ABSTRACT

Milton's description of Eden, which is on one level the English countryside, on another the ideal place of legend, is on still a third level an elaborately developed landscape in the informal style of the seventeenth century, including effects which the eighteenth century would label “picturesque.” The ways in which Milton observed the theories of landscape design are seen in the general arrangement of the grounds; in the particulars of wall and prospect; in the handling of foliage and water; and in the consistent emphasis on mass and shade that is characteristic both of the baroque taste of the seventeenth century and of the picturesque taste of the eighteenth century, which Milton's example helped to determine. Still another dimension of the landscape experience, in Milton as in the Renaissance garden, is seen in the introduction of elements for moral and psychological, as opposed to purely aesthetic reasons. Milton's own concern to keep the garden in scale with its human occupants results in a consistent focus on the nuptial bower as the physical, narrative, and thematic center of the action. On a larger plane, the Garden of Eden is presented as the center of the cosmos itself. Through description that dwells on shade and moisture, trees and streams, Milton presents it as the ideal mean between those extremes of negation and fulfillment, destruction and perfection for which hell and heaven are the emblems.

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