Well, I'll be damned, here comes your ghost again . . .
Milton's, I mean.
But how the hell did I ever miss Jessica Martin's "John Milton, part 1: a puzzling epic of heaven and hell" (Guardian, November 28, 2011) and seven subsequent parts? Here's a passage to sample, a passage in which Martin wonders what Milton was up to in his poem, and she's not the only one:
Marvell was one of the first to express . . . in print [unease at what Milton was up to]; he was certainly not the last. We find versions of it all over the reception of Milton's poem. In the responses, for example, of Blake, or Shelley, who saw in Milton an unconscious defence of Satan; in the hostile reaction of William Empson to Milton's depiction of God; in the lively deliberate humanist borrowing of Philip Pullman. All these, and many more, see in Paradise Lost a vast, trickily hybrid production which does something other than it says on the tin. They don't all see the problem to lie in the same place, and most of them conclude that Milton was doing the world some sort of service anyway. But that Milton's eye was (at least) double they agree. Frequently they decide that Milton failed - but only just - to write into the poem the explicit critique of its theodicy which they personally held and would now go on to explain better. Poets themselves for the most part, they nevertheless betray from time to time the wishful hint that if Milton had stuck to the "cool element" of prose his theological position would have been a bit easier to nail.Maybe I follow along and see if she nails Milton. We'll find some diamonds along the way, but hopefully no rust . . .