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

Horace Jeffery Hodges jefferyhodges at yahoo.com
Fri Jan 8 13:59:41 EST 2010

Professor Strier, you wrote:

"Interesting that the more that folks ACTUALLY LOOK at the poem . . ."

That has the unfortunate implication that we haven't been actually looking at the poem, which would amount to a careless, unscholarly approach indeed, but you surely can't mean that. I don't have the impression that the other scholars who've engaged me on this query are reading Paradise Lost carelessly. As for myself, I've been looking rather closely at the various passages for over a week, and blogging about them to help me work out my ideas. Is that carelessness? Some thoughts might be inchoate, but I don't think that I have generally been careless. Nor have the other scholars, in my opinion. Perhaps, since a listserve is for discussion, not polished articles, you're reacting to particular instances of thinking out loud.

Be that as it may, I can certainly identify with your reaction as a "naive reader" in taking the expression "all seasons . . . to mean all seasons." I would therefore naively expect Milton's prelapsarian Paradise to have four seasons. Yet, we also find the expression "Eternal Spring," which implies only one season . . . until we learn that "Spring and Autumn here / Danc'd hand in hand," implying two seasons. Should we also expect eternal summer and eternal winter to characterize the prelapsarian Paradise? Maybe so, but the naive reader in me is beginning to ask some questions . . . such as, what would "winter" mean in a world without death and in which the ecliptic and the celestial equator coincide? What would "seasons" mean?

Maybe you're correct that Milton was indifferent to these questions, and your stature as a Milton scholar leads me to take your position seriously, but from what I've seen of your argument, I can't see that it excludes asking these questions. For instance, you yourself ask a rhetorical question, namely:

"why not some version of seasonal change, ripening and overripening fruit, etc?"

Good question. What "version of seasonal change" do you think Milton's prelapsarian Paradise had?

Jeffery Hodges

From: richard strier <rastrier at uchicago.edu>
To: John Milton Discussion List <milton-l at lists.richmond.edu>
Sent: Sat, January 9, 2010 1:46:46 AM
Subject: Re: [Milton-L] Re prelaps seasons: when is a question a good one?

Interesting that the more that folks ACTUALLY LOOK at the poem, the less 
tenable the "no seasons," or only one, or even only two becomes.  I guess I'm a 
naive reader, but "all seasons" kind of seems to me to mean all seasons.  I will 
not repeat my argument about why I think M is not worried about saying this.  
He seems to be going out of his way to indicate that all natural processes take 
place in Eden.

---- Original message ----
>Date: Thu, 7 Jan 2010 22:35:31 -0500
>From: James Rovira <jamesrovira at gmail.com>Subject: Re: [Milton-L] Re prelaps seasons: when is a question a good one?  
>To: John Milton Discussion List <milton-l at lists.richmond.edu>
>  That could be it, Jeffery, thank you.  I think we
>  should do more with Harold Skulsky's reference to
>  the Hours.  I noticed those references while going
>  through the text but didn't have time to think them
>  through.  The Hours also represent the seasons in
>  Greek lit -- Spring, Summer, Autumn.  Winter must
>  be divided between Autumn and Spring (living in
>  Ohio, right now I'm thinking, "must be nice").   So
>  the presence of the Hours is the presence of the
>  seasons.  I think if Spring and Autumn dance hand
>  in hand, what you have are two seasons -- Spring and
>  Autumn, no winter, no summer, but continual
>  harvest. 
>  I was thinking too of these lines in bk 5:
>  <<To whom thus Eve. Adam, earths hallowd mould,
>  Of God inspir'd, small store will serve, where
>  store,
>  All seasons, ripe for use hangs on the stalk;
>  Save what by frugal storing firmness gains
>  To nourish, and superfluous moist consumes: [ 325
>  ]>>
>  Jim R
>  On Thu, Jan 7, 2010 at 6:38 PM, Horace Jeffery
>  Hodges <jefferyhodges at yahoo.com> wrote:
>    Judith, I think that Jim might be conflating two
>    passages:
>    The Birds thir quire apply; aires, vernal aires,
>    Breathing the smell of field and grove, attune
>    The trembling leaves, while Universal Pan
>    Knit with the Graces and the Hours in dance
>    Led on th' Eternal Spring. (PL 4.264-268)
>    . . . Rais'd of grassie terf
>    Thir Table was, and mossie seats had round,
>    And on her ample Square from side to side
>    All Autumn pil'd, though Spring and Autumn here
>    Danc'd hand in hand. (PL 5.391-395)
>    [Thomas H. Luxon, ed. The Milton Reading Room,
>    January 2009]
>    The implication is that "There is continuall
>    Spring, and haruest there / Continuall, both
>    meeting at one tyme," but I wouldn't say that
>    "there an explicit reference in PL just to that
>    very thing -- continual Spring and harvest,"
>    though the dancing in both passages suggests that
>    Milton was linking the two.
>    Jeffery Hodges
>Milton-L mailing list
>Milton-L at lists.richmond.edu
>Manage your list membership and access list archives at 
>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/
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: http://lists.richmond.edu/pipermail/milton-l/attachments/20100108/2e58a1c9/attachment.html

More information about the Milton-L mailing list