[Milton-L] Re prelaps seasons: when is a question a good one?

John Leonard jleonard at uwo.ca
Wed Jan 6 14:57:36 EST 2010


For once I have to disagree with Richard Strier.  A poem that begins

Of Man's first disobedience and the fruit
Of that forbidden tree whose mortal taste
Brought death into the world

is inevitably concerned with both the "when" and the "how" of death's coming 
into the world.  I think that Empson--whom Richard and I both admire--would 
have agreed with me about this.  One of the best moments in Milton's God 
occurs when Empson seizes on a casual slip made by C. S. Lewis.  Lewis, 
celebrating Adam's prelapsarian majesty, had imagined what life would have 
been like for Adam and Eve's descendants had there been no Fall.  Lewis says 
that it would have been our privilege, "once in a lifetime, perhaps", to 
visit our great ancestor in Paradise.  Empson seized on that "once in a 
lifetime" to infer that Lewis had inferred that Adam's unfallen descendants 
would not have shared Adam's immortality.  Not a trivial quesiton at all. 
But then I think that "how many children had Lady Macbeth?" is also a 
serious question.  Sometimes it's good to know when to start.

Best wishes to all,

John Leonard


----- Original Message ----- 
From: "richard strier" <rastrier at uchicago.edu>
To: "John Milton Discussion List" <milton-l at lists.richmond.edu>
Sent: Wednesday, January 06, 2010 1:38 PM
Subject: Re: [Milton-L] Re prelaps seasons: when is a question a good one?


>I guess I think that all this cranking up of brainpower is beside the point
> (though new facts, such as those Carol cited from Moishe, are nice).  I 
> don't
> think that Milton worried about these details in the way that we are.  I 
> think that
> he meant for Eden to be a vision of the best possible form of recognizable
> human life.  Recognizable includes all the basic variables of our 
> experience, I
> think.  As Wittgenstein said (many times), sometimes its good to know when 
> to
> stop.
>
> I know this won't satisfy those looking for "solutions" to these 
> "problems," but
> there it is.
>
> ---- Original message ----
>>Date: Wed, 6 Jan 2010 10:02:22 -0600
>>From: John Rumrich <rumrich at mail.utexas.edu>
>>Subject: [Milton-L] Canaries in the coal mine
>>To: John Milton Discussion List <milton-l at lists.richmond.edu>
>>
>>   Fortunately for the theodicy, avian foreknowledge,
>>   however immutable, carries with it not the least
>>   impulse or shadow of fate.
>>   On the other hand, we are left with the edgy if not
>>   blasphemous implication that bird brains partake of
>>   the divine image more than human brains do.  I have
>>   at times suspected as much, at least in my own case.
>>   All best for a new year of seasons and their change,
>>   John
>>   On Jan 5, 2010, at 9:59 PM, John Leonard wrote:
>>
>>     "Seasons" can mean "time of day," and Eve probably
>>     does use that sense when she speaks of "all
>>     seasons and their change" in the same breath as
>>     "breath of morn."  But it is hard to withhold the
>>     sense "seasons of the year" in book 7 when Raphael
>>     speaks of migrating birds "Intelligent of seasons"
>>     as they embark on their "annual voyage"
>>     (7.427-31).  Twenty years ago I tried to rescue
>>     these lines for innocence by arguing that
>>     "seasons" need not have the obvious meaning, but I
>>     now find my argument desperate and unconvincing.
>>     This is a problematic moment in PL, for the
>>     "intelligent" birds clearly intuit a coming Fall
>>     even before Adam and Eve are created.  Maybe
>>     Milton just slipped, but it is still a suggestive
>>     moment.
>>
>>     John Leonard
>>
>>       ----- Original Message -----
>>       From: James Rovira
>>       To: John Milton Discussion List
>>       Sent: Tuesday, January 05, 2010 8:52 PM
>>       Subject: Re: [Milton-L] Milton's Prelapsarian
>>       Cosmos
>>       Ha...yes, Jeffery, this sentence of yours sums
>>       it up:
>>
>>       <<Yesterday, I noted that Milton seems to give
>>       Adam and Eve a prelapsarian understanding of the
>>       seasons that will characterize only the
>>       postlapsarian world, so let us turn unto the
>>       seasons that occur throughout Paradise Lost.>>
>>
>>       Seems like it was a theological commonplace that
>>       unfallen Eden was in a perpetual Spring, though,
>>       and probably still is among Evangelicals.  It
>>       makes sense for God to say at creation that the
>>       stars were given for the seasons.  If he said so
>>       in front of the the angelic host, that would
>>       distribute knowledge of the changes of the
>>       seasons before they occurred.  I don't recall if
>>       Raphael's use of the word "seasons" occurs
>>       before or after A and E's first use of it.  But
>>       we could conceivably reconstruct word of mouth
>>       knowledge from God to the angels to human
>>       beings.
>>
>>       I'm not completely satisfied as none of these
>>       characters would know what they were talking
>>       about, except for God, but they seem to.
>>
>>       Jim R
>>
>>       On Tue, Jan 5, 2010 at 8:39 PM, Horace Jeffery
>>       Hodges <jefferyhodges at yahoo.com> wrote:
>>
>>         Thanks, Jim. Those are some of the very
>>         passages that I've been puzzling over
>>         recently. At the risk of cluttering this
>>         listserve and tooting my own horn -- though
>>         this actually litters the list less -- here
>>         are my recent blog entries on this issue:
>>
>>     ------------------------------------------------
>>
>>       _______________________________________________
>>       Milton-L mailing list
>>       Milton-L at lists.richmond.edu
>>       Manage your list membership and access list
>>       archives
>>       at http://lists.richmond.edu/mailman/listinfo/milton-l
>>
>>       Milton-L web site: http://johnmilton.org/
>>
>>     _______________________________________________
>>     Milton-L mailing list
>>     Milton-L at lists.richmond.edu
>>     Manage your list membership and access list
>>     archives
>>     at http://lists.richmond.edu/mailman/listinfo/milton-l
>>
>>     Milton-L web site: http://johnmilton.org/
>>________________
>>_______________________________________________
>>Milton-L mailing list
>>Milton-L at lists.richmond.edu
>>Manage your list membership and access list archives at
> http://lists.richmond.edu/mailman/listinfo/milton-l
>>
>>Milton-L web site: http://johnmilton.org/
>
> _______________________________________________
> Milton-L mailing list
> Milton-L at lists.richmond.edu
> Manage your list membership and access list archives at 
> http://lists.richmond.edu/mailman/listinfo/milton-l
>
> Milton-L web site: http://johnmilton.org/
> 



More information about the Milton-L mailing list