Heaven and Hell. Life and Death. Milton, Homer and David

Going through my notes on Paradise Lost, these three perspectives on life, death, heaven and hell were kind of thought provoking.

First from Milton:

“To reign is worth ambition, though in Hell:
Better to reign in Hell, than to serve in Heaven”

Satan, galvanizing the support of  Beelzebub towards a zealous rule in their new home outside of Heaven, ParadiseLost 1.262

Then from Homer:

“Nay, seek not to speak soothingly to me of death….I should choose, so I might live on earth, to serve as the hireling of another, of some portionless man whose livelihood was but small, rather than to be lord over all the dead that have perished.”

Achilles, sharing his views of life as a dead man with Odysseus

And finally, from David in Psalms:

Better is one day in your courts
than a thousand elsewhere
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God
than dwell in the tents of the wicked.”

Psalm 84:10

I am plodding through John Milton’s Paradise Lost, amazed that I have never read it before.

Spenser, Milton, Melville and Machiavelli

Just after lunch today, I read aloud from Canto One of Edmund Spenser’s Faerie Queene. The boys were super leary of this selection before we started reading it.  But they  warmed up as we go into it.

Then I lost Helen at the point in the fight with the dragon where the Red Cross Knight finally gets the upper hand.  Here is what caused her to nearly lose her lunch:

“Therewith she spewd out of her filthy maw
A floud of poyson horrible and blacke,
Full of great lumpes of flesh and gobbets raw,
Which stunck so vildly, that it forst him slacke
His grasping hold, and from her turne him backe:
Her vomit full of bookes and papers was,
With loathly frogs and toades, which eyes did lacke,
And creeping sought way in the weedy gras:
Her filthy parbreake all the place defiled has.”

So, sweet dear Helen (who was  perched on the edge of her seat waiting for those little fairies to trot out in poetic beauty) immediately recoiled in horror.

Daniel, meanwhile, perked right up and engaged with this piece of poetry in a way quite unique for him.  Leaning forward whispering “yeah, man yeah…”.

Canto Two after Monday lunch.

I am reading Paradise Lost, myself.  The introduction alone was worth the price of the book.  Amazing to learn that Milton’s own doctrinal statements, found over 200 years after his death, refute the Nicene council’s statements on Christ’s divinity.  And that once orthodox theologians began to understand Milton’s ideas in this matter, their acceptance of Paradise Lost as commendable Christian poetry and a  theological work of art came to an end.  Even though these ideas  are nowhere to be seen in Paradise Lost.  He is seen to be in grave error,  his work now considered heretical, even though it was once much beloved and quoted form pulpits of well educated reformed ministers.  How the mighty are fallen…..

Meanwhile, I have a couple of kids who are reading Machiavelli’s The Prince, and I expect I’ll send one up here for a little discussion of the book next week.

And I am, FINALLY, reading Moby Dick aloud to the whole bunch of kids.  So far, they love it.    I believe this is my my fifth reading of Moby Dick…..And that first appearance of Queequay the harpooner is funny every time.