[Milton-L] Under a Platan (PL 4.478)

Jameela Lares jameela.lares at usm.edu
Tue Apr 1 08:27:10 EDT 2014


Nice, Kemmer!

Jameela Lares
Professor of English
The University of Southern Mississippi
118 College Drive, #5037
Hattiesburg, MS  39406-0001
601 266-4319 ofc
601 266-5757 fax
________________________________________
From: milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu [milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu] on behalf of Kemmer Anderson [kanderso at mccallie.org]
Sent: Monday, March 31, 2014 11:02 PM
To: John Milton Discussion List
Subject: Re: [Milton-L] Under a Platan (PL 4.478)

West Pointed Sonnet

In a pub in the jungle we stop to survey
The forbidden fruit in a smoothie and rum:
A Miltonic mixture, I stir with my thumb
And ask LTC Dave what the Muse might say
About sin, when we fell on that fatal day.
>From the plantain tree a snake stuck out a tongue
And hissed into syllables fresh words so young
That even Carter did not know what way
The OED would reference this serpentine talk
Shed on the theological discussion under
The tree of sealed knowledge until the ghost
McArthur returned in the form of a hawk
With lightning, ordinance, and thunder
To add to the scene armies of angelic host.

Kemmer Anderson


On Mon, Mar 31, 2014 at 6:47 PM, Stella Revard <srevard at siue.edu<mailto:srevard at siue.edu>> wrote:
Thanks, Dave, really interesting, and the 1698 quote from a work of that year vindicating Oliver Cromwell is fascinating.  The questions would be:  [1] what Milton knew about the "plantain tree" and did he know it while writing PL? [2] was the PL word "platan" used to refer to a plantain tree?

Of course the PL "platan" tree cannot have been the Tree of Knowledge (had it been, Milton would have made sure we knew that), and I see therefore no way of identifying any fruit it may have borne as that which Eve and Adam so disastrously plucked and ate.  But the 1698 quote does establish that by that year readers were expected to recognize a "plantain" tree as a large and beneficent source of shade and shelter, which the PL passage does seem to imply was the case when Adam was standing under it.  So we are left to wonder:  is there evidence that Milton could have been using "platan" to refer to a plantain tree, rather than a plane tree?

I am writing this without immediate access to an OED or would look for myself; I hope members of the list, and particularly you, Dave, may kindly provide any evidence from the OED or elsewhere to help with these questions.  In any case, thanks very much, and I wish a pub were handy so we could hear the rest of your story along with some of  Sir Toby's cakes and ale, or a Laurentian/Miltonic equivalent.

Carter Revard

On 03/31/14, "Harper, Dave LTC MIL USA USMA" <Dave.Harper at usma.edu<mailto:Dave.Harper at usma.edu>> wrote:
So... as opposed to the northern hemisphere deciduous "plane tree," I've always associated this with the tropical plantain, a usage that some dictionary work bears out as a possibility. Under "plantain" in the OED, you'll find what we would typically call bananas alongside the more sycamore-like variety.

My own reason for this is idiosyncratic to say the least, and it involves a strange (but true) story... once upon a time in the Philippines I had a conversation with a Navy SEAL about what sort of fruit the forbidden fruit was as we ran on treadmills in the jungle heat of our outdoor "jail gym." The SEAL was convinced the banana fit the bill with its golden rind and the phallic appearance of bunches on the trees. The longer story demands snacks and beverages in a pub, I'm afraid.

Anyway - I thought and wrote about this later when I found an account of William Dampier's 1686 voyage to the Philippines in which he describes the native's reverence for the "plantain" as an all-around useful plant:

"The Plantain I take to be the King of all Fruit, not except the Coco it self. It is so excellent, that the Spaniards give it the preheminence of all other Fruit, as most conducing to Life. It grows in a Cod about 6 or 7 inches long, and as big as a Man's Arm. As the Fruit of this Tree is of great use for Food, so is the Body no less serviceable to make Cloaths; but this I never knew till I came to this Island. The ordinary People of Mindanao do wear no other Cloth."

Incidentally, the OED lists this usage: 1698  Modest Vindic. Oliver Cromwell 19   They made use of him as their Plantain Tree, whose spreading shade might secure 'em from the Swelter of Trouble and Danger.

A welter of thoughts, I know. But, seriously, this is one useful tree!

Dave Harper
Assistant Professor, USMA

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From: milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu<mailto:milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu> [mailto:milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu<mailto:milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu>] <milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu<mailto:milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu>]> On Behalf Of milton-l-request at lists.richmond.edu<mailto:milton-l-request at lists.richmond.edu>
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Subject: Milton-L Digest, Vol 88, Issue 27

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