Milton's Polyglottal Irony of Eating Death . . .
The lines of Milton's Paradise Lost that speak of Eve's Fall offer an ironic contrast between the semantic content and the grammatical analysis:
Greedily she ingorg'd without restraint,As previously noted, the use of the participle "eating" mimics the use in Greek of the nominative participle after verbs of knowing. The irony here is that Eve does not know that she is eating death . . . or that death is eating her.
And knew not eating Death: (PL 9.791-2)
We see in process a fall of language here as Eve eats the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge, a confusion of tongues prefiguring the biblical story about the Tower of Babel, a confusion suggested by Milton in mixing Greek with English.
The lines thus threaten to break down into two separate languages, and the knowing reader must consciously analyze in both Greek and English to hold Milton's synthesis together. Eve's disobedient act is already causing trouble for her descendents, for knowledge comes dear, as we must work to know both Greek and English if we want to understand Milton's words.
Eve for the time being remains unknowing despite the verb of knowing required by Greek grammar to explain in English her complex action in eating deadly knowledge, an ironic ignorance emphasized by Milton polyglot lines.
Today's babbling 'Babel' of voices is brought to you by Gypsy Scholar . . .