[Milton-L] RE: Eve and innocence

Carol Barton cbartonphd at earthlink.net
Thu Nov 24 12:58:30 EST 2005

Chuck Keim asks, in part, for responses to his observation that "it seems to
[him] that Milton's emphasis on marriage, 'Hail, Wedded Love,' brings an
important point to light: we become more innocent as we become more intimate
with our partner."

I'd say, as Jim Rovira has suggested, that all this depends on one's
interpretation of extremely loaded terminology, Chuck: but yes, I'd agree
(with some qualification) that both partners become more innocent as the
relationship progresses from like and lust to deep and abiding love: the
kind that can see past (is even blind to) balding pates and sagging charms
and no longer blemish-free skin to the beauty that is the total being. The
intimacy even of true friendship sloughs off the masks and the posturing and
the pretenses and the role-playing that other social relations foist upon
us, or force us to engage in; our expression for it even suggests this:
"with him (or her) I can be myself." When you truly love someone (as opposed
to simply "wanting" him or her), his or her physical attractiveness is no
longer a factor, much less an issue: unlike Hawthorne's Alymer, you love the
total being, "warts and all," and to change even the tiniest aspect of his
or her totality would be to make that person someone "other"--you love him
or her in spite of, as well as because of, his or her faults, and even if
you were attracted initially by "six pack abs" or a high, firm bosom, you
continue to love him or her as both of you mature and grow and transform
inevitably with the years. That's where Jim's observation comes in: it all
depends on your mindset as you approach the object of your attention. Do you
enter L'Accademia's rotunda prepared to look in wonder at the perfection of
human physicality that is the David, or are you mentally (and adolescently)
sniggering "woo woo" before you even cast your eyes upon his naked manhood?
Do you go to Zefferelli's _Romeo and Juliet_ prepared to see an excellent
cinematic production of the play that (frankly, but not pruriently) displays
the young lovers on their wedding night, with-->gasp!<- no clothes on, or
are you hoping to compensate for the fact that you wouldn't be caught dead
in an "adult" video store, and prepared for the closest thing you can get to
"acceptable" titillation? Adam does not cast lascivious eyes on his bride
until *after* the fall: he finds her attractive, no question, but she is a
pedestaled virgin, not a two-bit whore. If we can't see her as anything but
a femme fatale, a courtesan, a flirt (even in the prelapsarian presence of
the serpent) it is *we* who have a problem, not Milton. Her objective
(wrongheaded as it might be) is equality with, even superiority to,
Adam--not "longing to be seen," but longing to be TRIED--Guyon in the Cave
of Mammon, not in Acrasia's garden. As he will with Jesus in the wilderness,
Satan miscalculates his prey, and which "buttons" to push, in Eden: his
unctuous flattery has little or no effect on her. It is only the promise of
hierarchical elevation (I ate, and became like Man, so if you eat, you will
become like the angels) that ensnares her--just as it is Adam's horror at
what he is (unjustifiably) certain will be his eternal loneliness, and not
her "persuasion" that entraps him.

It is precisely the removal of that lovely and innocent devotion that we see
in the Bower from the relationship between Adam and Eve that makes their
postlapsarian lust so disgusting: they are indeed worshipping one another's
OUTSIDES at that point, totally immersed in the physical, as Raphael has
sternly warned Adam not to be long before this moment (and they have moved
psychologically from the Bower of Wedded Love to the Bower of Bliss).

I'd suggest that anyone who wants a better understanding of the contrast
between the bower scene, and what happens immediately after the Fall, would
do well to read (or re-read) the _Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce_.
Contrary to popular misbelief, it contains some of the most beautiful
visions of what real marriage *ought* to be, if sometimes by negation.
Milton himself sought the kind of union the angels enjoy in _Paradise Lost_,
and I believe he tried to give that to our First Parents, in the Bower.

Happy Holidays to all,

Carol Barton

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