Thursday, August 30, 2007

Eve's "sweet reluctant amorous delay"

You were Expecting an Evening of Delight?
(Image from Wikipedia)

I'm still deep into working on my Milton article, and with only five free days more until the semester's onset, I'm too busy to blog on anything but my article's progress.

Here's a sample that comes directly after the riff from Don Quixote that I did not segue into yesterday:
Scholars do not know if Milton read Don Quixote, though it was available by 1620 in an English translation by Thomas Shelton (cf. online facsimile), and Milton's own nephew John Phillips later translated it for publication in 1687 (cf. online facsimile), after Milton's death (cf. John T. Shawcross, The Arms of the Family, 110-1), but he would have concurred with the traveler's critique of courtly love as falling into heathenism through its idolatrous worship of the unattainable lady. Milton prefers the attainable lady, albeit not the improperly attainable one. Rather, he prefers the purely properly attainable sort found in paradise:
Here Love his golden shafts imploies, here lights
His constant Lamp, and waves his purple wings,
Reigns here and revels; not in the bought smile
Of Harlots, loveless, joyless, unindeard,
Casual fruition, nor in Court Amours
Mixt Dance, or wanton Mask, or Midnight Bal,
Or Serenate, which the starv'd Lover sings
To his proud fair, best quitted with disdain. (PL 4.763-70)
Quite a full-frontal attack on not just illicit sexual congress but also the tradition of courtly love and its conventions! James Grantham Turner suggests that Milton's dismissal of "Court Amours" stems from the view that this tradition of courtly love had led to "the open flaunting of illicit sexuality by the privileged classes" in his own time (Turner, Libertines and Radicals in Early Modern London, 19), which Milton further links to the fallen angel "Belial in the epic catalogue of fallen angels" (Turner 153; cf. PL 1.490-505).
But Milton is no prude, and tomorrow, I'll demonstrate how explicit and titillating Milton can get.

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At 5:39 PM, Blogger A.H. said...

Court amours and amor cortois. They obviously meant very different things for Milton. There is a key and related passage in "L'Allegro" where Milton lambasts court amours in terms of the amor cortois l.121-2: a passage that stands in relation to the one you quote from "Paradise Lost" and the "starved" romantic lover. The dazzling radiance from woman's eyes parallels the light of Amor from the Beloved in the trobar clus tradition in Provencal and Italian amor cortois. This trivial love and comic theatre also becomes the attack (via Chaucer) in "Il Penseroso". This spectacle of love and comedy leads to a song to Hymen, a courtly theme allowed into Paradise. And yes, strangely, the amor cortois is allowed in Paradise. There is Eve's beautiful seasonal hymn to Amor at 4:640 (if Eve understands the numerology of this--and it is her love-song, she is definitely Queen Truth). There is also Adam's aubade at 5:17, built like much of courly love from the Song of Solomon. I'm not so sure that Milton would have agreed with Cervantes.

At 5:48 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Thanks for the references. You may be right about the distinction, but what Milton would object to in any case is the tendency to set the woman up higher than the man. To the extent that courtly love did this, Milton would have been critical. However, he certainly uses a courteous language in the words that he supplies to Adam and Eve.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 8:44 PM, Blogger A.H. said...

Perhaps, we are seeing from a different angle. Your angle, as I sense it--and that might mean I am wrong, in which case I apologise beforehand is: 1) there is a theological line (Puritan in exelcis) that Man is higher than woman 2) the amor cortois placed Woman above Man 3) therefore, Milton's Puritan vision of Eve, as woman, becomes a denunciation of the amor cortois. I agree with you on the Milton line, it would be hard to disasgree, Man is above Woman, but there was much more to the amor cortois than the single view of Man is placed above Woman.
Milton does not see, from my angle, that the amor cortois was heathenism: it was under Dante, Cavalcanti, an advanced psychology of love, one that Milton was well aware of. Interestingly, when God first shows Adam a view of Eve it is the mind--in the rational faculty--exactly what the amor cortois advised. Love is known through Reason. But here is the switch. Whereas the poet of the amor cortois saw the real form, then the ideal, through reason, such that Woman became a mirror of God, the Creator shows the ideal to Adam so as he will go from this, through reason, to an understanding of the real woman. Edenic order, which must avoid the "subjection" of man to Amor, requires this process, in my reading of Milton. Milton's fear of how Love subjegates by being uncontrolled is perfectly aligned with his Neo-Platonic readings and the courtly love tradition as understood by the sacred poets, such as Dante, rather than the profane poets that wrote about sexual undulgence.

At 9:31 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

I think that you're right and that I'm right and that we're focusing on two different streams of the Courtly Love tradition. I need to specify the problem more precisely.

There are two types of courtly love.

One is the lower type of courtly love, which is the adulterous, sensual sort.

The other is the rational type that leads one upward toward heavenly things.

Milton does not object to the latter and even recommends it.

But common to both was the courtly language of praise the woman's beauty and setting her up as a goddess. Milton objected to the improper (as he saw it) elevation of woman above man.

But thanks for forcing me to make finer distinctions. Originally, I was intending to keep my paper simple, but it's already getting complicated. I can still make my central point, but I'll have to acknowledge that Milton didn't think the Courtly tradition completely worthless, for he's indebted to it for Adam and Eve's courtesy to each other.

Jeffery Hodges

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