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Paradise Lost: Bk VII, VIII, & IX 
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Post Paradise Lost: Bk VII, VIII, & IX
Book VII, VIII, & IX Discussion

Please use this thread to discuss Book VII of Paradise Lost



Sat Jan 24, 2009 9:52 am
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In bks VII & VIII the angel Raphael tells the story of the creation of the world and Adam tells how God made humans. In the telling of creation the son of God is mentioned several times. It struck me as odd that no mother or consort of God is ever mentioned. No explanation for the son existence is give. The son just is. What is even stranger to me and I assume that Milton himself made this choice, the son is call the Messiah even before he takes on the job of being the savior of the human race. I looked up the meaning of the word messiah. At first I only found definitions that confirmed my understanding of the word. Then I found this on Wikipedia:

The literal and proper translation of this word is “anointed,”

This makes more sense, but did Milton mean it this sense?

A funny thought: Bk VII of PL answers the age old question: Which came first chicken or the egg -- of course the chicken.


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Sat Feb 21, 2009 4:09 pm
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Saffron wrote:
In bks VII & VIII the angle Raphael tells the story of the creation of the world and Adam tells how God made humans. In the telling of creation the son of God is mentioned several times. It struck me as odd that no mother or consort of God is ever mentioned. No explanation for the son existence is give. The son just is. What is even stranger to me and I assume that Milton himself made this choice, the son is call the Messiah even before he takes on the job of being the savior of the human race.

I suppose that God creates the Son just so he can have somebody to save man, whom he knows will fall. He also knows the Son will volunteer to pay the penalty for man's sin, as the Son is in fact shown doing in Bk III after God asks for someone to step forward for the job. God is always running into problems with his omniscience. He knows what will happen and needs no one else to make it happen. But he has to have his huge retinue anyway to pay him homage, and has to give them functions so they won't feel useless. In VI, after the victory, he announces that he'll create the world and man to replace the millions of angels who are now in Hell. These new creatures can someday hope to occupy Heaven itself, he says. He knows this is not to be, so why does he say it? He has an unattractive habit of letting things go on for a while and then saying "Cut" like a movie director. Remember how he leads Adam on, as Adam petitions for a mate? He refuses him a couple of times before breaking in, "Relax, my boy, I was going to give you a woman all along." In God's case, I'm afraid that omniscient equals obnoxious, for me. (It must be tough to know everything that will ever happen, including everything that you yourself will ever do.)

Interesting Book VII factoid: When M. says in line 21, "Half yet remains unsung," he is exactly accurate. This is courtesy of Dr. Bogorad of the University of Vermont. At this news, we feel either relief or dread, depending on our stamina.

And another gift from Dr. B: Tennyson's favorite lines in English poetry were VII, 216-217:

Silence, ye troubl'd waves, and thou Deep, peace,
Said then th' omnific Word, your discord end.

The important topic raised in VII is that of having a proper, not excessive, desire for knowledge. Raphael cautions Adam not to inquire too far. He will tell Adam what he first asks, however, since to know more about God's creation is to be able to praise it more. The problem this doctrine of moderation raises is what is asking too much? In book VIII Raphael says that for Adam to inquire about geocentrism vs. heliocentrism and celestial motions is probing into matters only God has the knowledge of. By why draw the line there? It is totally arbitrary.

Knowledge seems to have two aspects in PL: science and morality. Raphael cautions Adam against delving into science, while God's prohibition against eating from the tree of knowledge appears to have a moral basis. If they eat from the tree, they will then be able to know good only in comparison to the bad (and, I would think, happiness only in comparison to sadness). That seems to be the "hangin" offense for God, while to go after knowledge qua science doesn't get them the death penalty.


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Last edited by DWill on Sun Feb 22, 2009 9:48 pm, edited 1 time in total.



Sat Feb 21, 2009 8:10 pm
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DWill wrote:

In book VIII Raphael says that for Adam to inquire about geocentrism vs. heliocentrism and celestial motions is probing into matters only God has the knowledge of. By why draw the line there? It is totally arbitrary.


Here is a stab in the dark, based on a wee bit of knowledge -- not nearly enough, but here I go anyway. This might make sense considering the fact that Milton is a devout Christian . Isn't this the position of the church at the time Milton is writing PL? The church is the keeper of knowledge. Especially on the topic of the true nature of the universe (Ptolemaic vs. Copernican view). It is certainly the view of the Catholic church. I wonder if it is also the view of the Protestant groups as well.


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Last edited by Saffron on Sat Feb 21, 2009 11:30 pm, edited 1 time in total.



Sat Feb 21, 2009 8:27 pm
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DWill wrote:

Quote:
Knowledge seems to have two aspects in PL: science and morality. Raphael cautions Adam against delving into science, while God's prohibition against eating from the tree of knowledge appears to have a moral basis. If they eat from the tree, they will then be able to know good only in comparison to the bad (and, I would think, happiness only in comparison to sadness). That seems to be the "hangin" offense for God, while to go after knowledge qua science doesn't get them the death penalty.


I agree. The prohibitions against learning too much bother me also. It is also suprising that Milton would take this stance considering that he himself was an intellectual. Catholicism does not explain it because according to the introduction of the book that I am reading, Milton was very anti-Catholic. I am wondering if the problem is experiential knowledge vs. intellectual knowledge. Perhaps that is what the physical action of eating the fruit signifies: engaging in actions that one should not engage in.



Sat Feb 21, 2009 10:23 pm
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Saffron said earlier that we need to keep in mind Milton's need to follow the bible's cosmology, even though he himself was well aware of the newer cosmology, and was in the opinion of some scholars a convinced Copernican. So he can't just say goodbye to the old Ptolemaic system and still write his biblical epic. He is able to draw on an immense amount of literature on the Ptolemaic universe as well, which had to appeal to him as a classicist. To me, he includes enough material in Book VIII on the Copernican system to signal to the reader that he is in the know. It is sort of anachronistic for Adam to be questioning the geocentric cosmology, though, unless Milton intends to show us how brilliant a guy Adam was!

But the question was why does Milton make Adam's cosmological speculating--the mere act of inquiring--a dangerous act? Perhaps the answer is that even though this type of knowledge isn't apparently what the Tree of Knowledge represents, it still can constitute a danger for a creature whose well-being depends on being "lowly wise," according to God's representative, Raphael. There is some contradiction here, and I think the awareness of it makes us readers willing to excuse Adam and Eve's transgression. Because if God has made man just a little lower than the angels, and even intends to elevate man someday, why the concern with keeping him in an ignorant and childlike state?

Of course, the other possibility is simply that Milton tries to milk whatever drama he can from the situation, in order to succeed artistically. He does this effectively.


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Sun Feb 22, 2009 10:13 pm
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DWill wrote:
To me, he includes enough material in Book VIII on the Copernican system to signal to the reader that he is in the know. It is sort of anachronistic for Adam to be questioning the geocentric cosmology, though, unless Milton intends to show us how brilliant a guy Adam was!


Nice observation! By George, I think you've got it.


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Sun Feb 22, 2009 10:23 pm
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Saffron wrote:
DWill wrote:
It is sort of anachronistic for Adam to be questioning the geocentric cosmology, though, unless Milton intends to show us how brilliant a guy Adam was!


Nice observation! By George, I think you've got it.


By contrast, Eve gets to set the table and serve refreshments!


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Sun Feb 22, 2009 10:35 pm
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So, Bill, what do you think -- is this us working side by side at the computer? How do you suppose Milton knew?!

For while so near each other thus all day [ 220 ]
Our taske we choose, what wonder if so near
Looks intervene and smiles, or object new
Casual discourse draw on, which intermits
Our dayes work brought to little, though begun
Early, and th' hour of Supper comes unearn'd. [ 225 ]


Saffron
:laugh:



Tue Feb 24, 2009 9:17 pm
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Yes, that's an uncanny parallel to a real situation. I guess I've been too hard on God. Your quote makes me realize what a great boss he was for Adam and Eve. They had the perfect job there in Eden. Though they talk about their job as if it matters, it was really just part of God's stimulus package and didn't really need to be done. If they got distracted and wasted a day, big deal.


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Wed Feb 25, 2009 8:15 am
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