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Come Be My Love: The Song of Songs, Paradise Lost, and the Tradition of the Invitation Poem

Gray, Erik I.

The invitation poem, in which the beloved is urged to come away to an idealized place, is among the most enduring genres of European love poetry. The tradition begins with the biblical Song of Songs, which sets several important precedents: a dialogic framework, a close association of lover and landscape, and a sense of love as exile. Medieval and Renaissance invitation poems follow the Song of Songs but shift its emphases toward monologue, materialism, and importunity. Milton thus inherits a dual tradition of invitational poetry, both aspects of which figure prominently in Paradise Lost. Recognizing the traditional features of the genre therefore illuminates significant moments in the epic, including, notably, Eve’s final speech. The invitational tropes in this passage reveal how Eve reconceives of exile as homecoming and how she reestablishes a sense of radical mutuality with Adam by completing a dialogue that began before the Fall.

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Academic Units
English and Comparative Literature
Publisher
Modern Language Association
Published Here
May 7, 2015
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