Friday, December 3, 2010

Minor Milton

Continuing with Milton as my 8 year old daughter, cuddled up with me, reads most of Where The Sidewalk Ends.

  • On The Morning of Christ’s Nativity
  • The Passion
  • Song: On May Morning
  • English Sonnets (1,7—23)
  • On Shakespeare
  • On The University Carrier
  • Another of the Same
  • An Epitaph on the Marchioness of Winchester
  • L’Allegro

I’m decidedly apathetic about most of early Milton. So much of his earlier work is decidedly local, both in time and place. He lauds personages which have little relevance to me tonight, and the verse itself doesn’t particularly grab me. There are exceptions, however.

A few of his sonnets are quite good, “On The Morning of Christ’s Nativity,” of course, and both “On Shakespeare,” and “L’Allegro” I thought were very good. I also wonder if some of what is brilliant seems rather ho-hum to me merely because I haven’t paid the cost of entry. Each of the poems I’ve liked have had something about them to catch my attention, and enticed me to re-read, and to read carefully. Is it possible that giving the same care to poems which don’t immediately reach me would make a big difference? A question to revisit.

I also want to say for the record that reading poetry on an e-reader sucks, even when the formatting has been reworked until it meets my standards of approval.1 It sucks to the point that I find I’m not engaging as deeply with the text. It’s just less… there. Or maybe it’s me that’s less there. Either way it’s a problem, and it means that for me poetry to be read seriously needs to be read in print. Fortunately, I have a copy of the Norton Critical Edition of Paradise Lost. I’m going to have to find something for Paradise Regained and Samson Agonistes—the rest I can get by with reading from an e-book.

On Shakespeare


What needs my Shakespeare, for his honored bones,

The labor of an age in pilèd Stones,

Or that his hallowed relics should be hid

Under a star-ypointing pyramid?

Dear son of memory,2 great heir of Fame,5

What need’st thou such weak witness of thy name?

Thou in our wonder and astonishment

Hast built thy self a livelong monument!

For whilst to th’ shame of slow-endeavouring art,

Thy easy numbers flow, and that each heart10

Hath from the leaves of thy unvalued Book,

Those Delphic lines with deep impression took,

Then thou our fancy of it self bereaving,

Dost make us Marble with too much conceiving;

And so sepulchered in such pomp dost lie,15

That kings for such a tomb would wish to die.

  1. Here’s why: No matter how good text looks in E Ink (and it generally looks good if not great), or how well it’s formatted on the screen, it’s still an electronic gizmo. E Ink is still nowhere near as crisp as quality print on quality paper. It is also not tactile. It’s dark patches under a glossy surface. There’s no finger feel or paper texture. And probably most importantly, with a 6" display there is nothing like appropriate white-space for the text. Prose suffers less—though it still suffers—from the particularities of our current reader technology. Poetry suffers immensely. Even something as seemingly unessential as the ability to flip physical pages causes me discomfort in reading poetry on e-readers.

  2. the Muses were the daughters of Memory [Raffel’s note]

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