[Milton-L] Milton's Prelapsarian Cosmos

Horace Jeffery Hodges jefferyhodges at yahoo.com
Tue Jan 5 01:56:22 EST 2010

In Alastair Fowler's Introduction to Paradise Lost (1998), he remarks of Milton that:
"His premise, that the ecliptic and equatorial planes coincide, has not been true since the fall. So he has to work out its implications with ingenuity reminiscent of science fiction (e.g. iii 555-61; iv 209-16, 354f; v 18-25; x 328f) . . . . The geometry of Milton's invented unfallen world is elegantly simple -- and exhileratingly easy to visualize. Its day and night are always equal, its sun remains constantly in the same sign, and the positions of its constellations are easily determined without astrolabe or planisphere. There are no variations in solar declination, no equinoctial points, no precession, no difference between sidereal, natural, and civil days." (page 35)
Some of this is obvious, and other of it is easy to derive. But some of it is not clear to me. How does Fowler know that the "sun remains constantly in the same sign"? Is this an inference, or does Milton state this somewhere? PL 10.329 notes that "the sun in Aries rose," but would it have always remained there in an unfallen world? If so, why?
In a geocentric cosmos, I can see why, based on simplicity, this would likely be the case (everything moving around the earth at the same angular momentum), but in a heliocentric cosmos, an extra motion would need to be imparted to the starry sphere to keep the sun in the same sign as the earth revolves around the sun. Or is the earth not revolving at all?
By the way, what are "natural" and "civil" days? I know sidereal, and I'm inferring that a "natural" day means a solar day (is that right?) . . . but what's a "civil" day?
So many questions . . .
Jeffery Hodges
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