Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Virginia Woolf and the Eve of Mankind . . .

Virginia Woolf

I've borrowed from the Milton Reading Room the following lines from Book 4 in which Eve awakens to discover two skies:
That day I oft remember, when from sleep
I first awak't, and found my self repos'd [ 450 ]
Under a shade of flours, much wondring where
And what I was, whence thither brought, and how.
Not distant far from thence a murmuring sound
Of waters issu'd from a Cave and spread
Into a liquid Plain, then stood unmov'd [ 455 ]
Pure as th' expanse of Heav'n; I thither went
With unexperienc't thought, and laid me downe
On the green bank, to look into the cleer
Smooth Lake, that to me seemd another Skie.
As I bent down to look, just opposite, [ 460 ]
A Shape within the watry gleam appeard
Bending to look on me, I started back,
It started back, but pleas'd I soon returnd,
Pleas'd it returnd as soon with answering looks
Of sympathie and love; there I had fixt [ 465 ]
Mine eyes till now, and pin'd with vain desire,
Had not a voice thus warnd me, What thou seest,
What there thou seest fair Creature is thy self,
With thee it came and goes: but follow me,
And I will bring thee where no shadow staies [ 470 ]
Thy coming, and thy soft imbraces, hee
Whose image thou art, him thou shalt enjoy
Inseparablie thine, to him shalt beare
Multitudes like thy self, and thence be call'd
Mother of human Race: what could I doe, [ 475 ]
But follow strait, invisibly thus led?
Till I espi'd thee, fair indeed and tall,
Under a Platan, yet methought less faire,
Less winning soft, less amiablie milde,
Then that smooth watry image; back I turnd, [ 480 ]
Thou following cryd'st aloud, Return faire Eve,
Whom fli'st thou? whom thou fli'st, of him thou art,
His flesh, his bone; to give thee being I lent
Out of my side to thee, neerest my heart
Substantial Life, to have thee by my side [ 485 ]
Henceforth an individual solace dear;
Part of my Soul I seek thee, and thee claim
My other half: with that thy gentle hand
Seisd mine, I yielded, and from that time see
How beauty is excelld by manly grace [ 490 ]
And wisdom, which alone is truly fair.
The Milton List was discussing this passage, in which Milton offers Adam as an object of adoration for Eve, and one scholar pointed out that Virginia Woolf alludes to this passage in her essay "A Room of One's Own":
My aunt, Mary Beton, I must tell you, died by a fall from her horse when she was riding out to take the air in Bombay. The news of my legacy reached me one night . . . . A solicitor's letter fell into the post-box and when I opened it I found that she had left me five hundred pounds a year for ever. (page 45)

Indeed my aunt's legacy unveiled the sky to me, and substituted for the large and imposing figure of a gentleman, which Milton recommended for my perpetual adoration, a view of the open sky. (page 48)
In other words, instead of a husband to support her, she could rely on her aunt's money and substitute this guy -- I mean the sky! -- for a gentleman she'd have had to marry if she'd had no money.

I wonder if Woolf noticed the pun . . . even perhaps intended it?

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At 9:49 AM, Blogger Kevin Kim said...

Woolf's story was published in 1929, and according to this site, 500 pounds would be the equivalent, in buying power, of almost $31,000 today.

At 5:01 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Interesting, for though not a pittance, it hardly seems enough for a comfortable life. Is a husband worth so little?

Jeffery Hodges

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