[Milton-L] Adam and Eve alone

Carol Barton cbartonphd1 at verizon.net
Mon Mar 29 11:25:09 EDT 2010

To some degree, Michael: but the first object of Eve's worship (consciously or not) is *herself*: like Adam, she begins by wondering "where and who [she is], whence thither brought, and how"--but *unlike* Adam, it never occurs to her to ask *by whom*. Instead of looking for her Maker, as he does, she looks (with the same curiosity that Satan does, when he first sees Sin, who is his image, also) at the source of the "murmuring sound of water" and finding her reflection, falls immediately in love. Satan does not recognize Sin as the reification of his evil when they first encounter one another either--but his ignorance of her "meaning" doesn't change the fact that she is the first object of his love: 

That day I oft remember, when from sleep
I first awak't, and found my self repos'd [ 450 ]
Under a shade of flours, much wondring where
And what I was, whence thither brought, and how.
Not distant far from thence a murmuring sound
Of waters issu'd from a Cave and spread
Into a liquid Plain, then stood unmov'd [ 455 ]
Pure as th' expanse of Heav'n; I thither went
With unexperienc't thought, and laid me downe
On the green bank, to look into the cleer
Smooth Lake, that to me seemd another Skie.
As I bent down to look, just opposite, [ 460 ]
A Shape within the watry gleam appeard 
Bending to look on me, I started back,
It started back, but pleas'd I soon returnd,
Pleas'd it returnd as soon with answering looks
Of sympathie and love; there I had fixt [ 465 ]
Mine eyes till now, and pin'd with vain desire,
Had not a voice thus warnd me, What thou seest,
What there thou seest fair Creature is thy self,
With thee it came and goes: but follow me,
And I will bring thee where no shadow staies [ 470 ]
Thy coming, and thy soft imbraces, hee
Whose image thou art, him thou shalt enjoy
Inseparablie thine, 
  ----- Original Message ----- 
  From: Michael Gillum 
  To: John Milton Discussion List 
  Sent: Monday, March 29, 2010 11:09 AM
  Subject: Re: [Milton-L] Adam and Eve alone

  But Carol, as someone recently noted here, in responding to the image in the lake, Eve isn't being narcissistic because she doesn't know the image is of herself. She is responding to a need for companionship that, as Harold says, is innate to both Adam and Eve. Readers may take the incident as foreshadowing and may apply the fallen archetypes of Narcissus and woman-as-vanity gazing into a mirror. However, there is nothing morally defective in her response. It is the result of misapprehension. Although the confusion does indicate that her understanding is not as strong as Adam's, not as quick to distinguish truth from "fair appearing good," it is not misguided in an ethical sense. She is looking for someone to love.


  On Mon, Mar 29, 2010 at 10:13 AM, Carol Barton <cbartonphd1 at verizon.net> wrote:

    I agree with John, and believe that the point is a portent (not a sin in and of itself, but a foreshadowing of Eve's fall). Adam awakes at Creation with a compulsion to find and thank his Creator (it's a beautiful passage, so I will cite the whole thing from Book 8):

    As new wak't from soundest sleep
    Soft on the flourie herb I found me laid
    In Balmie Sweat, which with his Beames the Sun [ 255 ]
    Soon dri'd, and on the reaking moisture fed.
    Strait toward Heav'n my wondring Eyes I turnd,
    And gaz'd a while the ample Skie, till rais'd
    By quick instinctive motion up I sprung,
    As thitherward endevoring, and upright [ 260 ]
    Stood on my feet; about me round I saw
    Hill, Dale, and shadie Woods, and sunnie Plaines,
    And liquid Lapse of murmuring Streams; by these,
    Creatures that livd, and movd, and walk'd, or flew,
    Birds on the branches warbling; all things smil'd, [ 265 ]
    With fragrance and with joy my heart oreflow'd.
    My self I then perus'd, and Limb by Limb
    Survey'd, and sometimes went, and sometimes ran
    With supple joints, as lively vigour led:
    But who I was, or where, or from what cause, [ 270 ]
    Knew not; to speak I tri'd, and forthwith spake,
    My Tongue obey'd and readily could name
    What e're I saw. Thou Sun, said I, faire Light,
    And thou enlight'nd Earth, so fresh and gay,
    Ye Hills and Dales, ye Rivers, Woods, and Plaines, [ 275 ]
    And ye that live and move, fair Creatures, tell,
    Tell, if ye saw, how came I thus, how here?
    Not of my self; by some great Maker then,
    In goodness and in power prćeminent;
    Tell me, how may I know him, how adore, [ 280 ]

      >From whom I have that thus I move and live,

    And feel that I am happier then I know.

    Eve, on the other hand (as John suggests) wanders off to find her own Narcissistic reflection in the pool, and is *led away from it* (not to it) by God:

    Shee disappeerd, and left me dark, I wak'd
    To find her, or for ever to deplore
    Her loss, and other pleasures all abjure: [ 480 ]
    When out of hope, behold her, not farr off,
    Such as I saw her in my dream, adornd
    With what all Earth or Heaven could bestow
    To make her amiable: On she came,
    Led by her Heav'nly Maker, though unseen, [ 485 ]
    And guided by his voice, nor uninformd
    Of nuptial Sanctitie and marriage Rites:
    Grace was in all her steps, Heav'n in her Eye,
    In every gesture dignitie and love.
    I overjoyd could not forbear aloud. [ 490 ]

    Adam wakes "to find her" (i.e. and searches for her, just as he searched for his Maker at his first awakening--another portent, in this case that Eve holds a place parallel rather than subordinate to God to his heart).

    I don't think it's helpful to confuse the poet's grieving vision of his phantom wife with Adam's reaction to the absence of Eve, except in the intensity of the feeling of bereavement.

    Best to all,

    Carol Barton

    ----- Original Message ----- From: "John Leonard" <jleonard at uwo.ca>
    To: "John Milton Discussion List" <milton-l at lists.richmond.edu>

    Sent: Sunday, March 28, 2010 10:40 PM

    Subject: Re: [Milton-L] Adam and Eve alone

      Louis writes:

        To me the most interesting difference has always been the elaborate way in which God first allows Adam a period in which to develop and articulate an acute sense of loneliness before then creating a companion for him; then He allows him to witness the creation and immediately fall in love, before then taking the new companion away before he wakes up (this sequence is part of the passage's strange and suggestive intertext with Sonnet 23).

      "Taking the new companion away"?  Is there any textual evidence that God *takes* Eve away from Adam?  Adam awakes to find that she is not there (echoing and even quoting "Methought I saw" from the sonnet), but how do we know that  God *led* her to the lake?  Might she not wander off there by herself?  I am not referring to the moment when she turns *back* to the lake upon first seeing Adam (4.480 corresponding to 8.507); I am referring to the means by which she arrives at the lake in the first place.  Unless I have missed something, the poem is inconclusive on this point.  I have always assumed that Eve just wanders off, not even noticing Adam, who is presumably close by, still in his trance.  Eve awakes "under a shade of flowers" (that is the 1674 reading, though 1667 has "on" not "of").  If Eve is under (rather than on) the flowers, that might explain why she does not see Adam. Her wandering off can perhaps be read as a dangerous moment, but God's test (if it is that) would be very different if he had actually *taken* her away. Perhaps it is pointless to speculate how Eve arrived at the lake (the old sin of "extra-textual speculation"), but we should wary, I think, of assuming that God led her there.

      John Leonard

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