[Milton-L] forbidden fruit and lapsarian sex
skhoddam at cox.net
Tue Apr 15 23:36:15 EDT 2014
"C. S. Lewis just might have the distinction of being the first critic to make a reference to cunnilingus in a book on Milton (yes he really did, but I don't have the page reference to hand)."
I was intrigued by this statement, so I combed *A Preface to Paradise Lost* and the closest I could find was this passage describing the lapsasrian relationship of Adam and Eve:
"Wholly new, and perversely delicious, a tang of evil in sex is now to enter their experience. What will reveal itself on waking as the misery of shame now comes to them . . . as the delighted discovery that obscenity is possible. But could poetry suffice to draw such a distinction? Certainly not Milton's. His Homeric catalogue of flowers is wide of the mark. Yet something he does. Adam's hedonistic calculus--his cool statement that he has never (except perhaps once) been so ripe for 'play' as now--strikes the right note. He would not have said that before he fell. Perhaps he would not have said 'to enjoy thee'. Eve is becoming to him a thing. And she does not mind: all her dreams of godhead have come to that" (PPL. ch. XVIII, 128).
Maybe I didn't comb enough . . .
Salwa Khoddam PhD
Professor of English Emerita
Oklahoma City University
Author of *Mythopoeic Narnia:
Memory, Metaphor, and Metamorphoses
in The Chronicles of Narnia*
skhoddam at cox.net
----- Original Message -----
From: John K Leonard
To: John Milton Discussion List
Sent: Tuesday, April 15, 2014 5:28 PM
Subject: [Milton-L] forbidden fruit and lapsarian sex
I too am sceptical about the fallacious/fallacious pun, but in fairness to John Savoie we should remember two things:
1) his argument does rest on that supposed pun alone but on the savour pun too ("to each meaning savour we apply / And palate call judicious"). At least I think it did (it has been a while since I read the MQ piece). It might be that this too is equally far removed from references to fellatio (it certainly does not require such a reference), but it is relevant to this thread and has not (I think) been mentioned here yet.
2) In answer to Richard Strier's latest point (which, if I understand Richard correctly, is that Donne is uninterested in oral sex), John Savoie might cite Carew's "A Rapture" ll.55-78 which includes a pretty graphic reference to cunnilingus (at least it does to my unregenerate imagination), and the sexual indulgence is figured as eating fruit. Here you go:
Then, as the empty bee that lately bore
Into the common treasure all her store,
Flies 'bout the painted field with nimble wing,
Deflow'ring the fresh virgins of the spring,
So will I rifle all the sweets that dwell
In my delicious paradise, and swell
My bag with honey, drawn forth by the power
Of fervent kisses from each spicy flower.
I'll seize the rose-buds in their perfumed bed,
The violet knots, like curious mazes spread
O'er all the garden, taste the ripen'd cherry,
The warm firm apple, tipp'd with coral berry :
Then will I visit with a wand'ring kiss
The vale of lilies and the bower of bliss ;
And where the beauteous region both divide
Into two milky ways, my lips shall slide
Down those smooth alleys, wearing as they go
A tract for lovers on the printed snow ;
Thence climbing o'er the swelling Apennine,
Retire into thy grove of eglantine,
Where I will all those ravish'd sweets distil
Through Love's alembic, and with chemic skill
From the mix'd mass one sovereign balm derive,
Then bring that great elixir to thy hive.
I admit that "alembic" (three lines from the end) brings us back to male genitalia, due to the shape of an alembic (http://www.google.ca/imgres?imgurl=&imgrefurl=http%3A%2F%2Felderscrolls.wikia.com%2Fwiki%2FAlembic&h=0&w=0&tbnid=H_d-kJSiEHjkvM&zoom=1&tbnh=194&tbnw=259&docid=VqCPOcGuz47WuM&hl=en&tbm=isch&ei=-K5NU9CnN-rV2QX7xYFY&ved=0CAIQsCUoAA), but Carew's alchemist-narrator has been doing some other . . . preliminary experiments in the line "Retire into thy grove of eglantine".
All very far from Milton, but then Milton would (probably) agree that this is appropriate to fallen sex, which was John Savoie's point (he wasn't arguing that Milton approved). True, Milton's (probable) disapproval does not clinch John's case, but I don't think it helps to brush off the whole topic with a lordly "Milton wouldn't go there" (and I know that that is not Richard's point). Some rather surprising people have gone there. C. S. Lewis just might have the distinction of being the first critic to make a reference to cunnilingus in a book on Milton (yes he really did, but I don't have the page reference to hand).
On 04/15/14, "Richard A. Strier" <rastrier at uchicago.edu> wrote:
I think that what Larisa says is exactly right. Even pornographic poetry, like Donne's "Love's Progress" elegy were remarkably genitally oriented in their vision of heterosexuality, and that poem sees the woman's mouth as a possible but less desirable location (like the rest of her body except her "centrique part"). And, just to stick with Jack Donne, there is a startling reference to a midwife's perspective in the very heterosexually eager "Going to Bed" elegy.
From: milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu [milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu] on behalf of Larisa Zámbóné Kocić [larisa.kocic at gmail.com]
Sent: Tuesday, April 15, 2014 12:17 PM
To: milton-l at lists.richmond.edu
Subject: Re: [Milton-L] lapsarian sex
As far as I am aware of it, sex in the Renaissance, wether sanctioned in matrimony or practiced as a "sport" for pleasures, always seems to intail procreation, or at least to strive towards it. Even the lust driven, erotic literature of the age (and I am here deliberatly sticking with Ian Moulton's phrase) is replete with procreation, hence, prefering penetrative sex descriptions - if mentioning other, alternative variations, they are either featured as foreplays, or are described in derogatory sense not necessarily connected to the postlapsarian condition as such (see The School of Venus for example). Particularly interesting in this regards would be Sarah Toulalan's Pornography and Bodies in Seventeenth-Century England (Oxford UP, 2007), chapter two: "‘What a Fountain of Joys’: Reproduction and Sexual Pleasure."
So, I am inclined to agree with Oydin about "fallacious" puning on "fall", if at all.
Thank you for the very intersting article,
Date: Tue, 15 Apr 2014 09:42:09 -0500
From: jsavoie at siue.edu
Thanks for your response, Michael.
Raphael's first words to Eve are
"Hail Mother of Mankind, whose fruitful Womb
Shall fill the World more numerous with thy Sons
Than with these various fruits . . ." 4:388-90
Eve's final words--indeed the final spoken words of the epic:
"By mee the Promis'd Seed shall all restore." 12.623
PL is emphatically procreative. Moreover, with one exception, the eros of PL is
procreative. On p. 169 of my MQ essay I gather several of the more erotically
aware passages and show how each is closely tied to procreation. The one
exception? The lapsarian sex of Bk 9. Despite ingesting the forbidden fruit
and having passionate sex, Adam and Eve end Bk 9 "fruitless," their argument
and accusation yes, but that extended episode as a whole.
Of course elsewhere Milton beautifully urges other aspects of marriage,
particularly in the divorce tracts. I don't contest that at all. Miltonic
marriage is about much more than sex, but when it is about sex, especially in
PL, it is closely tied to procreation except when it notably is not.
I do not insist upon the pun, but it makes one wonder. My argument works without
it, but it works better with the pun, which I ascribe to a proven punster of
extraordinary verbal density and poetic dexterity.
Quoting Michael Gillum <mgillum at unca.edu>:
> What is the basis for claiming that Milton wants sex to be necessarily
> connected with reproduction? Clearly, for him marital sex is part of that
> "conversation" which is the main purpose of marriage, more essential than
> reproduction, although "our Maker bids increase." The contrast he draws in
> the Book 4 passage is between sex that is part of a mutual loving
> commitment and sex that is predatory and self-gratifying.
> I agree that the pun on "fallacious" is unintended. On the other hand, the
> implication in Michaelangelo's Temptation seems obvious even if a viewer is
> unaware of MB's sexual orientation. My students aways get it.
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