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Reviews417 John Milton and tL· Transformation of Ancient Epic, by Charles Martindale; xi & 239 pp. Totowa, New Jersey: Barnes & Noble, 1986, $28.50. "It is a trudi that cannot be too often stated that style shaU not be considered in vacuo; style is not an absolute, it is relative to the job to be done" (p. 214). The author here is praising Lucan and MUton; equaUy could he praise himself. With a seldom-disguised directness he reads his texts in order to deal with a highly complex assignment: die reception of Homer, Virgil, Ovid, and Lucan into Paradise Lost and at times die text of one into another's. His comments deserve respect because he so obviously knows the languages he reads. His audience will discover few better examples of the invigorating, postmodernly ignored values of "common sense and judgement" (p. 20). Martindale makes diree major points in his book: MUton in Paradise Lost privileged Homer over Virgil; he confronted Ovid from the Renaissance perspective , that is, as a text that could be moral, aUegorical, rhetorical, or "amoral"; and he looked upon Lucan as a necessary forerunner to his own "epic ofideas." Martindale divides his book into five chapters: an introduction and four devoted severaUy to die major classical authors. Each of the later ones opens with an all-important discussion of the Renaissance reading of the ancient poet at hand before any specific examinations of how Milton incorporated his imitations or, better, "metaphrases" (pp. 41-47) into his epic. En passant the author provides some startlingly attractive, comparative readings: Horace's Pyrrha Ode and its translations by Fenshawe and Milton (pp. 42-47); Vulcan's Fall in Iliad 1.589— 94 and Paradise Lost 1.738-51 (pp. 72-74); Chapman's translation of Alcinous' garden in Odyssey 7.1 12ff and the bower of Eden in Paradise Lost 9.829—35 (pp. 83-85); Marlowe's Dido Queen ofCarthage (II1.1 . 1 12-26) and the Earl ofSurrey's translation oí Aeneid 2.1030-1068 (pp. 111-13); and Dryden's translation of Ovid's theoxenia at die hands ofPhUemon and Baucis in Metamorphoses VIII.61 Iff and at die hands of Eve in Paradise Lost 5.337-44 (pp. 184-88). Yet, Martindale's simple style can also deal widi major theoretical issues. Not only does he take some well-deserved swipes at New Criticism in the name of MUton, the "personal poet" (pp. 65-70), and against Lewis Martz's possibly anachronistic reading of die last two books of the MetamorpL·ses (pp. 156—57), he especiaUy and more to die point addresses die difficult issues of aUusion, imitation, and translation. He devotes his introduction to these topics; no student of MUton should ignore his words. Martindale realizes diat "aUusion" depends on a complex relationship among die designing writer, the competent reader, the historical context, and rhetorical tone (pp. 1-9). He reminds us diat Milton is, after aU, "recreating in English a manner of writing" (p. 10) and that we, as critics, are too often apt to confuse 418Philosophy and Literature "allusion and a commonplace" and assume "that an aUusion necessarily brings in its train die whole context of die original" (p. 13). (In the Renaissance it seldom did.) Although he tends to agree widi die intertextualists diat "imitation naturally encouraged the critic to set a passage of poetry against its source for careful comparison" (p. 18), in the end "diere is no magic key to MUton's practice" (p. 20). The author will, nonetheless, offer Dryden's term, "metaphrase ," to describe Milton's particular act of translation in which he "seeks to reproduce as much as possible of the word order and syntactic movement of die original" (p. 45). Here MUton senses "the radical differences between Latin and English verse . . . and . . . the value of not seeking to accommodate diem in bland syntiiesis" (p. 47). Once againjudgment and common sense confront die metaphors of theory and emerge the victor. Martindale's format excludes two relevant hexameter texts: Hesiod's T^gony and Apollonius ofRhodes'Argonautica. Hesiod is important in MUton's reception of the Greeks; Apollonius, in Virgil's and Lucan's. But this is a very...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 417-418
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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