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Description:The Miltonist The Miltonist Sunday, August 14, 2011 “No free and splendid wit can flourish…” David Hawkes’ John Milton: A Hero of Our Time makes the interesting and valid case that Milton and his work
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The Miltonist The Miltonist Sunday, August 14, 2011 “No free and splendid wit can flourish…” David Hawkes’ John Milton: A Hero of Our Time makes the interesting and valid case that Milton and his works “declared that he was speaking primarily not to his contemporaries (whom he thought hopelessly ill-equipped to understand him) but to the people of the future, to us” (3). For any contemporary Miltonist, be him or her a low ranking admirer of Milton such as myself or a serious scholar and professor of Milton’s works at a university level, Hawkes’ assertion is one that, while not entirely unique in Milton studies, is nevertheless an incredibly important one. Milton is a truly universal poet and author who transcends his own time. Through his insights, Milton manages to speak to the human condition as it exists politically and personally in every age of man. Like Hawkes asserts though, it is most imperatively to us that Milton is speaking. We are the generations revealed to Adam by Michael as he and Eve were being cast from paradise who would wage unspeakable war, wreak incredible destruction, but ultimately retain the capacity to achieve the prelapsarian state of not just simple innocence, but of understanding and knowledge. Many of the injustices that plagued Milton’s time, the ones that he perceived as needing vanquishing, have been vanquished, for the most part. Freedom of press and religion exist, albeit at times at the whim of corporations and their news media mouthpieces. If one digs though, true “Fair and Balanced” news, reporting, and discussion can be located. Unfortunately, as far as humanity has come, especially here in the United States, we are still subject to the type of slavery that Milton bewailed. Hawkes elaborates upon how Milton put off his lifelong goal of writing the greatest epic of all time in, of course, the English language in order to serve in aiding the movement to abolish the divine rule of kings and assist in the transfer of power from state religion to the people. As Hawkes states, “…given his conviction that the individual soul and the political nation were organically connected, Milton now felt himself unable to accomplish his aesthetic aim until England had ‘enfranchised herself from this impertinent yoke of prelaty, under whose inquisitorious and tyrannical duncery, no free and splendid wit can flourish’ (1:820).” While we have no established state religion under whose “impertinent yoke’ we are forced to labor, we do still continue to labor under a type of “prelaty” that is as powerful as any major corporation or big business as concerns their power to influence our political process. This “prelaty” definitely influences our system of politics and government even though it is supposed to be protected from the influence of religion and the unfortunate, but very real, prejudices and bigotries that some religions often promote. One needs look no further than the backing by the religious right of such political figures as Michelle Bachman and Texas governor Rick Perry. Both these individuals are self declared presidential candidates who seek the highest office in the land. Their agendas, already in place in their home states to a certain extent, betray the influence of religious policy making. Perry even held a “Stadium Prayer Event” in order to draw attention to his religiosity and hopefully capture the support, and dollars, of the well funded religious right. He stated that Washington often fails to address what’s wrong with America spiritually (paraphrase), so “with the economy in trouble, communities in crisis, and people adrift in a sea of moral relativism we need God’s help.” While having faith or asking for help from a higher power isn’t a horrible thing, or by any means an illegal thing, asking for help from Perry’s God in solving complex problems that we as a society have created through greed, corruption, intolerance, ignorance, and more greed is not only elitist, since Perry and company obviously feel that they are not a part of the problem and have the only direct line to God, but is hypocritical. As shown (and this part of my musings is respectfully indebted to the Rachel Maddow Show’s segment on Rick Perry), the people whom Perry surrounded himself with and willingly took endorsement from, such as Bryan Fischer of The American Family Association and John Hagee, are some of the most extreme, intolerant, and laughably ignorant “religious” leaders ever. The influence of these leaders on the shaping of potential policy through a candidate like Perry, if he were to win the White House, will amount to nothing less than an “inquisitorious and tyrannical duncery” under which our country will see a serious stifling of the “free and splendid wit” that has made our country the beacon of freedom, tolerance, and openness that it is. These religious leaders and their organizations are incredibly well funded, as stated, and in effect are businesses that spread propaganda and advertise their exclusivity and holiness through their extreme messages, which in turn generates more revenue. It’s a sad irony that one of the evils of Milton’s day, the unity of church and state, is still a problem that we must constantly guard against and be wary of. We have legal separation of church and state, but we do not have influential separation of church over state. Perhaps this is what Milton’s words and ideas will be called upon to help us battle now. The influence of church over state is a very difficult battle that needs very diligent participants. Since modern religion and its many varied churches are in actuality businesses in spirit if not name, and business directly influences nearly everything that goes on in government, keeping God out of State will continue to be a difficult but necessary struggle. Hawkes’ assertion that Milton is speaking to us in particular is powerfully astute. While the war between divine right and the rule of reason erupted into physical war in Milton’s age, ours is, thus far, a spiritual war. Not a spiritual war in the religious sense of the word, but a spiritual war in the sense that mankind is still at war, and always will be at war, with the evils within his own spirit. The spiritual war against intolerance, greed, and arrogance will be one we will be doomed to fight until we finally achieve the fabled prelapsarian state, a state that actually might not be prelapsarian at all, but a state that we simply aren’t highly enough evolved intellectually to embrace yet. Milton’s words can be an inspirational, if not perfect, guide to getting us closer to that state though. We only need to read, think, and remain cognizant of the need to balance emotion with a healthy dose of reason. There are very few among us today that are “hopelessly ill-equipped to understand” Milton. We just need to take the time to do so, and the flourishing of our innately splendid wit will be enhanced. Posted by The Ear at 3:33 PM No comments: Email ThisBlo...

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