Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Paradise Lost - Day 12

More Paradise Lost in one month. Today, I reached Book 5, Line 403.

Eve wakes up and recounts to Adam her bad dream of a spiritual being tempting her with deliciously-scented fruit from the tree of knowledge, and indeed to be “Thy self a goddess, not to earth confined” (L 78). Satan, in the dream, knows which buttons to press. He plays on the concept of ‘happiness’, an important word in Paradise Lost, recognising the human trait that believes the grass is always greener anywhere but here, and with typical irony, calls her “angelic”:

Here, happy creature, fair angelic Eve,
Partake thou also; happy though thou art,
Happier thou mayst be, worthier canst not be:

Eve feels disturbed and anxious. Adam tells her that ‘fancy’ can play tricks with one’s rational faculties, but that as she abhorred the tempter’s idea, she hasn’t done anything wrong (L 119-22):

Which gives me hope
That what in sleep thou didst abhor to dream,
Waking thou never wilt consent to do.
Be not disheartened then, nor cloud those looks

Eve feels better but still tears fall from her eyes. They go out and sing their morning hymn/prayer together. Like in several psalms, they invoke all nature to praise God for the gift of life and beauty and to cast away darkness. They get to work in the garden and feel their sense of unity and contentedness restored.

God sends the seraph, Raphael, to warn them of the danger and of who is behind it with his deceit and lies. If Adam transgresses, he won’t now have any excuse. God makes it clear that he has given his human creation enough power to withstand temptation if they so choose. Raphael flies to Eden where he’s spotted from a distance by Adam who tells Eve to give the kind of hospitality a visitor deserves. Eve collects fruits from the garden. They don’t heat up their meals as fire hasn’t been discovered yet (it was one of the consequences of the later fall).

Eve makes a drink from unfermented, crushed grapes - a symbol, as intoxicating wine was associated with the loss of rational control brought about by the fall. The image of a woman crushing grapes to make alcoholic wine became a common symbol of excess. However, the drink Eve makes is “inoffensive must” (L 345), the “must” being unfermented juice.

Raphael arrives and Adam invites him to dinner. Raphael accepts and greets Eve with the words (L 388-391):

Hail mother of mankind, whose fruitful womb
Shall fill the world more numerous with thy sons
Then with these various fruits the trees of God
Have heaped this table.

This recalls the ‘annunciation’ from Luke 1: 28, in which an angel tells Mary, the mother of Jesus – “Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.” Just as Jesus was the ‘second Adam’, so Mary (the mother of the Messiah) is related to Eve (the mother of all). It’s a little surprising that Milton draws this parallel, given his Reformist sympathies and the suspicion with which many of the early Protestants viewed the Mary-cult. However, the parallel is with a biblical text, which might have swung it for Milton.

They sit down to eat. Adam speaks innocently to Raphael about the goodness of God, but with an unfortunate subtext he couldn’t have even suspected (L 400-402);

To us for food and for delight hath caused
The earth to yield; unsavoury food perhaps
To spiritual natures

Adam’s curiosity about the dietary habits of spiritual beings might be seen as a short step along the path to become like a god by eating what only they can eat.

No comments: