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Poetry

Paradise Interposed: Discussion

by Elmer G. Wiens

Narrative:
What happens to Adam during the morning after Eve suggests they divide their work and she leaves him alone? Does Adam keep working? Is he worried enough to search for Eve? Does he have a presentiment that Eve has fallen?

In my scenario, Adam wanders off from his work. He is drawn to a stream's ford, lying downstream from the Tree of Knowledge and the Tree of Life. When he reaches the stream, Eve has already sinned, and the effects on the flora and fauna of Eden are immediate. Eden resembles overripe fruit, slightly rotten around the edges.

A flock of mockingbirds lure Adam along a deer trail upstream to where a Lion, a pair of deer, and a group of hogs have eaten forbidden fruit that the Serpent and Eve left lying on the ground. With his newly acquired knowledge of evil, the Lion attacks the deer and hogs, killing the buck (Death incognito), and seriously injuring the doe (Sin incognito).

When Adam bursts onto the scene the hogs and the Lion scatter. The doe asks Adam to give her fruit from the Tree of Life to save her life. Adam deliberates on the nature of free will in a sonnet, and when Adam gives her the fruit, she transforms into a beautiful woman, called Dawn. Meanwhile, fallen eagles spirit the buck away.

Adam and Dawn depart to a secluded hillside clearing, where they make love on a dais. At noon, Adam runs off to meet Eve.

A mist carries Sin to some mountain shadows where Death awaits her. They relate their experiences. Sin explains how Satan's son, Cain, and her daughter, Morgan, are also the parents of mankind.

Prosody:
I imitate Milton's blank verse, iambic pentameter, enjambment, elision of extra-metrical syllables, and trochaic (inversion of feet) substitutions. I use spondaic or pyrrhic substitutions in some instances. In one instance Adam speaks a sonnet to his lover Dawn, and I end my poem with a rhyming couplet.

Types of elision:
The application of the rules of elision depends on the demands of the metre. In almost all of Paradise Lost, elision will render a foot with three-syllables into a two-syllable foot (Sprott 64-98). In Paradise Interposed, I replicate this practice in all but a few instances. As examples:

      a. Elision of a vowel between words that end and begin with a vowel - the two vowels are glided together - called synaloepha: line 140 "bridge 'cross."
      b. Elision with semivowels l, n, and r: line 4 "whisp'ring."
      c. Elision of vowels and semivowels within a word: line 63 "creatures," line 126 "hastily."
      d. Elision by contraction: verbs ending in ed: line 21 "stained," line 26 "expiated."

Inversion of feet:
The most prevalent substitution for the iambic foot is the trochaic foot. This substitution can occur in any of the five feet of the underlying iambic pentameter line. Milton's rule is that the "stress syllable of the preceding foot must be strongly accented or followed by a definite compensatory break" (Sprott 100). Multiple trochaic substitutions are possible in one line. In Paradise Interposed, a trochaic substitution in the first foot usually follows a punctuation mark at the end of the previous line.

Punctuation:
Milton's semi-colons and colons, while stressing the independence of the enclosed components, permit the association of the components in thought or reading until the period is reached. I retain this pointing with my use of semi-colons, while I use the colon in its modern context. Punctuation marks falling naturally at the caesura enhance the forward movement of the poem (Treip 56).

Sentence Structure:
Milton's convoluted sentences arise from the way he combines words within phrases and clauses, and from his abundant use of glossing subordinate clauses, which often depend on other subordinate clauses. While I avoid Milton's subordination, I choose the syntax of my sentences to mimic Milton's convoluted style. For example, the sentence, "Yearning her looks and smiles the whisp'ring wind Her murmurs mock" spreads nicely onto two lines of iambic pentameter with a caesura in the second line, and it scans much like Milton's phrase, "Under a shade on flow'rs, much wond'ring where And what I was" (IV 451).

Milton's sentences (ending in a full stop) can be characterized by whether they begin and/or end at a line break (end stopped). Milton's Paradise Lost sentences (my Paradise Interposed sentences in parenthesis) distribute as follows: both ends stopped, 29.8% (28%), one end stopped, 50.2% (50%), and neither end stopped, 20% (22%) (Corns 38).

Narrative versus invocatory (speech) sentences:
My sentences are on average shorter than Milton's, 17 words per sentence versus 24 words. My narrative sentences are a little longer than my invocatory sentences, 18 versus 16 words per sentence, whereas Milton's are, 24.4 versus 23.7 (Corns 33).

Paradise Interposed and Paradise Lost:
While Paradise Lost elaborates on the Biblical explanation of creation and the fall of man, many questions remain unanswered. Whom do Cain and Seth marry? How does "Death" die? Why does God wait such a long time before allowing Jesus Christ to be born? Why do many people attribute a sexual context to Satan's seduction of Eve? In Milton's story before Satan tempts Eve, why does Eden require more attention from Adam and Eve? Is Eve's narcissism and Adam's "uxoriousness" a given or a choice? What did Adam do, sexually, before God created Eve?

Works Cited and Consulted

Corns, Thomas N. Milton's Language. Oxford: Blackwell, 1990.

Bridges, Robert. Milton's Prosody. Oxford: Clarendon, 1921.

Milton, John. Paradise Lost. Indianapolis: Odyssey, 1962

Sprott, S. Ernest. Milton's Art of Prosody. Oxford: Blackwell, 1953.

Treip, Mindele. Milton's Punctuation. London: Methuen, 1970.

 
   

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