Garden of Eden in Paradise Lost Book 9

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Heaven on Earth

      The Garden of Eden is the abode of Adam and Eve in Book IX. It is in this garden that the whole drama of Man’s Fall takes place. It is also in this garden that the Tree of knowledge grows, the eating of its fruit leads to the Fall of Man. In describing this garden of Eden, Milton makes full use of his power of imagination and description. This garden has a beautiful natural background and Paradise which is situated within this garden is a Heaven on Earth.

Its Location

      Eden spread from Auran eastward to the royal towers of great Seleucia, which were at a later date built by Grecian kings, or where descendants of Adam dwelt long before in the city of Telassar. Milton has given a superb description of the situation and setting, the atmospheric and natural beauty, the magnificence and luxuriance of fruits and flowers and the pristine beauty of its inhabitants and its comparison with other mythological gardens.

      Milton has described this garden as being much more beautiful than any other garden. While describing this garden, he is reminded of a number of other gardens famous in history and mythology. In beauty, this garden supersedes the beauty of the garden of Enna from where Pluto carried away Prosperina while she was gathering flowers. Even the grove of Daphne, situated on the banks of Oronotes, which was sacred to Apollo could not in any way be compared to this garden. This earthly Paradise was even more beautiful than the gardens of St. Amara where the Abyssinian Kings kept their sons well guarded and protected.

Scene and Sounds.
The air of Paradise is purer and more fragrant:
And of pure now purer air
Meets his approach, and to the heart inspires
Vernal delight and joy, able to drive
All sadness but despair, now gentle gales,
Fanning their odoriferous wings dispense
Native perfumes, and whisper whence they stole
Those balmy spoils.

      The noises of Paradise are as golden as their absence and when ‘the wakeful Nightingale’ sang her amorous song, ‘Silence was pleased’.

The Greenery

      The trees here ‘kept odorous gums and balm’, and their fruits ‘burnished with golden rind hung amiable.’ The ‘palmy hillock’ and irreligious valley’s were filled with flowers of all colours and hues. Roses without thorns grew in abundance there. Sweet singing birds joined their music with the crisp murmuring melody of the rills and rivers. Such a beautiful spot of natural wealth and grandeur has never since existed on the face of the earth. This is a sweet garden of Heaven where Adam and Eve work for pleasure.

Sunrise and Sunset

      Sunrise in the garden of Eden is described by Milton thus:

When as sacred light began to divine
In Eden on the humid Flours, that breath’d
This morning Incense, when all things that breath,
From the Earth’s great Altar send up silent praise
To the Creator and his Nostrils fill with grateful smell....’

      Sunset on the other hand has been described thus:

‘Now came still Evening on, and Twilight gray
Had in her sober liverie all things clad;
Silence accompanied, for Beast and Bird,
They their grassy couch, these to their nests
Were slunk’,

The Garden After The Fall

      After Eve’s eating of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge, the wreath that Adam has picked to welcome Eve fades and drops from his hand. As a result of her eating the forbidden apple—

Earth felt the wound, and Nature from her seat
Sighing through all her works gave signs of woe,
That all was lost.
Similarly when Adam eats the fruit:
Earth trembled from her entrails, as again
In pangs, and Nature gave a second groan;
Sky loured and muttering thunder, some sad drops
Wept at completing of the mortal sin

The Garden as Pastoral

      The Garden of Eden can also be looked upon as a pastoral seat. The pastoral is a social and geographical ideal; the perfect place outside the city. From its very beginning in the Idylls of the Greek poet Theocritus, who lived in Alexandria in the 3rd century B.C., Pastoral has been an urban genre, a city-dweller’s fantasy about how much better things might be in the country. Simple, natural, free, uncomplicated, leisurely, open, honest, everything that the rat-race is not. The pastoral nature of Eden is established by the presence of hell of Pandemonium, the diabolic metropolis. It is seriously qualified by the presence in heaven of an ideal court, the other traditional enemy of pastoral. From Satan’s point of view Adam and Eve are the Quintessential shepherd and his nymphs, from Raphael’s they are two of God’s courtiers. In the Renaissance, however, pastoral was often itself a way of having it both ways. The Forbidden tree symbolises Evil which is there even in the most idyllic of poetic retreats. It symbolizes sin, temptation, disloyalty, and loss of faith, the curse of human life in all places, even in the countryside made, according to the poet Cowper, by God himself In the words of A.J.A. Waldock: “In many senses, Paradise Lost was his predestined theme and yet in a sense it put him in a false position, cut clear against the grain of his nature. Believing rather more intensely than the average man that our dignity consists in independent and strenuous thought, and feeling with the same rather exceptional intensity that the essence of life is struggle, he must deplore the coming of thought into the world and represent man’s best state as that of original blessedness. He was trapped in a sense, by his theme, and from the trap there was no escape.”

University Questions

Give a brief description of the garden of Eden as presented in Book IX of Paradise Lost.
Q. What symbolic significance has Millon tried to ascribe to the Garden of Eden in Paradise Lost Book IX?

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