Remembering Milton

My five year-old computer’s memory shows signs of deterioration, spewing out irrelevant details from its innards.

A similar process is repeated in my mind: a container of four decades has sprung a leak. Example:  Today I remembered my English professor, Anantharamiah and his teaching John Milton’s Paradise Lost in the 1950s when I was a student at the Central College, Bangalore. Eve is in the Garden of Eden ready to take a walk. Milton describes the way she notices and tends to the drooping flowers so they do not fall to the ground. The professor impressively drove home the prophetic point that Eve herself is like a flower that will soon fall. This simile had always stayed with me; now it rose to haunt me.

On a fine spring morning as I stood combing my hair, there flashed Milton’s description like a meteor in my mind. I knew I had to find the poem soon. I remembered our study of Milton included Books 4, 8 and 9 of Paradise Lost, I would find the lines somewhere there. 

Once a week I go the local dump, called Rose Hill Dump. Local residents throw their garbage and recycling things there. Attached to the Dump is a little room called The Rose Hill Free Library, where people discard their books by arranging them neatly on shelves for others to take. I visited the library to discard my outdated New Yorkers and began to scan the shelves for a novel to read. To my surprise, I saw a copy of Milton’s Paradise Lost. I brought it home to do my research.

The weatherman predicted a temperature in the 90s on July 4. A perfect beach day. What better time to read Paradise Lost and find what I was looking for? I packed a lunch, grabbed the beach chair and umbrella and with my book in my bag left home.And what a reading was there! I sat on my beach chair facing the ocean and began to read aloud. With the horizon beyond, the Atlantic Ocean rolling in front, I read aloud as my voice adjusted to a low rumbling pace. Though I had started with the purpose of finding a specific passage, I soon forgot this and was immersed in the story unfolding itself to the accompaniment of the rhythm of Milton’s majestic blank verse. I read on and on, caught in the currents of a Paradise that was being lost with every breath. I came to book Nine and stumbled on the passage almost too smoothly. The shock of recognition made me get up and take a dip in the ocean. I sat down to read and saw what Milton said Satan saw:

Eve separate he spies,Oft stooping to supportEach flower of tender stalk whose head though gay, Carnation, purple, azure, or speckled with greyHung drooping unsustained. Then she upstaysGently with myrtle bound, mindless the whileHerself, though fairest unsupported flower…

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