[Milton-L] assumptions about the fruit, a question for john leonard

cbartonphd1 cbartonphd1 at verizon.net
Fri Apr 11 11:06:41 EDT 2014

But . . .

Though "many are the Trees of God that grow/ In Paradise,  and various,  yet unknown / To us . . . Of **this** [particular] Tree we may not taste nor touch / . . . Of the Fruit / Of each Tree in the Garden we may eate, / But of the Fruit of THIS fair Tree amidst [which I read as amiddest--in the center of] / The Garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eate / Thereof, nor shall he touch it, lest ye die." Emphasis mine,  typos courtesy of Android. 

I think it's the Tree, not the variety of fruit, that matters . . . and pace Greg, she wouldn't have been able to differentiate it by its taste without tasting it . . . ?

Best to all,

Carol Barton

Sent from my Samsung Galaxy S®III

-------- Original message --------
From: John K Leonard <jleonard at uwo.ca> 
Date:04/11/2014  10:51 AM  (GMT-05:00) 
To: John Milton Discussion List <milton-l at lists.richmond.edu> 
Subject: Re: [Milton-L] assumptions about the fruit,	a question for john leonard 

I'll be a sport and answer. I  think Eve thought the forbidden fruit tasted different:
                        such delight till then, as seemed,
   In fruit she never tasted, whether true
   Or fancied so, through expectation high
   Of knowledge, nor was godhead from her thought. (9.789-92)
It is Eve's "expectation" of tasting something special that makes the fruit "seem" different. I admit that there is an equivocation in the narrator's  "seemed" and "whether true", but even that can be read as an equivocation as to whether these are the best apples (in either of the two  senses that have been proposed) that Eve has ever tasted. I do not think that these lines (if they are the ones you plan to spring as your "reveal") clinch the case for the forbidden tree being a unique specimen of its kind. Even you or I might say (and sincerely mean) "that's the best apple I ever tasted."
John Leonard
On 04/11/14, Gregory Machacek <Gregory.Machacek at marist.edu> wrote:
. . . sensing a lull in our recent storm of exchanges . . .

May I return to an issue that arose in the course of our discussion?  I had made the claim that Satan's "apples" at 9.585 must mean the more general "fruits" rather than the species-name for genus malus, because if Eve knew the fruit on the forbidden tree as an apple, she would not have needed to be brought to the tree itself to know that the fruit the serpent was discussing was the one on the forbidden tree.  She could right then have said "Oh, we're not allowed to eat apples" (If I'd known my colloquial hypothetical speech was to become a subject line for our e-mail exchange, I'd have been more careful with my verb choice!)

John Leonard rightly pointed out that that argument rested on the assumption that "the forbidden tree was the only one of its kind."  He indicated that he has "always made the opposite assumption that it was just one of many apple trees that was singled out from the others (and other kinds of tree) by the simple fact of being prohibited."

I have been searching for textual confirmation that one or the other of our assumptions is correct, and have shared the various passages from PL that seem to me to incline one direction or the other, but have judged each passage ultimately inconclusive on the matter.  But now I have found what I think is conclusive textual evidence.

The reveal will be the more dramatic, though, if John is willing to be a sport and answer the following question.

Would the apples (as you would have it) on the trees from which Adam and Eve may eat have a different taste from the ones on the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil?

Be careful how you answer.  I see checkmate in two moves.

In my glee to think I might triumph over John Leonard in a battle of close reading, I almost presume to answer for him, "No, of course not, they're both just apples."  But I will let him answer.

Greg Machacek
Professor of English
Marist College
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