Saturday, March 22, 2008

Paradise Lost - Day 21

More Paradise Lost in one month. Yesterday I reached Book 9, Line 531.

Eve reckons their work in the garden could be better done by splitting up to concentrate on different tasks. Adam sees the point, but is concerned that the enemy in their midst will find them weaker if separated. Eve is cross that Adam doubts her strength to resist the enemy. Adam says he doesn’t doubt her, but feels that together they will be stronger. In addition he knows that even temptation not given in to is capable of producing “scorn and anger” and in Eve’s presence, Adam knows that he would never shame himself by giving in.

Eve says that faith, love and virtue don’t amount to much if they can’t be sustained alone. Adam replies that they have free will and, with something that looks good (but is false), there’s always a danger of compromising oneself. But then, critically, he allows her to go, against his better judgement. In so doing, he also shares the blame for what is about to happen (L 370-75):

But if thou think, trial unsought may find
Us both securer then thus warned thou seem’st,
Go; for thy stay, not free, absents thee more;
Go in thy native innocence, rely
On what thou hast of virtue, summon all,
For God towards thee hath done his part, do thine.

Adam gives Eve free will rather than relying on passive obedience. I suppose you could see the ‘image of God’ in him at this point.

Eve’s response begins, “With thy permission then…”, again implicating Adam. She continues( L382-84):

The willinger I go, nor much expect
A foe so proud will first the weaker seek;
So bent, the more shall shame him his repulse.

Milton doesn’t intend irony here, but it’s hard to see the strong-willed Eve here as “weaker” than Adam who goes against what he knows is the best course of action. Eve goes off to the roses. Satan, from within the snake, sees her and is at first overcome by the beauty of the scene, and by Eve’s own beauty. It’s those moments of doubt that make Milton’s Satan such an appealing character, not just the great poetry of his speeches. For a brief moment, evil is undone (L 455-66):

Such pleasure took the serpent to behold
This flowery plat, the sweet recess of Eve
Thus early, thus alone; her heavenly form
Angelic, but more soft, and feminine,
Her graceful innocence, her every air
Of gesture or lest action overawed
His malice, and with rapine sweet bereaved
His fierceness of the fierce intent it brought:
That space the evil one abstracted stood
From his own evil, and for the time remained
Stupidly good, of enmity disarmed,
Of guile, of hate, of envy, of revenge

But then he remembers that all those pleasures of heaven have been denied him and “fierce hate he recollects” (L 471). He slips up to Eve, gets her attention, and begins to speak.

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