[Milton-L] Apples

Nancy Charlton pastorale55 at yahoo.com
Fri Jul 25 02:05:25 EDT 2008

Salwa makes an interesting point: Milton, in either the Poet's or the Narrator's voice, does not make use of the word "apple." Satan, rather, does indeed use it to "trivialize" it--to use Salwa's term. Indeed, this sentence excerpted from Satan's rather frantic exhortation in Book X, makes the only use of the word "apple" in all of PL that I can find:

Him by fraud I have seduced        485
>From his Creator, and, the more to increase
Your wonder, with an apple!
He goes on, with a sneer:

He [the Father], thereat
Offended—worth your laughter!—hath given up
Both his beloved Man and all his World
To Sin and Death a prey, and so to us,        490
Without our hazard, labour, or alarm,
To range in, and to dwell, and over Man
To rule, as over all he should have ruled.
I remembered today as I was performing some necessary garden clean-up and found a rose that was trying to develop a fruit (it isn't the kind of rose that has edible hips) that apples are in the same taxonomic family as roses. Just prior to the "apple" sentence, Satan refers to the "fraud" of his seduction. The fruit, not the flower, is the important concept here, perhaps. The Son is the fruition of God's creating and is often symbolized by the rose. Milton mostly uses "rose" as the past tense of "rise," but in the opening of Book III singles out "sight of vernal bloom, or summer's rose" as specific deprivations of his blindness:

 Thus with the year       

Seasons return; but not to me returns
Day, or the sweet approach of even or morn,
Or sight of vernal bloom, or summer’s rose,
Or flocks, or herds, or human face divine;
He doesn't mention fruit, but it seems to me that there is some significance in PL in the fact that it was an apple, when it could just as well have been a pear or strawberry or a sexy bunch of grapes. But it was the fruit of autumn, of ripeness, by which Adam and Eve were defrauded.
I'm not sure just where this is going, but in the invocation to "holy Light" (III.i) the poet feels that the fruition of his life is the making of this poem, and thus it well may be that the apple, that oversized rose hip, is the appropriate pome.

In PR II.337f. Satan conjures "a table richly spread in regal mode" for Jesus, of which the Narrator exclaims "Alas! How simple to these cates compared,/ Was that crude apple that diverted Eve!" No other mention of "apple" is made in the poems, but in the Areopagitica Milton makes a passing reference: "It was from out the rind of one apple tasted, that the knowledge of good and evil . . . leaped forth into the world." The "rind"! Not even the meat! No wonder the "table richly spread" goes poof! when Jesus doesn't bite.

Thank you for raising this question. If I hadn't been out with the shears and loppers today I'd probably never given it a second thought.

Nancy Charlton

Nancy Charlton


When it's apple blossom time
In Orange, New Jersey,
We'll make a peach of a pair!

--- On Thu, 7/24/08, Horace Jeffery Hodges <jefferyhodges at yahoo.com> wrote:
From: Horace Jeffery Hodges <jefferyhodges at yahoo.com>
Subject: [Milton-L] Apples
To: "John Milton Discussion List" <milton-l at lists.richmond.edu>
Date: Thursday, July 24, 2008, 4:24 PM

Salwa and other Milton-Listers,
Can you direct me to what has been written on this issue of apples in Paradise Lost (or Milton generally)?
Jeffery Hodges
Salwa Khoddam skhoddam at cox.net 
Tue Jun 24 21:30:47 EDT 2008 

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I don't think Milton uses the word "apple" in PL.  Satan uses the term  in order to trivialize it.  N'est pas?
Salwa Khoddam

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