[Milton-L] Eve's party and Tu Bshvat

Nancy Rosenfeld rosenfeld.n at gmail.com
Wed Oct 17 06:26:00 EDT 2012


Dear Ann,

Drawing a connection between Eve's party and the Tu Bshvat "Seder" isn't at
all far-fetched. The New Year of the Trees may date as far back as the
First Temple period. The Seder, a festive meal patterned on the Passover
Seder (featuring wine, fruits and nuts and the reading of texts connected
with trees), dates back to the 16th century and was, according to
tradition, initiated in Safed by the followers of Rabbi Isaac ben Solomon
Lurie (1534-1572), the great Kabbalist. How much Milton would have known
about this custom is another question, of course!

Another possible point vis-a-vis Milton, and connected at least
tangentially with Tu Bshvat, is the current custom of reading aloud
Jotham's Parable of "the trees who went forth on a time to anoint a king
over them" (Judges 9:1-21) on Tu Bshvat. As a tale meant for children the
ending has been attenuated into a call for appreciation of the many
benefits with which trees bless humanity: oil, fruit, wine, shade (of
course kids aren't exposed to the frame story of Abimelech's murder of some
70 of his brothers!). Milton was clearly familiar with the Parable, and
considering his ideas on monarchy it would have resonated with him, to say
the least.

Hope this is of help. Also, hope I can be excused for quoting myself in
some of the above: "Trees, Kings, and Muses: Robert Graves's Battle of the
Trees and Jotham's Parable of the Trees, *Papers on Language and
Literature* 41,
2 (Spring 2005), pp. 196-214.

All the best,
Nancy Rosenfeld

Nancy Rosenfeld, PhD.
English Studies Unit
Max Stern College of Jezreel Valley, Israel
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