Thursday, January 13, 2011

Milton's Eve: "Greedily she ingorg'd without restraint"

Gaping Gorge
(Image from Wikipedia)

Yesterday, I borrowed from a paper by Ryan Marrinan that seemed to imply similitude between Eve and Death, and I offered that I might explore this a bit further. I don't have a lot of time this morning, so I'll just post a few suggestive points, borrowing passages from the online edition of Paradise Lost edited by Thomas H. Luxon: The Milton Reading Room (January, 2011).

Eve grows hungry at the smell of the forbidden fruit while being tempted by Satan toward her first taste:
Mean while the hour of Noon drew on, and wak'd
An eager appetite, rais'd by the smell
So savorie of that Fruit, which with desire,
Inclinable now grown to touch or taste,
Sollicited her longing eye; (PL 9.739-743)
She falls for the temptation and eats, engorging on Death without restraint:
Intent now wholly on her taste, naught else
Regarded, such delight till then, as seemd,
In Fruit she never tasted, whether true
Or fansied so, through expectation high
Of knowledg, nor was God-head from her thought.
Greedily she ingorg'd without restraint,
And knew not eating Death: (PL 9.786-792)
About the same time, Death, always ravenous and now expecting his first meal, scents the effect of the Fall:
. . . such a sent I draw
Of carnage, prey innumerable, and taste
The savour of Death from all things there that live:
Nor shall I to the work thou enterprisest
Be wanting, but afford thee equal aid,

So saying, with delight he snuff'd the smell
Of mortal change on Earth. (PL 10.267-273)
God, watching the progress of Sin and Death as they cross chaos immediately after the Fall, describes the two as cramming their gorges with dead things:
My Hell-hounds, to lick up the draff and filth
Which mans polluting Sin with taint hath shed
On what was pure, till cramm'd and gorg'd, nigh burst
With suckt and glutted offal . . . (PL 10.630-633)
If we ignore Sin for the moment and focus on Death, then we see some commonalities between Eve and Death. Both savor (9.741; 10.269) the smell (9.740; 10.272) of death (9.792; 10.269), take delight in it (9.787; 10.272), and gorge themselves on it without restraint (9.791; 10.632). There's thus something of a similitude.

We would do well, however, to note a crucial difference, for whereas Eve "knew not eating Death" in Paradise Lost 9.792, Death himself was "Sagacious of his Quarry" in Paradise Lost 10.281.

But Eve will learn to experience that sagacity soon enough . . .

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At 5:16 AM, Anonymous dhr said...

The usual glance at Divine Comedy. In the purgatory Dante sees an offspring of the Tree of Knowledge in the circle were the gluttons are cleansing their souls. And here's a very interesting parallel: this episode in fact happens in Purgatorio, Cantos 24-25; whereas in Cantos 24-25 in Inferno, Dante sees the damned souls turning into snakes, i.e. what will happen to Satan and the devils, in PL, as a mirror punishment for deceiving and ruining Adam and Eve.

At 5:17 AM, Anonymous dhr said...

ERRATA CORRIGE: "... in the circle where..."

At 5:32 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

P.S. There isn't, however, a perfect parallel with his Paradiso too. There, in Canto 24 it just begins a long section where Dante deals with faith (asked by St. Peter), hope (St. James), love (St. John) --- but, at the end of this section, he will meet --- Adam!


At 5:42 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Carter Kaplan asked if I were going to look at the hellish scene where the demons in serpentine form eat ash-filled fruit.

I might do so.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 5:55 AM, Anonymous dhr said...

It can be added that the poet and scholar Giovanni Pascoli (+ 1913), by putting the circles of Dante's hell, purgatory, heaven into relationship to one another, noticed that the 'parallel side' to the gluttons in hell is the Sun in heaven, where Dante meets the great theologian St. Thomas Aquinas.

Bingo: Knowledge!

And, Pascoli refers it exactly to Eve's sin and the Tree: knowledge having been redeemed thanks to the Divine Truth who came among mankind in flesh and blood.

At 6:03 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Does Dante distinguish between intellectual and experiential means of knowing?

Jeffery Hodges

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At 6:31 AM, Anonymous dhr said...

As most Medieval thinkers, Dante distinguished between "art" i.e. the intellectual principles of knowledge, experience, and - in some cases - knowledge 'from outside' (revelations), but hmm, basically it doesn't seem the same issue as the one referred to by you.

According to Dante - in Paradiso 26, where Adam himself explains it - the sin's essence was in having disobeyed the simple order given by God, but without any specific reference to its content (the fruit), which was nearly a secondary side of it.

Dante said that mankind should accept the limits of knowledge, but then, in Paradiso 33, he even tried to "mathematically describe" God the Trinity.

At 6:49 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

The "limits of knowledge" probably refers to that liminal space where revelation is needed for further understanding. One would not be directly led to the Trinity, for instance, by reason alone, but once the Trinity has been revealed, it might prove amenable to rational understanding . . . unless it truly is a mystery.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 7:30 AM, Anonymous dhr said...

Yes, that's surely so.

While coming back home, I tried to better focus on the whole matter. Maybe The Key is a verse referring to Satan, "Per non attender lume, cadde acerbo": Since he did not wait for Light, he fell unripe.

Pascoli, again, shows a strict relationship between the original sin and the souls in the Limbo = the ancient poets and philosophers who could not attain the Truth, for no other reason than because they did not have (the Christian) faith. "If" they just could wait... Virgil says, who was one of them.

In fact, in the purgatory, Dante meets the Latin poet Statius starting his travel towards heaven, right then. Statius reveals that he had joined the Christian faith after reading some "prophetic" verses by Virgil. Salvation was possible to heathens too.

Maybe, also Eve's and Adam's "trespassing" was guilty just because they did not wait. God's grace - Dante remarks - often prevents us, but we must not 'force' it.

Last but not least, notice that the word "acerbo", unripe, is used by Dante two times: in that verse about Satan and--- in Inferno c. 25. Quite intriguing.

So, was the Fruit forbidden "as such"? or just because it was unripe?

At 7:49 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

"Salvation was possible to heathens too." Recall the harrowing of hell.

The point about "acerbo" is interesting.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 9:16 AM, Blogger Carter Kaplan said...

Following with interest....

At 9:21 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

If you have sufficient interest, let the rest of us also profit . . .

Jeffery Hodges

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At 1:22 PM, Blogger Carter Kaplan said...

I'm buried in e-mail, manuscripts, and teaching...

Oh, and this is now out:


If a Gypsy Scholar reader agrees to write an Amazon (or other review) I'll send a copy.

At 1:48 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Any takers out there among readers? Mr. Kaplan's an excellent writer of fiction.

I plan to order a copy sometime, and I'll undoubtedly have things to say, but that might be a while, so if somebody out there has time now . . .

Jeffery Hodges

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At 3:23 PM, Anonymous dhr said...

Well, Carter, I could do it, and would like to.

At 3:44 PM, Anonymous dhr said...

"Salvation was possible to heathens too." Recall the harrowing of hell.

In the Divine Comedy, most heathens are in the Limbo, sort of a half-paradise (though not a half-heaven). Most damned souls belonged to Christian people, instead.

At 3:50 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

What did Dante think would happen to souls in Limbo at the Last Judgment?

Jeffery Hodges

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At 5:32 PM, Anonymous dhr said...

He did not explain it. According to Giovanni Pascoli, on the basis of some verses in Purgatorio, after the Last Judgement the righteous heathen will live blessed forever, not in heaven but on top of the mountain of purgatory, i.e. paradise.

Pascoli refers not only to the episodes with Statius, but also to the role played by Cato, Purgatorio c. 1, and the verses Virgil devotes to him in the Aeneis.

- - -

Recall the harrowing of hell

For myself, you meant, after saying those things? I already booked a place, saving 15%.

At 8:14 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Booked? For later? You missed it, buddy. The last harrowing was 1,980 years ago!

Try Erebus. Nobody's certain what'll happen to those heathen on Doomsday . . .

Jeffery Hodges

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At 8:52 PM, Anonymous dhr said...

Excuse me, I misunderstood that "of", as if it were "harrowing in hell".

As for Erebus etc., in Paradise Lost 2.965 Satan meets Demogorgon, known as the king of (evil) fairies and of hell--- so, a hell much more ancient and huge than Satan's! Fascinating. Will deal with it in my next, soon-to-come Milton-L project.

Wanna go there! by the Ere Bus Company.

At 10:11 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Hurry, ere you miss that bus . . .

Jeffery Hodges

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At 10:34 AM, Blogger Carter Kaplan said...

"Paradise Lost 2.965 Satan meets Demogorgon, known as the king of (evil) fairies and of hell--- so, a hell much more ancient and huge than Satan's! Fascinating. Will deal with it in my next, soon-to-come Milton-L project."

I'm looking forward to following this thread on Milton-L.

So, Satan is no bigger than his myth, and his hell is a hell of competing mythological cycles. This is a good data point for arguing the primacy/centrality in the poem of Milton's modernist anthropological insight.

Send me your address (via e-mail) and I'll put the poem in the mail (ah, yes, Diogenes is not fiction but a closet drama in the form of Aristophanic comedy).

At 6:36 AM, Anonymous dhr said...

I'm looking forward to following this thread on Milton-L

It will start next week (I mean: THIS week, since in NK it is already Monday)

At 6:37 AM, Anonymous dhr said...

ahem, in SOUTH Korea (well, in this case it should be the same)

At 6:57 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Dario's political inclination revealed in a timely fashion . . .

Jeffery Hodges

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