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PARADISE LOST

A POEM IN TWELVE BOOKS

THE AUTHOR

JOHN MILTON

(THE FIRST AND SECOND BOOKS ONLY ARE HERE REPRINTED]

PARADISE LOST

BOOK I.

THE ARGUMENT.

This First Book proposes, first in brief, the whole subject, Man's disobedience, and the loss thereupon of Paradise, wherein he was placed; then touches the prime cause of his fall, the Serpent or rather Satan in the Serpent, who revolting from God, and drawing to his side many legions of angels, 'was by the command of God driven out of Heaven with all his crew into the great Deep. Which action passed over, the poem hastes into the midst of things, presenting Satan with his angels now fallen into Hell, described there, not in the centre, (for Heaven and Earth may be supposed as yet not made, certainly not yet accursed,) but in a place of utter darkness fitliest called Chaos. Here Satan with his angels, lying on the burning lake, thunderstruck and astonished, after a certain space recovers, as from confusion, calls up him who next in order and dignity lay by him; they confer of their miserable fall. Satan awakens all his legions, who lay till then in the same manner confounded; they rise, their number, array of battle, their chief leaders named according to the idols known afterwards in Canaan and the countries adjoining. To these Satan directs his speech, comforts them with hope of yet regaining Heaven, but tells them lastly of a new World and new kind of creature to be created, according to an ancient prophecy or report in Heaven; for that angels were, long before this visible creation, was the opinion of many ancient Fathers. To find out the truth of the prophecy, and what to determine thereon, he

The Argument. As in i. 24 the word means, not a process of reasoning, but the subject-matter of what follows.

Into the midst of things. The phrase, which has become almost proverbial, is a translation of the in medias res of Horace : Ars Poetica, 148.

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refers to a full council. What his associates thence attempt. Pandemonium the palace of Satan rises suddenly built out of the Deep. The infernal powers there sit in council.

Of man's first disobedience, and the fruit
Of that forbidden tree, whose mortal taste.
Brought death into the world, and all our woe,
With loss of Eden, till one greater Man
Restore us, and regain the blissful seat,
Sing, heavenly Muse, that, on the secret top
Of Oreb or of Sinai, didst inspire
That shepherd, who first taught the chosen seed,
In the beginning how the Heavens and Earth
Rose out of Chaos : or, if Sion hill

10

1-26. The Invocation. It was the custom of the classic authors, who were, in Milton's day, everywhere taken as models, to begin an epic poem with an address to the Muse of poetry. In Appendix A will be found some examples. Milton for this poem would invoke no heathen divinity : he addresses the Heavenly Muse who inspired the sacred writings. In Bk. vii. l. i. he calls her Urania,“the Heavenly One.”

1. Fruit. The word seems to be used literally, with a thought also of the figurative meaning ; i. e., the whole outcome or result.

2. Mortal, deadly.

4. Greater than any other man ; i. e., the Messiah. Although he afterwards took Paradise Regained as the subject of another poem (see Introd., p. xxii.), Milton meant in Paradise Lost to write of the Fall and of the Redemption as well. In Book xii. Adam is given by Michael a prophetic view of the fulfilment of the promise of salvation made to Eve.

5. Seat, place, abode.
6. Secret, remote from man, mysterious and unknown.

7. Of Oreb or of Sinai. The meaning is “on the secret top of that great mountain, whether it be called Oreb or Sinai.” Sinai is the eneral name for the great mass of mountains in Southern Arabia. Horeb is apparently the name of one of the mountains.

8. That shepherd, Moses who “kept the flock of Jethro.” Exod. iii., 1. The chosen seed, the children of Israel.

10. Out of Chaos. Gen. i. Sion, one of the hills upon which Jerusalem was built.

Delight thee more, and Siloa's brook that flowed
Fast by the oracle of God, I thence
Invoke thy aid to my adventurous song,
That with no middle flight intends to soar
Above the Aonian mount, while it pursues

15
Things unattempted yet in prose or rhyme.
And chiefly thou, O Spirit, that dost prefer
Before all temples the upright heart and pure,
Instruct me, for thou know'st; thou from the first
Wast present, and, with mighty wings outspread, 20
Dove-like, sat’st brooding on the vast Abyss,
And mad'st it pregnant : what in me is dark,
Illumine ; what is low, raise and support;
That to the highth of this great argument
I may assert Eternal Providence,

25 And justify the ways of God to men.

Say first-for Heaven hides nothing from thy view, 11. Siloa. “Siloam's shady rill” is said in Nehem. iii. 15, to be “by the king's garden.”

12. The oracle of God. The Temple.

13. Adventurous, because he was to undertake “things unattempted yet.”

14. No middle flight. His poem was to be on the highest possible theme.

15. Aonian mount. Helicon, the mountain of the classic Muses, in Bæetia or Aonia. By his subject Milton rises far above the classic poets.

17. Thou, O Spirit. Leaving the thought of analogy with the classic muses, Milton turns to the thought of the Holy Spirit,

21. Dove-like. “The Spirit of God descending like a dove." Matt. iii. 16.

21. Brooding on the vast Abyss. “And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters." Gen. i. 2.

24. Highth. This is Milton's customary spelling.

26. A noble aim. But critics have thought that the desire to justify the ways of God led Milton to introduce arguments and discussions into his poem which are not wholly poetical. We have no such passages in Books i. and ii., but there is some theology toward the beginning of Book iii.

27. Milton puts the question of which the answer is his poem.

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