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Wednesday, November 01, 2006

 
Milton on Books
I'm currently reading a book (which I'll talk more about later, I'm sure) that quotes extensively from John Milton's Areopagitica in the section about censorship. Two of the fantastic and erudite (it is Milton, after all) passages that caught my eye:
For books are not absolutely dead things, but doe contain a potencie of life in them to be as active as that soule was whose progeny they are; nay they do preserve as in a violl the purest efficacie and extraction of that living intellect that bred them. I know they are lively, and as vigorously productive, as those fabulous Dragons teeth; and being sown up and down, may chance to spring up armed men.

...unlesse warinesse be us'd, as good almost kill a Man as kill a good Book; who kills a man kill a reasonable creature, Gods Image; but he who destroyes a good Booke, kills reason itself, kills the Image of God, as it were in the eye. Many a man lives a burden to the Earth; but a good Booke is the pretious life-blood of a master spirit, imbalm'd and treasur'd up on purpose to a life beyond life.

(Milton 1644: 4)
Yay, books! Lovely, lovely books. Do not scoff at their powers.

And one that seems politically relevant for people in the US pondering election season:
Yet if all cannot be one mind, ... this doubtless is more wholsome, more prudent, and more Christian that many be tolerated, rather than all compell'd.

(Milton 1644: 37)
The authors of the book I'm reading do note that Milton was, of course, thinking only of wealthy white male Protestants at the time, since only they had any say about anything, but some sentiments hold true, even when the contexts change.

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