[Milton-L] yet once more

Richard A. Strier rastrier at uchicago.edu
Fri Apr 4 22:54:32 EDT 2014

The point -- again -- is not what things are but what God commands.  That's the point of the analogy with Luther's Eucharistic theology.  He thought the Real Presence was everywhere, and that God could have made a chestnut Eucharistic.  The point is not where He is, but where He wants us to find him.  The idea that there is something special about the fruit of the forbidden tree is (again) what Satan convinces Eve to believe -- a belief that, of course, he mocks later.

From: milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu [milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu] on behalf of Gregory Machacek [Gregory.Machacek at marist.edu]
Sent: Friday, April 04, 2014 6:12 PM
To: John Milton Discussion List
Subject: [Milton-L] fruit tree yielding fruit after her kind

Are there, elsewhere in Milton's Garden of Eden, trees that bear the same sort of fruit as does the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, but from which Adam and Eve are free to eat?  Or does the kind of fruit that grows on the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil grow only on that tree?

If the latter, God effectively banned consumption of a sort of fruit, not just those specific pieces of some sort of fruit that grow on one particular tree.

I am looking for a passage from Paradise Lost that would help me determine whether the fruit that grows on the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil grows only there.  (I am setting the question of apples aside for the moment.)

So far, I have found no passage that is conclusive on the matter in either direction:  banned-type-of-fruit (effectively), or banned-individual-tree-only.

Those who have posted in support of banned-individual-tree-only have given lines of reasoning why this should be so, but no passages that confirm that it must be understood to be so.  If I can find no passage that settles the matter, I will favor this position for the reasons I stated:  I think a maximally beneficent God and a maximally arbitrary prohibition squares with other tendencies in the poem.  But I'd rather have a passage, or collection of passages, from the poem that I could point to to settle the matter.

Well, here's yet one more passage that seems to me to incline in favor of banned-type-of-fruit.  In Hell after the fall, God makes trees grow up "laden with fair fruit, like that / Which grew in Paradise, the bait of Eve / Used by the Tempter."  Here it is a specific sort of fruit that was used to tempt Eve.  Still not absolutely conclusive, in my estimation, but leaning strongly in one direction.

John has suggested that we consider how many specimens of each species there are, and that has turned out to be a fruitful line of consideration for me, but for our considerations it needs this further limit:  in the Garden.  The license and prohibition are linked specifically to the trees in the Garden (8.321 and elsewhere).  Further, we know that "all sorts [of fruit tree] that all th'Earth yields" are in the Garden (7.541).  I don't know if we know how large Milton thought the Garden was, or how many sorts of tree he thought there were in the world, but if small and many, then it makes it more plausible that there might be a sort of tree that only had one representative in the Garden.  That's how gardens (lower case) often work, anyway; you plant yourself a flowering cherry tree.

Still in quest,

Greg Machacek
Professor of English
Marist College
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