Saturday, December 30, 2006

"something not said" by Milton...

Chapel of the Bargello Palace, Florence
Tempted by the intemptatas?
(Image from Wikipedia)

Long-time readers who have glanced at the past two entries will have noted that I appear to be on one of my academic perambulations through obscure regions of the Western tradition.

That is correct, but I don't know how far this walk will lead me. The Bitter Withy walk took several posts and never reached its aim.

My walks are rather like those hikes that Gerard Hoffnung used to take with his wife on rainy days, when they'd walk around the table in their dining room for hours and hours, have a picnic when they reached the right spot, then walk back. Once, he was halfway to their favorite spot when he realized that he'd forgotten the knapsack with their food, so he had to retrace his steps to get it. Of course, he could have just reached over and taken it off the nearby counter where he'd left it, but that wouldn't have been right, for Hoffnung was a man of integrity, so he traipsed back the way he'd come, he and his wife repeatedly encountering yet studiously ignoring each other since they were, in principle, soon several kilometers apart as he was going back while she was continuing on ahead.

Luther had his table talks, Hoffnung his table walks. Consider my intellectual perambulations as the academic equivalent of a Hoffnung table walk -- except that you're free to reach over for that forgotten knapsack.

Anyway ... to return to yesterday's stretch of my table walk on Milton's claim to have done "Things unattempted yet in Prose or Rhime" (PL 1.16), I want to pick up on a point that the biblical scholar Stephen C. Carlson commented upon. In my post, I had stated:

I don't see the strong connection between Spenser's line "Whose praises hauing [having] slept in silence long" and Ariosto's line "Cosa non detta in prosa mai né in rima," except as an ironic, understated manner of saying that a theme has never been broached, but even so, it only parallels in the very general sense of claiming originality and doesn't seem to me to warrant Cheney's reference to Spenser's line as a "translation" of Ariosto's.
Stephen made an observation on this point before adding some helpful information:
Sometimes "translates" means "paraphrases," but, even so, it would be a rather poor choice on Cheney's part in light of the term’s more usual meaning for the same context.

I would translate literally the Italian of cosa non detta in prosa mai né in rima as "something not said in prose ever or in rhyme." Milton's "unattempted" for detto instead of the more literal "said" is a nice touch, but it still falls in the realm of "translation" where Spenser's use of the topos more clearly does not.
To this, I responded:
Stephen, thanks for the literal translation.

On the issue of "unattempted," one of the Milton Listservers who wishes to remain anonymous has helped out:

In treating the many topics typical in the Exordium, Curtius** first treats the topos "I bring things never said before," which "appears even in ancient Greece." Curtius cites Choerilus. He then cites passages in: Virgil, Horace, Manilus, the poet of the Aetne, Statius. And Dante, who could "rightly" say that "in his _Monarchia_ he wished to present truths which others had not yet attempted ("intemptatas ab aliis ostendere veritates": I, 1, 3)." And in the _Paradiso_ (II, 7): "L'acqua ch'io prendo già mai non si corse."

So, Jeffery, Fowler's ref. to Curtius page 85, mentioned in your gypsy text, helps with "things unattempted yet."

**European Lit. and the Latin Middle Ages

Looks to me as though Milton might have altered Ariosto by way of Dante.
Curious about this Dante allusion in Milton's line about attempting "Things unattempted yet in Prose or Rhime," I Googled and found this online citation of a page from Dante's Monarchia:
[3] Hec igitur sepe mecum recogitans, ne de infossi talenti culpa quandoque redarguar, publice utilitati non modo turgescere, quinymo fructificare desidero, et intemptatas ab aliis ostendere veritates.

[3] Thinking often about these things, lest some day I be accused of burying my talent, I wish not just to put forth buds but to bear fruit for the benefit of all, and to reveal truths that have not been attempted by others.
Dante's entire Monarchia is available at Dante Alighieri on the Web, but it lacks any accompanying English translation.

Just out of curiosity -- a 'vice' much criticized by St. Augustine and subsequently put on trial -- since Dante and Milton both thought and wrote about the consequences of humanity's original sin, and thus about the original temptation concerning fruit, I wonder if they might not have been punning a little on "tempted" in referring to things previously unattempted/intemptatas...


At 3:51 PM, Blogger Stephen C. Carlson said...

Thanks for pointing out the beginning to Dante's Monarchia. I had not read it before, and it is truly a gem.

At 4:21 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

You're quite welcome, Stephen.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 10:52 PM, Blogger CrescentMan said...

Hoffnung: I thought it was his pipe he ad to go back for?

At 5:09 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

CrescentMan, you may be right. I'm relying on my memory, and I know from experience how faulty that is!

Jeffery Hodges

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