Yet Once More: Verbal and Psychological Pattern in Milton

By Edward S. Le Comte | Go to book overview

CHAPTER VIII
PARALLELS AS CLUES

IT MAY BE GRANTED by now that parallels can be significant. This final chapter, devoted to considering how far they may aid in solving specific problems of text and interpretation, will insist that there is nothing easy or automatic about the clarity toward which parallels are instrumental. One must find out, by a careful appraisal of all the evidence, what key opens what door, or whether what one has seized on as a key opens anything: false parallels seductively abound. For instance, to mention the most mysterious door of all, the "door" of "Lycidas," 130, everyone who has thought himself possessed of the secret of "that two-handed engine" has come forward with at least one quotation, in or outside Milton. Yet a count that is probably not exhaustive reveals no less than thirty different interpretations of this crux, so that, at the least, twenty-nine false parallels have been produced, with, no doubt, since these are published interpretations, the greatest good will, to the propagation of truth.

Let us begin by considering two lines from "Lycidas" that most of the editors apparently do not regard as a problem, for they give either one or the other of two possible interpretations without so much as mentioning the rival interpretation. The lines open the second paragraph:

Begin, then, Sisters of the sacred well
That from beneath the seat of Jove doth spring.

Let us hear a classical scholar, Sir John Edwin Sandys, on the problem:

This "sacred well" is sometimes identified with the Pierian spring, at the foot of the Thessalian Olympus, the great Homeric seat of the gods, the first home of the Muses, the daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne, before their worship was transferred to the Boeotian Helicon. 1 I agree, however, with those who hold that Milton is here

-142-

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Yet Once More: Verbal and Psychological Pattern in Milton
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Preface vii
  • Chapter I- Connections 3
  • Chapter II- Epic Reiteration 19
  • Chapter III- From Poem to Poem 48
  • Chapter IV- Prose to Prose 69
  • Chapter V- The Meeting of Prose and Poetry 82
  • Chapter VI- Latin Borrowings 103
  • Chapter VII- Women and Bishops 123
  • Chapter VIII- Parallels as Clues 142
  • Notes 153
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