by John Milton
Paradise Lost Language and Communication Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Book Number, Line Number
"For while I sit with thee, I seem in Heav'n
And sweeter thy discourse is to my ear
Than Fruits of Palm-tree pleasantest to thirst" (8.210-12)
Adam tells Raphael how sweet is his words are. Satan is another guy whose words can be very sweet; Raphael is clearly not Satan, but we should think about what makes words actually sweet and what makes them problematically sweet.
"I named them, as they passed, and understood
Their nature, with such knowledge God endued
My sudden apprehension" (8.352-4)
The act of naming – assigning a word to something – is associated in Eden with understanding the "nature" of something. This suggests that names perfectly correspond with what name, that there is no gap or potential for ambiguity between word and thing as there will be after the Fall. The phrase "sudden apprehension" suggests how automatic or close the connection between word and thing is.
"Language of Man pronounced
By tongue of brute, and human sense expressed?
The first at least of these I thought denied
To beasts whom God on their creation-day
Created mute to all articulate sound" (9.553-7)
"Articulate sound" is a distinguishing feature of humans, God, and angels; Eve is curious for a moment but then (fatally) forgets about this incredibly strange disruption of God's hierarchies. As part of their punishment in Book 10, Satan (and his angels) will be temporarily deprived of the ability to use "articulate sound" (they will become figuratively "mute"), partly because of his misuse of that gift here.