Thursday, October 22, 2009

Adam and Eve: "the liveliest pair"?

Satan Watching
Endearments of Adam and Eve
William Blake
(Image from Wikipedia)

One of our fine Milton scholars, Michael O'Connell, has caught a 'happy' typographical error in Gordon Campbell's edition of John Milton: The Complete English Poems and posted the delicious detail on the Milton List:
Ah, the pleasure of typos! I've been using the Everyman Complete English Poems of Milton this term, edited by our extraordinarily learned colleague Gordon Campbell. One word that escaped Gordon's eye was in PL 4, 321, where we learn that Adam and Eve were "the liveliest pair / That ever since in love's embraces met". A mischievous typographer? My students were understandably a bit disappointed when, duty bound, I gave them the true reading of the line.
That 'true' reading, of course, is "the loveliest pair" -- though O'Connell acknowledges that the error might itself be true:
But who's to say that A & E were not also the liveliest pair in their love's embraces?
"Were they?" I wondered, and did a Google search for "liveliest pair," whereupon I discovered another couple, finding them listed as the final item among the search results: Eva and Nick. I didn't look further into the details on these two, who are described in the search results as "enjoying the fruits of one another's loins," but I'm taking a wild guess that it's a filmed reinterpretation of Milton's account in which Eve has an affair with "Old Nick" -- as perhaps implied by Blake's ménage à trois above -- and that the forbidden fruit was none other than the aforementioned fruit of their loins.

I reject such a heretical re-envisioning of the lapsarian story, however, and suggest instead that not only is O'Connell right in suggesting that Adam and Eve might actually have been "the liveliest pair in their love's embraces" but even that Campbell might indeed have gotten the line right. I've proposed this point on the Milton List:
Or was Professor Campbell simply restoring the long-lost original line and thereby providing a more precise understanding of Milton's views on prelapsarian sexuality?
So far, no other scholar has disagreed with me, so I'm taking the universal silence on this point as unanimous acknowledgement.

Perhaps I should publish an article . . .

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At 11:31 PM, Blogger A.H. said...

The loveliest pair :-) How typical of the subversive Blake to reverse the norm. So, Adam (Ratio) looks down at Eve towards Earth and Eve (Mens) looks up to Heaven... to behold Satan looking at her. Not a trinity, but an unhol menagery.

At 3:11 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

I hadn't noticed that, but it's obviously more grist for my mill . . .

Jeffery Hodges

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