Book 9 (For Elements of the Pastoral) – Terminology, Concepts & Links to Other Texts

Book 9 (For Elements of the Pastoral) – Terminology, Concepts & Links to Other Texts

Knowledge- Originally Adam and Eve only have knowledge of God and they have no concept of evil or darkness in their lives. Thus they live happily and simply in Eden. The knowledge the fruit gives them is of good and evil, when they discover evil all sorts of thoughts come into their head and confuse their peaceful minds. They cannot trust each other, they feel ashamed and become angry. They think that knowledge will make them godlike but in fact it severs their relationship with god and they are cast out of the Garden of Eden just as Satan disobeyed God and was cast out of heaven.

Nature- Adam and Eve are masters of everything natural in Eden. They prune and grow and cultivate the land. Eve suggests that without their work nature would grow wild over night and so they are constantly acting as a controlling force over the garden. This order and control relates to their good relationship with God. Satan has no relationship with God because he broke the natural order of things by attempting to over throw God; Eve’s suggestion that they split up is also a disruption with disastrous consequences.

Adam sees Eve as a harvest queen and makes wreaths for her to wear inn her hair. The harvest is celebrated even today as it is a sign that nature is on the side of man and has produced food for us to eat. The harvest queen is a mother nature figure, at one with nature and queen of ‘rural labours’ she epitomises the relationship of man with nature.

Labour– God has given Adam and Eve work to do in the garden of Eden, however the work, Adam says, should not ‘debarr’ them from refreshment or conversation, they should relax in between work. Their relationship with the natural world is not really one of hard labour.

The only debate in Eden has been one of how to most efficiently get gardening done. Eve wants to divide their work so they get twice as much done, but her reasoning worries Adam. Even this leads to a further mention of love as Adam says that a little absence ‘urges sweet return.’

Love- In Eden man is not made for ‘toile’ but for delight. Adam promotes love and says they should not work so hard that they don’t have time to smile at each other. He mentions ‘younger hands,’ signalling where that love might lead.

After the fall their love turns to lust and they are only interested in each other’s flesh. They also turn on each other and rather than taking responsibility for their crimes blame the other.

Envy– Adam warns of Satan’s envy. Envy is when we desire something somebody else has, it can lead to destructive behaviour and malice towards whoever has it. In this case Satan is envious of Adam and Eve’s relationship to God. Adam also worries that Satan will be envious of the pleasure they get from ‘conjugal love’ (having sex). Indeed, one of the first things that happens after the fall is that Adam and Eve are ashamed of their naked bodies, rather than free and comfortable being naked.

Woman– Milton portrays Eve as the bringer of the fall. Adam warns her that if a wife strays from her husband then she is unprotected; he never worries for his own safety if she leaves him but only hers. It is Eve who wants to go off by herself and thus Milton paints Eve as leading Adam astray. Many readings of this poem say that Milton is being sexist because of the way he portrays Eve and dramatises the role she has in the Bible. Moreover, his words at the end of Book IX quite clearly warn men of the dangers of trusting women.

Innocence– Eve is described as innocent, fragrant and beautiful. There is nothing about her that is sinful despite her beauty. She is supernatural in her innocence and loveliness being described as a nymph. A nymph is a goddess of nature, thus Eve is completely in tune with her surroundings and is completely natural and simple. The image of a nymph was often used in classical pastoral literature. However nymphs traditionally are seen to be outside male control and are sexually tempting, in the pastoral this is linked to a pure and free love, however Milton may be signalling the temptations and sin which will follow.


Links to Other Texts

Read books 1 and 2 of Paradise Lost because you can see how Milton’s language to describe hell is the same language we might use to describe confusion and disorder (Pandemonium and Chaos), this links to Adam and Eve’s new State of Mind when they eat from the forbidden tree.

Milton’s pastoral idyll is literally paradise because it is the Garden of Eden, however a lot of pastoral literature is not Christian. Originally writers like Ovid and Virgil were creating pre-Christian paradises so you could read some of this in translation to understand where Milton got some of his imagery.

Milton refers to classical literature a lot, citing characters, gods and the structure of his poem. Therefore, even if you don’t want to read the whole Odyssey or Illiad, it is a good idea to familiarize yourself with the conventions and typical story lines as it will help you comment on Milton’s narrator and his over all structure and form.