Clifton and Paradise Lost…ready, go!

November 2, 2010

I write a lot about the Bible, because I think of the Lucifer connection, and I was raised a good Baptist. People say that I am a religious person, and I’ve had people argue with me about it, and I think I’m a spiritual person. I don’t think I’m particularly religious, though I am interested in belief systems, and always have been. But I have some poems about Lucifer. And people say, “Oh, you’re writing about the devil.” No, I’m not. I’m writing about Lucifer who was, according to the Bible, the most beautiful star in the heavens, who was close to God, and who had a job to do and did it, it seems to me. My Lucifer and Milton’s Lucifer are not quite the same person. But I do believe that if what we say is so, about the All Powerful, then Lucifer must have also had a job to do, and did it. “Lucifer speaks in his own voice.”
(http://www.gracecavalieri.com/significantPoets/lucilleClifton.html)

I’ve said that I know there’s Lucifer in Lucille, because I know me—I can be so petty, it’s amazing! And there is therefore a possibility of Lucille in Lucifer. Lucifer was doing what he was supposed to do, too, you know? It’s too easy to see Lucifer as all bad. Suppose he were merely being human. That’s why the Bible people—it’s too easy to think of them all as mythological, saintly folk. It is much more interesting to me that these were humans—caught up in a divine plan, but human. That seems to me the miracle.
(http://www.poetryfoundation.org/journal/article.html?id=179624)

-“Lucifer six finger” immediately turns Lucifer into Lucille, who almost shares his name anyway. Milton uses Satan to express his own doubts and ideas throughout Paradise Lost. (And he aligned himself with Jesus in Paradise Regained…yeah, he liked to be the hero.) Lucifer also breaks from the “littlest finger” of God…
-“Eve’s version” is Paradise Lost exactly. In PL, Satan whispers a dream to Eve about the apple, and here too “smooth talker/slides into my dreams/and fills them with apple.” Clifton has Satan try to convince Eve that she really lusts after her own self. In PL Eve is, right after being created, almost in love with her own reflection, finding herself much more beautiful than Adam when she meets him.
-Clifton’s Lucifer swoops down to Eden because he thinks Eve’s hot (Milton’s Satan is momentarily mesmerized by Eve’s beauty, but snaps out of it – he’s just come to steal more of God’s creations for his anti-Heaven team)…and even has sex with her? “phallus and father/doing holy work/oh sweet delight/oh eden/if the angels/hear of this/there will be no peace/in heaven.” Satan gets it on with Eve in the Zohar (and I guess in other holy texts) but not in the Bible, and in any sacred work it’s…not so much a happy event, but Lucille treats Satan as the one who “illuminates” Adam and Eve. (We don’t get any baby giants, though.)
-“it was/to be/i who was called son.” Milton does this, makes Satan wildly jealous of Jesus, and that’s what causes him to fall.

Safe to say there’s a lot of Paradise Lost in these few Lucifer poems, and I think Clifton’s Lucifer is Milton’s Satan. She just sides with him much more willingly/openly… Milton is more openly pro-Fall in Areopagitica.

In something non-Miltonic…
I love the thought: “this creation is so fierce/i would rather have been born.”

Sheesh, three of my lit classes are all over Milton right now, and I’m in the Milton seminar… Does anyone else ever feel like they’re double-majoring in religion?

Categories: Uncategorized.