Sensuality in Paradise Lost Book 9

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Man - Woman Relationship

      Seen for the first time in Paradise, Milton discusses the relationship of Adam and Eve to each other. His attitude towards their relationship is old and orthodox and is sharply opposed to modern sociological concept. Milton believed intemperance to be an evil which was responsible for all evil, disease and suffering. According to Milton, men and women are riots equal. That woman is subordinate to man, is brought out from the fact that Eve was created of a rib taken from the left side of Adam. They were destined by Nature to be different physically, temperamentally and emotionally. In Book IV, the difference in their physical appearance has been described at great length:

Not equal, as their sex not equal seemed,
For contemplation he and valour formed,
For softness she and sweet attractive grace;
He for God only, she for God in him.
His fair large front and eye sublime declared
Absolute rule....
As the vine culs her tendrils, which implied
Subjection but required with gentle sway
And by her yielded, by him best received, Yielded with coy submission, modest pride,
And sweet reluctant amorous delay. (P.L. Book. IV. L. 296-310)

Their Relationship Before the Fall

      Many a times it has been argued by religious commentators that sexual relationship did not exist between Adam and Eve before the Fall. Firstly, it was chastity which was regarded as a nobler state and secondly it supplied a marked and obvious dividing line between unfallen and fallen man. But then, how is Adam made to express his desire to having ‘younger hands’ to assist them in their work of keeping the garden of Eden in order, without having sexual relationship. Milton however, shows them as enjoying a full and potentially fruitful sexual relationship before the Fall.

Perfect Happiness

      Adam and Eve as husband and wife in Paradise enjoy perfect human happiness. They are the masters of their little world, and their only occupation is to trim and tend their heavenly garden. Their blissful life is described thus:

Thus talking, hand in hand alone they passed
On to their blissful bower. It was a place
Chosen by the sovran planter, when he framed
All things to Man’s delightful use
Here in close recess,
With flowers, garlands, and sweet smelling herbs,
Exposed Eve decked first her nuptial bed,
And heavenly chairs the hymenean sung
What day the genial Angel to our site,
Brought her, in naked beauty more adorned,
More lovely than Pandora, whom the gods
Endowed with all their girt.
These lulled by nightingales, embracing slept
And on their naked limbs the flowery roof
Showered roses, which the morn repaired.

      Milton believes that it is mindless lust which is sinful and not physical lovemaking. Unlike the beasts, man’s love making is to be founded in reason, loyal, just and pure. So does the archangel Raphael say while talking to Adam:

In loving thou dost well, in passion not,
Where in true love consists not; love refines
The thoughts and heart enlarges, hath his seat
In reason, and in judicious, is the scale
By which to heavenly love thou may not ascend
Not sunk in carnal pleasure, for which causes
Among the beats no mate for thee was found.

The First Sin

      Adam and Eve deluded by Satan commit the ‘first sin’ of transgressing God’s command by violating the one restriction of not tasting the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge. Thus, they invoke God’s fury and are imposed upon with the penalty of death upon the human race.

Immediate Consequences

      The consequences of the sin of Adam and Eve is immediate. They lose their innocence, purity, simplicity and holiness and become painfully conscious of shame, their nakedness and treachery to God. They give full vent to their lust:

But that false fruit
Far other operation first displayed,
Carnal desire inflaming: he on Eve
Began to cast lascivious eyes, she him
As wantonly rapaid, in lust they burn,
Till Adam thus gan Eve to dalliance move

      Milton further goes on to describe their lustful love-making thus:

Her hand he seized and to a shady bank,
Thick overhead with verdent roof enbow’red
He led her nothing loth; flow’rs were the couch,
Pansies, and violets, and asphodel,
And hyacinth, earth’s freshest, softest lap
There they their fill of love and love’s disport
Took largely, of this mutual guilt the seal,
The solace of their sin, till dewy sleep
Oppressed them, wearied with their amorous play.

Their Accusation of Each Other

      They rise from their sleep wearied and as if from unrest. They become conscious of their nakedness and are filled with a sense of guilt and shame. Overcome by grief and repentance Adam accuses Eve of disobedience and defiance of his advice and warning not to go away from him to work alone in the fields. Eve in her turn says that the trap laid on her and the temptation were so great that if he had been in her place, he could not have resisted them. Thus, they repent and accuse each other but the situation is out of their hand.

University Questions

Can it rightly be said that intemperance is the cause of man’s Fall in Book IX of Paradise Lost?
“Adam and Eve indulge in lustful love-making after the Fall which leads to a sense of guilt and shamefulness”. How far is this statement true with regard to Book IX of Paradise Lost?

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