30 October 2010

O shame to men!

A couple of weeks ago I read on the Internet that several suspicious packages were found on planes heading for the USA. Almost every single day I hear about civilians who lose their lives in Afghanistan and Iraq. I hear the same kind of news everyday. I have just had a quick look at some of today´s most popular neswpapers and I do not like what I have just read. The news all over the world is very disappointing.

People kill people in the name of God. The North fights against the South. The South against the North. The East against the West. The West against the East. I am tired of all this. When all this hatred will end?, Will humans ever be able to live in peace someday?, Will religion ever be able to bring peace to the world?

The worst of it all is that it has always been like this. Since the beginning of times people have been fighting and killing others for a a great variaty of reasons. The list of reasons is endless: money, property, love, hate, jealousy, political reasons, religious reasons...

Four hundred years ago, Milton described very vividly in his Paradise Lost how empty and purposeless life is that of those politicians, religious leaders, financial sharks and individuals alike who enjoy causing pain to others. Using Milton´s words, shame on those who do not care about others and say in their hearts: "Havock and spoil and ruin are my gain!" [ PL II: 1009 ]

PL II: 496-507

O shame to men! Devil with Devil damn'd [ 496 ]
Firm concord holds, men onely disagree
Of Creatures rational, though under hope
Of heavenly Grace; and God proclaiming peace,
Yet live in hatred, enmity, and strife [ 500 ]
Among themselves, and levie cruel warres,
Wasting the Earth, each other to destroy:
As if (which might induce us to accord)
Man had not hellish foes anow besides,
That day and night for his destruction waite. [ 505 ]

23 October 2010

Devilish doubtful consultations

After Belial´s speech, it is Mammon´s turn. He is sure that the only way to recover their heavenly position is by “peaceful counsels, and the settle state of order […] dismissing quite all thought of war” (II:278-282). He believes that there is no point in serving someone who imposes “strict rules” (II:241) to his followers. As he added a bit later on: “how wearisome eternity so spent in worship paid to whom we hate” (II:247-248).

After Mammon´s words, Beelzebub stands up and elaborates on the idea of hurting God through causing evil to God´s latest creation, a “new race called Man” (II:348). Beezebub suggests that they should find out where those human creatures are, “of what mold or substance” (II:355-356) they have been made, and “where their weaknesses are” (II: 357). If they managed to get the answer to those questions, they would certainly cause God deep pain because this “new race called Man” would stand against God himself. He finishes his speech raising the question of who should be sent to search for this “new race”.

At this point, Satan, “whom transcendent glory raised above his fellows” (II:427-428), spoke up and made clear that he was the only one who could succeed in such a difficult task. Moreover, he highlighted the fact that “none shall partake with [him]” (II: 466), thus, making clear to the others that he would be the only one to go and search for the human creatures. Right after uttering his last word, “rose the Monarch and prevented all reply” (II:466-467) from other devilish chiefs.

Once these “doubtful consultations” (II: 486) among God´s enemies ended, it occurred as if “the radiant sun extend[ed] his evening beam [and] the fields revive[d]” (II: 493). God´s foes were happy to have a common objective: to find Man and to put him against God.

Paradise Lost II:492-495

[…]the radiant Sun with farewell sweet
Extend his ev'ning beam, the fields revive,
The birds thir notes renew, and bleating herds
Attest thir joy, that hill and valley rings. [ 495 ]

(Claude Monet, Impression, soleil levant, 1872)

16 October 2010

Belial-like politicians

I concluded my previous entry with the Devil asking for advice to his devilish followers. He ended up his speech with the words: “…who can advice, may speak” (II: 40).

Suddenly, Moloc, who Milton describes as “the fiercest spirit that fought in Heaven”, (II: 44-45) stands up and delivers a long speech advocating for “open war” (II: 51) against God and his heavenly forces. After Moloc, Belial comes next. Milton describes him as someone who seemed “graceful and humane”, “a fairer person” (II: 9-10) but “all was false and hollow” (II: 112) in him.

Belial´s description reminds me of all those politicians who promise things endlessly in an attempt to win our valuable vote, but once they are in power, they simply forget about their voters. They give us their best smile in a graceful and humane way as if they understood our needs, as if they were close to us. However, the simple truth is that all in them is “false and hollow”, just like in Belial.

Most of them, if not all, have the ability of the gab. They can easily choose beautiful and sweet words, just like the “manna” (II: 113) that came down from Heaven and produce a long list of reasons to “make the worst appear, the better reason” (II: 113-114) in order to back up their actions, whatever they are. Their main goal is certainly “to perplex” (II: 114) us with their complicated and never ending laws that are understood only by very few people.

It seems to me that most politicians, as well as Belial, are finely described as creatures who “to nobler deeds [are] timorous and slothful: yet [they] pleased the ear” (II: 116) with their “persuasive accent” (II: 118).

Paradise Lost II: 113-118

Belial in act more graceful and humane; [ 109 ]
A fairer person lost not Heav'n; he seemd
For dignity compos'd and high exploit:
But all was false and hollow; though his Tongue
Dropt manna, and could make the worse appear
The better reason, to perplex and dash
Maturest Counsels: for his thoughts were low;
To vice industrious, but to Nobler deeds
Timorous and slothful: yet he pleas'd the ear,
And with perswasive accent thus began.
[ 118 ]

9 October 2010

He who can advice, may speak

Right at the very beginning of Paradise Lost, Book II, a devilish debate takes place. Satan the Devil takes the lead and, in a rather longish speech, he debates whether another battle to recover the Heaven might be a good idea or not. The Devil believes to be in the right position to address his speech to the rest of the devilish creatures because he is their leader, and in such a position, he has the right to talk to them. Using the Devil´s words, “me thought just right and the fixed laws of Heaven / Did first create your leader” (II:18-20).

Being their leader seems to be enough for the Devil to speak to the other fallen angels about the advisability to fight once more against God´s celestial creatures or not. Yet, he does not seem to know what is more convenient and calls for help. The Devil asks the other angels for support in an attempt to decide whether an open war or a covert guile might be the right strategy to fight against God´s forces. However, before any fallen angel utters a word, the Devil warns that only those “who can advise, may speak” (II:42). So, apparently not all were allowed to talk. Only those who had something important and serious to say, those whose argumentative line was logical enough to be followed had the right to talk in front of the rest.

Milton used a similar concept in his Areopagitica, the political tract he wrote in 1644 in an attempt to stop the Licensing Order, i.e. the censorship measures that parliament had established a year earlier that obliged authors to hand in their works to the local authorities before publication. In this context, Milton´s Areopagitica starts with a poem taken from Euripides entitled The Suppliants II: 438-441, where we read that “This is true Liberty when free born men / Having to advice the public may speak free”. Again, not all citizens are encouraged to address to the public; only those “having to advice to the public may speak free”.

In both works (PL and Areopagitica), Milton highlights the importance of speaking to great audiences only when the speaker has a good piece of advice to share with them. In other words, empty words are useless as opposed to an enriching piece of advice (even in the case of Moloc, the fallen angel who spoke after the Devil) that can add something new to what has already been said.

Paradise Lost II: 38-42

To claim our just inheritance of old, [38]
Surer to prosper then prosperity
Could have assur'd us; and by what best way,
Whether of open Warr or covert guile,
We now debate; who can advise, may speak. [42]

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