[Milton-L] tree of life

JD Fleming jfleming at sfu.ca
Sat Apr 5 12:41:08 EDT 2014

One tradition held that A+E were immortal through constant noshing on the tree of life. Thus a troubling medieval counter-factual: Had they not fallen, but procreated, their descendants populating the globe, how wd the immortalizing fruit have been transported the necessary distances without rotting? Anyway, this would seem to be the thought Milton is thinking here--though it doesn't necessarily fit with those he thinks elsewhere. jdf 

----- Original Message -----

From: "Dave LTC MIL USA USMA Harper" <Dave.Harper at usma.edu> 
To: milton-l at lists.richmond.edu 
Sent: Saturday, 5 April, 2014 08:29:28 
Subject: Re: [Milton-L] tree of life 

The arbitrariness of the injunction against the forbidden fruit (in parallel 
with the perhaps equally arbitrary exaltation of the Son) has never bothered 
me as much as the Tree of Life. I appreciate the bringing of knowledge of 
good and evil into the world through the act of disobedience, the same way 
that I sense that the parallel exaltation of the Son brings both the 
potential for disobedience along with a revelation of angelic history (I 
suspect Abdiel probably didn't know he was created by secondary hands prior 
to the exaltation). 

The tree of Life bothers me not only because it seems to have an inherent 
immortality-granting quality, but because (1) there was no injunction 
against eating of it and (2) it would serve no purpose in an prelapsarian 
world where apparently everything was immortal anyway. And yet, we know it 
was there, and the narrator names it such when Satan alights on it as a 

God seems to have hedged his bets by placing an immortality-granting tree in 
an immortal garden, but then he takes it away when it is most needed. Any 
allegorical reference to salvation seems strained at best. 


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J ames Dougal Fleming 
Associate Professor 
Department of English 
Simon Fraser University 

Burnaby -- British Columbia -- Canada. 

Upstairs was a room for travelers. ‘You know, I shall take it for the rest of my life,’ Vasili Ivanovich is reported to have said as soon as he had entered it. 
-- Vladimir Naboko v , " Cloud, Castle, Lake' 

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