"All Mankinde Do Eate Death"
We've recently seen that the image of an 'all-devouring death' was a commonplace metaphor in the early seventeenth century, the time of John Milton's youth, so let's now focus on an expression with the 'opposite' meaning, "eat death," which is perhaps mimicked in its word arrangement by "eating death" in Paradise Lost 9.792.
Assiduous readers will recall that I've already noted Sebastian Franck's book on eating death, published in English translation in 1640: The Forbidden Fruit: or, A Treatise of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evill, of Which Adam at the First, and as Yet All Mankinde Do Eate Death. Let's consider it again, borrowing from my earlier post's citation of Regina Schwartz, who writes:
Michael Lieb comments that Adam and Eve become unclean upon violating God's command, noting that seventeenth-century commentators also made the connection between the forbidden fruit and the unclean food of Leviticus. In The Forbidden Fruit: Or a Treatise of the Tree of Knowledge (1640), Sebastian Frank (sic) writes that the fall was an "offense" to God, causing man to become "unclean": we shall become clean again only when we "doe vomitt up the Fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evill" (14-16). Lieb's interest is in the prohibition a "extralegal and dispensational" -- not in any of its commemorative impulses (Lieb, Poetics of the Holy, 114-18). (Schwartz, Remembering and Repeating, pp. 113-114, n. 18)I still haven't read Lieb's book, but I have managed to find a fuller form of the brief passage that Schwartz cites from Lieb concerning Franck:
As Sebastian Franck says in The forbidden fruit: or a treatise of the tree of knowledge (1640), the Fall was an "offense" to God, causing man to become "unclean": we shall become clean again only when we "doe vomitt up the Fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evill" (Lieb, Poetics of the Holy, pp. 14-16).Lieb is citing the following passage from Franck:
The Testimony of the Scripture, how we ought to evacuate the Seed of the Serpent his counsel & word, and so vomit up the Fruit of the forbidden Tree, and purge the same away as deadly poison by the Fruit of the Tree of Life. (Franck, The Forbidden Fruit, p?)We might as well look at the full title of Franck's book (in a 1642 printing?):
The forbidden fruit, or, A treatise of the tree of knowledge of good and evill, of which Adam at the first, and as yet all mankinde do eate death: moreover, how at this day it is forbidden to every one as well as to Adam, and how this tree, that is, the wisdome of the serpent planted in Adam, is that great image, and that many headed beast mentioned in Daniel and the apocalyps, whom the whole world doth worship: lastly, here is shewed what is the tree of life, contrary to the wisdome, righteousnesse, and knowledge of all mankinde : with a description of the majestie and nature of Gods word (London: Printed by T.P. and M.S. for Benjamin Allen ..., 1642.)Franck published under a pseudonym August Eleuthenius and originally in German, apparently, as Vom dem Baum des Wissen Gutes und Böses, though the source of the preceding block quote has it as translated from Latin.
Wikipedia, by the way, has a useful entry on Sebastian Franck, who was a German and Reformer in Luther's time, but though it lists the book as The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, it doesn't say anything about Franck's views on the subject.
The Milton scholar Alastair Fowler notes Franck's book in his annotated Paradise Lost:
[S]ee Svendsen (1956) 128 citing Sebastian Franck, The Forbidden Fruit (1640): all men 'do eat death, and yet . . . think themselves to eat life, and hope to be Gods'. Eve's eating resembles Death's own -- 'the release of inordinate appetite into the world brings on the insatiable devourer of all men'. (Alastair Fowler, John Milton: Paradise Lost, London and New York: Longman, 1998, p. 516)I assume that both quotes are from Svendsen, of whom Fowler's bibliography offers this:
Svendsen, Kester (1956). Milton and Science. Cambridge, MA.Fowler also touches upon the Greek and Latin backgrounds, but more on that another time. The quote from Svendsen is intriguing for what it says about Eve resembling Death in her "inordinate appetite" -- though I don't know if this is a point made by Svendsen using Franck or by Franck himself.
I wish that I had a copy of Franck's book, for it might have details useful for analyzing Milton's own views on "eating Death." Elsewhere in Paradise Lost, Milton writes of the baleful effects of overeating and compares them to the effects of trying to digest too much knowledge, a point that I might need to follow up.
For now, the important point is that Milton could well have known about the 1640 (1642?) translation of Franck's book into English and the clause in its title that "All Mankinde Do Eate Death."