Sunday, September 29, 2013

Siloa's Brook

Something that interests me a great deal are all the nifty little biblical references Milton employs in his lines. He adds them in almost casually, and it's easy for me at least to just read through them and not try to understand the allusions he's making. However, they're pretty cool, and one in particular caught my attention.

I hadn't heard of Siloa's Brook before, and "flowed fast by the oracle of God" was just more confusing, so I did a wee bit of research. There's a paper from the University of North Carolina Press titled "Siloa's Brook, the Pool of Siloam, and Milton's Muse" that shed some light on the subject. The authors point out that Isaiah 8:6 references the "waters of Shiloah," and that the body of water "corresponds to the dark-colored spring of the classical muses." They go on to discuss how, if the type of body of water is temporarily ignored, this may also reference the pool at which Christ healed the blind man, the account of which can be found in St John 9.

I think it's interesting how we can see Milton once again fusing classical pagan culture with Christianity, merging his Muse with a miracle of Christ. It will be interesting to see how this pops again in the rest of Paradise Lost, as I'm quite sure it will.

For anyone interested, you can find the paper here, though it is on JSTOR and you will need to log in to read the full text.


  1. They say every good English writer has to be fluent in the language of the King James Version of the Bible. I don't know why that is or why it is that specific version, but I've heard that from a number of different sources, and the more I read, the more I see it to be the case. It kind of makes you wonder, though, where Milton really stood on a lot of things. He sometimes seems to confound Christianity and paganism so thoroughly as to convince me that he has the same sense of wonder and awe at Classical influences as he does for Juedo-Christian concepts and symbols. I guess that's the life of a poet, though...

    1. Milton was a bit of a religious radical, actual. It is suggested in Paradise Lost and A Treatise on the Christian Doctrine (which he certainly read if not wrote himself) that Milton subscribed to an Arian view of the faith, in which God the Father is a separate entity from the Son.

      As for the pagan influences...well, the epic form traditionally belongs to the pagans. Invoking their work in the course of his religious poem asserts it as a true epic, I guess.

  2. Shiloh represents the Messiah. The use of Siloa without the SH sound reflects an allegiance to the tribe of Ephraim, the younger son of Joseph, who received the right hand blessing of his grandfather Jacob, over his older brother Menasseh. See Judges 12 and the story of Shibboleth/S v SH. The tribe of Ephraim established Israel.