In Book 10, I found it interesting how the Son was tasked with making his judgment equal parts Justice and Mercy. It seemed to me, especially given the magnitude of their Sin, that this was not an easy feat and one that ultimately was not accomplished by the Son; as I mentioned in a previous post, his judgment seemed far more punishment than mercy.
Even though I disagreed with that passage’s logic, I thought it lent itself to a lot of analysis and deep reading so I was fairly happy when I found that Michael is given a similarly excruciating task in kicking Adam and Eve out of Paradise. In general, I thought Michael did a much better job mixing hope and justice into his message.
One of the ways Michael makes his decree appear less daunting is by making the punishment about the collective human race rather than just about Adam and Eve. The phrase “Thy seed shall crush our foe,” puts sin and Satan in perspective – the war against them will not only be fought by the first couple, but by the future generations of mankind as well. This idea gives the couple purpose while also diluting the blame a little bit by bringing in the rest of mankind.
Michael also does a great job hinting at the potential for growth between Adam and Eve. Lines like “One bad act with many deeds well done,” sets the work ahead and Adam and Eve while promising absolution through arduous labor.
So, I just re-read the part of Book 10 in which Adam “bewails his condition,” and I just found it funny how he arrives at many of the same questions we did in regards to the paradox of God’s omniscience and his unwillingness to intervene when troubles afoot.
“Did I request thee, Maker, from my clay to mould me man?”
What a funny question!! Adam comes off as very bitter here in both the substance and phrasing of his accusation. After cowering I’m the presence of the Son, who has now left, Adam regains his nerve enough to ask “how can you punish me? I never asked to be here!!” The wording “mould into clay” makes this line doubly funny, as Adam is self-aware enough to to realize that he is nothing more than a blob of clay in God’s hands.
It all reminds me of one of my favorite Thomas Bernhard quotes: we don’t exist, we get existed.
After our discussion of the multiplicity of the Son’s roles in Tuesday’s class, I started to think over how well the son “tempr’d” his judgement and mercy when sent to confront Adam and Eve. Initially, I took the Son’s word that punishment and mercy were mixed equally, but I’ve recently come around to the idea that the Son’s declarations were more condemnatory.
The detail that first turned me around to this idea was the language used in 201-203
“I charg’d thee, saying, Thou shall not eat thereof: Curs’d is the ground for thy sake; thou in sorrow Shalt eat thereof all the days of thy life…”
In these lines, it is the repetition of the word “eat” that made the mandate come off as more vengeful than just. It sort of sounds like a parent scolding a child by using their own logic against them “you are ice cream before dessert now you will eat ice cream for every meal until you can’t anymore, etc.” There is also the image conjured up by the phrasing eat…all the days,” a linking of words that suggests the Son expects A and E to take the same heedless approach to spending the rest of their lives.
I thought I’d emphasize a few lines early on in Book 10 that I thought were worth thinking over. After sinning in the most obvious way possible, the Son calls Adam out from hiding in a really curious way: “where art thou, Adam, wont with joy to meet My coming seen far off? I miss thee here…
The first notable thing about this passage seems to be that the Son calls to Adam only and not to Eve who has sinned in the same way. I’m not sure what the purpose is, since both are punished for sinning.
The second thing is the fact that his “coming is seen from far off. “ I think the phrasing here implies that his arrival was seen far off in the sense that for a while Adam and Eve were told that if they sin they will be punished severely. Essentially that they’d been warned.
The third thing is the the phrase “I miss thee here,” a strange thing for someone bringing judgement to say. The sentence is bizarrely kind and welcoming.
Like many of you, I thoroughly enjoyed Tuesday’s class because it gave me a different understanding of the text than I am used to getting in other literature classes. While the expereienxe of reading alone and silence may offer more in terms of critical reading and the identification of patterns in form, I find that reading aloud in a group setting infuses the text with different emotions and personality than is usual. I feel like a lot of this has to do with what each reader in the group chooses to stress and emphasize while reading. It is really astonishing to hear the variety of rhythms and speeds people read Milton at; and honestly refreshing to hear reading voices other than my own. The one difficulty with this method of reading I think is the awkward shifts between different readers. I felt like oftentimes in the middle of an important idea, someone would be forced to break off and lose momentum because they’d reached the end of their sentence.
Given Milton’s commitment to lifelong learning and reputation for being a voracious reader, I find it strange that he spends so much time writing in Book 8 about how Adam should not worry about space and the universe and only focus on Paradise. It seems to me that someone so intellectually curious would encourage contemplating the universe, but this does not seem to be the case.
Following his poetic description of celestial motions, Milton has Raphael say: “Solicit not thy thoughts with matters god, Leave them to God above, him serve and fear…”
Later, Milton even seems to condemn minds that “rove uncheck’d,” which appears even more anti-intellectual and entirely contrary to notions of expanding consciousness present in earlier works. Even stranger is the fact that the character in PL who speaks the most on the pleasure of thinking is Satan, who harps in the ideas of “the mind as its own place” and the glory of “thoughts that wander.
Following Thursday’s discussion on ants, I decided to look into Milton’s descriptions of other animals to see if they meant more than it seemed on the surface. I was surprised to find that at least in my eyes, none of the other descriptions lend themselves toward the same sort of reading. I mean, there is the phonological similarities between “foul” and “fowl” which could probably take on a number of interpretations, and then there are a bunch of other adjective/animal combinations like scalie Crocodile. Beyond this though, it only seems like the Tawnie Lion is described in more depth. He is described as an animal imprisoned, “pawing to get free” and then springing “as if broke from Bonds.” Now, I’m sure some critic has addressed the symbolism in this image but for now I am uncertain as to what it might signify.
Prior to reading Paradise Lost, I would never have assumed that according to the Bible, the earth’s creation was directly related to Satan’s fall from grace, and was set up more as a territory of Heaven than its own separate place. I always assumed God made the universe on a whim.
Yet, in Book 7, God makes it very clear that this is the case. Following Satan’s expulsion, he reveals to Raphael his plan to create “Another world…there to dwell…not here…” It is as if after all the calamity that went on in heaven in the past, God realizes he should make Heaven accessible to some in order to prevent future problems. Only after “long obedience” is tried and “degrees of merit” are raised will humans be allowed in God’s Kingdom. Like in other parts in the epic, like earlier in Book 7 when Adam’s thirst for knowledge is aligned with Satan’s desirous ways, I find that that this is an interesting example of Milton presenting men as susceptible to Satan’s ways. He clearly views man as somewhere in between God and the Devil and maybe views Paradise lost as a way to lead the people in a right direction.
This passage also raises a question that I’ve had while reading PL: If God wanted Heaven to be without sin, why didn’t he make man perfect?
In Book 5, I noticed a pattern of Milton distinguishing between but also aligning the spiritual, non-material Angel Raphael and the corporeality of Adam and Eve. This comparing and contrasting seemed important because I thought it had something to do with what made Adam and Eve “mutable” and what made Raphael unchangeable. The difference is first discussed when Adam and Raphael are talking about food and it’s importance in Angel life. Adam regrets the “unsavory” food they have prepared, admitting that angels might not even need food as nourishment. Raphael politely rejects this notion, and says that the only difference between eating in Angels and humans is that for angels eating is done to get “intelligential substances.” So, on one hand the angels are materialist because they eat, but also more divine because they consume intellectual substances, whatever that means. Later on there is a couple of lines with a similar effect, one that at the beginning described Raphael as having “real hunger” but then says this hunger serves to “transibstinate,” or transform the food into something else.
Don’t get me wrong, Paradise sounds great, but I think that much of Book 4 invites this interpretation.
First of all, there is the absence of any other explanations. Of course, the devil in disguise appears to be the main source of Adam and Eve’s sin in most readings, but I’d argue that there had to be some fault within them in order to fall for Satan’s lies. It doesn’t seem like this fault can be anger, ambition, jealousy, curiosity, or any of the other virtues that lead to a protagonist’s demise because the couple’s absolute bliss would rule out any of them. Adam and Eve appear uniformly in love and happy, content with their purpose to spread God’s word to their sons and daughters. In their conversation, they relate their current situation and future purpose with a tone that indicates that nothing will ever change and that they are fine with that.