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His Dark Materials - The Ex-Communicator

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December 23rd, 2008

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09:18 pm - His Dark Materials
I turned on Radio 3 in the car yesterday and Anton Lesser was reading Paradise Lost. It was brilliant. I've never been able to get into Paradise Lost. But it was much easier to follow read out than on the page. I like Anton Lesser. His delivery isn't big and sonorous, but mild and gentle. The whole thing just flows in a lovely accessible style. Anyway, I was worrying that I wouldn't be able to catch the other episodes, but I found it's available from audible, so I just downloaded it as one of my monthly freebies - 11 hours in all.

The main thing I know about Milton is what Blake wrote.

The reason Milton wrote in fetters when he wrote of Angels & God, and at liberty when of Devils & Hell, is because he was a true Poet, and of the Devil's party without knowing it.

I thought this might be some subtle tendency, which Blake was clever enough to detect, but in fact it's completely blatant. Satan comes across as an heroic character, with brilliant speeches. As Raymond Chandler said in another context, it's enough to make a bishop kick a hole in a stained glass window.

What though the field be lost?
All is not lost; the unconquerable Will,
And study of revenge, immortal hate,
And courage never to submit or yield:
And what is else not to be overcome?
Hail horrours, hail
Infernal world, and thou profoundest Hell
Receive thy new Possessor: One who brings
A mind not to be chang'd by Place or Time.
The mind is its own place, and in it self
Can make a Heav'n of Hell, a Hell of Heav'n.
What matter where, if I be still the same,
And what I should be, all but less then he
Whom Thunder hath made greater?
Here at least
We shall be free.

Talk about wrong but wromantic! It may not come across in a short extract like this, but the whole thing is great.

(7 comments | Leave a comment)


[User Picture]
Date:December 23rd, 2008 11:13 pm (UTC)
THat definitely sounds like something I'd like to listen to.
[User Picture]
Date:December 24th, 2008 12:41 am (UTC)
I looked for a link on the BBC site, but it's not available on listen again at the moment, which is a shame.
[User Picture]
Date:December 23rd, 2008 11:15 pm (UTC)
Oh yes, Satan definitely gets the best lines.

One of my A level English teachers said that Milton had to be read out loud, and that it helped even more if wasn't merely read but declaimed. I found this to be true.
[User Picture]
Date:December 24th, 2008 12:43 am (UTC)
Lesser speaks fairly softly for the most part, but makes it sound like ringing oratory. Not sure how he manages it.
[User Picture]
Date:December 24th, 2008 07:37 am (UTC)
The main thing I know about Milton is what Blake wrote.

The other thing being what Houseman wrote, that "malt does more than Milton can/To justify God's ways to man"?

[User Picture]
Date:December 24th, 2008 11:59 am (UTC)
I will be contrasting the two approaches over the holidays.
[User Picture]
Date:December 24th, 2008 12:44 pm (UTC)
I daresay it depends on which malt - it might be neceesary to sample several, in the interests of lit crit.

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