Paradise Lost – John Milton

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PARADISEL LOST
BOOK IX

OUTLINE STORY OF BOOK I-VIII:
LIKE OTHER EPIC POETS, MILTON TOO PLUNGES AT ONCE ITO MIDDLE OF HIS STORY INSTEAD OF BEGINNING. THUS BOOK I OPEN WITH AN ACCOUNT OF HIS STORY INSTEAD OF BEGINNING FROM THE BEGINNING. THUS BOOK I OPENS WITH AN ACCOUNT OF FALLEN ANGELS – SATAN AND HIS FOLLOWERS – IN HELL, AND THE ACCOUNT OF WAR IN HEAVEN WHICH RESULTED IN FALL IS GIVEN LATER ON THE BOOKS V-VIII, ALONG WITH THE ACCOUNT OF THE CREATION OF THE WORLD. SATAN, THOUGH DEFEATED AND FALLEN, DOESN’T DESPAIR. HE ENCOURAGES HIS FOLLOWERS, A VAST HALL, ‘PANDEMONIUM’, IS BUILT, WHERE THEY TOLD A CONFERENCE TO DECIDE UPON THEIR FUTURE COURSE OF ACTION. AFTER MUCH DISCUSSION IT WAS DECIDED THAT THEY WOULD HAVE THEIR REVENGE UPON GOD BY CURRUPTING THE ‘NEW WORLD’ THROUGH ‘CHAOS’, REACHES THE EARTH AND THE Garden of Eden. IN THE FORM OF A SERPENT, HE TEMPTS EVE TO TASTE THE FRUIT OF FORBIDDEN TREE. HE SUCCEDS IN SEDUCING EVE, AND ADAM, DESPITE THE WARNING OF GOD’S ANGEL ‘RAPHEL’, TASTES THE FRUIT OF ‘THE TREE OF KNOWLEDGE’. HE THUS COMMITS ‘THE SIN OF DIOBEDIENCE’. THE RESULT IS DEVINE PUNISHMENT. CONSEQUENTLY, THERE IS THE LOSS OF PARADISE AND THE FALL OF MAN. SUFFERING BECOMES THE LOT OF MAN AS A RESULT OF THIS ORIGINAL SIN.SATAN, TOO, IS PUNISHED, AS HE AND HIS FOLLOWERS ARE TRANSFORMED INTO HISSING SERPENTS.

ABOUT ‘PARADISE LOST’:

PARADIAE LOST IS AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL. THOUGH IT IS AN EPIC DEALING WITH THE FALL OF MAN AND ORIGINAL SIN, YET IT IS SO INFLUENCED BY THE PERSONALITY OF MILTON, AND BY THE CURRENTS OF RELIGIOUS AND POLITICAL STRIFE IN COTEMPORARY ENGLAND, THAT IN ORDER TO UNDERSTAND THE EPIC, IT IS NECESSARY TO KNOW SOMETHING ABOT THE MAN HIMSELF AND CONDITIONS UNDER WHICH HE LIVED. THIS IS SO BECAUSE JOHN MILTON HIMSELF, IS IN EVERY LINE OF PARADISE LOST. IN THE EPIC IT IS MILTON HIMSELF WHOM YOU SEE, SATAN, HIS ADAM, HIS RAPHEL, ALMOST HIS EVE-ARE ALL JOHN MILTON. SAINTBURY SAYS: “WE are likely to misread not a little of the work, if we do not know the life of the poet.”

MILTON’S SATAN IS A SELF-POTRAIT IN MANY WAYS. CRITICS HAVE NOTICED THE FACT THAT SATAN IS GLORIFIED TO AN EXTENT, WHICH MAKES IF MILTON MEANT HIM TO BE THE HERO OF THE EPIC. MILTON HAS UNCOCIOULY ENDOWED SATAN WITH HEROIC PORTIONS, TRANSFERRING HIM HIS OWN LOVE OF LIBERTY AND INDEPENDENCE, AND ALMOST MAKING HIM A VICTIM OF DIVINE TYRANNY, AS HE HIMSELF WAS THAT OF THE STUARTS. IN MANY RESPECTS, SATAN IS AN EXPRESSION OF MILTON’S SPIRIT OF DEFIANCE OF THE NEW ORDER, WHICH WAS ESTABLISHED ON THE COLLAPSE OF THE ‘PURITAN COMMONWEALTH’ AFTER THE DEATH OF CROMWELL. MILTON’S RELIGIOUS ZEAL IS SEEN IN THE VERY THEME OF THE POEM, I.E., TO JUSTIFY THE WAYS OF GOD TO MAN, AND HIS PREJUDICE AGAINST WOMAN KIND IS REFLECTED IN HIS TREATMENT OF EVE AND TIRADE OF ADAM AGAINST MARRIAGE.

CHARACTERS IN PARADISE LOST

GOD AND HIS ANGELS:

MILTON’S HEAVENLY BEINGS ARE ARRANGED IN A HESTERICAL ORDER, GOD AND HIS SON BEING AT THE APEX. GOD, THE FATHER, IS NON-MANIFESTED, AND UNKNOWABLE, THE SON BEING HIS SOLE MANIFESTATION. WE ARE CLEARLY TOLD IN BOOK-III THAT GOD, “whom else no creature can behold” IS MADE VISIBLE IN SON. IN THIS RESPECT MILTON IS QUIE CLOSE TO SOM WHO IS AGENT OF CREATION, AND AS SOON AS THE WORLD HAS BEEN CREATED MILTON SPEAKS OF THE ‘SON’ AND NO LONGER OF ‘GOD’.

GOD IS EVERYWHERE, HE IS EXTENDED INFINITELY BOTH IN SPACE AND TIME. SINCE GOD IS EVERYWHERE, HE HAS NO CONTRACT TO RETIRE HIS INFINITE ESSENCE SO AS TO MAKE ROOM FOR THE NEWLY CREATED WORLD. IN OTHER WORDS, GOD IS OMNIPRESENT. HE WAS PRESENT FROM THE VERY BEGINNING AND CREATED THE WORLD OUT OF HIMSELF. AT TIMES, MILTON SEEMS TO IMPLY THAT THERE IS POWER, CALLED FATE, SUPERIOR TO GOD.

MILTON WAS RIGHT IN KEEPING GOD AMYSTERY; BUT AS RALEIGH POINTS OUT HE OFTEN ERRS IN MAKING HIS GOD TOO HUMAN. “THE GLORY OF GOD”, SAID SOLOMON, “IS TO CONCEAL A THING”/”BUT THE GLORY OF MILTON’G GOD IS TO EXPLAIN ATHING.”THE DIETY IN PARADISE LOST IS TOO GARRULOUS; HE TALKS CONSTANTLY AT LENGTH, AND IN SOME OF HIS SPEECHES THERE IS EVEN A TOUCH OF BOASTFULNESS.

MILTON HAS HUMANISE GOD, THE SON OF GOD AND ANGELS. THE ANGELS ARE HUMAN TYPES, BUT THEY, BUT THEY HAVE ADDITIONAL POWERS WHICH DITINGUISH THEM FROM HUMAN BEINGS. THUS THEY ARE SUFFUSED WITH DIVINE GLORY. THEY HAVE HEAVENLY LUSTURE WHICH SATAN AND HIS FOLLOWERA GRDUALLY LOSE AFTER THEIR FALL. THEY CAN CONTRACT AND EXPAND THEIR SIZE AND CAN CHANGE THEIR SEX AT WILL. BUT LIKE MEN THEY ARE CORPERIAL, i.e., THEY HAVE FORM AND MATTER. LIKE MEN THEY HAVE THEIR SOCIAL CATEGORIES AND RANKS.MACMILLIAN WRITES, “MILTON DESCRIBES THE MIGHT, WISDOM, AND ELLOQUENCE OF THE FALLEN ANGELS WITH SUCH SUBLIME POWER THAT THE DEFIANCE WHICH THEY HURL TOWARDS THE VAULT OF HEAVEN SEEMS FOR THE MOMENT SOMETHING MORE THAN AN EMPTY BOAST…..”

SATAN ( AS THE HERO OF PARADISE LOST):

SATN IS A MUCH MAGNIFICENTLY DRAWN CHARACTER AND SUCH IS THE FACINATION HE HAS EXERCISED ON THE READERS OF PARADISE LOST THAT EVER SINCE DRYDEN SAID THAT SATAN IS ‘MILTON’S HERO’ CRITIC AFTER CRITIC HAS TAKEN HIM TO BE THE HERO OF PARADISE LOST. THERE IS NO DOUBT THAT HE DOMINATES BOOK I AND II OF THE EPIC IN WHICH HE TOWERS HEAD AND SHOLDERS ABOVE HIS FOLLOWERS, BUT AFTER THAT THERE IS PROGRESSIVE DEGRADATION AND SHRINKAGE IN HIS CHARACTER. A CORROSPONDING DETEORATION OF CHARACTER ACCOMPANIES HIS GRADUAL LOSS OF PHYSICAL BRIGHTNESS. HIS GRADUAL LOSS OF PHYSICAL BRIGHTNESS IS ACCOMPANIED BY A CORROSPONDING DETERIORATION OF CHARACTER. SAYS C.S.LEWIS IN THIS CONNECTION, BY HIS OWN WILL HE BECOMES A SERPENT IN BOOK IX: IN BOOK X HE HIMSELF IS VIIDLY AWARE WHETHER HE WILL OR NO. THIS PROGRESSIVE DEGRADATION OF WHICH HE HIMSELF IS VIVIDLY AWARE, IS CAREFULLY MARKED IN THE POEM. HE BEGINS BY FIGHTING FOR ‘LIBERTY’, HOWEVER MISCONCEIVED; BUT ALMOST AT ONCE SINKS TO FIGHTING FOR ‘HONOUR, DOMINION, GLORIE, AND RENOUNE’. DEFEATED IN THIS, HE SINKS TO THAT GREAT DESIGN WHICH MAKES THE MAIN SUBJECT OF THE POEM-THE DESIGN OF RUINING TWO CREATURES WHO HAD NEVER DONE HIM ANY HARM, NO LONGER IN THE SERIOUS HOPE OF VICTORY, BUT ONLY TO ANNOY THE ENEMY WHOM HE CANNOT DIRECTLY ATTACK. THIS BRINGS HIM AS A SPY INTO THE UNIVERSE, AND SOON NOT EVEN A POLITICAL SPY, BUT A MERE PEEPING ‘TOM LEERING AND WRITHING’ IN AS HE OVERLOOKS THE PRIVACY OF THE TWO LOVERS, AND THERE DESCRIBED, ALMOST FOR THE FIRST TIME IN THE POEM, NOT AS FALLEN ARCHANGELOR HELL’S DREAD EMPEROR, BUT SIMPLY AS THE ‘DEVIL’. “FROM HERO TO GENERAL TO POLITICIAN, FROM POLITICIAN TO SECRET SERVICE AGENT, AND THENCE TO A THING THAT PEERS IN AT BEDROOM OR BATHROOM WINDOWS, AND THENCE TO A THOAD, AND FINALLY TO A SNAKE-SUCH IS PROGRESSIVE SATAN.”

MILTON INTENDED SATAN-AT LEAST IN THE EARLY BOOKS-TO BE THE REPRESENTATIVE OF THE OLD HEROIC VALUES WHICH WERE TO BE SUSPENDED BY ‘THE BETTER FORTITUDE OF PATIENCE AND HEROIC MATRYDOM.

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