Tuesday, April 02, 2019

MacLeish vs.Milton: The Final Conclusion?

Arch MacLeish Eyeing
Milton's Influence

I've had some time to think about whether Milton or MacLeish is the stronger poet (as if we didn't already know):
In MacLeish's two roles – as a major poet and a major public figure – he was much like Milton, for both felt the ambiguity of calling and of duty. In the details, however, emerge differences, such as Milton justifying the ways of God to mankind and MacLeish saying that such justification cannot be accomplished. Milton set himself the harder task, actually justifying God's actions down to the nitty-gritty details, but one cannot say that he succeeds (therefore leaving us with a genuine, if failed, theodicy). However, neither does MacLeish succeed with his atheist's logical conundrum, that God is either God and not good or good and not God, for we are not epistemologically positioned to know the answer (leaving us still with the possibility of God, even if only a mere logical possibility). Perhaps more interesting is the lack of symmetry between creation (Milton) and uncreation (MacLeish). Milton describes creation as a process by which the Spirit of God broods upon the pre-existing, unformed, empty materials of chaos. MacLeish, though, implies creation from absolute nothing because he presents an uncreation that results in "nothing at all." And to present the creatio of his poem "The End of the World" as still more original than Milton's creatio, he does not breathe even a whisper of a sigh that Milton might have influenced him in any way in that poem – even though the influence is obvious – and this reluctance to acknowledge Milton's influence reveals MacLeish as the weaker poet. Moreover, is this lack of symmetry really so distinct in its difference? Do the pre-existing, unformed, empty materials of chaos have any actual existence? Or is Milton's God brooding over abstract concepts that exist only in his mind? Thus do the possible answers, like Milton and MacLeish themselves, swerve around and around on powerful wings spread wide from beginning to end in the awful vastness of chaos.
Now, having read my concluding paragraph, which poet would would you say I have called stronger, Milton or MacLeish? An easy question . . .

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At 4:20 AM, Blogger Kevin Kim said...

Oh, forsooth. I know where your loyalties lie because I've followed your blog for years.

At 10:13 AM, Blogger Carter Kaplan said...

I think this is very good!

More later...

At 10:59 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Are you saying my loyalties lie?

Jeffery Hodges

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At 11:01 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Me too, Carter!

Jeffery Hodges

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