Milton's 'Satanic' Serpent: How Big Was It?
Milton scholar Dennis Danielson has published a parallel prose edition of Milton's epic poem Paradise Lost. By "parallel" is meant that on the lefthand page appears the original poem and on the righthand page appears Danielson's prose 'translation'.
That ought to be useful for some readers, but I have a question or two concerning the serpent depicted on the cover, so I posted a query at the Milton List that I'll also post here:
Concerning his parallel prose edition of Paradise Lost, Dennis Danielson wrote:If any readers of this blog know the answer to my curious question, please weigh in with comments."For a look at Kirsten Behee's original cover art, which Amazon hasn't yet posted, please see link."I finally clicked to see this cover art and was impressed. I also have a question that derives from that cover image:How large was the serpent that Satan chose to possess for Eve's temptation?The artwork shows the serpent as pythonesque -- perhaps large enough to swallow Eve . . . and Adam. Does this depiction of the serpent's size represent Satan as serpent during the punishment inflicted upon him annually for his crime?His Visage drawn he felt to sharp and spare,Or does Kirsten Behee's original cover art depict the serpent possessed by Satan?
His Armes clung to his Ribs, his Leggs entwining
Each other, till supplanted down he fell
A monstrous Serpent on his Belly prone,
Reluctant, but in vaine: a greater power
Now rul'd him, punisht in the shape he sin'd,
According to his doom: (PL 10.511-517)So spake the Enemie of Mankind, enclos'dSince the rising folds tower fold above fold, up to a head held aloft, his serpent also appears to be large . . . but how large?
In Serpent, Inmate bad, and toward Eve
Address'd his way, not with indented wave,
Prone on the ground, as since, but on his reare,
Circular base of rising foulds, that tour'd
Fould above fould a surging Maze, his Head
Crested aloft, and Carbuncle his Eyes;
With burnisht Neck of verdant Gold, erect
Amidst his circling Spires, that on the grass
Floted redundant: (PL 9.494-503)
This isn't an especially important question, I suppose, but I am curious.
(Quoted PL Passages: Thomas H. Luxon, ed., The Milton Reading Room, November, 2008)