[Milton-L] Unlibidinous?

John Leonard jleonard at uwo.ca
Mon Jul 25 20:47:42 EDT 2011

Richard Strier writes:

>I think that Emily Speller's post is very well taken.
> "Unlibidinous" is a problem.  And, much as I hate to disagree with John 
> Leonard,
> I think that she is right that it cannot be so easily disposed of.  "The 
> Sons of
> God"  must, indeed, be the (unfallen) angels, but "those hearts" pretty 
> much has
> to include, or directly refer to, Raphael and Adam (perhaps also Eve, . . 
> .)

There are two issues here: 1) Is it the case that  "those hearts" "has to 
include" Adam and "perhaps also Eve"? and 2) can the word "libidinous" be 
rescued for innocence?

I shall concentrate on 1. Let's quote the lines again:

                                            O innocence
Deserving Paradise!  If ever, then,
Then had the sons of God excuse to have been
Enamoured at that sight; but in those hearts
Love unlibidinous reigned, nor jealousy
Was understood, the injured lover's hell.

"Those hearts" follows so closely upon "sons of God" (with its clear 
allusion to Genesis 6) that I stand by my claim that the reference is to the 
angels.  I admit that Milton does not say that A and E are "libidinous," but 
he does not say that they are unlibidinous either.  Critics who deny 
prelapsarian lovemaking invariably make the leap and assume that Adam and 
Eve are "unlibidinous."  I agree with Emily's point that it matters how we 
understand "libidinous" (is it another case of Milton purging fallen 
language as he does with "wanton"?); but I still think that "those hearts" 
are those of the angels.

John Leonard

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