[Milton-L] No antidote
Carol Barton, Ph.D., CPCM
cbartonphd1 at verizon.net
Sun Apr 20 14:18:28 EDT 2014
Now, Professor Leonard--you know me better than that! I just meant that it must be "a guy thing" to see sexual connotation where (to the female intellects that have been party to this discussion) none is justified. Salwa, Oydin, Stella, and I are not prudish; if we were, we'd have shied away from this discussion altogether, and certainly, have avoided the explicit sexual terminology the topic invokes. Milton is not Donne, nor any of the other classical or Renaissance poets, writing suggestive amoretti to his mistresses; he's not Shakespeare's Hamlet, punning on country matters; he's not even Chaucer's Dame Alisoun, expounding upon her belle chose. The only love poem we have from him to a woman is a poem of bereavement, to my recollection (Sonnet XXIII), so it isn't fair to read Donne's (or anyone else's) puns into his words without warrant.
I'm sorry that you were (apparently) offended; that wasn't my intent.
From: John K Leonard
Sent: Sunday, April 20, 2014 1:44 PM
To: John Milton Discussion List
Subject: [Milton-L] No antidote
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:
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.
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