The Sorrows of Young Werewolf (eyeteeth) wrote,
The Sorrows of Young Werewolf

Though worlds judged thee perverse

The Abdiel part is one of my favorites in Paradise Lost, from which Small Peculiar takes its name. I like characters who are trying to figure out their moral affiliation. (Like Renfield.) Now, Milton was way smarter than I, and I know he's constantly making puns and references that you have to know several ancient languages and five thousand years' worth of Western literature to really understand, and I think his use of the name "Abdiel" is the only polyglot thing he does that I understood without needing it explained to me. The name (more familiar to us these days in its Arabic form, Abdul) means "servant of God," abd being the "servant" part and iel being the "of God" part, but I bet Milton was thinking that ab is also the Latin meaning "away from," so that if you combine Hebrew and Latin you get "away from God." More simply, the name looks like abdicate, but that's English and doesn't make me look as smart.

The "servant" thing is also a clue to Abdiel's character, and to the question he represents: What does it mean to be free? Satan rebels because he can't stand the thought of being subordinate to anyone -- it was bad enough being subordinate to God, but this Jesus thing is the last straw -- but Abdiel's argument is that servitude to God isn't servitude at all, because God is the best, so doing what he says is just common sense, and hey, if this Jesus guy is as good as God says he is, I'm on board with that too. The real servitude is obedience to Satan because Satan isn't as good as God. Now, I don't think I entirely buy this argument, but I do like how Abdiel winds it up: by referring to Satan as "Thy self not free, but to thy self enthrall'd." What Satan calls freedom is just slavery to his own base nature.

Having delivered this long speech, Abdiel clocks Satan over the head. Here's Gustave Doré's illustration of it. You'll notice that Doré paid more attention to the text than I did: Satan's holding a spear, not a sword. Whoops.

What made me think of this story was another story you've probably already heard by now, that of Constance McMillen, the high school student who insisted on her right to bring another young woman to the prom as her date. Eventually, despicably, Constance was given a fake prom with only six other attendees, while the real prom was held secretly at a different location. Her refusal to bow to overwhelming social pressure to keep quiet reminds me of Abdiel; but I also hope some of her classmates realize that what they did to her was wrong, and become Abdiels themselves somehow.

"Servant of God, well done, well hast thou fought
The better fight, who single hast maintaind
Against revolted multitudes the Cause
Of Truth, in word mightier then they in Armes;
And for the testimonie of Truth hast born
Universal reproach, far worse to beare
Then violence: for this was all thy care
To stand approv'd in sight of God, though Worlds
Judg'd thee perverse: the easier conquest now
Remains thee, aided by this host of friends,
Back on thy foes more glorious to return
Then scornd thou didst depart."
Tags: abdiel, i hate drawing wings, john milton, paradise lost, satan, stix, theflieslikeittooandiliketheflies
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