left but by submission; and that word 82 Disdain forbids me, and my dread of shame 83 Among the Spirits beneath, whom I seduced 84 With other promises and other vaunts 85 Than to submit, boasting I could subdue 86 The Omnipotent. Ay me! they little know 87 How dearly I abide that boast so vain, 88 Under what torments inwardly I groan, 89 While they adore me on the throne of Hell. 90 With diadem and scepter high advanced, 91 The lower still I fall, only supreme 92 In misery: Such joy ambition finds. 93 But say I could repent, and could obtain, 94 By act of grace, my former state; how soon 95 Would highth recall high thoughts, how soon unsay 96 What feigned submission swore? Ease would recant 97 Vows made in pain, as violent and void. 98 For never can true reconcilement grow, 99 Where wounds of deadly hate have pierced so deep: 100 Which would but lead me to a worse relapse 101 And heavier fall: so should I purchase dear 102 Short intermission bought with double smart. 103 This knows my Punisher; therefore as far 104 From granting he, as I from begging, peace; 105 All hope excluded thus, behold, in stead 106 Mankind created, and for him this world. 107 So farewell, hope; and with hope farewell, fear; 108 Farewell, remorse! all good to me is lost; 109 Evil, be thou my good; by thee at least 110 Divided empire with Heaven's King I hold, 111 By thee, and more than half perhaps will reign; 112 As Man ere long, and this new world, shall know."
Topic: JULY DISCUSSION -- Paradise Lost by John Milton (48 of 83), Read 80 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: George Healy (malword@aol.com) Date: Sunday, July 02, 2000 12:55 AM Now, I know no other way to characterize this speech than as completely honest. Satan addresses his words to the sun, and I find it hard to believe he's trying to deceive an inanimate ball of flame... so I have to assume he at least thinks he means what he says here. With 'Evil be my Good', he consciously chooses to let go of the unfallen Lucifer in himself and almost completely become the smoothly corrupt deceiver he's been painted as. But what about before? Even as he's embarking on his project to ruin Earth (the project that supposedly will earn the rebel angels a more palatable home and a certain measure of revenge), right before he undertakes this plan that all the devils hope will improve their situation... he says 'farewell hope.' Why, at the true beginning of his campaign, does Satan lose all hope? Because he knows that NOW, at this moment and with this decision, he is truly fallen. A spirit as magnificent as Satan's cannot really be considered fallen simply because he was shoved from Heaven's ledge... God can make Satan fall physically, but only the angel himself can improve or corrode his own mind, and his self-corrosion really sets in here. He feels true remorse for his actions and for being the type of creature God has made him, and I ask: is it not apparent what gifts are being tossed aside here? Is it not clear what a personality is being washed away? Where is God's remorse for this waste? Are we not allowed to ask that question simply because god is God? Most importantly, are we supposed to discount this speech simply because Satan is the devil? What a literary crime it would be to find that Milton meant these hundred-or-so lines only as a hoax or a mind-game for us to play with and then drop because no deep truths lie within. To me that's akin to finding out that Shakespeare's own great hero-villain Hamlet didn't actually mean any of his own monologues, or being told that because Fortinbras wins in the end that none of Hamlet's words mattered anyway. Ah well, my nurse tells me it's time for my lithium so I have to go now...
Topic: JULY DISCUSSION -- Paradise Lost by John Milton (49 of 83), Read 60 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Barbara Moors (bar647@aol.com) Date: Sunday, July 02, 2000 09:28 AM George, I love that section too, even got my husband to read it because I couldn't get over how understandable it made Satan at that point. I hadn't thought about the fact that he was fooling no one, no one hears these words. I liked watching him going through the steps of saying that others were equally guilty, that he's been singled out (sounded like my adolescent sons). Then, he thinks about whether he could recant, but thinks how he would disdain it, would be ashamed in front of his followers after all of his claims and finally knows that, even if he repented, he would just do worse at a future time and receive an even greater punishment. How could anyone help but relate to that voice? Then, I remembered the description of the creation of Death and Sin and backed up a bit on my buddy-buddy relationship with Satan. Barb
Topic: JULY DISCUSSION -- Paradise Lost by John Milton (50 of 83), Read 61 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Ann Davey (davey@tconl.com) Date: Sunday, July 02, 2000 09:45 AM Well, George, you have certainly given me lots to think about. It sounds like you find Satan a better person than God. I am speaking, of course, of these two strictly as Milton's literary creations, not as religious realities. You wrote: Let's imagine the unimaginable for a moment: Satan wins and God falls. Consider, simply from how PL presents them, how each might act. Maybe I'm insane myself, but I imagine that Satan would create no Hell,and after a period of vicious gloating, I'm sure Satan would come to his truest self and reconcile with his victim. Consider- Satan himself recognizes his debt to God, admires him at times, and only really has a horror of being 'second-best'. I haven't got to God yet {G}, but I have to agree with you that Satan seems to have great insight into his own motivation and the consequences of his actions. In the section you most recently quoted, he says that he could submit, but not really change. Eventually, he would challenge God yet again, so what would be the point of trying? Hell is preferable to the prospect of being forgiven and spending the rest of eternity paying perpetual adoration to his former enemy in heaven. (I have to admit that this whole concept of spending an afterlife contemplating the glory of God never sounded too attractive to me either, but the nuns always assured me that it would be swell). Satan hates being second best because he really feels he is superior. It is difficult not to respond to him as a purely literary character. There is something heroic about him. Milton, presumably, believed in the literal existence of Satan and his cohorts, which makes this complex, and sometimes sympathetic, portrayal of the devil all the more interesting. Ann
Topic: JULY DISCUSSION -- Paradise Lost by John Milton (51 of 83), Read 61 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Ann Davey (davey@tconl.com) Date: Sunday, July 02, 2000 09:47 AM Ah, Barb, I haven't got to the creation of death yet. That changes everything. Ann
Topic: JULY DISCUSSION -- Paradise Lost by John Milton (52 of 83), Read 60 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Dick Haggart (law@haggart.com) Date: Sunday, July 02, 2000 10:26 AM Milton uses that passage for another purpose as well, it seems to me: to address what I've called in other contexts "The Mephistophelian Paradox". By that I mean, the paradox created by the fact that when Satan, the personification of evil, drops by to buy your soul, he implicitly proves the existence and goodness of God before your very eyes. This, in turn, raises the question: who would be such a numbnuts to accept the offer, when confronted with incontrovertible proof of God and eternal life (and damnation)? Here, of course, Satan takes it one step further. He's both the offeror and the offeree in this particular Mephistophelian bargain. But the underlying logical flaw is the same, and Milton realizes he has to address it. Who, in their right mind, would walk away from Heaven? Unless of course, Heaven is not all its cracked up to be. As J.M. Barrie wrote, "Heaven for climate, Hell for company." The Chilbained Lawyer
Topic: JULY DISCUSSION -- Paradise Lost by John Milton (53 of 83), Read 59 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Jim Heath (ddrapes@teleport.com) Date: Sunday, July 02, 2000 10:44 AM Dan, I am afraid that my garbled Cliff's notes on Protestantism didn't hit the target they were aiming for. My thought was that Protestantism is an inherently rebellious form of religion. When you accept the concept of a priesthood of all believers and allow each to determine orthodoxy in his own way, you get a very chaotic situation in which every believer can be at odds with every other believer. Thus, there are far more Protestant sects than Catholic sects (and not nearly enough sects education, but that's another story.) Milton was devoted to God, but he couldn't agree with half the Puritans in England, let alone the Anglicans or the Catholics. This relates to the character of Satan only in the sense that Milton could understand rebelliousness a little better than he could understand obedience. A small point, but I'm sticking to it.
Topic: JULY DISCUSSION -- Paradise Lost by John Milton (54 of 83), Read 62 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Daniel LeBoeuf (dan1066@yahoo.com) Date: Sunday, July 02, 2000 10:57 AM Jim: I'm beginning to see your point--I think. So Milton chooses to place GOD in his epic and, by mere chance, GOD spouts off Milton's sect of religion. So Milton really understands GOD and all that jazz. The reader is thereby indoctrinated through Milton's art into Milton's dogma. It's an interesting process, isn't it? As if Leonardo da Vinci would have tried subliminal imagery in his paintings to convince people to be of the same political party as him. Fascinating. Dan
Topic: JULY DISCUSSION -- Paradise Lost by John Milton (55 of 83), Read 65 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Dale Short (dshort5005@aol.com) Date: Sunday, July 02, 2000 11:03 AM Ann & All: Speaking of the physical nature of heaven, there's a priceless paragraph in Mark Twain's LETTERS FROM EARTH about the practical incongruities of eternal worshipfulness...harps, wings, robes, etc...but alas I can't lay hand on my copy of LETTERS right now. However, I did find these comments from Twain on his feelings about God and religion: I believe in God the Almighty. I do not believe He has ever sent a message to man by anybody, or delivered one to him by word of mouth, or made Himself visible to mortal eyes at any time in any place. I believe that the Old and New Testaments were imagined and written by man, and that no line in them was authorized by God, much less inspired by Him. I think the goodness, the justice, and the mercy of God are manifested in His works: I perceive that they are manifested toward me in this life; the logical conclusion is that they will be manifested toward me in the life to come, if there should be one. I do not believe in special providences. I believe that the universe is governed by strict and immutable laws. If one man's family is swept away by a pestilence and another man's spared it is only the law working: God is not interfering in that small matter, either against the one man or in favor of the other. I cannot see how eternal punishment hereafter could accomplish any good end, therefore I am not able to believe in it. To chasten a man in order to perfect him might be reasonable enough; to annihilate him when he shall have proved himself incapable of reaching perfection might be reasonable enough; but to roast him forever for the mere satisfaction of seeing him roast would not be reasonable -- even the atrocious God imagined by the Jews would tire of the spectacle eventually. There may be a hereafter and there may not be. I am wholly indifferent about it. If I am appointed to live again I feel sure it will be for some more sane and useful purpose than to flounder about for ages in a lake of fire and brimstone for having violated a confusion of ill-defined and contradictory rules said (but not evidenced) to be of divine institution. If annihilation is to follow death I shall not be aware of the annihilation, and therefore shall not care a straw about it. >>Dale in Ala.
Topic: JULY DISCUSSION -- Paradise Lost by John Milton (56 of 83), Read 66 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Daniel LeBoeuf (dan1066@yahoo.com) Date: Sunday, July 02, 2000 11:24 AM Dale: I'm not home right now, but I recall the passage you allude to in Twain's Letters From Earth. It's where Twain notes the discomfort and ennui of standing in church singing and listening to boring sermons and then quips: And who would want to endure this for eternity? This is the prize? Dan
Topic: JULY DISCUSSION -- Paradise Lost by John Milton (57 of 83), Read 66 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Dale Short (dshort5005@aol.com) Date: Sunday, July 02, 2000 11:29 AM Dan: YES! That's the one. Maybe somebody here can locate and post it... >>Dale in Ala.
Topic: JULY DISCUSSION -- Paradise Lost by John Milton (58 of 83), Read 66 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Dale Short (dshort5005@aol.com) Date: Sunday, July 02, 2000 01:17 PM Speaking of the nature of God, here's a section of an interview with writer Sam Keen by a journalist named Scott London that I found intriguing... KEEN: Aristotle said that philosophy begins in wonder. I believe it also ends in wonder. The ultimate way in which we relate to the world as something sacred is by renewing our sense of wonder. That's why I'm so opposed to the kind of miracle-mongering we find in both new-age religion and old-age religion. We're attracted to pseudomiracles only because we've ceased to wonder at the world, at how amazing it is. LONDON: How do we recapture that sense of wonder? KEEN: I try to steer away from high metaphysical beliefs because I think we humans do best when we realize that we don't know all that much. So much violence and hatred is caused by people having to know the ways of God and then force them on their neighbors. Wonder, to me, is that spiritual stance or disposition which renders us humble in the face of things, and also thankful. In my mind, to try to live that way is what it means to follow a sacred path. LONDON: The great Christian mystic Meister Eckhart observed that "the idea of God can become the final obstacle to God." KEEN: Yes, our ideas about God are always pathetically inadequate. There is no way that the human imagination can fathom the Ultimate. I remember when I took LSD back in the sixties. One of the things it made me realize was that even the psychedelic imagination doesn't touch the edge of true reality; it's just a slightly different form of the human imagination. So when we imagine God, what are we imagining? The great mystics all recognized that you've eventually got to throw all images away. One passage I love in Thomas Aquinas is where he talks for some thirteen pages or more about how you name God. At the end of it, he quotes Dionysius the Areopagite: "But in the end we remain joined Him as to one unknown." How can we think about that which is ultimate and that which is sacred in ways that don't hinder our being open to that reality? I think we constantly have to erase the images we have. Thinking about the sacred is a process that has to be poetic rather than dogmatic. The great mistake of dogmatism is that it latches on to an idea of God and says, "That's it!" Now, if you believe in that idea, you have to conform to it, no matter what else you might learn or experience. The spiritual mind is always metaphorical. Spiritual thinking is poetic thinking. It's always trying to put a very diaphanous experience into words, realizing all the while that words are inadequate. So if you have an idea of God you think is adequate, it's not. I think we have to trust ourselves in the darkness of not knowing. The God out of which we came and into which we go is an unknown God. It's the luminosity of that darkness and that unknowing that is, I think, the most human -- and the most sacred -- place of all. >>Dale in Ala.
Topic: JULY DISCUSSION -- Paradise Lost by John Milton (59 of 83), Read 71 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Pres Lancaster (plancast@slip.net) Date: Sunday, July 02, 2000 01:37 PM From the above: "Wonder, to me, is that spiritual stance or disposition which renders us humble in the face of things, and also thankful." Look to G. K. Chesterton for the sense of the miraculousness in simple things, the budding of a flower, and so forth. Or so I recall.
Topic: JULY DISCUSSION -- Paradise Lost by John Milton (60 of 83), Read 72 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Dale Short (dshort5005@aol.com) Date: Sunday, July 02, 2000 02:09 PM Pres: I know nothing about Chesterton except the name, but at your suggestion have unearthed a wealth of wonderful quotes by him at various Web sites. This one's apropos for the current thread, I think: "The riddles of God are more satisfying than the solutions of man." --Introduction to the Book of Job, 1907 >>Dale in Ala.
Topic: JULY DISCUSSION -- Paradise Lost by John Milton (61 of 83), Read 69 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Ann Davey (davey@tconl.com) Date: Sunday, July 02, 2000 10:03 PM Dale, You have reminded me just how good Mark Twain is. The Keen/London interview made a lot of sense to me as well. Ann
Topic: JULY DISCUSSION -- Paradise Lost by John Milton (62 of 83), Read 86 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: George Healy (malword@aol.com) Date: Monday, July 03, 2000 01:53 AM Ann-- Very true... in PL I do find Satan a better figure than God, both artistically and intellectually. 2 caveats though: I don't believe we ever really see Milton's 'God' in PL. Just like an over-ardent speech by a young and passionate lover that doesn't really convey their true feelings, I think the aesthetic strain Milton felt while portraying God obscures from us the actual God he carried in his head. And I bear in mind Dick's wonderful point that what draws us to Satan is his 'humanity' in comparison to God... though I disagree that God cannot be depicted humanely but must remain remote and unknowable. The Yahweh of Genesis and Exodus, the Christ of the Gospel of Mark, the Allah of the Koran, even Shakespeare's amazing riff on Jehovah embodied in King Lear all seem to me to prove that God can be 'done' artistically. Just not in PL. And I might as well put all my cards on the table: I find PL's Eve vastly superior to Adam. Adam warns her not to stray from his company from fear of the Tempter they've been warned about. Eve, I think logically, considers Eden a curious paradise if they have to be on a permanent red alert status. What kind of paradise can you not explore because ultimate destruction lurks behind every tree (and hangs on one of them)? She's obviously impatient with Adam's mincing cautiousness, and for all her flaws of reasoning and susceptibility to flattery her point remains: if they have to live in constant fear, then paradise is not paradise at all... just as Satan feels that, given the inner torments he suffered there, Heaven was not Heaven for him. P.S.-- Dick, I love the 'Mephistophelean Paradox'... why does anyone take such a fore-doomed step? And why did Ishmael board the Pequod? In imaginative terms though, what a loss for us if they didn't...
Topic: JULY DISCUSSION -- Paradise Lost by John Milton (63 of 83), Read 85 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Daniel LeBoeuf (dan1066@yahoo.com) Date: Tuesday, July 04, 2000 06:48 AM Dale: Excellent quote. I think we have to trust ourselves in the darkness of not knowing. The God out of which we came and into which we go is an unknown God. It's the luminosity of that darkness and that unknowing that is, I think, the most human -- and the most sacred -- place of all. That's exactly my point--Milton attempts to make God "knowable," to remove the aura of mystery which should surround a deity. I disagree with George: I think Milton may have even thought he was a good enough author to actually believe in his heart he could articulate the Word of the Lord in his poetry. It's too bad that it was Satan's words and characters that everyone would love. By the way, notice George prefers Eve to Adam. If you attend to the text carefully, you'll find that Satan and Eve have an awful lot in common--they are both narcissistic, they both question authority. Adam shares his qualities with God, or perhaps it is better to say Christ--he's all rationality. I think by the end of this discussion we'll understand George and what motivates and attracts him than we'll understand this epic. Dan
Topic: JULY DISCUSSION -- Paradise Lost by John Milton (64 of 83), Read 55 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Steve Warbasse (wk4@uswest.net) Date: Tuesday, July 04, 2000 08:08 PM For shame, Dan! Assuming that the word "better" is missing from your last stage whisper to the audience, I propose that by the end of this discussion we will understand both George and this epic better. In the process we may also understand Blake and Shelley better, because they agreed almost precisely with George's view of it. We may also understand Samuel Johnson and you better, too, because you sound very much like him. I refer in part here to the allure and strength of the portrayal of Satan, to which George refers, and the seemingly weak portrayal of God, to which you refer, among other things. The discussion in this topic is almost perfectly replicating the arguments about this work that have recurred over and over. Part of the problem is that we come to this work with different subjective viewpoints than Milton's immediate audience would have. For example, God's realm as portrayed here strikes me as an authoritarian state. This would not have troubled Milton's contemporaries. In other words our subjective attitudes can tend to undercut Milton's conscious intentions. Moreover, Satan's rhetoric is so skillful! We are instructively seduced. ("Subtle he needs must be, who could seduce Angels.") Now one can chose to interpret and critique this work in any fashion and from whatever viewpoint one wishes. (The subjective approach of George and William Blake is perfectly valid, as is the textual approach of Dan and Samuel Johnson.) However, I think if one wishes to grasp Milton's own conscious intent, then a good start would be to picture in your mind another masterful rhetorician whenever you read Satan's speeches--Adolph Hitler. Regardless of Satan's eloquence, his objective in the end is our death. It is his motives that disqualify him as a tragic hero. (Blake would argue that there are more meaningful things here than Miltonís own conscious intent.) As an aside, the Theory of Accommodation, in which Milton and the great theologians of his time believed, was perfectly consistent with giving God speech in this work, Dan. I must say that it is a logical theory, too. (Jim can fill us in from Cliff's.) Also, as you read on did you not notice a definite qualitative difference in God's speeches compared with Satan's? I was shocked that you considered them equally ornate, textualist that you are. I fear we need to explore this question of Eve more, too. Steve
Topic: JULY DISCUSSION -- Paradise Lost by John Milton (65 of 83), Read 52 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Janet Mego (vsjego@cs.com) Date: Tuesday, July 04, 2000 08:51 PM Steve, Bravo--great comments. Janet
Topic: JULY DISCUSSION -- Paradise Lost by John Milton (66 of 83), Read 53 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Steve Warbasse (wk4@uswest.net) Date: Tuesday, July 04, 2000 10:15 PM Naw, Janet! I'm just trying to elbow my way into the brawl. Steve
Topic: JULY DISCUSSION -- Paradise Lost by John Milton (67 of 83), Read 48 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: George Healy (malword@aol.com) Date: Tuesday, July 04, 2000 10:31 PM Strangely, I kind of appreciate the negative moral judgement Dan seems to have reached concerning (at least my posting) self... I am glad there are still readers this passionate out there at all. He and I are actually in agreement where he says we disagree- I too think Milton was confident in his ability as an author and a believer to portray God, I simply dissent from the view that where God is concerned the writing must automatically or by definition be greater or more inherently valuable. And, ironically, my true interest lies not in Satan at all... it lies primarily in the shards of Lucifer that remain in Satan, which is where I sense the power of PL's greatest lines (once again, to me) stems from. It seems ridiculously redundant to attack Satan's character, since he himself has done such a magnificent job for us with his own words. He recognizes the irreparable change for the worse he's undergone since he started entertaining thoughts of rebellion... he just sees no way to reclaim himself while staying true to himself. A horrible (and intensely dramatic) bind that I will always believe plays a very significant role in making PL the greatest poem of its length in the English language.
Topic: JULY DISCUSSION -- Paradise Lost by John Milton (68 of 83), Read 49 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Dick Haggart (law@haggart.com) Date: Wednesday, July 05, 2000 12:05 AM George: I certainly agree with your assessment of Satan and his role in the poem. And your description raises once again the question: is Satan an heroic/tragic character, at least in the classical, if not the Christian, tradition? I could easily be the least formally educated person around here, in terms of literature and its forms, but I always thought the short-hand for classical tragedy was a character facing inevitable, unavoidable ruin, and yet who maintains his dignity and fortitude even in the face of this inevitability. Nobility and good character as aspects of the tragic hero are things that came later, after Christianity put its imprimatur on literature, and even in that Christian period (as has been pointed our by other posters previously) writers have taken great liberty with the 'character' of their characters in post-classical works (Macbeth, etc). In the sense of my understanding of both a classical hero and classical tragedy, Satan would fit the bill -- and why not? Wasn't Satan pre-Christian himself? Perhaps Milton could cut a few theological corners by casting Satan to be essentially a pagan heroic figure. The Chilbained Lawyer
Topic: JULY DISCUSSION -- Paradise Lost by John Milton (69 of 83), Read 48 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Edd Houghton (eddh@pacbell.net) Date: Wednesday, July 05, 2000 03:32 AM I'm really slow on this re-read of PARADISE LOST, but I thought I would add a few thoughts here. The God of Milton and the Old Testament in general, is not a warm and fuzzy person (being?). It's his way or the highway. The sin that Adam and Eve are guilty of, is "knowledge." For the life of me, I cannot conceive of knowledge as a sin, a mortal one at that. Satan offers knowledge. Who wouldn't accept? So you can't run around naked, gamboling with the elephants and other species. Big deal! But you have to die; bummer! Still, you are not in the zoo anymore. But, you have to think; and take care of yourself. The end of a carefree and unthinking existence, after naming all of the animals of course. Prometheus offered fire. And was chained to a rock for a similar crime. Of course fire meant that man could control his local environment, and give him time to think. Gods don't like men to think; or stay warm. That doesn't seem benign to me. But I was only a god once; when I had a dog. But it was the dog who made me her god, I wasn't a god before or after; just a short time. Was I any better in my treatment of my worshipper? And lest I forget. Look at the great loyalty of Satan's followers. They are bound by individual desire. Considering the consequences, the easy life they are giving up, this is a ringing endorsement of Satan's ability to lead. And there may be some management problems in Heaven PLC. EDD
Topic: JULY DISCUSSION -- Paradise Lost by John Milton (70 of 83), Read 55 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Steve Warbasse (wk4@uswest.net) Date: Wednesday, July 05, 2000 07:15 AM Absolutely great points made by both of you, Dick and Edd! I heartily agree with the position taken in both of your notes. My only point is that we must understand that a 17th Century reader would have put more of a premium on obedience to God rather than knowledge. In disobedience lay the sin. Do I need to belabor the fact that a 21st Century (or are we still in the 20th Century?) American looks at this quite differently, and this is why Satan has the appearance of a hero to us? I mean, Dick Haggart is a rank radical in comparison to the thinkers of the 17th Century. George, forgive me but I am going to say a bit more about the Theory of Accommodation because it bears on this question concerning the nature of God and the fact that he speaks (at times remarkably like Jimmy Carter). The Puritans were not so dull that they did not take into account the infinitude and incomprehensibility of God. They readily admitted that our reason is inadequate to grasp his nature. (Our reason allows us only to dip a teaspoon out of the ocean.) Holy scripture is metaphorically true, according to them, and is how God wishes our weak little minds to conceive of him. . . . . .oh, hell! Here is what Milton himself says: "It is safest for us to form an image of God in our minds which corresponds to his representation and description of himself in the sacred writings. Admittedly, God is always described or outlined not as he really is but in such a way as will make him conceivable to us. Nevertheless, we ought to form just such a mental image of him as he, in bringing himself within the limits of our understanding, wishes us to form. Indeed he has brought himself down to our level expressly to prevent our being carried beyond the reach of human comprehension, and outside the written authority of scripture, into vague subtleties of speculation." Assuming the divinely inspired nature of the Old Testament, this all makes a certain sense, and I believe justifies Milton giving God speech, too. . . .assuming that he engaged in fervent prayer before each writing session, and I have no doubt that he did. Steve
Topic: JULY DISCUSSION -- Paradise Lost by John Milton (71 of 83), Read 56 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Dick Haggart (law@haggart.com) Date: Wednesday, July 05, 2000 10:06 AM Heh. Me as a radical. That's something to contemplate, in any age. The Chilbained Lawyer
Topic: JULY DISCUSSION -- Paradise Lost by John Milton (72 of 83), Read 47 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Dale Short (dshort5005@aol.com) Date: Wednesday, July 05, 2000 01:28 PM A couple of left-field comments, here... To me, one of the many achievements of PL is that it serves as a miraculous example of how imagination can transcend ideology--particularly since, with our society's current boom in so-called "Christian fiction" (don't get me started), the exact opposite is the norm. In John Gardner's book ON MORAL FICTION, he lambasts such moralistic work for setting up "straw villains" which are then whammed by the powers of goodness. One of a fiction writer's few moral obligations to the reader, Gardner argues, is not to play favorites with good or evil, but rather to provide them a "level playing field" on which the battle can take place. Anybody agree with me that Milton deserves pretty darned high marks in this regard? >>Dale in Ala.
Topic: JULY DISCUSSION -- Paradise Lost by John Milton (73 of 83), Read 61 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: George Healy (malword@aol.com) Date: Wednesday, July 05, 2000 03:55 PM Lots of good stuff to work with here! Steve-- Only you could make a brawl more heated with Accommodation... I like it. And it definitely bears on Milton's intent. Dick-- I half-agree with your statements... so hopefully you won't unleash your cadre of radical anarchists on me. I don't believe the 'hero' concept sheds much light on Lucifer, and frankly, I don't believe in the accepted ideas on ancient heroism either. I might be thick-headed, but I don't see Oedipus (for example) retaining much dignity as he gallops over the corpses of inconvenient old men, and I fail to see any hero whatsoever in The Bacchae... but that's not the topic at hand. Bloom once posited a spectrum of authorly self-esteem, with Kafka at the negative pole and John Milton standing confidently at the positive extreme. Milton thought he was chosen to write, and damn near infallible (which is frighteningly close to being true!) Now, I was struck by the very last lines of Book 9, where Milton indites Adam and Eve for blaming everyone but themselves... Milton seems to indicate that they'd be better off if they had the capacity to be honestly or productively 'self-condemning'. In fact Satan is, perhaps, the greatest example of clear-eyed self-condemnation in Western literature... and this from an author notoriously sure of himself and the rightness of his ideas! Personally, I think Milton luxuriated in writing Satan's inwardly-directed attack. I think it let him grow as an artist and a man to indulge this introspection on a character so like Milton himself but different enough to keep it comfortable when the assault got too heated. This is just a wild guess of mine... but the psychology of it has little to do with any traditional heroism... call it intellectual or even scholarly heroism, which is my sense of what PL is capable of giving us.
Topic: JULY DISCUSSION -- Paradise Lost by John Milton (74 of 83), Read 34 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Daniel LeBoeuf (dan1066@yahoo.com) Date: Thursday, July 06, 2000 02:52 PM Fascinating Miltonic quotes there, Stevie-Boy. I now comprehend that my sense of Milton's authorial flaws was more a by-product of my century than of any real flaws. Milton understood God well enough to present a humane slice of him that the reader could (a) comprehend, and (b) understand, and (c) get the goods on the correct theology. But Steve, you're on the same boat as me--you're attempting to read PL from the angle of reader response. There are some literary works (Paradise Lost and Moby Dick spring to mind offhand) in which scrutinizing the reader offers so much more than just analyzing the text. PL is a kind of litmus test regarding theology, regarding political theory, regarding gender-roles, regarding humanity and divinity. There is a solid bedrock within Milton's verse, but it is so difficult to focus on with so many ripples on the surface. Not that I claim to know what that bedrock is exactly--I just love the sound and the appearance of the ripples of this poem. The manner in which themes appear, disperse, and reappear is mesmerizing and worth the time spent contemplating them and their significance. This poem gets deeper everytime it is read--and I feel like I'm drowning of late. Dan
Topic: JULY DISCUSSION -- Paradise Lost by John Milton (75 of 83), Read 38 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Steve Warbasse (wk4@uswest.net) Date: Thursday, July 06, 2000 04:07 PM Duh, Dan! In the words of PeeWee Herman, I meant to do that! Let's be realistic. This work has intrigued the greatest literary intellects ever since it was published. I mentioned a few in my earlier post. (Another, who considered it anathema, was T.S. Eliot, but he was still intrigued.) The nearly unanimous verdict has been that this epic in English is the equal of Homer and Virgil's stuff. Milton is our English language Homer. In the end there is little we can do in the course of one month on the Constant Reader website to plumb the damned piece. Let me propose a thing that is fun though. Trust me on this. I challenge anyone who is reading this work to post not her or his twelve favorite lines, not her or his ten favorite lines. . . .not even her or his six favorite lines, but rather her or his two favorite lines here. Trust me on this now! It will be a rewarding experience. Steve
Topic: JULY DISCUSSION -- Paradise Lost by John Milton (76 of 83), Read 39 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Daniel LeBoeuf (dan1066@yahoo.com) Date: Thursday, July 06, 2000 09:13 PM Leave it to Steve-O to come up with this one. My favorite "two lines" comes from the opening of Book VII where Milton steps forward and entreats Urania to be his muse and to help him continue his epic. Being a fan of reader response, I've loved this apt phrase since I first encountered it: ...still govern thou my Song, Urania, and fit audience find, though few. (Book VII, ln. 30-31) Dan
Topic: JULY DISCUSSION -- Paradise Lost by John Milton (77 of 83), Read 31 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Jim Heath (ddrapes@teleport.com) Date: Friday, July 07, 2000 07:04 AM "There they their fill of love and love's disport Took largely, of their mutual guilt the seal" -- Jim, who believes in getting right to the good stuff
Topic: JULY DISCUSSION -- Paradise Lost by John Milton (78 of 83), Read 34 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Steve Warbasse (wk4@uswest.net) Date: Friday, July 07, 2000 07:50 AM I am afraid our minds work along the same channels, Jim, because mine is: Yielded with coy submission, modest pride and sweet reluctant amorous delay. Book 4 at 310-11. Steve
Topic: JULY DISCUSSION -- Paradise Lost by John Milton (79 of 83), Read 34 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: George Healy (malword@aol.com) Date: Friday, July 07, 2000 08:47 AM Steve-- Walter Savage Landor's mind worked right along side you... of your choice he said: 'I had rather written these 2 lines than all the poetry that has been written since Milton's time in all the regions of the Earth." Mine: "And oft though wisdom wake, suspicion sleeps At wisdom's gate, and to simplicity Resigns her charge..." (really 2 1/2 lines... sorry.)
Topic: JULY DISCUSSION -- Paradise Lost by John Milton (80 of 83), Read 37 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Steve Warbasse (wk4@uswest.net) Date: Friday, July 07, 2000 09:55 AM Haha! You caught me, George. I was aware of that famous quotation from Mr. Landor. In fact that is where I got the idea for this drill I suggested. It just so happens that I agree with him as a result of his focusing my attention on this whole passage concerning Eve. It is about as erotic a thing as I have ever read and from a Puritan no less! Steve
Topic: JULY DISCUSSION -- Paradise Lost by John Milton (81 of 83), Read 38 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Dick Haggart (law@haggart.com) Date: Friday, July 07, 2000 10:37 AM Tough question. I like many, many couplets, but the visual ones have always impressed me with Milton's skill: So on this windy sea of land, the Fiend Walked up and down alone bent on his prey." And, I like this thoughtful, mournful comment on the ways to loss and death: For now I see Peace to corrupt no less than war to waste. The Chilbained Lawyer
Topic: JULY DISCUSSION -- Paradise Lost by John Milton (82 of 83), Read 31 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: George Healy (malword@aol.com) Date: Saturday, July 08, 2000 09:16 AM I'm gonna plow my little field a bit further. I adjusted Steve's game some in my head and asked: 'What lines are Satan's low point... his most criminal lie?' To me they are Book 9, 689-90. He's speaking to Eve (as the serpent) and says (speaking of supposedly eating the apple): "...look on me, me who have touched and tasted, yet both live, and life more perfect have attained than fate meant me, by venturing higher than my lot." This is remarkable to me. S's current lie and his past are transposed here, and his 'venturing', i.e, his rebellion, has led to anything but a 'life more perfect'... as he well knows. It's fascinating how S is compelled to re-enact his fall and his own experiences with Eve, manipulating her into (falsely?) rising above her station against God's will. What light does this shed on S's criminality? I think his only true crime was leading others down his path. Had he rebelled alone, his conscience would be relatively clear. In fact, a reconciliation between him and God wouldn't be out of the question if he hadn't his followers to consider. S's initial rebellion had the charm of ignorance... he presumably thought that he really had a chance to unseat God. When he perpetrates the same crime on Eve, this time painfully aware that God's retribution would certainly fall on Eve- well, the pattern is clear. I think Milton is telling us that Satan is not SURE enough of his own powers; instead of just thinking them through (as Milton does) he unfortunately must act them out in the lives of others. This, to me, is his truly fatal flaw. By my reading of it, Satan should never have rebelled... he should have withdrawn into seclusion, plucked a quill from his own wing, and sat down to begin the therapeutic process of writing, say, 'Paradise Lost'...?
Topic: JULY DISCUSSION -- Paradise Lost by John Milton (83 of 83), Read 20 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Ernest Belden (drernest@pacbell.net) Date: Monday, July 10, 2000 02:26 PM Hi everybody, I have not been active on this board as I do have problems with reading Milton. English is not my native tongue and that may be one of the reasons. I continue on with considerable difficulties but I am afraid I do not appreciate the fine language of his poetry. Well poetry has never been my favorite and I find Mil ton's language most difficult. I had my wife read some to me while I followed with my own reading and this I found much more productive. Well, I shall carry on to the best of my ability. In the meantime I am also looking forward to Middlemarch. Ernie
Topic: JULY DISCUSSION -- Paradise Lost by John Milton (84 of 84), Read 12 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Jim Heath (ddrapes@teleport.com) Date: Thursday, July 20, 2000 08:38 AM It is probably worth saying that Milton is a pain in the neck to read even if English is your native language. Even Keats complained about the inverted sentences where half of the adventure is trying to figure out what the subject and verb are going to be. And Dr, Samuel Johnson said that he didn't think that anyone ever wished that Paradise Lost had gone on just a bit longer. What makes the book worth the trouble is the basic nobility of the prose. In some ways, all those subordinate clauses sound like a little fanfare announcing the arrival of the subject of the sentence. The basic conception adds quite a bit of nobility, too. Life is much grander if we see it as a crucial part in the battle between God and Satan than if it is simply part of the nitrogen cycle, a moment of consciousness between two voids. One of Milton's other problems for many readers is that the narrative flow ends when Eve eats the apple in book IX. The rest is pretty much theology and a rehash of the Old Testament. And yet, I love the moment in Book X when Satan announces his victory to the other demons: "So having said, a while he stood, expecting Their universal shout and high applause To fill his ear, when contrary he hears On all sides from innumerable tongues A dismal universal hiss, the sound Of public scorn; he wondered, but not long Had leisure, wond'ring at himself now more; His visage drawn he felt to sharp and spare, His arms clung to his ribs, his legs entwining Each other, till supplanted down he fell A monstrous serpent on his belly prone, Reluctant, but in vain; a greater power Now ruled him, punished in the shape he sinned, According to his doom: he would have spoke, But hiss for hiss returned with forked tongue To forked tongue, for now were all transformed Alike to serpents all as accessories To his bold riot: dreadful was the din .." I also like the description of the Great Flood in Book XI: " and in their palaces/ Where late luxury reigned, sea monsters whelped/ and stabled." I suspect the secret to enjoying Milton, and probably most things, is not worrying about all of the things that are missing and just appreciating what showed up.

 

 

 
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