[Milton-L] Apples

Jeffrey Shoulson jshoulson at miami.edu
Fri Jul 25 08:59:31 EDT 2008

I can't provide a comment nearly as rich and suggestive as Nancy's, but 
I suppose it should be remembered that the apple is also a Latin pun on 
Of course, that does not at all undermine the point about Satan's 
trivialization of the matter.  Indeed, I think it supports the point 
further.  Satan's depiction of the fruit as an apple happens even 
earlier than when he returns to Hell to report on his success.  He 
mentions the fruit when, as the serpent, he begins to entice Eve toward 
the tree:

  Till on a day roaving the field, I chanc'd [ 575 ]
  A goodly Tree farr distant to behold
  Loaden with fruit of fairest colours mixt,
Ruddie and Gold: I nearer drew to gaze;
  When from the boughes a savorie odour blow'n,
  Grateful to appetite, more pleas'd my sense, [ 580 ]
Then smell of sweetest Fenel or the Teats
  Of Ewe or Goat dropping with Milk at Eevn,
Unsuckt of Lamb or Kid, that tend thir play.
  To satisfie the sharp desire I had
  Of tasting those fair Apples, I resolv'd [ 585 ]
  Not to deferr; hunger and thirst at once,
  Powerful perswaders,  quick'nd at the scent
  Of that alluring fruit, urg'd me so keene.

Speculations about the specific kind of fruit tree that was the Tree of 
Knowledge can be found in both the early rabbinic and early patristic 
tradition.  Many possibilities were offered, many of them based on 
similar kinds of puns and word plays.


Jeffrey S. Shoulson, Ph. D.
Associate Professor of English and Judaic Studies
University of Miami
PO Box 248145
Coral Gables, FL 33156

(o) 305-284-5596
(f) 305-284-2182

jshoulson at miami.edu

On Jul 25, 2008, at 2:05 AM, Nancy Charlton wrote:

> 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
>  http://groups.google.com/group/paradiselostdaily
> 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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>> Jeffery,
>> 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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