Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Brief Return to "Seasons" in Paradise Lost

The Seasons
(Image from Wikipedia)

I don't recall if I mentioned that an article of mine will be appearing in a coming edition of the Milton Quarterly, maybe this October, and that's good news since this journal is the toughest one to publish in.

My article on the seasons in Paradise Lost, however, was rejected from a journal. In the words of one referee:
Despite the fairly extensive research . . . and clear prose, this is a dry piece . . . . Reading and pondering the astronomical matters that it raises fail to shake a nagging question, one that the essay never addresses: so what?
I suppose I could be annoyed by that remark, but I had to laugh . . . and agree. I agreed with several other points as well, but I won't go into them here. The editor, incidentally, was "not personally in accord with this view" and would have voted to publish, but "conceded to the other three readers," who felt that "the subject did not strike . . . as sufficiently significant" for publication. I can't argue with a trinity of referees, who are probably right. I'll have to improve the article.

Just as a reminder, the reference to prelapsarian "seasons" in Paradise Lost occurs explicitly, literally in 4.640, 5.323, 7.342, 427, and 8.69. Reference to postlapsarian "seasons" in Paradise Lost occurs explicitly, literally in 10.678 and 1063.

I lack time this morning to develop this theme, and I first need to re-read my own article, but the basic problem that interested me was what Milton meant by prelapsarian seasons since he believed that the seasonal changes from spring to summer to fall to winter (and round and round) resulted from a postlapsarian tilting of the cosmic axis by 23.5 degrees as punishment for mankind's sin.

He couldn't avoid prelapsarian seasons, of course, for Genesis 1.14 of the creation account specifies:
And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years . . . [KJV]
Milton explicitly echos this verse in PL 7.339-342:
Again th' Almightie spake: Let there be Lights
High in th' expanse of Heaven to divide
The Day from Night; and let them be for Signes,
For Seasons, and for Dayes, and circling Years . . .

Thomas H. Luxon, The Milton Reading Room, July 2011
My question remains the same. In Milton's prelapsarian paradise, what did "seasons" imply?

I'll try to find time to return to this question . . .

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At 5:04 AM, Blogger dhr said...

a nagging question, one that the essay never addresses: so what?

If the dude absolutely needs an answer to this question, he will have some problems with Life, I fear...

Anyway, the issue whether the laws of universe changed, or not, after the Fall is a very ancient one. Among Christian theologians, defenders of both views can be found, though I think the latter party ("they did NOT basically change") prevails. The most developed pro-change party being, of course, the Gnostic groups, William Blake included.

As to the poet I consider to be THE source to Paradise Lost, i.e. Torquato Tasso, he does mention some postlapsarian changes: either symbolical ones, e.g. the thorns coming out of the rose, or relational ones, e.g. Man losing his harmony with Nature.

But, all in all, Tasso says that Eden was placed on a very high mountain, where - just because of that - the weather did not undergo unpleasant phenomena. An idea he took directly from Dante's Purgatorio ( = Eden, in fact).

At 5:22 AM, Blogger dhr said...

A more Original view is Origen's. After the Fall, that occurred among the souls in the first creation, God created a new universe, a bodily one, which fitted the condition of the fallen souls. Through the sufferings & struggles due to the laws of matter, they (we!) can regain heaven.

Things are quite / a bit more complex than that in his works, but this is just a hint.

At 7:04 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Dario, what changes did the Gnostics see in cosmic laws after the 'fall'?

I read all that Gnostic stuff but have forgotten so much . . .

As for the 'dude', at least grant him a sense of humor.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 8:59 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"A dry piece"?

Next time you're preparing a paper, set your many beer mugs, bottles, et cetera down on the piling sheets (ensure the beers are very cold to maximize condensation) then resubmit.

Send along a couple of six-packs to the reviewers.

Sheesh, I'd figured a guy with a doctorate in Science woulda know that.


At 12:08 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Unfortunately, JK, my doctorate's history of science, so all my science is out of date . . .

Jeffery Hodges

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At 2:15 PM, Blogger dhr said...

what changes did the Gnostics see in cosmic laws after the 'fall'?

Hmm, the sentence was much too vague. The Fall made the original Pleroma collapse, and the material one be created, with its own features (which we call "natural laws"). Before the Fall, there were different "laws," i.e. a different 'lifestyle.'

Well, Gnostics thought the very Law (the Old Testament) to have been given by the second creator, the Demiurg.

Blake summarized the difference between the ways in which the two universes / conditions worked by calling them Expansion and Contraction. In his long poem "Milton" he described the biology of a fly from the two different standpoints.

At 2:29 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Okay, that fits what I know.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 3:16 PM, Anonymous Scott A. said...

Uh...publishing for a LITERARY journal requires a piece to be "sufficiently significant"?

To who? For what?

Don't get me wrong - I used to be into studying literature. But, come on....The whole enterprise -- how "sufficiently significant" is it???

At 3:21 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Conversely, this might indicate just HOW profoundly insignificant my article is . . .

Jeffery Hodges

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At 3:39 PM, Blogger dhr said...

In Milton's prelapsarian paradise, what did "seasons" imply?

Probably, something like the current Tropical ones. See a major source of Milton's, the "Gerusalemme Liberata" by Torquato Tasso, c. 15, # 35-36.

At 4:17 PM, Blogger dhr said...

In Gerusalemme Liberata 15, 47-49, the parallelism between Adam's paradise and the Happy Islands is strengthened by the great, hideous Serpent popping up. And, the way the beast is chased away is inspired by Dante, Purgatorio 8, which precisely describes the Serpent in Eden.

At 5:18 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

But the tropical round of seasons depend on the 'postlapsarian' fact of the ecliptic, which wouldn't exist in Milton's prelapsarian paradise.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 6:21 PM, Blogger dhr said...

Tasso honestly did not consider this side of the issue. He simply said that the current Tropical climate is the kind that ancient poets described (how did they know?) when they dealt with the happy, past Gold Age, which was the same as Eden, according to Dante etc.

At 6:23 PM, Blogger dhr said...

The IDEA is that all ages (Eden, Fall, ours own) are "at the same time."

See Teilhard de Chardin's cosmological views.

At 7:12 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

This is all pretty complicated, so I'll need to get back into the material to make sense of it.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 7:29 PM, Blogger dhr said...

Yep, it is "sufficiently significant." And let the fools say whatever they want.


At 7:37 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Well . . . I wouldn't want to label anyone. We all have our various interests and different opinions.

Jeffery Hodges

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