[Milton-L] tree of life

John K Leonard jleonard at uwo.ca
Sat Apr 5 07:37:23 EDT 2014


 
 
On 04/05/14, James Rovira <jamesrovira at gmail.com> wrote (at the end of an excellent post): 
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> So here's what bugs me: the text of PL leads us to believe (by reasonable inference) that the tree of life is, by nature, eternal-life-conferring, but the tree of knowledge of good and evil is only significant as an -option-. It's not similarly death-conferring. The two trees aren't truly parallel.
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> That just bugs me.
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> Jim R
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 I suspect it bugged Milton too, which would explain that speech in book eleven where God (echoing Genesis) declares his intent to banish Adam and Eve from Paradise lest they eat from the tree of life 'And live forever'--and then at once adds the evasive qualification 'dream at least to live / Forever'  (11.95). I do agree with Jim that Milton (mostly) writes as if the tree of life had inherent life-giving properties. In addition to 'ambrosial', which Jim and others have noted, there is 'vegetable' ('fruit of vegetable gold') which means much more than either F. R. Leavis or Douglas Bush recognized when they respectively attacked and defended the startling oxymoron 'vegetable gold'. As Patrick Hume recognized in 1695,  'vegetable' is an alchemical term and has the sense of conferring immortal life. Marvell uses the word in the same sense in 'To his Coy Mistress'. I discuss this further in Faithful Labourers,  189-90.
 
John Leonard                       

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