Marcia Karp wrote:
> Carrol Cox wrote:
> >Actually, Milton recognized this also, in so far as he posited
> >conversation as the  highest from of human pleasure. And conversation of
> >course demands above all unforced leisure. (Of course his recognition is
> >in part distorted by Christianity, which poisons everything it touches.)
> >
> Carrol,
>     Where does Milton posit this?  Does he make the connection to
> leisure?  I'd be surprised if he did, considering his continual hard
> work.  Remember the difficulty he has in being deprived of the
> opportunity to do "day-labour."  He is not pleased to stand and wait,
> though he's found some consolation in doing so.
>     Anyway, let me know, please, where Milton talks (or renders) his
> ideas about conversation and leisure.

I am thinking of the presentation of Eden in PL, but also on his
insistence in the Divorce tracts that "fit conversation" was or should
be the goal of marriage. See particularly the "Separation Scene" in PL
9. There are more  interpretations of that scene in the critical
literature than it is possible to image even in a 3-dimensional matrix
(I tried some years ago to construct a 2-d matrix and had to give up),
but I think there would be a fair consensus on one point in Adam's side
of the argument: the labor is not intended to be arduous, and hence
there is no need to avoid distraction in carrying it out. And I think we
should take the narrator at his word that Eve expects to hear repeated
the whole of Adam's conversation with Raphael -- something that neither
neolithic life nor (increasingly already in Milton's time) modern life
would have left much room for. Labor that is _chosen_ is (as I noted in
my reference to Sahlins) play, not labor.

I would read the sonnet not as displeasure at "standing and waiting" so
much as responding to the intense feeling that he _should_ be up and
going. That is where Tolstoi's point about the peacetime army comes in
-- ordinary life ("fallen life" I suppose one should say) makes leisure
something that one "steals" from one's duties, but in the peacetime army
(at least, I guess, the army of imperial Russia) leisure becomes
mandatory, hence offering the bliss of eden. The kind of conversation
Milton seems to place so high among human pleasures requires leisure. So
I think one should see a good deal more than mere consolation in the
sonnet's final line -- rather something like great relief and joy. What
he really wants is what god demands of him. The temptation to be up and
doing is just that, a temptation, and one to be resisted.

No one ever composed 12 thousand+ lines such as make up PL and felt the
process as drudgery! (Though Samuel Johnson did say, with or without
tongue in cheek I do not know, that only a fool wrote for any other
reason but money.)


> Marcia