Tag Archive: Milton a Poem


Milton and Satan, tragic heroes

In considering how Milton in William Blake’s Milton a Poem is like or unlike Satan, I first contemplate how to define the Satan figure that we are discussing. My first assumption is to compare Milton to his own Satan in Paradise Lost, but I quickly question this narrow interpretation. In my mind, there are at least three potential Satans to compare Milton to, a Christian Satan and some Blakian Satan. I will deal with this final version of Satan separately. Both Milton’s Satan and Satan in Christianity are fallen angels and thus I find the character of Milton in that he returns to Earth from Heaven. I also found Blake’s characterization of Milton similar to Milton’s characterization of Satan, detailed, confusing, and odd. Like Milton’s Satan, Blake’s Milton is complex and multidimensional. Milton is “synister” as he enters Blake through his left food, but simultaneously includes a redeemable qualities. Likewise, Milton’s Satan possesses humanizing characteristics that make him incredibly accessible to readers. I would argue that both are heroes of their respective works.  I am interested in exploring what a Blakian Satan would encompass. I find the Blakian Satan similar to the characters of Milton and Satan in that I imagine he would be equally complex. Moreover, all three have include contraries that exist simultaneously.

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Self-Annihilation

For next Wednesday (11/6), answer ONE of the two optional question prompts:

1. Why does Milton need to “go down to self-annihilation and eternal death” (Plate 15, ln. 22; p. 162)? hint: take a peak at the accompanying illustration/text images in the Blake Archive.

 

2. How is Milton like (or unlike) Satan?

 

Please categorize under “The Last Judgment” and don’t forget to create interesting tags.

Milton and Male Dominance

In book 2, plate 48-49, lns. 35-39, 1-15 (p. 202-203), does Ololon’s recognition of herself and Milton as “Contraries” result in her self-annihilation? If so, explain how her self-annihilation is similar to or different from Milton’s.

The Blake dictionary, of course, has a great section on Ololon that will help answer the question of whether or not she self-annihilates, and if she does, in fact, self-annihilate, how it will compare to that of Milton’s. According to the text, Milton A Poem is the only work of Blake’s in which she appears. This makes sense, because she unwittingly symbolizes the “truth underlying [Milton’s] errors about women.”

As we have been able to glean from the introduction and footnotes of our edition of Milton, the popular British poet had his fair share of difficulties with the ladies. The Blake dictionary describes Milton’s relationship with women thus:

“Milton had never discovered Ololon—had never really understood the other sex. His honeymoon difficulties with his first wife had inspired his great tome on divorce; he loved his second wife at least to the extent of a great sonnet; his third wife was merely a housekeeper. It is well known how his three daughters mistreated their great father” (307).

His three wives plus the three daughters are Milton’s “Sixfold Emanation”, emanation being to Blake the “feminine portion, or ‘counterpart,’ of the fundamentally bisexual male” according to the Blake dictionary. Milton’s emanation was lost in his poor relationships with the women closest to him throughout his corporeal existence. Milton is the story of his return to earth to reclaim his lost emanation in the annihilation of his unfulfilled mortal self.

But in a close reading of the text, we will find that Ololon, too, self-annihilates, though in a manner far different from Milton. She begins the final movement towards her moment of annihilation with a short lament over the lackluster self-annihilation undergone by Milton, citing his horrible treatment of women: “Is this our Feminine Portion, the Six-fold Miltonic Female?/ Terribly this Portion trembles before thee O awful Man” (30-31) Eventually, Ololon divides into six parts and flees into the depths of Milton’s Shadow. This is her annihilation, which curiously brings her to be a part of Milton, the very figure whose shortcomings she happens to incarnate.

Ultimately, Milton’s self-annihilation fails to change the errors of his corporeal existence in his return to Earth. Ololon, as the voice of feminine criticism, shows in her own self-annihilation the dominance Milton maintains over her. The flight into “Milton’s Shadow” is likened to “a Dove upon the stormy Sea”(pl. 49 ln. 6). Here, Blake demonstrates the spiritual turmoil in which Milton remains after his failed self-annihilation.

I’m not sure how to figure Ololon’s self-recognition as Milton’s contrary into my reading, so if anyone can help me, I’d appreciate the insight.