[Milton-L] The TeaM: Fruit salad

Dario Rivarossa dario.rivarossa at gmail.com
Wed Mar 30 01:39:19 EDT 2011

Ma d’innocenza han sovra gli altri il vanto
Il bel pomo granato e ’l dolce melo,
Né fanno ad altra pianta oltraggio ed onta.

_____Torquato Tasso, Il Mondo Creato 3.1407-1409

But most can boast of their “in-nocence”
The beautiful pomegranate, the apple sweet,
Which do to other plants no harm nor injury.

The Italian word “innocenza” has a double meaning, like Gandhi’s
concept of “ahimsa”: it currently means “innocence”, but Tasso employs
it, literally, as non-nocenza i.e. harmlessness or non-violence.
As for the pomegranate, its current Italian name is “melograno”, but
we can here find an older form that’s much closer to the English word:
“pomo granato”.

The link between these fruits and “innocence” makes me think that
Tasso chose them as candidates for being the Fruit in paradise. During
the Middle Ages and Renaissance, in fact, it was often believed to be
an apple, since the phrase “arbor mali” in Latin could be either read
as “the tree of [knowledge of good and] evil” or misread as “the apple
tree”. Sometimes however a pomegranate, probably because of its
beauty. A third conjecture, in the 13th century, identified the Fruit
with a banana (!): it was put forward by the Venetian merchant and
explorer Marco Polo in his diary “Il Milione”, which he dictated after
travelling many years throughout Asia. (The meaning of the word
Milione here is not clear; not “one million” anyway). Michelangelo
Buonarroti, in the frescoes in the Sistine Chapel, depicted it as a
fig tree, already anticipating God’s mercy; he was maybe following the
teachings of the Jewish Rabbis.

Milton opts for the apple, but without insisting. According to the
Italian scholar and translator Roberto Sanesi, in PL the forbidden
fruit may well be a psychotropic one, because of its effects on Eve’s
mind. Milton could read about them in the reports from the New World.
A further conjecture, identifying the Fruit with a different fruit,
can be found on Prof. Horace Jeffery Hodges' blog, see

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