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

Salwa Khoddam skhoddam at cox.net
Tue Apr 1 20:28:38 EDT 2014


"The other correct answer is "It doesn't matter."

Well, from the rational viewpoint of God, sure it doen't matter. We don't really care what fruit it is. It could be anything. But from the viewpoint of the poem as a poem, it does matter to deliberate and ponder what type of fruit it is, or what type of tree the platan is, because we have to imagine it as readers before we can picture the action involved with it. Natural landscape teems with meaning to support themes and  actions. Any poet would tell us this. Poetry is more than abstractions. Besides, even when Satan says it is an "apple," usage at that time indicates that the "apple" was a generic term for a group of fruits, fleshy with a kernel, the peach included. Etymology also shows that the peach was called "Persicum malum" (with a long a) which literally means "Persian apple," but with a short "a" means "evil."  The adjective "downy" (as Jeffery has mentioned) supports the opinion that the fruit could  have been a peach. By expurgating the role of the imagination in reading literature and privileging theology over poetry, we would be truncating the poem, unless one believes that Milton was not successful with his images and metaphors, as some critics have said (T.S. Eliot?).
Best,
Salwa

Salwa Khoddam PhD
Professor of English Emerita
Oklahoma City University
Author of *Mythopoeic Narnia:
Memory, Metaphor, and Metamorphoses 
in The Chronicles of Narnia*
skhoddam at cox.net
  ----- Original Message ----- 
  From: Gregory Machacek 
  To: John Milton Discussion List 
  Sent: Tuesday, April 01, 2014 2:40 PM
  Subject: Re: [Milton-L] Under a Platan (PL 4.478)


  John Leonard gives one of the two correct answers to the question "What fruit is the forbidden fruit in Paradise Lost?"


  The other correct answer is "It doesn't matter."


  The Forbidden Fruit is the one that God forbid, and God forbid we read any significance into the variety of fruit chosen, since that is a step toward assigning some rationale for the choice beyond His will for one restraint.


  The first answer is supported by the passages John cites in which Satan names the fruit.
  The second answer is perhaps supported by the fact that it is only Satan who ever names the fruit.



  Greg Machacek
  Professor of English
  Marist College


  -----milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu wrote: -----
  To: John Milton Discussion List <milton-l at lists.richmond.edu>
  From: John K Leonard 
  Sent by: milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu
  Date: 04/01/2014 08:43AM
  Subject: Re: [Milton-L] Under a Platan (PL 4.478)




  On 03/31/14, Stella Revard <srevard at siue.edu> wrote: 
    .
    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.  


  The question of just what kind of fruit was forbidden in PL comes up periodically on this list, where many people express the view that it must have been something more exotic than a common apple, even though Satan twice uses that very word (9.585, 10.487). Undeterred, Miltonists tell us that Satan is not to be trusted or that "apples" could mean "pineapples." Often forgotten is this line from PR:

  Alas how simple, to these cates compared,
  Was that crude apple that diverted Eve! (2.348-9)

  True, 'crude' there means 'uncooked', but the antithesis with 'cates' suggests that the 'apple' was conspicuously unexotic or (in the narrator's words) 'simple'. I have no opinion about Genesis, but I think that Milton thought of the fruit as an apple.

  John Leonard

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