chapter  5
26 Pages

“The Vine and Her Elm”: A Marriage Made in Paradise

While the garden is a symbol for mankind’s rightful place in the world, for how things should have been, Milton’s garden is no allegorical or decorative backdrop, but a dynamic, luxuriantly fertile world within which Adam and Eve live and work, a world that supplies their needs and to which they give form and beauty. Milton rightly saw the interpretive possibilities in gardening; the first man and woman are both gardeners whose own right relation is often viewed in horticultural terms, suggesting deeply-rooted affinities between Adam and Eve and the garden they are themselves tending. Eve, like Adam, takes a full and active part in the “sweet Gardning labour” enjoined upon the couple (IV.328).1 Indeed of the two, Eve arguably reflects more fully the image of God the “sovran Planter” (IV.691): not only does she partake in the divine power to promote growth, simply by the nurturing power of her presence, but she also displays a deeper sense of vocation, taking more seriously than Adam their duties and responsibilities in the garden.2