[Milton-L] Serpents and their coloring

Michael Gillum mgillum at unca.edu
Sun Nov 2 09:54:38 EST 2014


"Serpentine"as the name of a greenish mineral goes back long before Milton.
OED does not list it as the name of a color. However, Milton's phrase
 means that the fallen serpent was the color of serpentine the mineral, in
addition to meaning the snake was the color of snakes--is the latter a bit
of a joke?

On Sat, Nov 1, 2014 at 8:43 PM, Horace Jeffery Hodges <
horacejeffery at gmail.com> wrote:

> I found some sources on "serpentine" as a color:
>
> http://goo.gl/pVF9uZ
>
> According to the *Encyclopaedia Londinensis, or, Universal dictionary of
> arts, sciences, and literature* (1817), compiled by John Wilkes,
> "serpentine green" - and also "serpentine black" - is the color of an
> amygdalite "with a calcareaous base. 7. Amygdalites ophites : consisting of
> marble and serpentine. Found in Sweden, Italy, and the south of Africa.
> Generally white, the serpentine green or black" (page 470, column 1).
>
> And here's some information on "serpentine color":
>
> http://www.gemselect.com/gem-info/serpentine/serpentine-info.php
>
> Serpentine Gemstone Information
>
> About Serpentine - History and Introduction
>
> Serpentine is a gem-quality hydrated magnesium silicate, usually green,
> yellowish-green, or brownish-green in color. Its name is thought to be
> derived from its serpent-like green colors. Serpentine is not just a
> gemstone, but rather, it is a group of minerals which includes up to 20
> different related members. Although there are a variety of serpentines,
> there are only two basic aggregate structures of serpentine which include
> antigorite and chrysotile . . .
>
> Jeffery Hodges
>
>
> On Sat, Nov 1, 2014 at 11:29 PM, Michael Gillum <mgillum at unca.edu> wrote:
>
>> According to Milton's Adam, snakes in the fallen world have a "color
>> serpentine" (10.870) so that settles it. In the DuPont Corian product
>> line,, "serpentine green" is a sort of celadon toned toward olive.
>>
>> On Sat, Nov 1, 2014 at 4:46 AM, Horace Jeffery Hodges <
>> horacejeffery at gmail.com> wrote:
>>
>>> Thanks, Nancy, that fiery color of red and gold recalls the point -
>>> which I recall running across in *Sir Gawain and the Green Knight* -
>>> that red and gold were treated as the same color . . . though I can't quite
>>> place the reference . . .
>>>
>>> Jeffery
>>>
>>> On Sat, Nov 1, 2014 at 4:32 PM, Nancy Rosenfeld <rosenfeld.n at gmail.com>
>>> wrote:
>>>
>>>> Dear Jeffery,
>>>>
>>>> Thanks for raising the question of traditions as to serpents' coloring
>>>> (and for posting the link to the tapestry).
>>>>
>>>> Actually we can start with the Hebrew Bible itself, focusing on Numbers
>>>> 21:6-9, which tells how the Deity sent "fiery serpents" (KJV) to bite
>>>> people as punishment for speaking "against the Lord." In response to Moses'
>>>> prayer, God instructs him to "make a fiery serpent, and set it upon a
>>>> pole." Moses "made a serpent of brass" and held it aloft; everyone who had
>>>> been bitten and looked on the brass serpent was able to live.
>>>>
>>>> [In Hebrew the above is a play-on-words, since nahash (serpent) and
>>>> nehoshet (brass in KJV; copper in the Jewish Publication Society
>>>> translation) come from the same 3-letter root. There's also a problem
>>>> understanding saraf - the word translated as fiery. I looked at 2
>>>> commentaries on these verses - Rashi and Ramban - but couldn't get much out
>>>> of them - my fault; I'm not a biblical scholar.]
>>>>
>>>> But whichever metal the serpent was made of - brass or copper: both
>>>> brass and copper, especially when held aloft with the strong desert sun
>>>> shining on them, would probably have a fiery color which is a combination
>>>> of red and gold (and fire itself is often pictured by combining red and
>>>> yellow-gold).
>>>>
>>>> Hope this helps,
>>>> Nancy
>>>>
>>>> Dr. Nancy Rosenfeld
>>>> Max Stern College of Jezreel Valley, 19300, Israel
>>>>
>>>>
>>>>
>>>>
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>>>
>>>
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