[Milton-L] two small queries

Schwartz, Louis lschwart at richmond.edu
Mon Dec 1 15:59:33 EST 2008

Dear Miklós,

The simplest answer is not always the best answer, but the simplest answer to your first question would be that Adam is trying to suggest what's wrong with what Eve has just suggested to him:  that they might be able to get more accomplished if they were to work separately.  He does this by exaggerating one implication of what she's said.  Note that in her speech she characterizes their work as "pleasant."  She seems to me to want more pleasure in her own creative activity, to accomplish more of the sort of thing that pleases her in the work.  Adam responds with a mild version of reductio ad absurdum.  Who said this work was hard?  Why do we need to accomplish more by separating?

Satan's "us" does seem mainly to be the "royal" version of the 1st person plural, but that in itself suggests how he thinks of himself as on a mission for sake of all of his fallen comrades.  He can't let himself get sidetracked by his own desires for Eve or for some saving compulsion to do good.


Louis Schwartz
Associate Professor of English
University of Richmond
Richmond, VA  23173
(804) 289-8315
lschwart at richmond.edu<mailto:lschwart at richmond.edu>

From: milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu [mailto:milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu] On Behalf Of Miklos Peti
Sent: Monday, December 01, 2008 3:31 PM
To: milton-l at lists.richmond.edu
Subject: [Milton-L] two small queries

Dear Scholars,

(Forgive me if any of these have been posted before, and if so, please direct me to the appropriate archives.)

I'm teaching Book 9 of PL in these last weeks of the term, and I'd like to ask for your comment on the following two points -- that is, if they are at all problematic:

1. in line 242 Adam says to Eve "for not to irksom toile, but to delight He made us"
The question for me is: how may Adam know about the "irksomeness" of toil?
According to a quick search I've made "irksom" appears on two other occasions in the epic: in Book 2 the fallen angels "entertain / The irksom hours", until Satan returns (lines: 526-7), and in Book 5 Eve refers to the night of her dream as "irksom nigt" (line 35). In both of the cases the use of the word is understandable: it derives from experience. But Adam has neither knowledge nor experience of "hard work" so how can he make it part of an argument?

2. This is something that one of my students called the attention to: Satan moved by Eve's beauty "gratulating" asks himself: "Thoughts, whither have ye led me, with what sweet / Compulsion thus transported to forget / What hither brought us" (lines 473-475) The use of the plural "us" might be explained on stylistical grounds (majestic plural?), but is there any other possibility to account for this shift in number?

The commentaries I have access to are silent on these points. Many thanks in advance
for your comments and insights.

All the best,


Miklós Péti
senior lecturer
Károli Gáspár University
Budapest, Hungary

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