John Milton – “Paradise Lost” Book 11 (ctd.)

Michael shows Adam another vision: a group of tents, among which some men are busy with making music and other with making things out of metal. (These are, as the Helpful Footnote reminds us, the descendants Cain – Jubal and Tubalcain, identified in Genesis as respectively a musician and a blacksmith). They are approached by another group (sons of Seth) who are interested only in worshipping God and studying his works (although how Adam could tell it only “by their guise”, I can’t guess). Then out of the tents issue some women “richly gay/in gems and wanton dress” singing and dancing; the grave sons of Seth can’t help eyeing them and finally pair off to have a big wedding, during which all the tents resound with music and song. Adam says that he likes it much better, but Michael hastens to put a damper on it, saying that those in the tents are atheists, thinking only about the arts which make life more pleasant and convenient, and the happy wedding Adam has just seen is, in fact, a sorry spectacle of how “the sons of God” were led astray. (Milton follows here an established tradition, interpreting the mysterious episode in Genesis 6 about “the sons of God” marrying “the daughters of men” as the sons of Seth marrying the daughters of Cain. Although in fairness, if they had not married the daughters of Cain, whom should they have married? Their own sisters? The Bible doesn’t mention if Abel had any children.) Adam is very sad to hear that and comments, “What a shame that those who started their lives so well were led astray!” (Look at yourself, buddy.) “But at least I can see there’s always women to blame.” Michael tempers this misogyny with… another dose of modified misogyny, saying it’s not women who are to be blamed but effeminate men, who should have known better. But now he’s going to show Adam another vision. I wonder whether it’s going to be another depressing one.

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