Sunday, January 29, 2012

Paradise Lost: "Fruit Uncropt and Fruit Cropt"

Milton Quarterly Logo

Yesterday, I was pleased to see that the Saturday mail service here in Seoul (actual delivery on Saturdays?) had brought my copy of the Milton Quarterly. I don't really have a subscription, but I was expecting to receive a copy because I've had an article published in it, "Fruit Uncropt and Fruit Cropt: Unnoticed Wordplay in Paradise Lost?" (Milton Quarterly, Volume 45, Number Four, December 2011, pages 252-257). Here's the opening paragraph:
In Paradise Lost 4.724-35, Adam and Eve together praise the creator for their happy love and his abundant blessings, which include the gift of trees bearing fruit that "uncropt falls to the ground" (4.731), and the innocent pair request offspring to share that fruitful abundance. Ostensibly in tension with this are the words of Eve in Book 9, for she there remarks on the many trees with "Fruit untoucht, / Still hanging incorruptible" (621-22), awaiting the hands of offspring yet unborn. The apparent contradiction between the words implying that unplucked fruit falls to the ground from the trees of paradise and that unplucked fruit hangs potentially forever on the boughs of those same trees also serves to bring into focus another apparent contradiction. In the prelapsarian garden, into which death has not yet entered, why should any fruit fall to the ground? Would that not imply death and decay? And what of the plucked fruit's uneaten portions? Are these tossed onto some prelapsarian 'compost' heap? Let us investigate this complex issue. (page 252)

If that interests you -- and it probably does not -- then rush over to the Wiley-Blackwell Website and order a copy! Some folks will be interested, I reckon, since the scholar Gordon Campbell, who edits Renaissance Studies, says, "If you want to publish to be READ, write for the Milton Quarterly." At the very least, I suppose Professor Campbell will read my article.

But even if not, I'm enjoying the rare pleasure of publishing an article in what is arguably the top Milton journal in the world.

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At 4:24 PM, Blogger ilTassista Marino said...

Your sense of humour conveys very interesting ideas, as usual.

In fact, the whole myth of an "incorruptible Nature" is a contradiction in terms; an oxymoron, indeed. On such a basis, Adam and Eve should not even breathe, given the function and the effects of breath...

A myth works insofar as it is thought as part of our current reality, as a perception e.g. that "there is a hidden side of things" or "some 'uncropt' opportunity," etc. St Gregory of Nyssa, when dealing with the events in Eden, says that "WE were clothed with the tunics of skin."

By trying to describe it as a past / historical event, Milton does write great poetry but inevitably falls into the funny, though nice incoherences you noted.

At 6:13 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Milton might not have known of the corrupting quality of breathing -- we have to stick, after all, to 17th-century understanding -- but even with such a historically imposed limitation, we see the absurdities, as you note.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 8:02 PM, Blogger ilTassista Marino said...

Oh yes, the case with the breath was just an example. Anyway, any outdated theory about the role of the lungs, etc., would do, as there has always been some perception about the function of animal metabolism. And all ancient philosophers knew that everything in Nature flows away.

Some Christian theologians, however, failed - and fail - to see the connection. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, the Jesuit scientist, used to mock them.

At 8:23 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

I wonder what the lungs were thought to do? Cool the body?

Jeffery Hodges

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At 8:44 PM, Blogger ilTassista Marino said...

Yes, basically cool the body, and - more 'metaphysically' - let Man participate in the element of Air, since he was a microcosm.

At 8:54 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Good idea, that. Participate in the element of air or return to the element of earth!

Jeffery Hodges

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At 11:01 PM, Blogger ilTassista Marino said...

... or be watered, or be fired.

At 4:58 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Typical boss! Fires you just for not drinking water to his satisfaction!

Jeffery Hodges

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