If you read it from what appears to be Milton's point of view, I think you do
get "conversation." I cannot read it that way. It is not simply a matter of
his time either, as there were women in the 17th C who strongly disagreed
with his kind of traditional assumptions. For me "conversation" is dialogic
in Bahktin's sense--real differentiation and many points of view.
I can never ultimately decide if TWL is dialogic or not. I can read it both
ways, and have. But I don't think PL is at all. On the other hand, I feel
very differently about the way he treated issues in "Areopagitica." He was
very mixed. Again, that is from memory, not recent reading. Milton's
point of view is not what defines it for me. I do think PL is wonderful poetry
Date sent: Sat, 28 Jun 2003 21:30:28 -0400
Send reply to: "T. S. Eliot Discussion forum." <[log in to unmask]>
From: Marcia Karp <[log in to unmask]>
Subject: Re: OT? Milton and leisure
To: [log in to unmask]
Nancy Gish wrote:
>But what is described in these lines is not
>really "conversation" in the sense of a real dialogue. Nor do Adam and
>Eve seem to me to engage in what that implies of mutual response. Rather,
>here, and as I remember elsewhere (for example the sleep she has while
>Adam talks with an angel and is to retell to her), the exchange is of
>love and smiles but not of ideas or equal talk. (I realize that here Eve
>makes a point and Adam takes it up and agrees, but his response defines
>her as "to study household good and good works in her husband to
>promote")--it is not dialogic but praise for fulfilling her role.
>Is that accurate or are there places where they really converse, as
>Carroll seems to mean it?
Just as I wanted to understand leisure through the eyes (or heart?
soul?) of Milton, so I'd suggest the same for conversation. I didn't mean
to characterize all of PL by quoting a few lines; I first chose them to
demonstrate something about work and leisure, but was gratified that
conversation comes with them. (I've re-sent the lines at the bottom of
this post and have fixed my errant numbers for Adam's reply.)
Yet in these I see real conversation, if I remember the double source of
the poem -- the Bible; Milton and his time and nature. God made Eve to be
Adam's helpmeet. When she discusses how best (if we believe her motives)
to do that and he replies with acknowledgment of her being who she was
created to be, that is at least a dialogue. He in fact gives her, from
his point of view, unblemished respect of the highest sort.
What saves it for me from being only a business transaction is his
great love for her, as well as her soliciting from him more discussion in
regard to how to make the divisions and in soliciting his choice.
Milton calls the talk between them "food of the mind" and predicates
their love on reason.
That about does it for me on the great M and conversation. Carrol?
> Adam, well may we labour still to dress
> This garden, still to tend plant, herb, and flower,
> Our pleasant task enjoined; but, till more hands
> Aid us, the work under our labour grows,
> Luxurious by restraint; what we by day
> Lop overgrown, or prune, or prop, or bind,
> One night or two with wanton growth derides
> Tending to wild. Thou therefore now advise,
> Or bear what to my mind first thoughts present:
> Let us divide our labours; thou, where choice
> Leads thee, or where most needs, ... [ix.205-215]
> To whom mild answer Adam thus returned.
> Sole Eve, associate sole, to me beyond
> Compare above all living creatures dear!
> Well hast thou motioned, well thy thoughts employed,
> How we might best fulfil the work which here
> God hath assigned us; nor of me shalt pass
> Unpraised: for nothing lovelier can be found
> In woman, than to study houshold good,
> And good works in her husband to promote.
> Yet not so strictly hath our Lord imposed
> Labour, as to debar us when we need
> Refreshment, whether food, or talk between,
> Food of the mind, or this sweet intercourse
> Of looks and smiles; for smiles from reason flow,
> To brute denied, and are of love the food;
> Love, not the lowest end of human life.
> For not to irksome toil, but to delight,
> He made us, and delight to reason joined. [ix.226-243]