Sunday: May 25, 2008
Notes from my reading of Book II:
1. Again the passage that most struck me was a classicizing bit, a simile describing Satan’s journey through Chaos (943-50):
As when a Gryfon through the Wilderness
With winged course ore Hill or moarie Dale,
Persues the Arimaspian, who by stelth
Had from his wakeful custody purloind
The guarded Gold: So eagerly the Fiend
Ore bog or steep, through strait, rough, dense, or rare,
With head, hands, wings, or feet persues his way,
And swims or sinks, or wades, or creeps, or flyes:
This has some resemblance rhetorically to 7.501-3, though the latter is more neatly laid out in threes:
Earth in her rich attire
Consummat lovly smil’d; Aire, Water, Earth,
By Fowl, Fish, Beast, was flown, was swum, was walkt
Milton does not mention that the Arimaspians were traditionally one-eyed: did he not think it important, or assume that his readers already knew? ‘Moarie’ is not in the Shorter O.E.D. or www.dictionary.com, and must be a form of ‘moory’, meaning ‘marshy, fenny’.
2. The account of the origins of Sin and Death, featuring rape, incest, head-birth, and bestial transmogrification, manages to outdo Hesiod in gruesomeness.
3. It’s interesting that the music of the fallen angels (546-51) is epic or panegyric, sung “With notes Angelical to many a harp” about themselves and their deeds. The effect is rather Homeric.
Saturday: May 24, 2008
I started a new job two months ago, and now teach part-time at two different high schools. Oddly, I seem to have more spare time for reading now, partly because I have to get to work at the new school at 7:00 to avoid rush-hour traffic, but don’t meet any of my students until 8:15. In the last month, I’ve read half a dozen novels and the first seven books of Paradise Lost, a work I had not read since college. (That would have been 1972 or 1973.) It seems appropriate to blog some desultory thoughts on the work, perhaps three per book. I’ll write about the novels tomorrow.
1. The passage in Book I that most struck me as particularly worth quoting was the description of Mammon, principal architect in Heaven and now in Hell (738-51):
Nor was his name unheard or unador’d
In ancient Greece; and in Ausonian land
Men calld him Mulciber; and how he fell
From Heav’n, they fabl’d, thrown by angry Jove
Sheer ore the Crystal Battlements: from Morn
To Noon he fell, from Noon to dewy Eve,
A Summers day; and with the setting Sun
Dropd from the Zenith like a falling Starr,
On Lemnos th’ Aegaean Ile: thus they relate,
Erring; for hee with this rebellious rout
Fell long before; nor aught availd him now
To have built in Heav’n high Towrs; nor did he scape
By all his Engins, but was headlong sent
With his industrious crew to build in Hell.
2. The only non-famous line that was particularly familiar after all these years was 307:
Busiris and his Memphian Chivalrie
3. Right from the start, I’ve found the poem entertaining, sometimes even hypnotic, but also insubstantial: far more words than matter. So far from being a peer of Homer, Vergil, and Dante, Milton seems a poet in roughly the same class as Statius or Claudian. Is this unfair? He seems to do a mediocre job of justifying the ways of God to men.
Thursday: May 22, 2008
Topsius, a fictional German professor of Biblical archaeology who drinks beer with his breakfast:
Socrates é a semente; Platão a flôr; Aristoteles o fructo . . . E d’esta arvore, assim completa, se tem nutrido o espirito humano!
(Eça de Queiroz, A Relíquia, III)
Socrates is the seed, Plato the flower, Aristotle the fruit; and on this tree, thus complete, the human spirit has been nourished!
(Eça de Queiroz, The Relic, Chapter III)
Sunday: May 11, 2008
Les seules bonnes copies sont celles qui nous font voir le ridicule des méchants originaux.
The only good copies are those which show up the absurdity of bad originals.
(La Rochefoucauld, Maximes 133, translated by Leonard Tancock)
Sunday: May 4, 2008
La plupart des jeunes gens croient être naturels, lorsqu’ils ne sont que mal polis et grossiers.
Most young people think they are being natural when really they are just ill-mannered and crude.
(La Rochefoucauld, Maximes 372, translated by Leonard Tancock)
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