Paradise Lost, 1668-1968: Three Centuries of Commentary

By Earl Miner; William Moeck et al. | Go to book overview

Excursus 11.385

THE FIRST OF THE VISIONS OF GOD

Although Milton draws on a variety of resources to attain stylistic grandeur, readers' responses differ, depending on knowledge, taste, and expectation. A test case is presented us as Michael sets out on the prophecies of Books 11 and 12. Proper nouns, evocative and high astounding names offer one such resource. “Men called him architect” differs from “Men call'd him Mulciber.” Of course nothing is guaranteed in art: the name inevitably means more to a reader possessing knowledge of Mulciber-Hephaestos-Vulcan and of Zeus's throwing him from Heaven. Milton's love of canorous names is not necessarily shared by readers in every age or mood. Milton's onomastic ode (11.385–411) initiating “the Visions of God” provides an excellent test case, because it has required commentary from Patrick Hume to Alastair Fowler. To their observations we may preface another that helps explain the function of names of people and places in Paradise Lost. Following epic tradition, Milton quite strikingly offers proper nouns, but not here, earlier, or later gives a date. (On biblical dating, see Excursus 12.553.)

The earliest commentator, Patrick Hume, presumably spoke for other seventeenth-century readers as well when he expressed his high approval in an introductory paragraph. (The quotations come from annotations on the passages, and the printer's styles for the older editors are considerably modernized.)

Most admirable and excellent are these episodes, which here begin, and adorn our author's poem to the end, surpassing all those tedious stories and the vain-glorious boastings of the Homeric heroes and Virgil's artful enumeration of the Roman conquerors down to Augustus Caesar and the bemoaned Marcellus (Aeneid 6) as much as a relation of what was to come to pass from the beginning of the world to Adam and all mankind to the end of it, and in order to a better (taken out of sacred story), must excel any particular of human history whatever.

Not surprisingly, that cicerone to prosaic reason, Richard Bentley, bracketed this account of empires, deriding it as a product of Milton's obtrusive editor.

By the time of Thomas Newton in the middle of the eighteenth century, a judgment different from Hume's might seem required. He ends Michael's, or Milton's, two dozen lines:

thus he surveys the four different parts of the world, but it must be confessed, more with an ostentation of learning than with any additional beauty to the poem. But Mr. Thyer is of the opinion that such little sallies of the Muse agreeably enough diversify the scene, and observes that Tasso, whose Godfrey[i.e., Gerusalemme Liberata]isno very imperfect model of a regular epic poem, has in his fifteenth canto employed thirty or forty stanzas together in a description of this sort, which had no necessary connexion with his general plan.

The difference between Hume and Newton is more profound than may be evident. Hume's enthusiasm extols the entire array of Michael's visions and narrated accounts in the last two books. Newton is lukewarm about Milton's grand overture. The common judgment today supports Newton rather than Hume, or more accurately, applies Newton's unenthusiastic judgment of a part to the whole conceived by Hume. In our view, it is possible to find interest in this opening and in ensuing episodes without thinking Books 11 and 12 the peaks of Paradise Lost.

These issues are not readily resolved, but the twentyodd opening lines offer a manageable sample. Since we must have in mind what it is we are considering, David Masson's simple division into four units assists modern memories and will render the whole more readily intelligible. Like Hume, he is impressed.

In this splendid geographical survey there is a certain order. (1) In lines 387–395 the eye sweeps eastward in a wide circuit over what is in the main Asia. (2) Next, Africa comes into view, lines 396–404. (3) Europe is then merely glanced at, lines 405, 406, as concentrated all in all in Rome. (4) But perhaps it was given to Adam, in spirit, to see not only the hemisphere of the earth on which he was, but also America beyond the Atlantic, lines 406–11.

Bearing in mind those four divisions, we can draw upon Alastair Fowler's highly detailed annotations. At this point a reader also needs a second opening of this book at Book 11, lines 388–95.

388–95 The Asian kingdoms are arranged symmetrically

-499-

Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this book

This book has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this book

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this page

Cited page

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
Paradise Lost, 1668-1968: Three Centuries of Commentary
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Contents *
  • Preface 9
  • Acknowledgments 11
  • Introduction 15
  • Early Comment 31
  • Book 1 - The Rebel Angels Awaken to Hell's Flames 51
  • Book 2 - Sin Opens the Doors of Hell 97
  • Book 3 - Satan's Hypocrisy Deceives Even Uriel 135
  • Book 4 - God Creates Adam and Eve 165
  • Book 5 - Adam Rids Eve of Satan's Dream 203
  • Book 6 - The Son Expels the Rebel Angels 237
  • Book 7 - Adam and Eve Listen Intently to Raphael 269
  • Book 8 - Raphael Departs After Warning Adam 287
  • Book 9 - The Fall 305
  • Book 10 - The Son Judges and Clothes the Human Pair 335
  • Book 11 - The Vision of Cain Slaying Abel 367
  • Book 12 - The Expulsion 393
  • The Illustrations 421
  • Excursus 1.50 427
  • Excursus 2.921 435
  • Excursus 2.967 439
  • Excursus 3.19 447
  • Excursus 5.791 451
  • Excursus 6.327 457
  • Excursus 6.616 461
  • Excursus 7.126 467
  • Excursus 7.594 471
  • Excursus 8.136 479
  • Excursus 9.512 489
  • Excursus 10.425 495
  • Excursus 11.385 499
  • Excursus 12.553 501
  • Bibliography 505
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
/ 510

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.