Saturday, October 17, 2020

Time on th' acrostic . . .

I read another great essay, "This Side of Paradise" (Notre Dame Magazine, Autumn 2020), which is described as an "uplifting saga of . . . one young man's quest to reveal John Milton's secret code" in Paradise Lost. The young man in quest of an answer to his question of acrostics in Milton's epic poem, Miles Folsom, tells us this:

In class we learned that John Milton hid the acrostic SATAN in his epic poem Paradise Lost. The poem recounts a heavenly battle between angels that results in the fall of man when the defeated Satan convinces Eve to eat from the forbidden tree. After class, I went straight back to the dorm and sat next to my bed. I intended to search the work for other acrostics — letters across lines of the poem that spell out a word or a phrase. With a ruler in one hand and Paradise Lost in the other, I dove in. I was dumbstruck when, 38 lines in, I discovered the acrostic THOTH alongside the first mention of Satan. I dropped the ruler and leaned back against my bunk in disbelief. Could it really be that easy? Scholars have been studying this poem for 350 years. Did I just discover something?

Note that this young man's dorm room was a prison cell, and he had entered prison at 16 for dealing in drugs and related crimes, but had turned away from all that and reformed himself. What he wanted most at this point was an education. He was about to get one.

Once again, I urge you to read a long essay. This young man, Miles Folsom, has the tenacity that we also saw in Tom Blodgett.


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