[Milton-L] "Four-Letter Words"

Horace Jeffery Hodges horacejeffery at gmail.com
Fri Apr 18 18:21:23 EDT 2014


"If Voltaire was as shocked as this by the incestuous relationships -- what
do you suppose he would have made of this recent 'foul' thread?"

I think the more relevant question would be Milton's view. Milton derived
his 'allegory' of Satan, Sin, and Death from James 1:15 -- "Then when lust
hath conceiued, it bringeth forth sinne: and sinne, when it is finished,
bringeth forth death" -- so he was perhaps more willing to entertain
thoughts that seemingly disgusted Voltaire (assuming Voltaire's not
feigning).

I have encountered one view, among some contemporary Christians, that the
original sin was oral sex. I would be curious as to this view's history --
is it a recent invention, or does it extend some ways into the past?

Not that I believe Milton held a similar view, just that I'm willing to
consider the possibility . . .

Jeffery Hodges


On Sat, Apr 19, 2014 at 6:54 AM, Carol Barton, Ph.D., CPCM <
cbartonphd1 at verizon.net> wrote:

>  Thanks, Salwa. Voltaire was famously appalled by Satan's coupling with
> Sin, and Death's with Sin (see *An Essay Upon the Civil Wars of France
> And also Upon the Epick Poetry of the European Nations From Homer to Milton*[1727]):
>
>
> The fiction of Death and Sin seems to have in it some great beauties and
> many gross defects. In order to canvass this matter with order, we must
> first lay down that such shadowy beings as Death, Sin, Chaos are
> intolerable when they are not allegorical, for fiction is nothing but truth
> in disguise. It must be granted too that an allegory must be short, decent,
> and noble. For an allegory carried too far or too low is like a beautiful
> woman who wears always a mask. An allegory is a long metaphor, and to speak
> too long in metaphors must be tiresome because unnatural. This being
> premised, I must say that in general those fictions, those imaginary
> beings, are more aggreeable to the nature of Milton's poem than to any
> other, because he has but two natural persons for his actors, I mean Adam
> and Eve. A great part of the action lies in imaginary worlds, and must of
> course admit of imaginary beings.
>
> Then, Sin springing out of the head of Satan seems a beautiful allegory of
> pride, which is looked upon as the first offense committed against God. But
> I question if Satan getting his daughter with child is an invention to be
> approved of. I am afraid that fiction is but a mere quibble; for if sin was
> of a masculine gender in English, as it is in all the other languages, that
> whole affair drops, and the fiction vanishes away. But suppose we are not
> so nice, and we allow Satan to be in love with Sin, because this word is
> made feminine in English (as death passes also for masculine), what a
> horrid and loathsome idea does Milton present to the mind in this fiction?
> Sin brings forth Death; this monster, inflamed with lust and rage, lies
> with his mother, as she had done with her father. From that new commerce,
> springs a swarm of serpents, which creep in and out of their mother's womb,
> and gnaw and tear the bowels they are born from.
>
> Let such a picture be ever so beautifully drawn, let the allegory be ever
> so obvious, and so clear, still it will be intolerable on the account of
> its foulness. That complication of horrors, that mixture of incest, that
> heap of monsters, that loathsomeness so far fetched, cannot but shock a
> reader of delicate taste.
>
> But what is more intolerable, there are parts in that fiction which,
> bearing no allegory at all, have no manner of excuse. There is no meaning
> in the communication between Death and Sin, 'tis distasteful without any
> purpose; or if any allegory lies under it, the filthy abomination of the
> thing is certainly more obvious than the allegory.
>  But please do read the rest of the essay (available at that site). If
> Voltaire was as shocked as this by the incestuous relationships--what do
> you suppose he would have made of this recent "foul" thread?
>
>
>  Best to all,
>
> Carol Barton
>
>  *From:* Salwa Khoddam <skhoddam at cox.net>
> *Sent:* Friday, April 18, 2014 5:37 PM
> *To:* John Milton Discussion List <milton-l at lists.richmond.edu>
> *Subject:* Re: [Milton-L] "Four-Letter Words"
>
> That's a great thought, Carol. I suppose all these "prurient" sexual
> practices will be located in Hell in the future, as in Dante's Inferno? But
> Eden, just fallen, does not seem to be the right place for all this intense
> aberrant sexual activity that we've been burdening A & E with. In my
> opinion, these various acts of sexualitly (like those from the Kama Sutra)
> do not suddenly appear overnight (literally). There is shame, guilt, and
> lust, yes, but Eden is not a den of iniquity and perversity.
> How much are those "puns" and "connotations" we have been discussing a
> product of a modern unearthing of meanings in words used in a different
> culture and a different place and a different time? As Lewis writes, in an
> essay,"Prudery and Philology," The Spectator ( 22 Jan. 1955)," [W]ords,
> like every medium, have their own proper powers and limitations" (63). He
> objected to Milton's description of sex in pre-lapsarian Eden for this
> reason.
> Salwa
>
> 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:* Carol Barton, Ph.D., CPCM <cbartonphd1 at verizon.net>
> *To:* John Milton Discussion List <milton-l at lists.richmond.edu>
> *Sent:* Friday, April 18, 2014 3:38 PM
> *Subject:* Re: [Milton-L] "Four-Letter Words"
>
> Salwa, I know you addressed your comments to John, but I can't resist
> asking (so I hope you will forgive me the intrusion): if Milton seriously
> intended to introduce what in some circles are still considered aberrant
> sexual behaviors--fellatio being after all a species of Onanism, in that it
> ensures that procreation will not occur--why would he have done so in Eden,
> and why would he have so degraded his heretofore exemplary human pair,
> knowing (because the pre-narrative dictates it) that they are about to be
> redeemed? The Satan/Sin/Death triad overtly involves incest (and so, to a
> far less blatant and I believe less intentional degree, does Adam's
> coupling with Eve); but the former is framed to evoke our disgust, whereas
> in the latter case, the de facto incest isn't even mentioned.
>
> I would think that, had Milton been keen to delve into these more prurient
> practices vicariously, he'd have introduced them in Hell--not in the Garden.
>
> Best to all,
>
> Carol Barton
>
>  *From:* Salwa Khoddam <skhoddam at cox.net>
> *Sent:* Friday, April 18, 2014 3:48 PM
> *To:* John Milton Discussion List <milton-l at lists.richmond.edu>
> *Subject:* [Milton-L] "Four-Letter Words"
>
> Dear John,
> Thanks for pointing out Lewis's discussion in "Four-Letter Words" i.e.,
> "obscene words," (*Selected Literary Essays)* on what he calls "the most
> unsavoury of all perversions" (cunnus). (I tried to avoid typing this word,
> but I couldn't because my meaning wouldn't be clear.)  His point is that
> these "obscene" words were satirized in literature up to Milton's time. His
> essay is prompted by a note from D. H. Lawrence  in defense of *Lady
> Chatterley's Lover*: "We are to-day, as human beings, evolved and cultured
> far beyond the taboos which are inherent in our culture. . . .The evocative
> power of the so-called obscene words must have been very dangerous to the
> dim-minded, obscure, violent natures of the Middle Ages, and perhaps is
> still too strong for slow-minded, half-evoked natures to-day."  So . . .
> why would Milton want to arouse readers' supposedly intense feelings about
> "fellatio" and "cunnilingus," in a culture filled with taboos about these
> words/acts? Professor Fleming offered an answer, that these sexual acts are
> "a significant part of the content and meaning of the fall." That made me
> think, if these connotations and puns are there in the poem (which I'm not
> convinced of yet), would they also be extended to apply to same-sex
> relationships, or just restricted between relationships of the opposite sex?
> Salwa
>
>
> 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 <jleonard at uwo.ca>
> *To:* John Milton Discussion List <milton-l at lists.richmond.edu>
> *Sent:* Thursday, April 17, 2014 2:11 PM
> *Subject:* Re: [Milton-L] An antidote . . .
>
>  Excellent point by Louis below. It might also be relevant that "seal" was
> a common early modern pun for sexual penetration (Donne uses it
> frequently). Much more plausible than the other pun that has so distracted
> us.
>
> John Leonard
>
> On 04/17/14, *"Schwartz, Louis" *<lschwart at richmond.edu> wrote
>
>    For me the key and most poetically brilliant touch—and it happens to
> come right before we’re told that the force of the “fallacious Fruit” with
> its “exhilerating vapor bland” is “exhal’d” out of the bodies of Adam and
> Eve—is the way that Milton has the narrator call Adam’s and Eve’s taking
> their “fill of Love and Loves disport” both the “*seal*” of “thir mutual
> guilt” and “The *solace* of thir sin [italics mine].”  “Seal” and
> “solace.”  A pact, a union, a broken union, a consolation, isolation,
> impression; “seis’d” and taken largely, nothing loath.  Sole alas, unsavory
> of itself, but also soul, associate soul, one heart one flesh one soul.
> It’s a striking bit of overdetermination (it starts with the more
> conventional “seal” of guilt and then branches off unchecked from the
> addition of “solace”—and the further roving is supported by a series of
> puns and echoes).
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
> ------------------------------
>
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