[Milton-L] Re: Canaries in the coal mine, prelaps, etc.

richard strier rastrier at uchicago.edu
Wed Jan 6 21:58:09 EST 2010


I didn't expect any agreement at all, so half of John R's mind is pretty good.  Let 
me try one other formulation, and see if this helps any.  I think that what Milton 
is doing in the presentation of human life in Eden -- which I'm on record 
thinking the greatest and deepest thing in PL -- is trying to imagine an ideal 
human life/marriage.  I think that is more important to him, and more of what 
he is trying to accomplish, than constantly to be reminding himself that this is 
an ideal PRELAPSARIAN human life, and that he has to rigorously exclude 
anything that is supposed, traditionally, to be postlapsarian.  If he has, uniquely, 
sex and labor before the fall, why not some version of seasonal change, ripening 
and overripening fruit, etc?  And I think it possible to exaggerate the division 
between pre and post.  I also think that with regard to Eden, M is more 
interested in ethical matters (in the broad Aristotelian sense of ethics) than in 
cosmological ones.  Hope this helps a bit.

---- Original message ----
>Date: Wed, 6 Jan 2010 14:45:09 -0600
>From: John Rumrich <rumrich at mail.utexas.edu>  
>Subject: Re: PRIVATE Re: [Milton-L] Canaries in the coal mine  
>To: John Milton Discussion List <milton-l at lists.richmond.edu>
>
>   oops; and apologies to Carol.
>   And O by the way, I'm half of Richard's mind that
>   with this inquiry our list may be pressing too hard.
>    Yet the other half remembers that birds are not
>   only a staple in epic and biblical scenes of
>   prophecy but also very much a part of the
>   imaginative workings of PL.  The formal obedience of
>   birds to Adam is comparable to the march of obedient
>   angels in heaven, described in terms somewhat
>   reminiscent of the account of migration in Book 7.
>    And Raphael accommodates his appearance to that of
>   the birds when he's in their space and though he
>   comes to warn the sely humans is intelligent of the
>   coming seasons.  
>   So I'm at least intrigued, quoth the Raven.
>   John 
>   On Jan 6, 2010, at 2:10 PM, John Rumrich wrote:
>
>     Many thanks, Carol.  My New Year's Resolution is
>     to eliminate at least the "very" before my
>     badness.  But I'm hoping to retain the whole funny
>     thing.  
>     John
>     On Jan 6, 2010, at 10:19 AM, Carol Barton wrote:
>
>       You are a very bad boy, Dr. Rumrich.
>        
>       Very bad, but very funny.
>        
>       Happy New Year.
>        
>       Carol Barton, Ph.D.
>
>       A THOUGHT FOR TODAY (in the Capitol-area deep
>       freeze):
>
>       "When I go into the garden with a spade, and dig
>       a bed, I feel such an exhilaration and health
>       that I discover that I have been defrauding
>       myself all this time in letting others do for me
>       what I should have done with my own hands."
>       -Ralph Waldo Emerson, writer and philosopher
>       (1803-1882)
>
>       Jan 6, 2010 11:04:52
>       AM, milton-l at lists.richmond.edu wrote:
>
>         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, class="Apple-converted-space"
>             to="" so="" 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:
>
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