August 20: Malt vs. Milton -- The Blow-by-Blow


The Distilled Dynamo vs. The Puritan Assassin

I don't remember anything about reading "Paradise Lost" except the doggerel, "Malt does more than Milton can/To justify God's ways to man." Well, in honor of today's Paradise Lost excerpt, I think it's time to let the two of them face off in a Justification Debate. That's right -- two comforts against our cruel and implacable fate enter, one comfort leaves! Let's get right to the head-to-head.

(Note: the part of "malt" will be played by a bottle of single-malt whiskey.)

Milton's attacks his opponent early with his vivid description of the hangover:
O Sun, to tell thee how I hate thy beams,
That bring to my remembrance from what state
I fell, how glorious once above thy sphere, ...
Which way I fly is Hell; myself am Hell;
And, in the lowest deep, a lower deep
Still threatening to devour me opens wide,
To which the Hell I suffer seems a Heaven.
Malt strikes back, however, with a peaty nose and notes of caramel. Although it's early, malt also recommends drinking plenty of water. Has Milton a similar remedy against his defects? What but Malt (or his sister pollutant, Caffeine), could get you through this sentence:
But rather to tell how, if Art could tell
How, from that sapphire fount the crisped brooks,
Rowling on orient pearl and sands of gold,
With mazy error under pendant shades
Ran nectar, visiting each plant, and fed
Flowers worthy of Paradise, which not nice Art
In beds and curious knots, but Nature boon
Poured forth profuse on hill, and dale, and plain,
Both where the morning sun first warmly smote
The open field, and where the unpierced shade
Imbrowned the noontide bowers.
Milton asks if we can get serious for a second and consider the terrible ways of human nature as embodied in our friend Satan. He is a selfish little guy:
The debt immense of endless gratitude,
So burthensome, still paying, still to owe;
Who, however, gets an A in geopolitics, since he believes that continuing on a suicidal course is preferable to looking weak in the eyes of others:
...Is there no place
Left for repentence, none for pardon left?
None left but by submission; and that word
Disdain forbids me, and my dread of shame
Among the Spirits beneath...
Malt, on its second round, asks who Milton is calling selfish. And then, its voice rising, Malt asks what the hell kind of God does such slipshod work on its one top-secret Project:
...Which when the Arch-Felon saw,
Due entrance he disdained, and, in contempt,
At one slight bound high overleaped all bound
Of hill or highest wall, and sheer within
Lights on his feet. ... as a thief, bent to unhoard the cash
Of some rich burgher, whose substantial doors,
Cross-barred and bolted fast, fear no assault,
In at the window climbs, or o’er the tiles...
What kind of God is like a rich businessman who doesn't know enough to put a security system in the windows? And why does God prefer blondes:
She, as a veil down to the slender waist,
Her unadornèd golden tresses wore
Dishevelled, but in wanton ringlets waved
As the vine curls her tendrils—which implied
Subjection, but required with gentle sway,
And by her yielded, by him best received—
Yielded, with coy submission, modest pride,
And sweet, reluctant, amorous delay.
God also doesn't seem to be convinced that No means No. However, Malt, who's talking up the redhead at the bar he's had his eye on throughout much of the debate, shouts over a "You got that right," to a glowering look from what could be the redhead's boyfriend. Milton, plowing ahead alone, points out that, as a species, we're merely caught in the crossfire, re in the wrong place at the wrong time:
...Hell shall unfold,
To entertain you two, her widest gates,
And send forth all her kings...if no better place,
Thank him who puts me, loath, to this revenge
On you, who wrong me not, for him who wronged.
No response from Malt, however, who is currently being stabbed by the redhead's boyfriend with a dart. Milton sighs and decides he'll only confine himself to church basements from here on out.

1 comments:

usqaebae said...

fwiw, the line "malt does more than Milton can / to justify God's ways to man" comes from the poem 'Terence, this is stupid stuff' by Alfred Edward (A. E.) Housman.