[Milton-L] No antidote

John K Leonard jleonard at uwo.ca
Sun Apr 20 13:44:05 EDT 2014


 Dismissing my case for a 'seal' pun, Carol Barton writes 'It must be a guy thing, John'. Oydin Uzakova then chimes in:
 

> I consider the word "seal" here as a legal term of their being mutually bound in the original sin
 Of course 'seal' is a legal term. I stated explicitly that the legal sense is primary. The question is whether there is a sexual sense in addition to the legal one (in a context that is clearly sexual). Several posters seem to assume that my point in arguing for a pun is to bring the tone down to a gutter level ('a guy thing, John'). The assumption behind such comments is that the legal and sexual spheres are entirely distinct and can never meet in wordplay that accords with epic decorum. I would certainly agree that the tone of Milton's lines is very different from Donne's elegies (at least the narrator's tone is different). But this moment in the poem is still a meeting of the legal and the sexual. Saint Augustine held that original sin passed from parent to child through the father's semen (a sexually transmitted disease). 'The seal / The solace' occurs at the legally and sexually sealing moment of first transmission. Adam seeks solace with Eve in the very moment that he imprints and oppresses all his future descendants. As he says in the next book:
 

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 All that I . . . shall beget
Is propagated curse. O voice once heard
Delightfully, Increase and multiply,
Now death to hear! For what can I increase
Or multiply, but curses on my head?
Who of all ages to succeed, but feeling
The evil on him brought by me, will curse
My head, Ill fare our ancestor impure.
 
Impure semen is 'a guy thing', but it infects the daughters too.
 
 
 
John Leonard
 

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