Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Terrance Lindall: Milton's Satan 'inspiring' the Serpent . . .

The surrealist artist Terrance Lindall has sent me a couple more images of artworks -- along with commentary, also posted below -- from his 1979 series on Paradise Lost, these two depicting upon the moment in which Satan takes possession of the serpent (PL 9.179-191):

In all of the illustrators of Paradise Lost I never saw [even] one illustration where the devil is actually entering the serpent. They show Satan staring at the Serpent. So my idea was to show Satan actually entering the serpent as a black mist. Here are two versions. The drawing [above] is like a man opening the mouth of a crocodile and sticking his head in. The painting below that is in the collection of Denise Tuite ( I sold her PL works early in the 1980s -- the ones I did not intend to publish). I may actually redo this one for the YN Collection [i.e., the Yuko Nii Collection], maybe the others too. Another project before I die. [The Milton expert] Prof. John Geraghty owns the complete slide set of my original paintings for PL that he acquired at auction recently. T[errance].

The difference between the two images is intriguing, the drawing of the serpent appearing more dragon-like and also awake, as if already 'nocent' and remade in Satan's image despite Milton's description. In the painting, however, Lindall has kept somewhat more closely to the wording of Paradise Lost, for though the serpent is stretched out at length rather than "self-rowld," it is not yet awakened to sin, but sleepeth. In case anyone is curious, here is the passage in Milton's epic poem, PL 9.179-191, in which Satan determines upon entering the serpent, after first having lamented the necessity of lowering himself:
So saying, through each Thicket Danck or Drie,
Like a black mist low creeping, he held on [ 180 ]
His midnight search, where soonest he might finde
The Serpent: him fast sleeping soon he found
In Labyrinth of many a round self-rowld,
His head the midst, well stor'd with suttle wiles:
Not yet in horrid Shade or dismal Den, [ 185 ]
Nor nocent yet, but on the grassie Herbe
Fearless unfeard he slept: in at his Mouth
The Devil enterd, and his brutal sense,
In heart or head, possessing soon inspir'd
With act intelligential; but his sleep [ 190 ]
Disturbd not, waiting close th' approach of Morn.
[Thomas H. Luxon, ed. The Milton Reading Room, January 2012.]
My blog is privileged to have this apparently unique rendering of an illustration showing Satan in the act of possessing the serpent, a depiction -- in Lindall's experience as illustrator and Milton expert -- never before rendered by previous illustrators of Paradise Lost.

But if any reader knows of other such images, please let us know.

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At 3:57 AM, Blogger Kevin Kim said...

Fascinating. I've done Dante's Inferno, like any high schooler, but never Milton, whom I know mainly through the famous Star Trek reference, when Khan asks Kirk whether Kirk has ever read any Milton. Your blog posts and Mr. Lindall's artwork have been my entrée into the world of Paradise Lost.

At 4:01 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

You'll come to love Milton for the power and beauty of his language -- and he tells a good tale.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 6:22 AM, Blogger dhr said...

... and Terrance, in his turn, inspired me.


At 6:24 AM, Blogger dhr said...

I've done Dante's Inferno, like any high schooler

The problem is that Dante wrote two more Parts of his poem, and its meaning cannot be grasped from Inferno only. This is becoming a problem in Italian culture also.

At 7:20 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Dario, you make Terrance out to be adversarial . . .

Jeffery Hodges

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At 7:22 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

As for our Modern focus solely on Dante's Inferno, that was foreordained as punishment for our secular preoccupation . . .

Jeffery Hodges

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At 12:20 PM, Blogger Kevin Kim said...


I agree: it'd be better to read Inferno in context, but US high schools rarely teach Purgatorio and Paradiso. When I was a teenager, I heard rumors (from older students, not teachers) that these two works were "booooorrrrrring," but now that I'm older, I might want to give them a shot.

At 2:37 PM, Blogger Carter Kaplan said...

Nice post. Thanks.

At 2:59 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

You're welcome.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 3:13 PM, Blogger dhr said...


well, er, the 'charge' of bore is widespread here too... but adult scholars should find Part II and III very interesting.

"Purgatorio" is Dante's very "Paradise Lost": the seat of purgatory being the same mountain and forest in which Milton's poem is set. Here Dante sees THE Serpent, THE Tree, etc., and views the whole of human history.

"Paradiso" is great science fiction, literally: a flight through the whole universe, with fascinating theories (*) on its origin and laws.

(*) late-Medieval ones, but much more than that. In a lecture at the Dante Alighieri Society, of which I am a member, I even 'showed' that the final seat of blessed souls is a hologram. Etc.

At 3:49 AM, Anonymous Bienvenido Bones Banez jr. said...

The Superstar Satan's the true Genius! that serpents Adam and Eve's first son Cain is an example of one of the serpent's offspring; The SEED of the Serpent throughout the centuries consisted of those who had the spirit of the Devil-Revolution, and the 666 Art World was speaking to an intelligent-Nation and genius individual, the ''father,'' then, of the seed of the serpent would be, not a literal animal serpent, but an Angelic, Spirit ''father,'' SATAN the DEVIL!

WAH Center-NewYork

At 3:57 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

"Bones" speaks as another excellent surrealist artist -- electrifying, as Terrance noted.

Jeffery Hodges

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