[Milton-L] death in Eden.

Boyd M Berry bberry at mail1.vcu.edu
Tue Nov 23 16:52:10 EST 2004

Ages ago, I argued that the Father is a permissive parent.  Most instances
of "to premit" and variants are predicated to him.  I continue to insist
that "the Father' is not "Milton's God," but one aspect or manifestation
of his god.

Boyd Berry

On Mon, 22 Nov 2004, Michael Bryson wrote:

> I don't know, Jameela. In teaching PL and PR this term, I
> was even more struck than ever before by what seems to me
> the remarkable evasiveness of Milton's "God" or "Father"
> character. The possibility you raise of "provide" being
> understandable as foresight (provideo) plays right into the
> central ambiguity of the Father's discourse in Book 3. Lines
> like 117-119 (if I foreknew, / Foreknowledge had no
> influence on their fault, / Which had no less prov'd certain
> unforeknown), which, while certainly susceptible to an
> interpretation that "acquits" the Father (especially given
> the interesting--and deliberately evasive--"if"), also lend
> themselves to darker interpretations against which ocean
> tides of critical ink have been loosed, notably from Lewis
> on.
> I suspect that the phrase "provided death" was meant by
> Milton to carry the weight of both foresight and
> forearrangement (something like the Calvinist sense
> that "God foreknew what end man was to have before he
> created him [...] because he so foreordained by his decree"--
> Institutes 3.23.7). I don't think Milton is trying to get
> the Father off the hook quickly or neatly; quite the
> reverse, by leaving open the possibility of a "Calvinist"
> Father, I think he is trying to leave him dangling on the
> hook for as long as possible. Choosing the word "provided"
> works very nicely to that end precisely because it refuses
> the absolution of the Father that so many critics of Milton
> have tried to wrest from Paradise Lost (or to insist is
> obvious therein if only we remain on guard against our
> own "sin").
> Leaving metrical considerations aside, "provided" (rather
> than either "foresaw" or "gave") keeps the question of the
> Father's responsibility open, and thus keeps open what I see
> as the significant thread of accusation that runs through
> the poem. (And despite the Father's insistence in Book 3
> that he cannot be "justly" accused, accusation is an
> important part of the project "to justify the ways of God to
> men.")
> Michael Bryson
> >Date: Mon, 22 Nov 2004 05:25:28 -0600
> >From: Jameela Lares <Jameela.Lares at usm.edu>
> >Subject: Re: [Milton-L] death in Eden.
> >To: John Milton Discussion List <milton-
> l at lists.richmond.edu>
> >
> >Interesting point, Michael.  To what extent is
> the "provide" a foreseeing
> >(provideo) without associated responsibility?
> >
> >Jameela
> >
> >Quoting Michael Bryson <michael.bryson at csun.edu>:
> >
> >> Douglas,
> >>
> >> Another thing to note, perhaps, is that at PL 11.61, the
> >> Father claims that he "provided death"--death may exist
> in
> >> the "warped mind of Satan" (an old warhorse of an image
> in
> >> Milton studies to be sure), but the Father seems to have
> no
> >> difficulty regarding it and/or advertising it as his own
> >> rather strange gift, as line 60 seems to suggest that it
> was
> >> provided to relieve humankind of "eternize[d] woe."
> >>
> >> Michael Bryson
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