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Milton on Cicero

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Milton on Cicero

Postby thesaurus » Sun Apr 25, 2010 2:46 am

I'm currently writing an article on Milton's Latin prose defenses of the English Commonwealth during the Civil Wars. I'm concerned with his use of invective and humanist rhetoric in his response ("Pro Populo Anglicano Defensio") to the renowned French humanist scholar Claudius Salmasius's tract, "Defensio Regia Pro Carolo I." (If anyone can recommend any books--primary or secondary--on humanist rhetoric and Latin, I would be very grateful!)

In one of his Defenses, Milton refers to classical authors to defend his own use of invective:
Tuque frustra Marcum Tullium inclamas; qui si “in aureo” illo quem citas, “de Officiis libro,” illud jocandi genus elegans, urbanum, ingeniosum, facetum arbitratur, quo genere non modò Plautus et Atticorum antiqua comoedia, sed etiam philosophorum Socraticorum libri referti sunt, id quod illic legisse poteras, non ille mihi quidem nimis angustos, non nimis severos decori statuisse fines videtur, ut cuiquam difficile sit intra eos fines sese continere; nedum ut ego me non continuerim.

[http://books.google.com/books?id=G-ewXjmqXDQC&pg=PA743&dq=%22nuda+atque+exerta+cum+indignatione+prolata%22&cd=1#v=onepage&q=illud%20jocandi%20genus%20elegans&f=false]

I translate as, "In vain you call upon Marcus Tullius, who if he in that "golden book On Duties," which you cite, treats of that elegant, urbane, ingenious, pleasant kind of jesting (with which style not only Plautus and the ancient comedies of the Attics, but even the books of the Socratic philosophers are full, that which you would have been able to read in that place), he [Cicero] certainly does not seem to have imposed overly stark limits on decorum, so that it is difficult for anyone to contain himself within those limits; still less that I could not contain myself within them."

It might just be Milton being Milton, but I'm having a hard time understanding his point at the end of this sentence. I'm foggy on the last phrase, in particular. How does he view Cicero's opinion, especially in relation to himself? And what exactly is this "jocandi genus elegans, urbanum, ingeniosum, facetum"?

I'll assuredly post more of Milton's sentences here; he's a phenomenal Latinist, but I find his phrasing to be very obscure at times.
Horae quidem cedunt et dies et menses et anni, nec praeteritum tempus umquam revertitur nec quid sequatur sciri potest. Quod cuique temporis ad vivendum datur, eo debet esse contentus. --Cicero, De Senectute
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Re: Milton on Cicero

Postby paulusnb » Sun Apr 25, 2010 5:21 am

Maybe I am walking into a trap..... But it simply seems that Milton is saying that since Cicero did not limit a witty, urbane, or even decadent style, Milton is justified in using that style. In other words, Cicero found it fair game, and so does Milton. Am I missing something, carissime thesaure?
When a true genius appears, you can know him by this sign: that all the dunces are in a confederacy against him. ~Swift
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Re: Milton on Cicero

Postby adrianus » Sun Apr 25, 2010 10:43 am

Salve thesaure
non ille mihi quidem nimis angustos, non nimis severos decori statuisse fines videtur, ut cuiquam difficile sit intra eos fines sese continere; nedum ut ego me non continuerim.

he seems, to me at least, not to have put particularly narrow, particularly strict limits on what is proper, to the extent that it would be hard for someone to keep within them; it goes without saying that I should not.
I'm writing in Latin hoping for correction, and not because I'm confident in how I express myself. Latinè scribo ut ab omnibus corrigar, non quod confidenter me exprimam.
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Re: Milton on Cicero

Postby thesaurus » Sun Apr 25, 2010 5:42 pm

Thank you, both. Its meaning is much clearer now.
Gratias vobis. Quid significet iam video.
Horae quidem cedunt et dies et menses et anni, nec praeteritum tempus umquam revertitur nec quid sequatur sciri potest. Quod cuique temporis ad vivendum datur, eo debet esse contentus. --Cicero, De Senectute
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