Milton

As André Verbart observes, John Milton makes Adam’s first words to Eve –

                                                             back I turnd,
Thou following cryd’st aloud, Return faire Eve,
Whom fli’st thou? whom thou fli’st, of him thou art,
His flesh, his bone; to give thee being I lent
Out of my side to thee, neerest my heart
Substantial Life, to have thee by my side (4.480–85)

– a translation of Aeneas’ last words to Dido:

siste gradum teque aspectu ne subtrahe nostro.
quem fugis? extremum fato quod te adloquor hoc est (6.465–66)

While Verbart claims “the parallel has gone noticed in Milton criticism” until his 1997 article, John Guillory (our April 23 speaker) explored this conjunction in his 1983 study Poetic Authority:

Dido’s silence is tearingly pathetic in Virgil’s text, and it is this silence that Milton most fears. He must reject Dido, renounce what she represents, and yet she must continue to speak to him, as the voice of allusion itself . . . These are the last words Aeneas is permitted to say to Dido, and they are the first words Adam says to Eve. He has already lost her when we speaks the word “Return,” and when she returns to him, he will never lose her again. In Adam’s retelling of Eve’s creation to Raphael, this incident is omitted (we would say, repressed). If Adam does not lose Eve a second time, Milton surely must have experienced a tremendous (albeit ambivalent) relief in this fall through continuity (“whom thou fli’st, of him thou art”). . . . we are reminded of how difficult a choice this is for Milton, how enjoined to harshness he is by the very allure of what he renounces. Homer is not easy to mock, much less to give up, despite his error. This is also Dido wandering in the wood (“errabat silva in magna”), and ever other wanderer in the poem. Excepting God the Father, this is every character and every “spirit” in Paradise Lost.