Excerpts of Paradise Lost (I)

Adam, on when he first met Eve:

Grace was in all her steps, Heav’n in her eye,
In every gesture dignity and love.

~

She heard me thus, and though divinely brought,
Yet innocence and virgin modesty;
Her virtue and the conscience of her worth,
That would be wooed, and not unsought be won,
Not obvious, not obtrusive, but retired,
The more desirable, or to say all,
Nature herself, though pure of sinful thought,
Wrought in her so, that seeing me, she turned:

~

For well I understand in the prime end
Of Nature her th’inferior, in the mind
And inward faculties, which most excel,
In outward also her resembling less
His image who made both, and less expressing
The character of that dominion giv’n
O’er other creatures; yet when I approach
Her loveliness
, so absolute she seems
And in herself complete, so well to know
Her own, that what she wills to do or say,
Seems wisest, virtuousest, discreetest, best;

-John Milton (emphasis not included)


I just had to read the description of Eve first, having gleaned from another book that Milton’s portrayal of the first woman was intriguing. It comes as no surprise to me that Milton focussed on portraying the shamefacedness of Eve, for she who was perfectly lovely must have been perfectly modest as well. 

I also figured it must be doubly hard (or many times harder) for the modern woman to conceive how Eve was – behaviours that are acceptable in modern society now would have been regarded as shameless. We have thrown off that ornament of meekness and shamefacedness, to stand proud, bold and bare. It is a sad reality.

One point about diction before I end for today: I am fascinated over the word ‘conscience’ when describing Eve’s worth, ‘that would be wooed, and not unsought be won’. It could simply be interpreted as the knowledge or awareness that Eve has of her own worth. Yet, why ‘conscience’ instead of say, knowledge?

I am not sure if I am reading too much into it, but conscience is oftentimes related to duty. Could it be right to say that Eve not only knows her worth, but knows that she should be wooed (should being a normative statement)?

Just a thought.

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