November 8, 2013

Remembering Milton

Today in the Daily Office cycle, we mark and remember the work of John Milton.

When I think about Milton, I, like many, think about Paradise Lost; and I generally think first about how Adam comforts Eve after she dreams that she is the model of excellence for all of nature. (This is before she receives the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.) She awakens from her dream, fresh with its arrogant pretensions, with a conscience ready to be pruned. As for Adam,
So cheer'd he his fair spouse, and she was cheer'd 
But silently a gentle tear let fall 
From either eye, and wip'd them with her hair; 
Two other precious drops that ready stood 
Each in their crystal sluice, he ere they fell 
Kiss'd, as the gracious signs of sweet remorse 
And pious awe, that fear'd to have offended.
It's a small, comforting moment in Milton's overall arc describing life in the Garden before things went south. It's worth relishing precisely because it is small (not to say nonessential). And of course, Milton's "crystal sluice" has the power to move because it describes a process that is both mechanical ("sluice") and emotionally pure ("crystal"). She is ready to admit fault; He is quick to say, by equally ready affection, that she is good.

No flaming sword has yet appeared, no angel to block the way home.

These are not the ones who sully the world with their many grotesque errors. They are erring, naïve children given to egoic overreach simply by virtue of the fact that they are human.

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