[Milton-L] Prelapsarian hair dressing

Harold Skulsky hskulsky at smith.edu
Fri Aug 6 11:16:25 EDT 2010


The garden that A&E are “enjoined” to tend is an artifice in the
English rather than the French manner – “boon” rather than
“nice,” abundant rather than fastidious. By its Planter’s
design, the abundance cries out for restraining, but grows "luxurious"
by that restraint. Pruning will be done in the full knowledge that the
result cannot be neat. The divine esthetics forbids it. What's in store
is a shaped and disciplined luxuriance. (“Luxury” has sexual
overtones for Milton, and this probably shouldn’t be ignored.) 

A whole network of pervasive and ancient metaphors allows human nature
to be a garden that calls for similar attention; A&E are endowed with
the full complement of teeming appetites, and the whole point of free
will is that the Gardener-in-chief has left this work too imperfect –
to be perfected (if all goes well) by his human partners. Thanks to
their freedom, it is they (not God) who choose their character, they who
choose whether to plant nettles or sow lettuce, set hyssop or weed up
thyme. This is a commonplace familiar even to Iago (and perhaps to Satan
as well).
 
The same ancient network of metaphors of “cultivation” allows
foliage to be the hair of trees, and hair to be the foliage of the human
frame, and in this gritty physical respect too it seems clear that the
same duty applies to the human garden as to the garden that surrounds
it. However much or little, A’s and E’s hair is surely meant to grow
enough to give them still another small (almost embarrassingly small)
opportunity to rise to the challenge of self-creation. (The
embarrassment is a trap, of course; in M we need to bear in mind that
God is in the details – not the Devil, as the vulgar adage has it.) 

Even before the invention of scissors, we’ve been given no reason to
doubt that they will find a way here too, if they have the will. 




More information about the Milton-L mailing list