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

John K Leonard jleonard at uwo.ca
Fri Apr 11 12:29:21 EDT 2014


I misread Greg's earlier post. I thought that the lines he quoted with his interpolated "sort of" was the big "reveal." This new passage does speak to "taste", but I agree with Carol that "taste" here means "act of tasting".  It is possible that there is a pun or ambiguity, as Carol suggests, since Adam and Eve do not know what the forbidden fruit "tastes" like until they taste it. But I don't read these lines as offering any opinion on the identity of the tree's species. The point is that the fruits Adam and Eve do have ("the choice / Of all tastes else") are enough "to please their appetite." I frankly doubt whether Milton much cared about the taste of the forbidden fruit relative to other fruits. That question matters only to Adam and Eve (in the two passages I quoted earlier) and Milton clearly distances himself from their perception that the fruit tastes special. It is the deed, not the gustatory experience, that matters.
 
 
 
On 04/11/14, cbartonphd1 <cbartonphd1 at verizon.net> wrote: 
>   
>  
>  
>    
>  Devil's advocate (JL, does that make you . . . Never mind):
> 
> 
> But "taste" here could mean either the act of tasting, or the flavor (or , because our boy is a wily little devil himself) both. 
> 
> 
> 
> 
>  Sent from my Samsung Galaxy S®III
> 
> 
> 
> -------- Original message --------
> From: Gregory Machacek 
> Date:04/11/2014 11:41 AM (GMT-05:00) 
> To: John Milton Discussion List 
> Subject: Re: [Milton-L] assumptions about the fruit, a question for john leonard 
> 
>   You don't have to try to guess the passage I have in mind, so I'll take Salwa's answering the question flatly on your behalf as the pretext for my reveal:
> 
> 
> "No, the fruit that Eve ate would not taste different, objectively speaking"
> 
> 
> 7.46ff reveal that one taste, among the many tastes available to them in Eden, is prohibited to Adam and Eve (again, I think, not deliberately, but only incidentally, as a result of the fact that there's only tree that bears that fruit):
> 
> 
> Charged not to touch the interdicted Tree,
> If they transgress, and slight that sole command,
> So easily obey'd amid the choice
> Of all tastes else to please their appetite
> Though wandering.
> 
> 
> You do still have one move, I think.  But I have, I think, a counter for that.   So I see checkmate in one turn.
> 
> Greg Machacek
> Professor of English
> Marist College
> 
> 
> -----milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu wrote: -----  To: John Milton Discussion List <milton-l at lists.richmond.edu>
> From: John K Leonard 
> Sent by: milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu
> Date: 04/11/2014 11:30AM
> Subject: Re: [Milton-L] assumptions about the fruit, a question for john leonard
> 
>  Well, I don't know what passage you have in mind, Greg, but the lines I quoted speak to the question you asked, and my answer remains the same. Eve thinks (persuades herself) that the forbidden fruit tastes different (better) than unforbidden fruit, but the narrator declines to confirm this. I think his implication (of course he doesn't know, any more than we can) is that Eve "fancied" the difference. Adam expresses a similar fancy at 9.1023:
>  
>  Much pleasure we have lost, while we abstained
> From this delightful fruit, nor known till now
> True relish, tasting; if such pleasure be
> In things to us forbidden, it might be wished,
> For this one tree had been forbidden ten.
>  
> Adam's lines are even more telling than Eve's for he admits that it is the forbidding, not the fruit itself, that adds that spicy something special, which could (theoretically) be extended to any other tree. He speaks more truly than he realizes, for "ten" (as Fowler points out in an excellent note) is a dramatic irony proleptic of the Ten Commandments.
>  
> All best,
>  
> John
>  
>  
> The lines are inconclusive on the question of whether the forbidden tree is a different kind of fruit. But you obviously have a different passage in mind, so be a sport and let us taste. 
>  
> On 04/11/14, Gregory Machacek <Gregory.Machacek at marist.edu> wrote: 
> >   No, no, no.  That's not our passage, and that's not my question.
> > 
> > 
> >  
> > >  Would the apples (as you would have it) on the trees from which Adam and Eve may eat have (actually, objectively, intrinsically, in themselves, to an objective, unforbidden observer) a different taste from the ones on the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil?
> > > 
> > 
> > 
> > 
> > 
> > Greg Machacek
> > Professor of English
> > Marist College
> > 
> > 
> > -----milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu wrote: -----  To: John Milton Discussion List <milton-l at lists.richmond.edu>
> > From: John K Leonard 
> > Sent by: milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu
> > Date: 04/11/2014 10:55AM
> > 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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