[Milton-L] swerve / secure

James Rovira jamesrovira at gmail.com
Sat Sep 29 21:18:50 EDT 2007

I think Prof. Fleming's response mistakes qualities or behaviors that
can reasonably be ascribed to persons (such as Adam) with qualities or
behaviors that can reasonably be ascribed to things (such as atoms,
the crown jewels, Air Force One, or the space shuttle).  Persons can
swerve because they -feel- too secure, while objects need some
compelling external force.  Surely Adam's security isn't being
pictured here like a bolt on a machine, is it?

But then we're left with the same reading many people here arrived at
without the comma: warn Adam against feeling too secure because that
might cause him to fall (or swerve from the moral course).

I think the comma there would be bad poetry--a very irregular pause at
that point in the line--even though it might secure the reading (for
modern readers, I might add.  It's still not clear to me that this
wasn't a figure of speech).

I think we should note Adam's repetition of the warning to Eve in Bk 8:

To whom thus ADAM fervently repli'd.
O Woman, best are all things as the will
Of God ordaind them, his creating hand
Nothing imperfet or deficient left
Of all that he Created, much less Man,
Or ought that might his happie State secure,
Secure from outward force; within himself
The danger lies, yet lies within his power:
Against his will he can receave no harme.
But God left free the Will, for what obeyes
Reason, is free, and Reason he made right,
But bid her well beware, and still erect,
Least by some faire appeering good surpris'd
She dictate false, and missinforme the Will
To do what God expresly hath forbid.
Not then mistrust, but tender love enjoynes,
That I should mind thee oft, and mind thou me.
Firm we subsist, yet possible to swerve,
Since Reason not impossibly may meet
Some specious object by the Foe subornd,
And fall into deception unaware,
Not keeping strictest watch, as she was warnd.

The words "swerving" and "security" are clearly associated here with
adherence to the divine command.

Jim R

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