Wednesday, October 20, 2010

This day...

Book V begins with "Now" and moves from dawn's "rosie steps" in Paradise to Raphael's account of an announcement from God:

Hear all ye Angels, Progenie of Light, [ 600 ]
Thrones, Dominations, Princedoms, Vertues, Powers,
Hear my Decree, which unrevok't shall stand.
This day I have begot whom I declare
My onely Son, and on this holy Hill
Him have anointed, whom ye now behold 
At my right hand; your Head I him appoint;
And by my Self have sworn to him shall bow
All knees in Heav'n, and shall confess him Lord:

As the Dartmouth site notes, this entire scene has its textual roots in Psalm 2, of which Martin Luther says, "In a word this Psalm is one of the most important Psalms of the whole Psalter":

 1Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing?
 2The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD, and against his anointed, saying,
 3Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us.
 4He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the LORD shall have them in derision.
 5Then shall he speak unto them in his wrath, and vex them in his sore displeasure.
 6Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion.
 7I will declare the decree: the LORD hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee.
 8Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession.
 9Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel.
 10Be wise now therefore, O ye kings: be instructed, ye judges of the earth.
 11Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling.
 12Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him.

But Christ neither began to be born, nor will ever cease to be born, but is ever being born in a present nativity. He is rightly said therefore to be begotten "today," that is, being always begotten. For "today" implies neither a yesterday nor a tomorrow, but always a present time, a today. As it is said, John 8:58, "Before Abraham was I am."
For what it's worth, here's Calvin on the same verse.

Update: Should have pointed to Milton's verse translation of Psalm 2, in terza rima, Dante's rhyme scheme.

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