[Milton-L] Milton's artistry

Nancy Charlton nbcharlton at comcast.net
Wed Jul 21 16:46:08 EDT 2010

I toss this out without developing it, pleading being very busy:

Could not a further aspect of Milton's artistry consist in conscious 
allusion to the earlier part of PL.  Death with a capital D, as the 
offspring of Sin and Satan?  Remember, too, that Adam and Eve don't know 
what death is (per Bk IV), so perhaps Eve's process of  "eating" may go 
something like this:The serpent, by appeals to curiosity, appetite, 
desire for her and Adam's greater good, and wishes for independence cons 

    * She doesn't know what death is, having scarcely more experience of
      it than just having heard the word.
    * Raphael hasn't told them anything about Sin and Death, a very
      little actually about Satan.
    * She eats--greedily-- Milton following the bare bones of Genesis
      and fleshing them out, because it looks yummy and is "desired to
      make one wise."
    * That one adverb "greedily" directly ties her act to a Deadly Sin,
      and therefore to Sin (that she's ignorant of) and directly takes
      her to Death.
    * The horror is compounded.

I know this is simplistic and even a little distorted, but mightn't 
there be a subtler "grecism" or classicism going on here?  Eve becomes 
like a hero of classical tragedy that unwittingly commits the very act, 
from highest intentions, that will seal his fate.


Nancy Charlton

On 7/21/2010 7:55 AM, richard strier wrote:
> That Milton worked in PL to "prevent paradise even from being imagined,
> except on condition of its imminent loss" seems completely and utterly wrong to
> me.  Much of the achievement of the poem -- and much of its uniqueness --
> comes from the extraordinary and sustained evocation it provides of developed
> LIFE in Eden before the fall (relationships, work, sex, companionship, picnics,
> story-telling, discussions, etc.).
> I am also willing to go on record thinking that "knew not eating Death" is quite a
> bad line, only perhaps justified by Death being thought of as the agent of
> "eating."  Seeing at as a "grecism" [sic] does not seem to me any sort of poetic
> justification.
> RS
> ---- Original message ----
>> Date: Wed, 21 Jul 2010 16:00:24 +0200
>> From: "Ernst Oor"<eoor at planet.nl>
>> Subject: [Milton-L] Milton's artistry
>> To: "John Milton Discussion List"<milton-l at lists.richmond.edu>
>>    Dear List Members,
>>    Some time ago the list members discussed poetry and
>>     art in connection with the various interpretations
>>    of some passages in Paradise Lost.
>>    I am reading Kenneth Haynes book English Literature
>>    and Ancient Languages  (Oxford University
>>    Press, 2003) and on p. 79 of his book Haynes gives a
>>    scholarly explanation showing, in my opinion,
>>    Milton's artistry.
>>    I quote:
>>        Take a famous grecism from Paradise Lost. Eve
>>    plucks the fruit, eats
>>        (9.791-2):
>>                           Greedily she ingorg'd without
>>    restraint,
>>                           And knew not eating Death:
>>        Greek may use a participle after verbs of
>>    knowledge or perception,
>>        and the line, modelled after greek, means 'and
>>    knew not that she
>>        ate Death'. But the unusual syntax is not
>>    limited to its Greek model;
>>        rather it concentrates several meanings in the
>>    line: Eve did not know
>>        (that is, she was ignorant for the last time)
>>    while she was eating
>>        death; she did not know what she did (she ate
>>    death); she did not
>>        know the eating, devouring power of death...
>>        [further down]
>>        His [Milton's] most powerful writing insists on
>>    the loss of paradise, to
>>        prevent paradise even from being imagined,
>>    except on condition of its
>>        imminent loss. Imitations of Greek and Latin
>>    syntax and vocabulary
>>        provided Milton with one means to accomplish
>>    this...
>>    Though Haynes' book is not about Milton, his poetry
>>    is often discussed and the book may be
>>    interesting to  Milton scholars who have not yet
>>    read it.
>>    Best regards,
>>    Enna Martina.

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