Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Ethos in Milton's Psalm 114

So while I was rereading Milton's sonnets of the Psalms, I noticed that Milton seems to use ethos as his primary device in making his appeal for God, especially in Psalm 114. While pathos and logos are definitely also present in the text, Milton writes "Jehovah's wonders were in Israel shown, / His praise and glory were in Israel shown (5-6)." In the line before the author references the "strength of the Almighty's hand (4)" as the reason for the Israelite's success, and later we find allusions to God's divine power in the earthquakes and floods referenced in the original psalm.

While these could definitely be interpreted as logos, pathos, or a combination of the three, I think these aren't used an emotional or purely logical appeal, but instead a testament from Milton's point of view of God's very real divine powers. Milton is in a sense building a bit of a resume for God, writing up the miracles of Biblical times and pointing out a very practical reason He should be revered and worshipped.

I'm interested to see if this pops up in Paradise Lost and Milton's other religious works, and I'll look forward to spotting it in the future. This is a great version of the poem, and has some pretty handy footnotes as well.


  1. That's a good link! Thanks for sharing your insights.

  2. I think the role Milton establishes for himself is fascinating. In Paradise Lost, he in no way expresses to be God's mouthpiece, but he does invoke the same servant of all the prophets: the Holy Spirit. He completely sees himself as third party and is very impartial, however artistic, in his interpretation. He kind of becomes God's lawyer to the world, which may explain his use of secular media forms. So interesting to compare Paradise Lost to this Sonnet. Thank you!

  3. It's interesting thinking about the ethos of God as compared to that of Christ during his earthly ministry. Often, the Pharisees used His humble birth ('Is this not the carpenter's son?') as a means of diminishing His ethos in the crowd. It seems like ethos was a lot more significant back then...

  4. Great insight! Another example of ethos I saw was in Paradise Lost and how Milton strives to justify the works of God to man. By doing this, he is setting himself up as someone worthy to be able to justify God's works. It's very interesting.