[Milton-L] The War in Heaven

Michael Gillum mgillum at unca.edu
Wed Jul 12 11:41:20 EDT 2006


What gets me about the fire passage is that it's such a guy thing. 
As soon as Adam rouses from his funk, he reaches for the duct tape 
and WD-40.  He seems to forget temporarily about Eve and the 
repentance project as he thinks about all the ways he might jerry-rig 
a system to keep warm. Milton may be smiling at Adam here. But it is 
necessary and good to keep warm. I think we need to remember that 
Milton's Christian humanism is tempered by elements of the "modern" 
in the sense Swift meant.  Milton was clearly interested in science 
and sympathetic towards Bacon. I doubt that he was hostile to 
technology per se. I don't think Milton evaluates things in terms of 
broad objective categories, but, as Fish says, from the inside out. 
Each social process and individual action has to be judged by the 
conscience obedient to God's will, in the light of motives and 
ethical consequences. Satan's invention of gunpowder is bad, but 
Adam's invention of ways to start fires is good.  God's clothing A&E 
in skins is good.

J. D. Fleming called our attention to the passage (9.390-92) where 
the gardening tools are either the product of "art guiltless of fire" 
or gifts provided by the angels.  The idea that fire is "guilty" does 
lend support to the anti-technology argument. It might be related to 
the trope about mining and metallurgy amounting to rape of mother 
earth, found in Ovid's history of of the Four Ages and picked up in 
PL I with the construction of Pandemonium out of metals.  But if an 
angel gave Eve a pruning saw, it would be a good use of metal. 
Otherwise the gardening tools would be limited to sticks and brooms.

Paradise Lost does seem informed by something akin to what we call an 
ecological conscience, and I agree that Milton would object to 
techological solutions that are massively destructive to nature or to 
human dignity. But postlapsarian humans must depend on technology to 
survive.

Michael Gillum


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