Saturday, February 10, 2007

Eyeless in Gaza

Years ago,before PC's were common and the Internet was for the Military only,I would spend hours at a time in my local public library "surfing" the bookshelves (as it were) in much the same way I surf the Internet today. Whenever I found an interesting subject, I would have several books laying open on the table in much the same way I might have several Windows or tabs open on my web browser today. It was during one of these visits -perhaps twenty years ago- that I came across a book, the title of which fascinated me ever since....Eyeless in Gaza by Aldous Huxley.I decided then and there that this book title was the greatest in English Literature.I remember taking the book home but never reading it. I know I started it but never finished, though,I'm not sure why.Looking back, I suspect that I may have been disappointed that the book itself did not live up to the wonderful title.Of course, at the time , I had no idea what the actual meaning of the title might be.A few days ago,the book came back to mind and would not leave.The only thing I could do was search the Internet for information about the work.It was then that I discovered that the title comes from a line in a poem by John Milton (of Paradise Lost fame) entitled Samson Agonistes.
"Ask for this great Deliverer now,and find him
Eyeless in Gaza at the Mill with slaves,
Himself in Bonds under Philistian yoke;"
The poem is based on the story of Samson as found in chapters 13 - 16 of the book of Judges.By now my curiosity was running full speed ahead.It was easy enough finding a copy of the poem online and I could read the biblical story in the Bible here at home.But, I'd have to check out the Huxley book from the library. I'd never thought a great deal about the story of Samson before and reading the three chapters in Judges yesterday did not fill me with any great insights.However,my reaction to Milton's poem was different.Reading it I begin to see the great tragedy of Samson's story.Written three hundred and fifty years ago, the early English can be difficult at times to follow, but I think it's well worth the effort.
I stated re-reading the Huxley book as well.It is not at all like I remember.Of course, that was twenty years ago.It's more interesting than I remember;I'm sure I'll finish it this time around.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Milton was talking about himself; Latin Minister (ie overseas affairs, in the days when Latin was the universal language of court) under Cromwell's government he survived the restoration of the monarchy and was, old, tired and of failing sight placed under house-arrest. Where is the great Deliverer now.... blind, amongst monarchists and unable to help. The Paradise' poems are much broader in their ambition; "Samson" is simply a rant!