The Peach in Milton, Marvell, and Eliot
I got word yesterday that the article titled "The Peach in Milton's Paradise Lost, Marvell's 'Garden,' and Eliot's 'Prufrock': Etymology, Sin, and Transgression" -- co-authored by Salwa Khoddam (Oklahoma City University) and Horace Jeffery Hodges (Ewha Womans University) -- has finally been published, in the Medieval and Early Modern English Studies (Vol. 24, Nr. 1, 2016). Here's the "Abstract":
The article investigates the peach as symbol of the forbidden fruit in Milton’s Paradise Lost, Marvell’s “Garden,” and Eliot’s “Prufrock.” Milton focuses on the fruit’s appearance as “downy,” Marvell refers to the peach as “curious,” and Eliot worries that to “dare” to eat a peach could disturb the universe. Milton’s choice of “downy” fits the peach better than what we would now call an apple. Marvell’s choice of “curious” fits the Christian world’s long-held belief that curiosity was the vice that led Eve to try the forbidden fruit. Eliot’s choice of “dare” fits Eve’s having “dar’d” to eat the forbidden fruit in Paradise Lost, for daring to eat the fruit can disturb the universe, as, for example, Eve’s eating did. These three points are supported by context, analysis, explication, connections, etymology, and more. Noted in passing are a few brief references in art and literature to the peach as the forbidden fruit, and these are treated merely to show that such identification is not unheard of. More important are the connections drawn between the fruit in the three poems, for such connections are the focus of this paper.Sound interesting? We had so much to bring in that we found ourselves constrained to enter some details in the footnotes, as in Footnote 10:
The relation of his question — “Do I dare to eat a peach?” — to Milton’s Forbidden Fruit finds echoes in more recent literature, e.g., in Benjamin Hale’s Miltonic novel, The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore, in which a chimpanzee named Bruno is tempted by the ambrosial odor of a peach to give an explicit yes to Eliot’s question, whereby Bruno falls into the human condition by a process the reader can only marvel at. (Benjamin Hale, The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore, 12-13)The author, by the way, is the eldest son of one of my Ozark friends, Pete Hale, who works as physicist in his own start-up making laser-makers and delving into quantum mysteries. His son Ben took a different path.
PS The artist Mattthew Skenandore, who sometimes signed his given name with three Ts gave me permission to use the above illustration if I ever needed it for an article. I had lost contact with him in the meantime, but upon learning that this article had been published, I attempted to Google his name. In doing so, I discovered that he had died three years ago, at the age of 54.
Rest in peace, Mattthew.