John Milton – “Paradise Lost” Book 5 (ctd.)

Adam and Eve set out to work, while God, observing them, calls Raphael and sends him with a mission to the earth to warn them, so that they cannot plead ignorance if they are tempted. Raphael speeds to the earth, where he assumes his proper shape of a six-winged seraph. All angels, recognizing him, pay him honours. Raphael approaches the bower of the First Couple, where Eve is busy preparing their fruitarian lunch.

John Milton – “Paradise Lost” Book 5 (ctd.)

Adam is concerned but comforts Eve. He explains to her that when our fancy is asleep (“fancy” to him means something like perception as far as I could figure it out), “mimic fancy” steps in, which catches sensory images formed during the day and produces some wild shapes, mismatching words and things. This is probably what happened to Eve, he explains, and her dream was a distorted echo of his words from Book 4. So Eve shouldn’t feel guilty about these sinful dreams, if she didn’t invite them and does not entertain them when awake. Eve sheds two pure tears, which she wipes away with her hair, and the next two, forming in her eyes, are kissed away by Adam. They go out but before they go to their work, they pray, again as Milton emphasizes, every morning their prayer is different because spontaneous. Their prayer, inspired by the Psalms, is a call to praise, listing all God’s creatures who should praise him: angels, Sun, Moon, the morning star, five planets, mists and clouds, birds and plants.

John Milton – “Paradise Lost ” Book 5

Morning comes and Adam wakes up, because thanks to his fruitarian diet he has a light sleep and the singing of birds and rustling of wind in the leaves are enough to wake him up. Much to his surprise, Eve is still asleep and her cheeks are flushed as if she didn’t sleep well. Adam wakes her up, singing a song about how beautiful morning is and how it’s time for them to get back to work and admire all the bees and flowers. (This kind of a morning song of a love is called ‘aubade”) I would murder him, but that’s my fallen nature speaking, surely. Eve, though, is very happy that Adam woke her up because she had a bad dream. In her dream she heard a voice singing something which is a parody of Adam’s song, telling her to get up and see how really beautiful the garden is at night. She thinks it’s Adam, so she follows the voice and goes to the Tree of Knowledge, where she sees a figure very much like an angel. (Of course it’s Satan, but she doesn’t know him.) He asks rhetorically why nobody is allowed to taste the fruit, then plucks one and bites into it. He says it’s able to make gods of men and offers it to Eve, promising her she will be like one of the angels. She can’t resist the delicious smell and bites into it. Immediately she feels she is flying high above the earth, but then her guide is gone, she sinks down and falls asleep, but now she is glad the dream is over.

John Milton – “Paradise Lost” Book 4 (the end)

Gabriel asks Satan why he fled Hell. Satan answers contemptuously, “Gabriel, in Heaven you are considered wise, and I thought so too, but now I have my doubts. It’s a stupid question – of course I wanted to flee pain, like anybody else.” Gabriel answers, “Gee, what a loss to Heaven to lose such a wise judge of others’ wisdom, who nevertheless lost his position because of his own stupidity. But why are you alone? Why did you leave your friends? Are they more resistant to pain?” Satan says, “I am not scared of pain, as you yourself have the best reasons to remember from our battle. As ‘a faithful ‘, I took the greatest risk to travel through all the dangers in order to inspect the Earth and find out whether we can settle there, or at least in air above it.” He also throws some shade at angels’ courage, comparing their deferential distance from God’s throne to the distance they like to keep from the frontline.”You contradict yourself,” Gabriel points out, “and anyway, it’s a bit rich to call yourself a faithful leader, when you and your followers are just rebels. Also it’s funny how you set yourself up as a great champion of liberty, because I remember you distinctly very happy to serve God in Heaven and your only problem was that you wanted to be in his place, too. Get back to Hell, and the next time I’ll catch you around here, I’ll drag you there in chains and make sure you’ll never get out again.” “You can talk of chains when I am actually in them”, snaps back Satan, “but you will feel my prevailing arm sooner. I guess you are used to it anyway, what with you and your fellows dragging God’s chariot.” The angry angels close in on Satan and he himself straightens up to his full height, as high up as the sky. The ensuing fight could have destroyed the whole universe, but God, putting on the scales of Libra star again both the results of the battle and letting Satan escape, decides to let Satan escape. Gabriel says to Satan, “Well, there is no point in fighting since we both have only as much power as God gives us. Look up, the scales decided against you, so you’d better scuttle away.” Which he does. I rather enjoyed this banter, but Gabriel’s last lines point out to the problem inherent in Paradise Lost. If everything is God’s will, then any kind of conflict is not a game of skill or chance, but like a theatrical play – you don’t expect Hamlet marry Ophelia and live happily ever after. But then why does Satan rebel in the first place? How can he think he can ever trick God? I know Milton’s answer would be “because he is foolish”, but that doesn’t quite convince me.

John Milton – “Paradise Lost” Book 4 (ctd.)

Gabriel sends out his officers to look for the intruder. Ithuriel and Zephon, who were sent to the First Couple’s bower, find Satan there squatting next to their bed and trying to pour temptation into the ear of sleeping Eve. Ithuriel touches him with his spear and startled Satan jumps up like gunpowder touched by a spark. The angels ask him who he is and Satan haughtily answers that they must be really low-rank angels if they can’t remember him, being so high above them in his days of glory. Zephon says, “You got so much uglier since then, now come with us”. Satan is hurt by it, but doesn’t let it show, snapping back, “If I must fight, I’d rather do it with your commander or with you all”, to which Zephon retorts, “The weakest of us can take you down, because you are now wicked, and therefore weak.” They lead him to Gabriel, without any problems since Satan figured out resistance is useless. When they bring him to Gabriel, they explain where they found him.

John Milton – “Paradise Lost” Book 4 (ctd.)

Adam and Eve, hand in hand, go to their bower, which is like a house constructed completely of growing tree and flowers. It’s more beautiful than any palace built with precious stones and Eve, who had decorated her bed there on their wedding night with flowers and herbs is more beautiful than Pandora, which leads inevitably to the story about the calamity Pandora’s box brought. Adam and Eve say a short spontaneous prayer (but somehow they recite the same words) of thanks for the day, hoping that soon they are going to produce more workers for the garden soon and go inside. They do not waste any time on taking off clothes “and so to bed”, as Milton’s contemporary Samuel Pepys used to write. But what happens next is not the sort of illicit pawing Pepys liked, but the act of holy marital love. Milton is very emphatic on this point: the love he describes is not the love of harlots, or “court amours”, or the serenades of the “starved lover” sung to his disdainful beloved. It’s ordained by God to procreate, it’s the source of all other kinds of family love and the “perpetual fountain of domestic sweets”. So his whole point is that the love between Adam and Eve is not just sex, or entertainment, or the sort of game on which hundreds of poets fed since Petrarch, but the meeting of both souls and bodies.

 

John Milton – “Paradise Lost” Book 4 (ctd.)

Uriel returns to his post on the Sun and the night sets in. Adam says to Eve that it’s time to sleep after their long day of work, because while animals can gambol at ease, their work is the sign of the special dignity conferred on them by God. So they have to rise up before dawn to work again. (You call THAT Paradise?) Eve says that of course if Adam says it’s time to go to bed, then she will obey because his word is her law (barf), but with him life is so sweet she quite forgets whether it’s day or night. This obsequiousness of Eve starts to get on my nerves so much that I quite fail to appreciate the long lyrical passage the Helpful Footnote tells me to appreciate, in which Eve extols the sweetness of every time of day in Paradise, but only if Adam is with her. Eve asks then the dumb blonde question about why the celestial bodies shine if they are asleep. (Although, when I come to think of it,  it is a bit like the question Bishop Berkeley asked a few decades later – does the tree falling down in an empty forest make any sound?) Adam mansplains that they have to travel around the earth and distribute their light evenly, even though these lands are not populated yet. Besides, various angels keep watch at night and sing God’s praises, so, although he doesn’t spell that out, I presume they need some sort of illumination for that. I wonder why he doesn’t mention animals, though. Even back in the prelapsarian days, nocturnal animals were nocturnal, I suppose, even if only for the purpose of eating strictly vegetarian food, and even though they can see at night, they need at least some light for that.