[Milton-L] Milton-L Digest, Vol 89, Issue 16

Evan LaBuzetta evanlabuzetta at gmail.com
Fri Apr 4 13:36:05 EDT 2014


I'm coming quite late to this discussion, and I'm in the horrifying
position of disagreeing with John Leonard and CS Lewis, but here goes
anyway...

I tend toward the belief that the forbidden tree is a unique type, and not
what we'd call an apple nowadays. Surely it's relevant that the textual
evidence for "apple is just an apple" is in Satan's mouth, and I mean that
not in the broad sense that "Satan is not to be trusted" but in the
specific textual sense that in both passages Satan is actively trying to
deceive his listeners.

In book 9, Satan-as-serpent invents a whole backstory about his discovery
of the fair fruit, lured by their "savorie" odor. Here it seems plausible
that Satan's use of "Apple" could be in the general sense of "fruit", could
be pure ignorance (since he didn't actually eat them, or any Edenic fruit,
unless I'm terribly mistaken), or could be an attempt to remove one of
Eve's objections by calling the fruit by a general name - i.e. trying to
get her to think, "oh, apples, I know what those are, they're tasty,
they're not the forbidden fruit and they're OK to eat". But, particularly
in combination with "savorie", I can't read this as him describing a Red
Delicious or similar:

 I nearer drew to gaze;

When from the boughes a savorie odour blow'n,

Grateful to appetite, more pleas'd my sense,[ 580 ]

Then smell of sweetest Fenel or the Teats

Of Ewe or Goat dropping with Milk at
Eevn<http://www.dartmouth.edu/~milton/reading_room/pl/book_9/notes.shtml#line581>
,

Unsuckt of Lamb or Kid, that tend thir play.

To satisfie the sharp desire I had

Of tasting those fair
Apples<http://www.dartmouth.edu/~milton/reading_room/pl/book_9/text.shtml>,
I resolv'd[ 585 ]

Not to deferr;


And again in Book 10, if we read it as "apple as apple", it would be about
the only accurate thing in that passage, where Satan is trying to convince
his followers that the expedition was a smashing success, about 30 lines
before their forced transformation:

 therein Man

Plac't in a Paradise, [OK so far] by our exile

Made happie [nope]: Him [no] by fraud [debatable] I have seduc'd

>From his Creator, [again, nope] and the more to increase

Your wonder, with an
Apple<http://www.dartmouth.edu/~milton/reading_room/pl/book_10/notes.shtml#apple>[jury's
still out on that]; he thereat

Offended [not the word I'd use], worth your laughter, [big mistake] hath
giv'n up

Both his beloved Man and all his World, [not so much]

To Sin and Death a prey, [well, temporarily] and so to us,

Without our hazard, labour, or allarme, [couldn't be more wrong]

To range in, and to dwell, and over Man

To rule, [strange kind of rule that requires such guile]

Thanks to the list for an engrossing discussion; it's prompted me to
reconsider an aspect of the poem that I thought was pretty clear. The idea
that the forbidden tree could be superficially like one of a whole species
of trees is particularly fascinating, though ultimately I'm not quite sold
on it.

- Evan
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