[Milton-L] tree of life

Michael Gillum mgillum at unca.edu
Sat Apr 5 13:16:56 EDT 2014


Milton seems to have adopted a rule for his poem that everything in Gen.
1-3 would be included and, insofar as possible, explained in a
sort-of-rational way. The Biblical God's apparent fear that fallen humans
should eat of the tree of life is unseemly. Milton deals with that by
quoting the Bible but having PL's God add the OR, "or dream at least to
live / Forever." PL's God thus implies that the fruit of the Tree of Life
would not confer immortality on the fallen humans, so the setting of a
guard on the tree is merely symbolic--a sign that humans cannot regain
eternal life through their own actions. Perhaps setting the guard is one of
the Father's "ghastly jokes" (Empson's phrase).

Since the fruit is not needed before the fall, and would not work after the
fall, why is the Tree of Life there at all? Milton seems to strip it of any
function in the literal narrative and reduce it to a symbol prefiguring
Christian salvation. Does this get us any closer to establishing a
symmetrical relation between the Tree of Knowledge and the Tree of Life?


On Sat, Apr 5, 2014 at 12:42 PM, Matthew Jordan <matthewjorda at gmail.com>wrote:

> Containerization, surely? (And propagation, of course.)
>
>
> On 5 April 2014 17:41, JD Fleming <jfleming at sfu.ca> wrote:
>
>> 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
>>
>> ------------------------------
>> *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
>> cormorant.
>>
>> 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.
>>
>> Dave
>>
>>
>>
>> -----Original Message-----
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>>
>> --
>> James Dougal Fleming
>> Associate Professor
>> Department of English
>> Simon Fraser University
>> 778-782-4713
>>
>> 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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