The Alan Sondheim Mail Archive


From the Index of Similes

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Adam and Eve, after their fall, compared to the Americans, as
first seen by Columbus & Their repentance to Deucalion and
Pyrrha's address to restore human race after their flood, & Then
Adam caressing Eve to Jupiter with Juno (May-Flowers) & His
address to her sleeping to Zephyrus breathing on Flora & His
bower to Pomona's arbour & Desires to know the story of the
creation, prior to his own, to thirst unalloy'd increasing &
Awak'd after carnal fruition, the first effect of his fall, to
Sampson shorn by Dalilah & his sorrow on the vision of Noah's
flood, to a father's mourning his children all destroy'd in his
view at once &&

Angels coelestial, the spears (of the guardians of Paradise) to
ears of corn ripe for reaping & Their march against Satan's
army, to that of the birds in Paradise to receive their names
from Adam & Their hallelujahs to the sound of seas &&

Chaos, Atoms, their motion, to the Libyan quicksands & Confusion
there, to forming a town, to heaven and earth (suppos'd) falling
&&

Death, and Sin, their making a bridge over Chaos to the world,
to polar winds, driving the ice together in the (suppos'd)
north-east passage & The work to Neptune's fixing the Isle of
Delos & to Xerxes making a bridge over the Hellespont &&

Death's instinct of Adam's fall to the flight of birds of prey
to a field of battle & His and Satan's frowns on each other to
two thunder-clouds meeting &&

Eve, her hair to the wine's tendrils & Her looks to the first
blush of morning & Her self to Pandora, To a wood-nymph or
Venus & To a Dryad, or Delia, (Diana), & To Pales or Pomona, &
To Ceres, & Her Temptation by Satan (alluded to by the story of
Ophion and Eurynome) &&

Raphael, his view of the world in his descent from heaven to
paradise, to that of the moon through an optick glass &&

Satan, First view of the world, to a scout's casual prospect
(after a dangerous journey) of a new country or city, &
Appearance in the sun's orb, to a spot in it differing from all
astronomical observations, & Meditation on his intended attempt
on the world, to a gun recoiling & His army against the
coelestials in number -- to the stars, To the dew-drops, &
Himself recoiling on a blow receiv'd from Michael, to a mountain
sinking by an earthquake & His combat with Michael to two
planets (the frame of nature, suppos'd, dissolv'd) rushing in
opposition to each other & View (in the serpent) of Paradise and
Eve there, to a citizen's taking the air in the country from his
home-confinement &&

Sin, her middle parts, to the (suppos'd) Dogs of Scylla, Of the
night-hag &&

Waters, their flux into seas & on the creation to drops on dust
&&

-- from the Index of Similes to Paradise Lost, A Poem in Twelve
Books, John Milton, The Author, London, Printed for a Company of
Stationers, 1739 (includes Addison's commentary in the
Spectator).

Comment -

So that the description moves from the equivalence of simile to
a flat lid and doesn't survive. Satan dries, flakes, dissolves,
without the attendant mathematics, but with the thought. Smile
for the a minute; the smile's off.

To tear or torn there's no daily there; saying wait a minute the
simile's off, almost a smile. So that rather the link is
loosened. Let us argue for the simile, similitude, smile or
worse, and who knows the difference? The state of things - as if
the real were within the simile's uncanny smile into absence.

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