Thursday, June 26, 2008

John Milton: "How do you like them apples?"

Apple (malus) as Evil (malus)
(Image from Wikipedia)

On the Milton List yesterday, someone inquired about Milton's view of Adam and Eve's fall, specifically, the point at which they fell into sin, and since I've published on this, I posted the following:
On the falling process of Adam (and Eve), I've actually published an article that I'll send by attachment to anyone interested. Here's the title and abstract:
When Did Adam Fall in Paradise Lost?
Horace Jeffery Hodges
"Human love, the love of Adam and Eve, is mortal and sinful unto death." - Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy

MEMES 17.2 (2007.11): 363-381
The specific moment of Adam's fall in Paradise Lost would seem unambiguous. It occurs at the moment that he accepts and eats the apple. One might object that these are two slightly distinct moments and that Adam is breaking two slightly different prohibitions, i.e., neither to touch the tree nor to eat the fruit, but Milton plays upon an etymological ambiguity in the word "taste" (="touch") to conflate God's two commands and Adam's two violations. Thus does one sort of ambiguity appear to resolve the other sort. If we look more carefully, however, the precise moment in which Adam falls dissolves into a process of falling that was prepared for through Adam's idolatrous worship of Eve, confirmed by Adam's inner assent to the evil of placing Eve before God by deciding to accept her gift of the apple, and completed in Adam's act of taking and eating the fruit of the tree. This process has the effect of stretching out Adam's sin, making his fall a process of falling, but it has the advantage of making understandable Adam's decision for Eve and death over God and life.
I don't, however, talk about Abdiel.
To this, Professor Salwa Khoddam remarked:
Jeffery, I don't think Milton uses the word "apple" in PL. Satan uses the term in order to trivialize it. N'est pas?
Professor Khoddam's remark isn't a quibble, for we cannot assume that Milton considered the fruit of the tree of knowledge an "apple" merely because Satan uses the term. Indeed, that would be reason for suspicion. So . . . I checked:
Salwa, that's an interesting point . . . though I don't think that it affects my argument . . . but I ought to be more careful, I suppose. Let me take a look:
Paradise Lost 9.584-588

[Satan tempting Eve:]

To satisfie the sharp desire I had
Of tasting those fair Apples, I resolv'd [ 585 ]
Not to deferr; hunger and thirst at once,
Powerful perswaders, quick'nd at the scent
Of that alluring fruit, urg'd me so keene.

Paradise Lost 10.481-487

[Satan bragging to his fellow demons:]

The new created World, which fame in Heav'n
Long had foretold, a Fabrick wonderful
Of absolute perfection, therein Man
Plac't in a Paradise, by our exile
Made happie: Him by fraud I have seduc'd [ 485 ]
From his Creator, and the more to increase
Your wonder, with an Apple;
Satan does seem to be trivializing the fruit, as you point out. On the other hand, Milton has the narrator of Paradise Regained refer to the fruit as an apple:

Paradise Regained 2.338-349:

[Narrator describing Satan's temptation of Jesus:]

Our Saviour lifting up his eyes beheld
In ample space under the broadest shade
A Table richly spred, in regal mode, [ 340 ]
With dishes pil'd, and meats of noblest sort
And savour, Beasts of chase, or Fowl of game,
In pastry built, or from the spit, or boyl'd,
Gris-amber-steam'd; all Fish from Sea or Shore,
Freshet, or purling Brook, of shell or fin, [ 345 ]
And exquisitest name, for which was drain'd
Pontus and Lucrine Bay, and Afric Coast.
Alas how simple, to these Cates compar'd,
Was that crude Apple that diverted Eve!
And there are Milton's famous words from Areopagitica:
"It was from out the rinde of one apple tasted, that the knowledge of good and evill as two twins cleaving together leapt forth into the World."
But Paradise Regained and Areopagitica are not Paradise Lost, so I wouldn't want to press them for any significance, not without more thought devoted to the issue first.

Thanks for the information.

[All texts cited from: Luxon, Thomas H., ed. The Milton Reading Room,, June, 25.]
If I had my "Abstract" to do all over again -- since I guess that I don't "like them apples" -- I'd avoid the term "apple" and use simply "fruit."

Live and learn...

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At 11:10 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"[Satan tempting Eve:]

To satisfie the sharp desire I had
Of tasting those fair Apples"

Do you suppose perhaps Satan might simply (in Miltons' vocabulary-not been able to rhyme:)

"Wow! What a set o' Peachies"

Or something to that effect?

JK-forced seclusion leads me to wonder.

At 11:17 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

You imply that Satan was leering at Eve? The tempter tempted?

Jeffery Hodges

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At 12:35 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nope. Merely the choice of fruit.


At 1:08 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Well . . . it was the forbidden fruit. But I'm probably missing some pun that you're making.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 7:19 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"for we cannot assume that Milton considered the fruit of the tree of knowledge an "apple" merely because Satan uses the term."

I always thought Milton composed the poem. So now I take it that it is more proper to say that "Milton took dictation?"


At 7:31 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Actually, Milton claimed that the Holy Spirit dictated the poem to him . . . but the point that I was making was that Satan might use a term incorrectly, for he lies repeatedly.

Jeffery Hodges

* * *

At 7:47 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well I'm glad we cleared that up. I was beginning to think you were about to post your upcoming blog pronouncing a sentence of "F" for Milton (plagiarism you know).


At 7:55 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Right, Milton is innocent; the Holy Ghost cribbed . . . but that was 'self-plagiarism.'

Jeffery Hodges

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