[Milton-L] Hellish flatulence?
kmaxwell at stanford.edu
Sat Feb 27 16:06:41 EST 2010
But I think you make the point that makes mine. Milton wants a comparison, a direct physical comparison. Prelapsarian man had perfect digestion, absorbing everything he or she eats. The only outcome is a non-noxious, completely bland vapor, wafted away harmlessly by the morning air. This provides a perfect foil for all the other instances of flatulence and postlapsarian indulgence with odoriferous outcomes. I don't see why it doesn't work (we may not like the scatological references, but I think John Leonard among others has argued effectively that Milton uses them, as jokes, but at times as earnest efforts of meaning).
This is slightly off the point, but if Adam and Eve have perfect digestion, and the garden is constructed by God the Son to have an automatic irrigation system, and it is in perfect harmony with its surroundings, why does it grow to excess, a suggestion of imperfection? Or is that just how Adam and Eve see it?
From: Carol Barton <cbartonphd1 at verizon.net>
To: John Milton Discussion List <milton-l at lists.richmond.edu>
Sent: Sat, February 27, 2010 12:49:14 PM
Subject: Re: [Milton-L] Hellish flatulence?
Kim, why must "vapors" necessarily
refer to flatulence? His sleep is "from pure digestion bred, /and temperat
vapors bland"--i.e., not the indigestion of overeating, or of eating anything
bad for the body, and not from breathing in anything toxic (such as the
sulfurous fumes of hell, or the modern pollutions of carbon dioxide and other
We sleep restlesslessly when we eat
anything too spicy, or too gaseous, or too rich, or too alcoholic, or too
sugary, or too fatty, or in too great an amount (and are liable
to be nauseous, flatulent, dehydrated, and a variety of other versions of
uncomfortable as a result). As opposed to their consumption in moderation of
healthy food in temperate amounts prior to Book IX, Adam and Eve gorge
themselves after the fall, and pay the price in physical disorder, the "grosser
sleep / Bred of unkindly fumes, with conscious dreams /
There they thir fill of Love and Loves disport
Took largely, of thir mutual guilt the Seale,
The solace of thir sin, till dewie sleep
Oppress'd them, wearied
with thir amorous play.[ 1045 ]
Soon as the force of that fallacious Fruit,
That with exhilerating vapour bland
About thir spirits had plaid, and inmost powers
Made erre, was now exhal'd, and grosser sleep
Bred of unkindlyfumes, with consciousdreams[ 1050 ]
Encumberd, now had left them, up they rose
unrest, and each the other viewing,
Soon found thir Eyes how op'nd,
and thir minds
Apples are known to cause
flatulence (and other digestive issues) in people not used to eating
As someone else suggested earlier,
we have to be wary of seeing things that aren't there, and of reading too much
into the things that are. Milton isn't being scatalogical here--nor is he
indulging in absurdity. He's making a clear and valid distinction between the
effects of a health diet in moderation prior to the fall, and the effects of the
lethal diet of excess after it--the bloating (with or without flatulence) that
is the result of gluttony.
Best to all,
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