A Word for Wednesday

Opprobrious - a. 1. Reproachful and contemptuous; scurrilous. 2. Blasted with infamy; despised; rendered hateful

"Blasted with infamy" - how's that for a description? I like it. It's very forceful. But I'm supposed to be talking about the word itself, not a phrase in the definition. So, back on topic: opprobrious. I was so excited when I saw a little italic "Milton" below the entry in the dictionary for this word. It seemed, at least to me, like it's been a while since I found a word that a famous author used in their famous work. This one is used twice in a classic literary masterpiece that I have yet to read (it's on the top of my read-after-graduation list): Paradise Lost by John Milton.

If it weren't for highlighted search results, I would never have found Milton's first use of this word. It's buried in his description of the chiefs from the pit of hell who "with their darkness durst affront his light."

"First Moloch, horrid king besmeared with blood
Of human sacrifice, and paretn's tears,
Though, for the noise of drums and timbrels loud,
Their children's cries unheard, that passed through the fire
To his grim idol. Him the Ammonite
Worshipped in Rabba and her watery plain,
In Argob and in Basan, to the stream
Of utmost Arnon. Nor content with such
Audacious neighborhood, the wisest heart
Of Solomon he led by fraud to build
His temple right against the temple of God
On that opprobrious hill, and made his grove
The pleasant valley of Hinnom, Tophet thence
And black Gehenna called, the type of hill."

I don't know about you, but I got all confused when I read about Solomon building his temple ('cause it's clearly not referring to the temple of Jerusalem) on the "opprobrious hill." I don't know why I always forget that Solomon started worshipping all his wives' idols at the end of his life but 2 Kings 23:13 describes the opprobrious hill a little differently: "And the high places that were before Jerusalem, which were on the right hand of the mount of corruption, which Solomon the king of Israel had builded for Ashtoreth the abomination of the Zidonians, and for Chemosh the abominationes of the Moabites, and for Milcom the abomination of the children of Ammon, did the king defile."

Milton's uses the word yet again in a rousing speech by Moloch. He:

"Stood up, the strongest and the fiercest spirit
That fought in heaven, now fiercer by despair
He reckoned not, and these words thereafter spake:
     "My sentence is for open war. Of wiles,
      More unexpert, I boast not: them let those
      Contrive who need, or when they need; not now.
      For, while they sit contriving, shall the rest,
      Millions that stand in arms and longing wait
      The signal to ascent, sat lingering here,
      Heaven's fugitives, and for their dwelling-place
      Accept this dark opprobrious den of shame,
      The prison of his tyranny who reigns
      By our delay? No! Let us rather choose,
      Armed with hell-flames and fury - all - at once -
      O'er heaven's high towers to force resistless way
      Turning our tortures into horrid arms
      Against the torturer."

I don't think we could have been given a better illustration of how to use this word, do you? Just don't compare my usage with his, all right? Because he's John Milton and I'm, well, not. I will use the word. Have no fear on that count. Whether I use it well or poorly, though, you will have to judge. 

"Peter, don't you dare go through there," I shouted, tripping over the shattered gargoyles in the courtyard, spilling the apples. "Do not open that door!" 

"What will you do if I do?" he shouted back. 

"I'll leave you here and you'll have to deal with whatever evil lies behind that door by yourself."

His little face blanched and his fingers started to slip off the giant ring that served as a handle.

"You're too young to understand but it's an opprobrious place." It was deathly quiet and the apples looked too bright. I grabbed his hand. "We shouldn't be here. Let's go."

"No!" He yanked his hand free. "I'm not too young. And I'm not scared. It's just an old building."

Before I could stop him, he opened the door and wriggled inside. It closed behind him. I hardly heard the thud over the beating of my heart. What had he done? I looked around. Gargoyle faces laughed at me with their hideous faces, prodding me to leave this horrid, infamous place. I wanted to. Oh, how I wanted to. But Peter. I faced the doors. I placed a hand on the ring and a dreadful creak sounded behind me. I spun to see the twisted iron gate closing and dead leaves blowing across the yard. I dropped the bag and dashed inside to the sound of apples bumping down the steps behind me.

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