[Milton-L] An antidote . . .

Carol Barton, Ph.D., CPCM cbartonphd1 at verizon.net
Sun Apr 20 13:26:40 EDT 2014

Exactly, Oydin. "Fruitless" can mean "barren" or "useless" or "futile" or un- or non-productive--as in a fruitless argument. It could mean unreproductive (barren) sex, but I think Eve makes it clear in Book X that, for them, that's not even a consideration, when she suggests abstention: she doesn't say, "Hey--let's have"--forgive me!--"only oral or anal sex, and thereby prevent procreation"--she says "let's not have sex at all":

To whom thus Eve, recovering heart, repli'd.
Adam, by sad experiment I know
How little weight my words with thee can finde,
Found so erroneous, thence by just event
Found so unfortunate; nevertheless, [ 970 ]
Restor'd by thee, vile as I am, to place
Of new acceptance, hopeful to regaine
Thy Love, the sole contentment of my heart
Living or dying, from thee I will not hide
What thoughts in my unquiet brest are ris'n, [ 975 ]
Tending to some relief of our extremes,
Or end, though sharp and sad, yet tolerable,
As in our evils, and of easier choice.
If care of our descent perplex us most,
Which must be born to certain woe, devourd [ 980 ]
By Death at last, and miserable it is
To be to others cause of misery,
Our own begotten, and of our Loines to bring
Into this cursed World a woful Race,
That after wretched Life must be at last [ 985 ]
Food for so foule a Monster, in thy power
It lies, yet ere Conception to prevent
The Race unblest, to being yet unbegot.
Childless thou art, Childless remaine: 
So Death shall be deceav'd his glut, and with us two [ 990 ]
Be forc'd to satisfie his Rav'nous Maw.
But if thou judge it hard and difficult,
Conversing, looking, loving, to abstain
>From Loves due Rites, Nuptial imbraces sweet,
And with desire to languish without hope, [ 995 ]
Before the present object languishing
With like desire, which would be miserie
And torment less then none of what we dread,
Then both our selves and Seed at once to free
>From what we fear for both, let us make short, [ 1000 ]
Let us seek Death, or he not found, supply
With our own hands his Office on our selves;

The alternative wouldn't preclude "loves due rites," or "nuptial imbraces sweet" by modern standards--and their sexual appetites thus satisfied, they wouldn't "with desire . . . languish without hope"--they just wouldn't be engaging in procreative sex.

From: Uzakova, Oydin Yashinova 
Sent: Sunday, April 20, 2014 12:58 PM
To: John Milton Discussion List 
Subject: Re: [Milton-L] An antidote . . .

I fully agree, and I hope that my position is quite clear in this debate--I was not convinced of the alleged sexual pun on "fallacious" and did not insist on the potentially more plausible sexual pun on "seal."  There is simply no conclusive textual evidence in the poem to prove such usage by Milton in both cases.  Instead, I consider the word "seal" here as a legal term of their being mutually bound in the original sin and postlapsarian condition, not unlike fallen Lucifer--their disobedience has sealed their fate as a result of the violation of God's contract.  I have offered the other passages on love and sex to follow up on our discussion of Milton's views on the subject of marital love, sex, lust, women, and mind's and eyes' endless roving... :) 

I could not agree more with the statement that Milton employs bountiful wordplay on the word "fruit" in the poem, including "fruitful" and "fruitless"--not only does he use the word "fruit" in the literal sense of "tree fruit," he uses it for the metaphorical sense of "result/consequence" (as I already pointed out in my earlier post) and mostly associates "fruitful" with God's deeds (creation) and his verbal decrees for human beings ("Be fruitful, multiply"). However, it is worth noting that, despite the fact that John Savoie argues that the phrase "fruitless hours" (spent in their "mutual accusation" [10.1187-88]) necessarily signals Adam and Eve's unproductive/fruitless version of sex after the fall, Milton uses the adjective "fruitless" on 2 occasions in Eden before the fall in rather innocent contexts.  When Eve says "fruitless to me" about the forbidden tree, she means on one level that God did not make that particular tree's "fruit for food" (7.540) for her and Adam, unlike all of the other garden "trees of God" (5.390; 7.538; 9.618) in Eden, but on another level she means that "tasting of the tree" would yield fruitless/unfruitful consequences for their current "happy state" (9.337, 9.347).  The only other mention of "fruitless" occurs in Book 5 as "fruitless embraces" of overgrown trees: 

On to their morning's rural work they haste,
Among sweet dews and flowers; where any row
Of fruit-trees over-woody reached too far
Their pampered boughs, and needed hands to check
Fruitless embraces: or they led the vine
To wed her elm; she, spoused, about him twines
Her marriageable arms, and with him brings
Her dower, the adopted clusters, to adorn
His barren leaves.

Yes, we have a "marriage" of the elm and the vine here, but nothing sinister other than Milton's favorite theme of temperance and self-discipline (in not "reach[ing] too far" and reigning in wild nature). 

Thus, I do not see fruitful/fruitless binary as reinforcing the alleged sexual pun on "fallacious"--alluding to God's biblical decree "Be fruitful, multiply" (7.396 and 7.531) and to Eve's "fruitful womb" as the "Mother of Mankind" (5.388) is as close to the sexual meaning of "fruitful" as Milton gets in the poem. 


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