Saturday, May 21, 2011

Milton's Hamlet?

From a review of Harold Bloom's latest book, The Anatomy of Influence.

“The Anatomy of Influence” is Bloom’s effort — his last, he says — to recalibrate his great theory, only shorn of its “gnomic” obscurities and written in “a subtler language that will construe my earlier commentary for the general reader and reflect changes in my thinking.” One of those changes is that over time his notion of influence has become more orthodox, growing closer, in its sensitivity to echo and allusion, to the approach of the hated New Critics.

In a superb chapter, “Milton’s Hamlet,” Bloom shows how the Satan of “Paradise Lost” is the offspring of Hamlet, each a soliloquist who stands at a remove from the tragedy that engulfs him, puzzling out eloquent conundrums that press toward “depths beneath depths,” limitless self-consciousness. “It does not matter that Satan is an obsessed theist and Hamlet is not,” Bloom writes. “Two angelic intellects inhabit a common abyss: the post-Enlightenment ever-augmenting inner self, of which Hamlet is a precursor, intervening between Luther and Calvin, and later Descartes and Spinoza.”

Monday, May 09, 2011

Philyreius in Ovid and Milton

Here's a poem composed by John Milton when he was in his teens. His deep acquaintance with Ovid among other ancients is apparent in the use of "Philyreius," which means "son of Philyra." One would learn from Book 2.676 of the Metamorphoses that Chiron was sometimes called Philyreius.

Philyra incidentally has her own tale of transformation, told by Apollodorus among others:
PHILYRE (or Philyra) was an Okeanid nymph of Mount Pelion in Thessalia loved by the Titan Kronos. When his wife Rhea came upon their rendevous, he quickly transformed himself into a horse to escape detection. As a result, Philyre birthed a half-horse, half-man hybrid, the kentauros (centaur) Kheiron. To ease her shame, Kronos transformed the girl into a linden tree (philyra in Greek.)
Here's Milton's poem:
Learn to submit to the laws of destiny, and lift your suppliant hands to the Fate, O children of Iapetus who inhabit the pendulous orb of the earth. If Death, the doleful wanderer from Taenarus, shall but once call you, alas! vain is it to attempt wiles and delay, for all must pass through the shades of Styx. Were the right hand strong to repel destined death, fierce Hercules had not lain dead on Aemathian Oeta, poisoned by the blood of Nessus; nor had Ilium seen Hector slain by the base guile of envious Pallas; nor Sarpedon whom the phantom Achilles slew with Locrian sword, whilst Jove wept. If Hecatean words could put to flight sad fate, the infamous mother of Telegonus had yet lived, and the sister of Aegialeus, who used the powerful wand. If mysterious herbs and the art of the physicians could thwart the triple goddesses, Machaon with his skill in simples had not fallen by the spear of Eurypylus; and the arrow smeared with the serpent's blood had done you no injury, O Philyreius; nor had the arms and bolts of your grandsire harmed you, O son, who were cut from your mother's womb. And you, too, Gostlin, greater than your tutor, Apollo, you to whom was given the rule of the gowned flock, had not died, whom now leafy Cyrrha mourns, and Helicon amid its springs. You would still live, happy and honored to have shepherded the flock of Pallas. You would not have gone in Charon's skiff to the horrible recesses of the abyss. But Persephone broke the thread of life, angered when she saw how many souls you snatched from the black jaws of Death by your arts and your potent juices. Revered Chancellor, I pray that your body may rest in peace beneath the soft turf, and that from your grave may spring roses, and marigolds, and the hyacinth with blushing face. May the judgment of Aeacus rest mildly on you, and may Sicilian Proserpina grant you a smile, and in the Elysian fields among the blest may you walk for ever.

Latin text here, notes here.

Cross-posted @ the Ovid Blog.