"The Sum Of Earthly Bliss"

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Last Updated on May 9, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 369

Context: After Raphael had described the creation of the world and had explained the workings of the cosmos, Adam tells of his own discovery of himself as a living being. God gives everything to him but the one tree of the knowledge of good and evil, which he is to avoid at all hazards. Adam indicates his gratitude to God for His manifold gifts but says that he, being alone, cannot fully appreciate everything; what he needs is an equal with whom to share his bliss. God, pleased with him for his desire and his recognition that he cannot find equality among the lower animals, puts him to sleep and removes a rib, which he transforms into a woman. It is noteworthy that here Milton totally disregards the creation of man and woman by fiat, as given in Genesis 1: 27, since it was Milton's purpose to have Eve a secondary creation not equal in all respects to Adam. The woman created from Adam's rib was so lovely and fair that all the rest of creation seemed mean in comparison with her: Milton is here preparing for the surge of Adam's passion that will overrule his intelligence and lead to his fall. Adam recognizes that the woman is bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh: this conception that two married people were physically one was to have profound and far-reaching influence–on Henry VIII, for instance. Adam led this new creation to the nuptial bower, and all heaven and the happy constellations shed their selectest influences.

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The earth
Gave sign of gratulation, and each hill;
Joyous the birds; fresh gales and gentle airs
Whispered it to the woods, and from their wings
Flung rose, flung odors from the spicy shrub,
Disporting, till the amorous bird of night
Sung spousal, and bid haste the evening star
On his hill top, to light the bridal lamp.
Thus have I told thee all my state, and brought
My story to the sum of earthly bliss
Which I enjoy, and must confess to find
In all things else delight indeed, but such
As used or not, works in the mind no change,
Nor vehement desire, these delicacies
I mean of taste, sight, smell, herbs, fruits, and flowers,
Walks, and the melody of birds; . . .

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