[Milton-L] O Eve, in evil hour...

John Leonard jleonard at uwo.ca
Mon Nov 14 09:18:44 EST 2005

R. Allen Shoaf wrote:

"I always use Ricks with
> caution: a brilliant reader of poetry, prodigiously informed, but very 
> much his own reader of poetry."

A couple of people on this list have recently suggested that Christopher 
Ricks has argued for (or argued that Milton has argued for) a real 
etymological or even ontological connection between "Eve" and "evil."  This 
is a gross distortion of the actual argument Ricks makes on page 103 of 
Milton's Grand Style (in the chapter "Enhancing Suggestions," subsection 
entitled "Silent yet Spake").  Ricks is countering a prejudice against 
Milton's puns or "jingles" (Addison's term)--a prejudice that was still 
strong in 1963 (the date of Ricks's book).  Ricks uses the "Eve/evil" 
example to reply to F. T. Prince, who had faulted Milton for an "incessant, 
sometimes obtrusive, activity of mind at the level of verbal wit;  there is 
play upon words, sometimes in puns, sometimes in emphasizing the jingling 
qualities of words of different or kindred meaning."  (It is worth noting 
that Prince is here indifferent to the question of whether the jingling 
words are "different or kindred" in meaning.)  Ricks replies:

"Yet *jingling* is liable to suggest too trivial a tone.  When Adam cries 
out after the Fall, 'O Eve, in evil hour thou didst give eare / To that 
false Worm' (ix 1067-8), his cry proclaims that the word evil is derived 
from Eve, and that evil derives from her.  That is more of a knell than a 
jingle.  We can see the difference if we think of the line from Sylvester's 
Du Bartas that Milton may have had in mind:  'O Lot! alas!  what lot hast 
thou elect!'  Milton's line has an altogether different resonance and depth, 
mainly because it *is* a jingle and not a pun:  the distance from *Lot* to 
*lot* would be too great for the epic, and in any case leaves us feeling 
'how clever' rather than--as with *Eve* . . . *evil*--'how wounding'." 
(Milton's Grand Style, p. 103)

The first thing to note is that Ricks attributes the pun to Adam, not to 
Milton.  It is Adam who "cries out," and "his cry" that "proclaims."  Ricks 
nowhere credits the pun with wisdom or insight into the nature of women in 
general or Eve in particular, and he nowhere suggests that Milton attributes 
the pun with these qualities.  On the contrary, the pun is "a knell" tolling 
the Fall.  I admit that there is a moment's ambiguity in Ricks's paragraph 
as to whether this knell tolls Adam's Fall or Eve's, but this ambiguity is 
resolved in the final two words of the paragraph.  Adam's pun elicits the 
response "how wounding."  The implication is clear.  Fallen Adam has wrested 
his hitherto clear perception of names and natures to claim--unjustly--that 
Eve is the root of all evil.  The actual meaning of her name, as Adam and 
Milton (and Ricks) know perfectly well, is "Life".  Adam had spelled this 
out when he first named Eve for her (and his) "Substantial Life" (IV 485), 
and he will reaffirm the true etymology in book XI, after his reconciliation 
with Eve:  "Whence hail to thee, / Eve rightly called, Mother of all 
Mankind, / Mother of all things living" (XI 158-160).  Ricks is perfectly 
aware of all this.  His concern in Milton's Grand Style is defend Milton's 
style against its detractors (important and necessary work in 1963).  R. A. 
Shoaf avers that Ricks should be read "with caution" because he is "very 
much his own reader of poetry."  I have no quarrel with this.  Every critic 
(and every poet) should be read with caution, and it is to Ricks's credit 
that he is himself a cautious and vigilant reader--more cautious and 
vigilant than some of the comments recently posted on this list might lead 
the unwary to imagine.  Professor Shoaf is no doubt right to say that Ricks 
is "very much his own reader of poetry," but the same might be said of 
Johnson or Arnold.  Much better, in my view, for a critic to be his (if it 
is not her) "own reader" than to be someone else's reader.

John Leonard

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "R. Allen Shoaf" <rashoaf at clas.ufl.edu>
To: "John Milton Discussion List" <milton-l at lists.richmond.edu>
Sent: Monday, November 14, 2005 7:39 AM
Subject: Re: [Milton-L] O Eve, in evil hour...

> At the risk, I know, of seeming to practice self-promotion, I thought 
> nonetheless some might find it useful if I mention that I analyze the 
> anagrams -e-v-i-l- / -l-i-v-e- / -v-e-i-l- at some length in MILTON, POET 
> OF DUALITY (pp. 36-38). In the 1993 re-issue of the book, I work 
> extensively as well with "deceived"/"dis-Eve'd," having first discussed 
> the pun in 1987 at a CEMERS conference. I discovered the pun independently 
> of Neil Forsyth, whose work I greatly admire and recommend to my students 
> every time I teach Milton (about once every three years -- I am not, 
> strictly speaking, a "professional Miltonist"). I am currently at work on 
> a number of related /littera/-l devices and strategies in PARADISE 
> REGAINED, seeking to argue that such devices are expressions of the poem's 
> theodicy. > Al
> R. Allen Shoaf, Alumni Professor of English 1990-93
> Fellow of the National Endowment for the Humanities 1982-1983 & 1999-2000
> University of Florida, P.O. Box 117310, Gainesville, FL 32611-7310
> Co-founding Editor, EXEMPLARIA, ras at ufl.edu
> http://www.clas.ufl.edu/english/exemplaria
> http://www.clas.ufl.edu/~rashoaf/
> FAX 352.374-2473; VOICE 352.371-7149 (Home); 352.392-6650 x 264 (Office);
> 352.317-0247 (Cell)
> 725 NE 6th Street, Gainesville, FL 32601-5567
> John Geraghty wrote:
>> Perhaps another angle to explore that I have not seen mentioned in this 
>> context is a palindromic connection between  live and evil.  Eve (livE) 
>> created by God as the antidote for Evil (and, obviously, Eve being a 
>> palindrome as well). Strongs lists
>>  2332
>> Chavva
>> causatively from 'chavah' (2331); life-giver; Chavvah (or Eve), the first 
>> woman:--Eve
>>  2421
>> chayah
>> khaw-yaw'a primitive root (compare 'chavah' (2331), 'chayah' (2421)); to 
>> live, whether literally or figuratively; causatively, to revive:--keep 
>> (leave, make) alive, X certainly, give (promise) life, (let, suffer to) 
>> live, nourish up, preserve (alive), quicken, recover, repair, restore (to 
>> life), revive, (X God) save (alive, life, lives), X surely, be whole.
>> http://www.sacrednamebible.com/kjvstrongs/STRHEB23.htm
>>  There is also precedent in this to explore as in poems such as the 
>> following excerpt playing on Ave \Eva :
>> Ca Eva nos tolleu
>> Parays'e Deus
>> Ave nos y meteu;
>> porend', amigos meus:
>> Entre Av'e Eva…  http://oldpoetry.com/poetry/5889
>>  And a more postive exploration by Hildegard von Bingen (you can easily 
>> google for specific examples in her works):
>> the images and allegories used to refer to the Mary are among the richest 
>> and most varied of her work, in accordance with the importance the 
>> feminine element played. For example, the Virgin is seen as the redeemer 
>> of Eve’s original sin (Ave/Eva), or as the flowered branch of the tree of 
>> Jesse (wordplay Virgo=Virgin/Virga=Branch), or as the dawn above which 
>> Jesus’ sun rises.
>> http://www.goldbergweb.com/en/magazine/composers/1998/03/71_print.php 
>> <http://www.goldbergweb.com/en/magazine/composers/1998/03/71_printphp>
>>  And a review of "EVE: A BIOGRAPHY" By Pamela Norris
>> She ends Eve's biography by showing that, although few and far between, 
>> there is a scattering of women's accounts throughout history that tell 
>> Eve's side of the story. One of the earliest such accounts is that of 
>> Abbess Hildegard von Bingen, a religious scholar during the 11th century. 
>> Hildegard viewed Eve's character, including her sexuality, as much more 
>> symbolic of the divine nature than Adam's, and as Norris puts it "offered 
>> women dignity and hope."
>> http://www.csmonitor.com/atcsmonitor/specials/women/lit/lit122399.html 
>> <http://www.csmonitor.com/atcsmonitor/specials/women/lit/lit122399html>
>> Also ref: http://www.clas.ufl.edu/users/rashoaf/duality/front/pref.htm
>> -John
>>  His soL returned the same way it went owt.
>> To Miltons BRAIN the icy fluid from his broad cold palm
>> B  ut Milton entering my FOOT I saw in the nether
>> R  egions of the Imagination; also all men on Earth,
>> A  nd all in Heaven, saw in the nether regions of the Imagination
>> In Ulro beneath Beulah, the vast breach of Miltons descent.
>> F our Universes round the Mundane Egg remain Chaotic
>> O ne to the North. named Urthona; One to the South. named Urizen;
>> O ne to the East, named Luvah: One to the West, named Tharmas
>> T hey are the Four Zoa's that stood around the Throne Divine!
>> For that portion namd the Elect: the Spectrous body of Milton:
>> Redounding from my left FOOT into Los's Mundane space,
>> T errific! and each mortal brain is walld and moated round
>> W ithin: and Og and Anak watch here; here is the Seat
>> O f Satan in its Webs; for in brain and heart and loins
>> G ates open behind Satans Seat to the City of Golgonooza
>> Descending down into my Garden, a Human Wonder of GOD
>>  And Milton collecting all his fibres into impregnable strength
>> D escended down a Paved work of all kinds of precious stones
>> O ut from the eastern sky; descending down into my Cottage
>> G arden: clothed in black. severe & silent he descended.
>> The TOAD and venomous Newt; the Serpent clothed in gems and gold:
>> D eath Couch, in the caverns of death, in the corner of the Atlantic.
>> A nd in the midst of the Great Assembly Palamabron pray'd:
>> O God protect me from my friends, that they have not power over me
>> T hou hast giv'n me power to protect myself from my bitterest enemies
>> D olorous that ran thro all Creation a Double Six-fold Wonder:
>> A way from Ololon she divided and fled into the depths
>> O f Miltons Shadow as a Dove upon the stormy Sea.
>> T hen as a Moony Ark Ololon descended to Felphams Vale
>>  ----- Original Message -----
>> From: "Roy Flannagan" <Roy at gwm.sc.edu <mailto:Roy at gwm.sc.edu>>
>> To: <milton-l at lists.richmond.edu <mailto:milton-l at lists.richmond.edu>>
>> Sent: Saturday, November 12, 2005 5:35 AM
>> Subject: Re: [Milton-L] O Eve, in evil hour...
>>  > One thing certain about puns is that their secondary meaning can't be 
>> established with certainty unless the context establishes it.  I am 
>> uncomfortable with Ricks's reading because I can't believe that Milton 
>> would ever foist off on his reader the false etymology that "evil" is 
>> derived from "Eve."  Certainly Milton draws attention to the fact that 
>> when Eve ate she made her own evil hour, but nothing in Paradise Lost 
>> indicates that evil derives primarily from Eve, as in the "crooked rib" 
>> of monkish thinking.  Adam may be giving in to Satanic thinking when he 
>> associates Eve with evil.
>>  >
>>  > It is very difficult for an editor even to try to establish the 
>> connections in a pun between what it says directly and with what other 
>> word it may lead us to.  Ricks may be wrong, unless Adam is speaking 
>> Satanically, but is Neil Forsyth wrong to play with Adam's being 
>> "dis-Eved" when Eve has eaten and he hasn't (perhaps he is, because Adam 
>> falls "not deceiv'd").  And what about the meaning of "fruit" or "mortal" 
>> in "the Fruit . . . whose mortal tast": does "fruit" mean "outcome," and 
>> does "mortal" mean "inducing mortality" or "poisonous"?  Certainly Eve is 
>> "ill" after she falls, but is her illness contained in the word "evil"? 
>> I can't be sure.
>>  >
>>  > My point is that we can speculate on the meaning of puns as long as we 
>> like, and they do add richness and something like musical overtones to 
>> Milton's language, but that their ultimate meaning cannot be established. 
>> I do know that Satanic language is characterized by its bad puns.
>>  >
>>  > Roy Flannagan   >
>>  >>>> jefferyhodges at yahoo.com <mailto:jefferyhodges at yahoo.com> 11/11/05 
>> 10:23 PM >>>
>>  > Christopher Ricks cites Paradise Lost 9.1067, "O Eve,
>>  > in evil hour...", and notes that Adam puns here on
>>  > "Eve" and "evil" to "proclaim ... that the word evil
>>  > is derived from Eve, and that evil derives from her"
>>  > (Ricks, Milton's Grand Style (Oxford University Press,
>>  > 1963) p. 103).
>>  >
>>  > My question is this: Has anyone noted the possibility
>>  > of a double pun here?
>>  >
>>  > "evil" = "Eve ill"?
>>  >
>>  > Milton has used the term "ill" to mean "evil" just
>>  > twelve lines earlier, in 9.1055.
>>  >
>>  > What's fascinating about this is the vicious
>>  > regression that results when one then reads "ill" as
>>  > "evil":
>>  >
>>  > "evil" = "Eve ill" -->"Eve evil" = "Eve Eve ill" -->
>>  > "Eve Eve evil" = "Eve Eve Eve ill" --> "Eve Eve Eve
>>  > evil" ...
>>  >
>>  > The infinite regression of evil would fit with
>>  > Milton's portrayal of Satan, for example, as
>>  > ungrounded in his evil:
>>  >
>>  > 4.75-78
>>  >
>>  > Which way I fly is hell; myself am hell;
>>  > And in the lowest deep a lower deep,
>>  > Still threat'ning to devour me, opens wide,
>>  > To which the hell I suffer seems a heaven.
>>  >
>>  > What do all of you think -- was this really what
>>  > Milton intended in 9.1067, namely, a double pun
>>  > resulting in an infinite regression of evil to reflect
>>  > its utter groundlessness?
>>  >
>>  > Jeffery Hodges
>>  >
>>  > University Degrees:
>>  >
>>  > Ph.D., History, U.C. Berkeley
>>  > (Doctoral Thesis: "Food as Synecdoche in John's Gospel and Gnostic 
>> Texts")
>>  > M.A., History of Science, U.C. Berkeley
>>  > B.A., English Language and Literature, Baylor University
>>  >
>>  > Email Address:
>>  >
>>  > jefferyhodges at yahoo.com <mailto:jefferyhodges at yahoo.com>
>>  >
>>  > Blog:
>>  >
>>  > http://gypsyscholarship.blogspot.com/
>>  >
>>  > Office Address:
>>  >
>>  > Assistant Professor Horace Jeffery Hodges
>>  > Department of English Language and Literature
>>  > Korea University
>>  > 136-701 Anam-dong, Seongbuk-gu
>>  > Seoul
>>  > South Korea
>>  >
>>  > Home Address:
>>  >
>>  > Dr. Sun-Ae Hwang and Dr. Horace Jeffery Hodges
>>  > Sehan Apt. 102-2302
>>  > Sinnae-dong 795
>>  > Jungrang-gu
>>  > Seoul 131-770
>>  > South Korea
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