29 September 2010

Always there

Whether it is cloudy or cloudless, the Moon is always up there. Her beauty and brightness are unique and it has inspired hundreds of writers, poets, singers, philosophers, scientists and the like throughout the centuries. More importantly, lovers have always found in the Moon a perfect source of inspiration to describe what they feel deep inside their hearts.
The Moon is our only natural satellite and it is the brightest object in the sky after the Sun. There is, however, a "pale" [786] aspect in this bright and beautiful satellite: its synchronous rotation with Earth, always showing the same face.
Even though scientists say that it is 384 400 km away from the Earth, it looks as if the Moon was just a few km away from us. That is why, perhaps, Milton the poet described her as a satellite situated very closed to us or "neerer to the Earth" [785]. A satellite whose movement is compared to that of a wheel that performs as an "arbitress" [785]. In this context, the female poet Charlotte Smith (1749-1806) described the Moon´s role of an arbitress in the context of her influence in the oceans and tides.

Paradise Lost I:784-786
by John Milton (1608-1678)

...the Moon [784]
Sits Arbitress, and neerer to the Earth
Wheels her pale course [786]

22 September 2010

The hiss of russling wings

Paradise Lost is full of direct and indirect references to a wide variety of animals. For example, at the end of chapter I, Milton compares the great multitude of Satan´s troops with the bees. In describing Satan´s forces, Milton uses expressions such as "industrious crew" (751), "winged Haralds" (752), "Band and squared Regiment" (758). These terms can easily apply to bees too. For Milton, Satan´s winged followers are so many that they look like "bees in spring time, when the Sun with Taurus rides, pour forth their populous youth about the hive" (768-770) who "expatiate and confer their State affairs" (774-775).

Certainly, bees can live and work on their own or can be part of a well organized community. However, if there is a feature that has caught my attention while reading about them is the speed of their wings. Some researchers say that the honebee can flap its wings more that 200 times per second. Besides, they use what experts call waggle dance to communicate with others. Amazing insect !

Paradise Lost I: 768-775
by John Milton (1608-1678)

"...with the hiss of russling wings as bees [768]
In spring time, when the Sun with Taurus rides,
Pour forth thir populous youth about the Hive
In clusters; they among fresh dews and flowers
Flie to and fro, or on the smoothed Plank,
The suburb of thir Straw-built Cittadel,
New rub'd with Baum, expatiate and confer
Thir State affairs." [775]

(The author of this beautiful photograph is the author of the best blog on ants I have ever found on the Internet)

14 September 2010

Behemoth and translation

Behemoth has always been a misterious word to me. It appears in the Bible and in PL as well. One of the occassions where the word can be found in the Bible is in the book of Job 40:15. There, it says: "Look at the behemoth, which I made along with you and which feeds on grass like an ox." When I read the word for the first time in the biblical context, I did not pay much attention to it. I simply regarded it as a grass-eater animal, probably "like an ox".

However, while I was reading the Spanish version of PL VII:471, behemoth had been translated into elephant. Besides, there was an explanatory footnote stating that the word in question may have also applied to the hippo. This explanation caught my attention and decided to compare what other Bible versions say about it. This is what I have found out:

1. The New International Version´s footnote says:"Possibly the hippopotamus or the elephant."
2. The New American Standard Bible´s footnote says: "Or the hippopotamus."
3. The Amplified Bible includes into brackets the expression "Or the hippopotamus."
4. The new Living Translation´s footnote says: "The identification of Behemoth is disputed, ranging from an earthly creature to a mythical sea monster in ancient literature."
5. The English Standard version´s footnote says: "A large animal, exact identity unknown."
6. The Contemporary English version elaborates on the word and it says: "the hippopotamus: The Hebrew text has "Behemoth," which was sometimes understood to be a sea monster like Rahab (9.13; 26.12), Leviathan (3.8; 41.1), and Tannin (7.12).
7. Today´s New International Version says: "Possibly the hippopotamus or the elephant."

Most versions point at either the hippo or the elephant, but others refer to an unknown creature. Certainly, to translate behemoth is not an easy task: some may consider hippo as a good translation because of the dangerous nature of those almighty dangerous creatures. Some others may prefer the elephant because of the closeness to the reader. Some others may prefer to leave it untraslated and even some others may point at what the Gesenius Hebrew Lexicon says about it: "Perhaps an extinct dinosaur. A Diplodocus or Brachiosaurus, exact meaning unknown. Some translate as elephant or hippopotamus but from the description in Job 40:15-24, this is patently absurd."
Paradise Lost VII:467-474
by John Milton (1608-1678)
The Libbard, and the Tyger, as the Moale [467]
Rising, the crumbl'd Earth above them threw
In Hillocks; the swift Stag from under ground
Bore up his branching head: scarse from his mould
Behemoth biggest born of Earth upheav'd
His vastness: Fleec't the Flocks and bleating rose,
As Plants: ambiguous between Sea and Land
The River House and scalie Crocodile. [474]

8 September 2010

Inherently evil

Starting wih this entry, I will be posting ideas, comments or just simply a few words about whatever has attracted my attention after reading Paradise Lost (PL). The first time, I read it because I had to. However, this time I have read it for sheer pleasure.
I will try to post my ideas according to the order that appear in PL, just to make it easier to me and to whoever (if any) is out there reading this blog. If you wish to read PL online, you can find it here.
It is hard to believe that Rousseau was fully right when he said that man is naturally good, good by nature, but society corrupts. I do not know whether he was right or wrong. I suppose he meant that we are all good at first, but then our environment, the society we live in and other elements corrupt us and make us bad people, evil.
I have the feeling that Rousseau´s views on men were too good to be true, and somehow, a perfect way to blame others, to blame outside elements so that men can get away freely.
When I watch TV or read a newspaper and see what a person can do against others, I get sick: kiling people, rapings, kidnappings, cutting someones´s body into pieces, and the like are what we all watch everyday on TV. It is like a daily routine that we watch day after day as if nothing could be done. To say that wrongdoers were naturally good, but circumstances changed them is the perfect excuse to feel pity for them.
Certainly, the attitude of evil people, of wrongdoers whose life go around commiting crimes is very much like the attitude of the Devil replying to a fallen angel who followed Satan (and, by the way, the fallen angels were good at first). Milton put it into words like this:
Paradise Lost I:157-165
by John Milton (1608-1674)
Fall'n Cherube, to be weak is miserable (157)
Doing or Suffering: but of this be sure,
To do ought good never will be our task,
But ever to do ill our sole delight,
As being the contrary to his high will
Whom we resist. If then his Providence
Out of our evil seek to bring forth good,
Our labour must be to pervert that end,
And out of good still to find means of evil; (165)
Wrongdoing is their way not "to be weak" (157) and "to do ought good never will be [their] task" (158). Likewise, it seems to me that there are people in the world whose main aim is to be bad, evil and "to do ill [their] sole delight" (160). They "labor must be to pervert" (164).
The question that dawns on me is: are they paying for their evil actions?, will they ever pay?
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