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Introduction

John Milton has the multifarious knowledge about literature. He has


snatched away the tremendous success in favor of him. He is versatile genius
because firstly he is an epic poet. He is famous for his epic poem Paradise Lost.
No one reading through Paradise Lost with any degree of seriousness can
help asking with what the poem as a whole is most truly concerned, what were the
feelings and ideas that dominated Miltons mind when he wrote it. Such was my
own experience, and when I found the question difficult to answer, I sought help
form the books on Milton that are most read in England. But they helped very
little. The majority, however good on other topics, made no attempt at all to
answer this particular question; or what they did say went no further than to
summarise Miltons own professions as to the true subject of his poem. The only
critics who seemed to tackle the problem in the rights kind of way were the
Satanists, namely those who in vested the character of Satan with all that Milton
felt and valued most strongly. But the more I considered the Satanic explanation,
the more inadequate it seemed: far too simple to solve so complicated a problem.
And so I was led to work out my own solution, the results of which attempt are the
central part of this book. I found in due course that more had been written on the
subject than I had known, especially in America, where opinion had already
reacted against the Satanists; but nothing I have read has convinced me that there
is not room for several more attempts to find out with what paradise lost as a
whole is most truly concerned.
Paradise Lost was some years in the writing, and its orgins go back in part
to still earlier years. It is not surprising that Milton should have changed somewhat
during its composition. In fact, a change of mentality seemed to me the only
solution of some of the problems the poem presents. The subject of paradise lost
then, led quite naturally to that of how Miltons mind developed. And this,
Miltons mental development, is broadly the subject of this book. It is Miltons

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literary development I have mainly in mind, but illumined as far as possible by his
mental experience. I have had of course to touch on Miltons though; but only as a
means to some other end, not with the idea of contributing to the knowledge of his
philosophy.
Milton is one of the famous poets in the field of English literature.
Shakespeare and Milton are two poets of England who are head and shoulders
above the rest of the age to which they belong the age of Elizabeth or the age of
the first Romantic movement in English literature.
The first book of Paradise Lost opens with an invocation to the muse, then
goes, on to describe the cause of mans fall : the temptation of Satan in the form of
serpent and the consequent fall of man. Satans revolt from God; his banishment to
Hell with his supporters; Satans efforts to rouse the spirit of his supporters; the
catalogue of the chief leaders. The effect of Satans words and the building of the
palace of pandemonium to serve as a council hall and finally the summering of the
council and consequently the reduction in the size of the fallen angels from the
substance of the first book of Paradise Lost ends with preparations being made for
a solemn council to be held in Pandemonium, the high palace which serves as the
capital of Satan and his comrades in Hell.
The deliberations of the fallen angels begin with the opening of Book-II,
Satan is seated on a throne in the midst of unparalleled splendor. Satan has learnt
no lesson from his defeat in his war against God; and he is now aspiring to an even
higher position than that which he has already achieved by becoming the leader of
the fallen angels.
Addressing his comrades by their Heavenly tiles, Satan tells them that he
has not given up his hope of regaining Heaven. He assures them that they would
rise once more to Heaven and regain their original positions. He also says that,
here in Hell, there would be no occasion for any one of them to feel Jealous of his
high position because he, as their leader, is exposed to more suffering, more
danger and more risks than they. He than asks them what course of action should,

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in their opinion, be adopted to achieve their aim of regaining Heaven. He asks
whether they would recommend an open war against God or they would favour
some cunning and secret strategy Open war or covet guile.
The book has been divided into three parts, corre-sponding with the three
well-marked epochs of Miltons life: the early poems, covering the period form his
birth till his return form Italy and the writing of Epitaphium Damonis; the period
of the prose, 1639-1660; the later poems, from the Restoration to his death. Owing
to the varying material that has survived, treatment of Miltons mental growth has
had to be different in each of these three periods.
In studying Miltons formative years I found that the known facts of his life
had never been closely applied to his poems. Something here remaind to be done.
There is therefore a certain amount of biography in the first part: more than in the
rest. Another fact that became evident from studing Miltons early years was that
his Latin poems and Latin academic exercises had not usually been stressed
enough, and certainly had not been inserted in their proper order in Miltons
writings. Professor Grierson has registered a practical protest against this manner
of treatment by printing, in his edition of Miltons verse, English, Latin, and
Italian poems in their chronological order, not in linguistic groups. Milton wrote
Latin as readily as he did English; and to understand him we must give each
language impartial treatment. This, at the risk of tedium (for Miltons Latin verses
are not particularly easy), I have tried to do. In themselves some of the Latin
verses are extremely interesting and some beautiful; and the slight additional
trouble (for those whose Latin is not very ready) of reading them in the original is
well rewarded. But although what we know of Miltons life in his early years had,
before Professor Hanfords study, not been exploited properly, it is, even when
exploited, annoyingly patchy. There are blank years besides wellillumined
moments; and the reader must be warned against expecting the impossibility of
symmetrical treatment.

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In some ways Milton is a romantic, and there are signs that recent opinion
is setting against him as well as against the avowed romantic school of the
nineteenth century. Anyhow, it is not safe to assume that his reputation will
continuw to stand as high as it has done for the last two hundred years. I cannot
myself see that Miltons value is superannuated, and in the epilogue I have stated
very simply why I hold this opinion.
A very little experiment showed that all but briefest references to the
literature, history, and thought of Miltons day must be excluded to keep the book
within the limits designed. I have therefore kept, on the whole, very closely to
Miltons text. As a compromise I have added, in the first two parts, tables showing
the dates of Miltons writings, of events in his life, and of current political events;
and I would like to ask readers to consider these table as part of the book, to
associate them with the chapters to which they are prefixed.

Background of the topic:


It is extremely difficult, in a book like this which tries to combine a certain amount
of scholarship with an appeal to the general literary public, to know how much
knowledge to assume in the average reader. To assume little is insulting; to assume
much has the disgusting taint of academic snobbery. Roughly I have assumed
some knowledge of Miltons English poems and an acquaintance with the facts of
his career obtainable in such books on Milton as those published in the Home
University Library or Macmillans Literature Primers.

Statement of the Problem:


In my research my problem is to identify the John Miltons Paradise Lost: A
Critical Review. As far as I am concerned the novel John Miltons Paradise Lost
perfectly describes the John Miltons Paradise Lost: A Critical Review. In this
research I have tried to state the John Miltons Paradise Lost: A Critical
Review.

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Objectives:
John Milton has the multifarious knowledge about literature. He has
snatched away the tremendous success in favor of him.
Paradise Lost was some years in the writing, and its orgins go back
in part to still earlier years. It is not surprising that Milton should
have changed somewhat during its composition.
Milton is one of the famous poets in the field of English literature.
Shakespeare and Milton
The first book of Paradise Lost opens with an invocation to the
muse, then goes, on to describe the cause of mans fall
The deliberations of the fallen angels begin with the opening of
Book-II, Satan is seated on a throne in the midst of unparalleled
splendor.
In studying Miltons formative years I found that the known facts of
his life had never been closely applied to his poems.
Research Methodology:
To do this Dissertation I have to follow some pioneer critics critical appreciations
such as John Miltons Paradise Lost: A Critical Review As I have to depend as
well as collect data and information on the basis of Secondary Source, so
undoubtedly my dissertation is a Secondary Research.

Significance of the Research:


Miltons usage of Homeric similes in abundance in this poem is also praiseworthy.
His epic similes are on the category of Homers Iliad. In this first Book Satan is
compared with Laviathan. His shield is compared with the sun. His arrow is
compared with an ask tree etc. In the second Book we are acquainted with a good
number of epic similes. When Satan is at the Hell Gate he is opposed by Death.
Then Satans fierce attitude is compared with a burring comet.

Conclusion

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The subject matter of Paradise Lost is one of the conspicuous characteristics of
this epic poem Milton declares about the subject of this poem Mans first
disobedience. About the subject matter of Paradise Lost Dr. Samuel Johnsons
remark is noteworthy Miltons subject is not the destruction of a city, conduct of a
colony or foundation of an empire but the fate of the world revolutions of the
heaven and earth; rebellion against the supreme king raised by the highest order,
the overthrow of their host and the punishment of their crime, the creation of a
new race of reasonable beings; their original peace and happiness their forfeiture
of immortality and their restoration to hope and peace. Actually this subject
undoubtedly fits or suits an epic poem like Paradise Lost. In this respect
Paradise Lost is an epic.

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Life and works of Milton

The period extending from 1625 to 1660 is generally described as "The Age of
Milton in English literary history. This period marks the end of what is known as
the Renaissance. The Age of Milton is filled with the political and religious strife
of the reign of Charles I (16251649) and the triumph of Puritanism. The
patriotic unity of England under Elizabeth did not survive the Queen's death.
James I (16031624) had not reigned long before the country found itself in the
midst of a conflict which had been foreshadowed in Elizabeth's lime and which
was kept in abeyance by the great personal influence of the Queen herself. The
long struggle between King and Parliament grew more and more bitter till it
reached its climax with the execution of Charles I in 1649. The political aspect of
this strife was represented by men like Pym and Hampden who emphasized the
legal claims of the King; while the religious aspect was represented by men like
Cromwell and Milton who were inspired by moral and social ideals. On the one
side were Charles I, Laud, and Strafford who advocated the theory of the divine
right of Kings and urged the claims of Authority and orderly government in
Church and State, On the other side were the defenders of popular privileges and a
stern Protestantism. Both sides were grimly resolved, and the country had to go
through a civil war fought for an "idea". Generally speaking, the aristocracy and
their dependants supported the royalist cause while the commercial and trading
classes in the main sided with Parliament. The mass of the people had no love for
the extreme views of either side. The flippancy and profligacy of the upper classes
greatly increased the influence of the anti-royalist forces. The Puritans under
Cromwell showed an intolerance of earthly tyranny in any form, because they
were fervent believers in the supremacy of God as the ruler of rulers and in the
sanctity of the individual conscience. Thus Puritanism became a political as well
as a moral and religious force and the great champion of the endangered freedom
of the English people. After a stormy period of civil war, it emerged victorious

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with me triumph of Oliver Cromwell, and during a few years (16491660) it
remained supreme.
Blow to literature :
The growth of Puritanism had important consequences for the literary life of the
nation. The Puritan leaders were men of a strong and serious character, calmly
determined and obstinately, fanatical. They were not cowed by persecution, and
they did not shrink from the sternest steps when their ideas of patriotic duty
demanded them. They were especially hostile to the theatre and as a result of this
hostility, the Long Parliament had by an Act decreed the complete closure of all
dramatic performances in 1642. This was the final blow to the declining
Elizabethan, drama. An and literature came under a similar suspicion, except in so
far as they were didactic in intention. It is thus understandable that no great
national literature throve during the period of Puritan supremacy.

Milton, the greatest product of Puritanism :


To the extent of its power, Puritanism destroyed human culture, and sought to
confine literature within the restricted field of its own particular interests. While
fatal to art it was thus almost fatal to literature. It was only here and there that a
writer arose who was able to absorb all its strength while going beyond its
limitations. This was emphatically the case with Milton, the greatest product of
Puritanism in English literature. In his work the moral and religious influences of
Puritanism are combined with the generous culture of the Renaissance. But even
he scarcely wrote a line that could be called humorous. The claims of literature
upon his genius were almost entirely controlled by his ethical mission. The fact
that he, while in the prime of his life, during the period 16401660, wrote no
poetry to speak of, and confined himself to bitter controversy in prose, is of itself a
sufficient commentary on the artistic poverty of those twenty years.

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The unpopularity of Cromwell's government :
Cromwell's government was highly efficient, but it was after all a military
dictatorship. The people as a whole began to feel uncomfortable under a
government that made their simple sports and amusements a crime. Cromwell-and
all that he stood for became bitterly unpopular and, when death at last removed his
iron hand, and when the country had experienced the discomforts of an unstable
government after him, there was a general welcome to the exiled Charles II whose
return to England marked the restoration of monarchy..,

The loss and the gain :


The religious revival gave to this period (the Age of Milton) its general character
and distinguished it from the preceding one. In exchange for the liberty it partly
lost, it acquired seriousness, a severe dignity. "Rich humanity, unlimited curiosity,
the sense of the comic mingling with the sense of the tragic in the portrayal of life:
all gave place to a passionate controversy on the forms of the Christian religion
and a search for the way of salvation."

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The Caroline poets :
(The term "Caroline" means "pertaining to Charles". "Caroline" is a Latin word
which means Charles). Some of the poets who wrote during what we have called
the Age of Milton were secular, some religious, in their poetry. The most important
of them was Robert Herrick (15911674), who wrote both secular and religious
poetry with equal facility. But it was in the secular poems that his powers ere
shown at their best. They are miscellaneous in character and include many love-
poems.

In the "Cavalier" group of Caroline poets, whose inspiration was almost entirely
secular, were Thomas Carew (15981639), Sir John Suckling (16091642) and
Richard Lovelace (16181658). They arc all poets in the lighter vein. Carew's He
that loves a rosy cheek. Suckling's Why so pale and wan, fond lover and
Lovelace's To Althea from Prison are examples of the fine lyrical quality by which
at its best their love-poetry is marked. Andrew Marvell (16211678) in his earlier
work shows many of the characteristics of the Cavalier school, but in politics and
religion he was on the other side. Of the Caroline poets who wrote religious
poetry, the best-known is George Herbert (15931633) whose collection of lyrics
called The Temple is expressive of the deepest piety. The sacred verse of Richard
Crash aw (16131649) has greater fire and passion; that of Henry Vaughan (1622
1695), while directly influenced by Herbert, is deeper in thought and much
more mystical. The Religious Emblems of Francis Quarles (15921644) also
deserves mention.

Cowley and the metaphysical poets. Abraham Cowley (16181667) is usually


regarded as the chief representative of 'hat metaphysical school which took its rise
in the work of John Donne. Dr. Johnson, referring to this group of poets, said,
"Their work is packed with affectations and conceits; in their effort to surprise by
the boldness and novelty of their images they indulge in strained metaphors, far-

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fetched similes, and the most extravagant hyperbole ; they cultivate ingenuity at
any cost ; substitute philosophical subtleties and logical hair-splitting for the
natural expression of feeling ; and employ their vast out-of-the-way learning
without the slightest regard to propriety. As a result they are in general violent,
harsh, cold, and obscure." In Cowley's work we have the last important
productions of this metaphysical school, but its influences were very widely
spread among the poets of the age in general. Thus the three chief religious poets
who have been named aboveCrashaw, Herbert, and Vaughanwere all more or
less metaphysical. Besides, in his later poetry Cowley discards much of his former
extravagance, and approximates to the restrained and sober style which came in
with the next generation. As for John Donne (15731631), his poetry is uneven,
and at times very startling and fantastic. He threw style and all literary standards to
the winds. He exalted thought and feeling above expression. But, while he played
havoc with the Elizabethan style, he influenced English poetry in the way of
boldness and originality. In the twentieth century Donne has been highly admired,
even though Ben Jonson had declared that Donne was "the first poet of the world
in many things," but likely to perish "for not being understood".

Caroline prose-writers. Robert Burton (15771640) is famous ' chiefly as the


author of the Anatomy of Melancholy. This work was begun as a medical treatise
on morbidness but it developed into an enormous hodge-podge of quotations and
references to authors, known and unknown, living and dead. Its style is hopelessly
involved. Sir Thomas Browne (16051682) is famous for Religio Medici (i.e., the
religion of a physician). This book treated religious subjects in a reverent and
tolerant "spirit, without ecclesiastical bias. It is written in a style which has
established it as one of the classics. Browne also wrote Urn Burial which began as
an inquiry into the various methods of burial, but ended in a dissertation on the
vanity of earthly hope and ambitions. Thomas Fuller (16081661) was a
clergyman and royalist who wrote in a lively and witty style. He wrote The Holy

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War, The Holy State and the Profane State, and some other works. Jeremy Taylor
(16131667), also a clergyman, is known for his Holy Living and Holy Dying
both of which enjoyed a wide popularity. Richard Baxter (16151691) earned
recognition by two works: The Saints' Everlasting Rest and A Call to the
Unconverted. Izaak Walton (15931683) is famous for The Complete Angler
which is more widely read than any other book on the subject of fishing, and
which is written in a charming style. John Bunyan (16281688) expressed the
Puritan spirit of his time by writing The Pilgrims Progress which is one of the
classics of English prose. Nor must we ignore Milton himself in this connection.
On account of the controversial character of his prose-writings they are seldom
read. Of them all, Areopagitica has perhaps the most permanent interest and is best
worth reading. The work is so called from the Aeropause (or Forum of Athens),
the place of public appeal, and the Mars Hill of St. Paul's address. It is the most
famous pica in English for the freedom of the press.

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Family background
John Milton was born in London, in Bread Street, Cheapside, on the 9th
December, 1608. His father had been able to attain some prominence and make a
comfortable fortune as a scrivener or notary and through the allied business of
private banking or money-lending. Possibly the poet inherited from his father a
disposition toward religious independence. He also owed to his father a debt in the
way of music. The father was a composer, not of the first rank but still of enough
repute. The poet's life-long devotion to music is seen in the warmth of his
allusions to it. Milton's mother was well-esteemed and known for her chanties.
Milton had an older sister Anne, who married in 1623, and a younger brother,
Christopher, who became a lawyer and, though a Royalist, continued to be on
good terms with him.
Early education :
Milton received his early education at home under private tutors and was then
admitted to St. Paul's school, perhaps in 1620. At school he studied Latin and
Greek, besides other subjects. One of his private tutors was a Scotsman, Thomas
Young, to whom he later wrote two letters and the Latin Elegy IV (1627), in which
he gratefully recalled Young's introducing him to Latin poetry. Milton was from
childhood a great reader. This excessive reading proved to be the initial cause of
his subsequent blindness.
Earliest verse and friendships :
His earliest attempts at verse, made at the age of fifteen, were rhymed paraphrases
of Psalms 114 and 136. He also wrote a few Latin exercises at this time. His
closest friend, at school and later, was Charles Diodati, the son of a prominent
physician of Italian origin, who went from St. Paul's school to the University of
Oxford. A less intimate friend was Alexander Gill, the son of the school
headmaster.

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At Cambridge :
In 1625, Milton matriculated at Christ's College, Cambridge. He obtained his B.A.
degree in 1629 and his M.A. in 1632 at the same university. Young men who later
attained distinction and who were studying at Cambridge during the same period
were Roger Williams, Thomas Fuller, Thorns Randolph, and Jeremy Taylor. At
Cambridge, Milton wrote abundant Latin verse and seven Latin prolusions.
("Prolusions" were public speeches made by students to prove their learning and
their rhetorical and argumentative powers). The occasion of his first Latin elegy,
addressed to Diodati, was his rustication, after a quarrel with his tutor, in 1626.
Back in London, he compared this period of exile from the university to the exile
of his beloved Ovid and rejoiced in the opportunity to read classical plays and to
see beautiful girls while strolling. On his return to the university, he was assigned
to another tutor and graduated in the normal time.
At the university, Milton earned the nickname "the Lady" because of his handsome
and delicate features and the purity of his mind and behaviour which prevented
him from joining the diversions of his coarser fellows. During the seven years that
he spent at Cambridge he moved from some unpopularity to general respect and
high esteem. He did not love the scholastic logic which largely dominated the
university curriculum and which he criticised as useless. In his last prolusion, he
asserted the creed of a young Renaissance humanist who was at once a Christian, a
Platonist, and a Baconian.

Latin poetry :
Milton's Latin poetry, with all its conventional rhetoric, sometimes attained higher
levels than that of any other English writer. Elegy V, a picture of awakening
spring, is aflame with the sexual imagery of an intense though innocent paganism.
In Elegy VII he presents himself as a confident foe of Cupid who is overcome by
the beauty of a girl he encounters. The young poet's sensuous instincts were
further displayed, along with his mastery of Italian, in six Italian sonnets (1630).

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Early English poems :
Early in 1628 he wrote the earliest of his English poems, On the Death of a Fair
Infant. In part of an academic prolusion in English couplets (At A Vacation
Exercise, 1628) he declared his devotion to his native language, a style free from
eccentricity, and exalted themes concerning Nature and man. In the Latin Elegy
VI, addressed to Diodati in the Christmas season of 1629-30, he praised the light
verse inspired by wine and love but turned from that to celebrate the ascetic purity
of the heroic poet. The Elegy ended with a reference lo a poem he had just written,
his first great poem in English, On the Morning of Christ's Nativity, This poem
showed that, poetically speaking, Milton had come of age. H also shows his future
direction, both in its religious theme and in its mastery of conception and form and
image and rhythm. Probably in the long vacation of 1631, Milton wrote the two
companion poems L' Allegro and II Penseroso. Less ambitious in theme than the
Nativity Ode, these two poems have their own complexity, concealed beneath a
unique grace and charm. In 1631 he also wrote two elegies on Hobson the
Cambridge carrier whose death occasioned much student wit.

No intention to become a priest :


Milton's scholarly and literary gifts had from childhood marked him out in the
minds of his family and teachers for a priestly career. In his later prose, he
recorded that he had refused to "subscribe slave in a church governed by prelacy,
but the date of this negative decision is not known. As his academic career neared
its end, the problem of an occupation was to come up, and the poem Ad Patrem
may well have been written in 1631-32, In this composition, Milton assumes that
be would not be pushed into some basely remunerative profession by his father
who had encouraged his literary pursuits and who was himself a devotee of the
Muses.

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Residence at Horton (163238) :
After taking his M.A. degree in July, 1632, Milton went to stay at his father's
country-house at Horton, near Windsor, Berkshire, where he spent some six years.
During these years he laid the foundation or set the direction of his liberal
thinking. With a humanistic zeal he lost himself in the study of history, literature,
and philosophy, ancient and modem, to gain an insight into all the generous arts
and affairs. Occasionally he visited London in quest of books or something new in
mathematics or music. An important landmark in his early career is the sonnet,
"How Soon Hath Time", written on his twenty-fourth birthday (9th December,
1632). Though this sonnet expresses his uneasiness about his present and future,
he earnestly dedicates his life to his great Task-Master's will. The first fruits of this
self-dedication were two short religious poems, On Time, and At a Solemn Music
(163233). They have the form of a madrigal, a stanza of a canzone, and the
irregular lines are powerfully modulated, so that every word has weight. The
poems are expressive of the beatific vision that always stirred his imagination.
Both contrast the grossness of temporal life, the jarring discord of sin, with the
eternity and harmony of Heaven and goodness.

Perhaps in 1632, Milton had, at the invitation of the musician Henry Lawes,
written Arcades, a miniature masque intended as a tribute to the dowager Countess
of Derby. In 1634, he wrote Comus, another masque. Comus was Milton's first
dramatization of his great theme, the conflict of good and evil. He has told us that
his early reading had nourished his failh in chastity. He had loved and imitated the
erotic poetry of Ovid and his fellows. But, while continuing to cherish their art, he
had turned away from their sensuality to the idealism of Dante and Petrarch. Then
came the romances of knighthood. Finally, "the divine volumes of Plato" taught
him the true love of the good. Prior to and beyond all were "those chaste and high
mysteries" glorified by St. Paul and the Book of Revelation.

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Comus was in a way a song of innocence. Lycidas, written in 1637, was a song of
experience, this poem, in form and sentiment an elegy of the classical kind, was
Milton's first attempt to justify the ways of God to himself and to other men. The
premature death (by drowning) of a virtuous and promising young man, Edward
King, who was about to enter a career of service to God, brought home to Milton's
mind the whole enigma of life and death, of the lightness of things in a world
where such things could' happen. The passages on fame and the hired clergymen
in this poem should not be treated as digressions. They are quite central in the
emotional dialectic. In the end, God's justice and providence and the conditions of
earthly life are vindicated, not by reason, but by the beatific vision of Lycidas's
soul received into Heaven, 'The poem is remarkable for its complexities and depth,
its reverberating solidity of reference, its rich variety of pace and tone, the artistic
control that dominates its turbulent emotions, and the high serenity of victory won
at the end."

Visit to Italy (163839):


Milton's mother died in 1637. In May, 1638 the poet went to Italy. He stayed
chiefly in Florence, Rome, and Naples. The Italian men of letters gave him a
cordial reception. Their treatment of him warmed his heart and nourished his self-
confidence. To his distinguished host in Naples, Baptista Manso, Milton wrote an
epistle (163839), which is one of his best Latin poems. He also wrote an epistle
to a Roman poet, Salzilli, and several epigrams in praise of the singing of the
famous Leonora Baroni. Although he mingled happily with Catholics, he
maintained his stout Protestantism and sometimes spoke on religious subjects. He
also called on Galileo in the latter's semi-captivity.
Return to England :
Milton felt compelled to give up his plan to visit Sicily and Greece on receiving
news of mounting political and civil tensions in England. In August, 1638 his
friend, Diodati (who had become a physician), had died. On his way back to

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England, Milton slopped at Geneva to see Diodati's uncle, John Diodati, who was
a Professor of Theology there. He reached England in July, 1639 and settled down
in a house in London where he set up a school. His first pupils were Edward and
John Phillips, the sons of his sister Anne. Late in 1640, he wrote an elaborate elegy
in Latin on Diodati. This has commonly been ranked at the head of Milton's Latin
poems. It contains expressions of heart-felt loneliness which are especially moving
from a man often regarded as proudly self-sufficient

Prose writings (164160) :


Milton devoted the years 164160 almost wholly to writing prose tracts in the
cause of religious and civil liberties. As he tells us in an important personal
passage in his fourth tract, Reason of Church Government Urged Against Prelacy
(1642), it was a great sacrifice on his part to put aside his poetic ambitions in order
to embark on a career of pamphleteering. But, as he proceeded with this work, he
felt encouraged by the thought that in his many and varied defences of liberty he
was; in another way, fulfilling his epic and patriotic aspirations.
The large bulk of Milton's prose is read only by scholars. It fills four times as
many volumes as his poetry. Milton's age was an age of great prose. Milton's own
prose, at its best, has a very individual if often undisciplined greatness. Even if he
had never written any poetry, his prose works would remain a valuable
interpretation of the Puritan revolution. These prose works have a significant place
in the history of political thought. Besides, they are a record of Milton's growth in
religion and politics, and of his dreams and disillusionment. They are indeed an
essential introduction to his mature poetic works. They serve as a bridge between
the radiant idealism of youth and the much-tried faith and fortitude of age.

During 164142, Milton wrote five pamphlets attacking prelacy. Milton urged
that the Reformation must be completed with a drastic purge of Romanism and a
return to the democratic simplicity and purity of the apostolic church. He puts all

18
the emphasis on the inward spirit of biblical faith in contrast with outward show
and spurious tradition.

Milton wrote several tracts on marriage and divorce. In May, 1642, several months
before the outbreak of the Great Rebellion, Milton married Mary Powell, the
daughter of a royalist squire of Oxfordshire who owed money to his father. The
marriage of a scholar and poet of thirty-three and an uneducated girl half his age,
from a large, easy-going household, could hardly have been expected to be
successful. The young wife, visiting her family a little later, refused to come back.
Milton was, of course, much distressed. In the tracts, Milton argued that
incompatibility between man and wife was an even stronger reason for divorce
than adultery which was then recognized as the sole basis for it- A loveless
marriage, he said, was a crime against human dignity. Both religious and
philosophic tradition and the way of the world recognized the superiority of man
over woman. Without denying that view, Milton upheld a personal and Puritan
ideal of marriage as an active bond of mutual love and mental companionship. He
was, however, attacked as a new libertine by most people. In 1615, a reconciliation
between Milton and his wife was effected. In 1646, when his wife's family had
been ruined by war, he took into his house the whole noisy family of ten members
and kept them for nearly a year. Three daughters, Anne, Mary, and Deborah were
born in 1646, 1648, and 1652 respectively. Mrs. Milton died a few days after
Deborah's birth. In 1654, Milton published his well-known pamphlets, Of
Education and Areopagitica, the latter of which is regarded as a classic document.
In Areopagitica, he expressed a boundless faith in the Englishmen whom God had
chosen to complete the Reformation begun by Wycliffe. Here he showed himself
as a resolute believer in pie power of truth to win its way through free inquiry and
discussion.
In the next few years Milton probably worked chiefly on his History of
Britain and his large treatise on Christian doctrine. In February, 1649, two weeks

19
after the execution of Charles I, appeared a political tract, The Tenure of Kings and
Magistrates, by Milton. Milton rejected the Stuart claim of the Divine Right of
Kings, and his object was to reconcile the public mind to the execution of Charles.
In March, 1649 Milton was invited to become Secretary for Foreign Languages to
Oliver Cromwell's Council of State, In his official capacity Milton remained quite
busy, especially in replying to the propaganda that the supporters of the King were
carrying on against the King's execution. By 1651, however, when Milton was just
forty-three, he had completely lost his eye-sight which had been failing for years.
Blindness greatly reduced his strictly secretarial duties, though he continued till
1659 as a translator of official letters.

His last political pamphlet was published in March, 1660. It was a daring
act on Milton's part to bring out this pamphlet in the face of events which were
moving to restore monarchy in England and to bring back Charles II who had been
living in exile. When in May, 1660 Charles II made his triumphant entry into
England, the event was probably the greatest disillusionment in Milton's life. All
his republican ardour and endeavours came to nothing.
Milton as a Poet
The two definitions of epic give us the elements, both of form and style of
the epic: a narrative poem, organic in structure, dealing with great actions and
great characters in a style commensurate with the lordliness of its theme, which
lends to idealise these characters and actions, and to sustain and embellish its
subject by means of episode and amplification". The epic in general, ancient and
modem, may be described as "a dispassionate recital in dignified rhythmic
narrative of a momentous theme or action fulfilled by heroic characters and
supernatural agencies under the control of a sovereign destiny. The theme involves
the political or religious interest of a people or of mankind. It commands the
respect due to popular tradition or to traditional ideals. The poem awakens the

20
sense of the mysterious: the awful, and the sublime; through perilous crisis it
uplifts and calms the strife of frail humanity."
In Paradise Lost, we find all the familiar features of the epic such as war,
single combats, perilous journeys, beautiful gardens, marvellous buildings, visions
of the world and the future, expositions of the structure of the universe, and scenes
in Heaven and in Hell. Yet all these are so transformed that their significance and
even their aesthetic appeal are new. The reason is that Milton has grafted his epic
manner on to a subject which lies outside the main epic tradition. By taking his
subject from the Bible he had to make the machinery of epic conform to a spirit
and to a tradition far removed from Virgil. Before him the best literary epic had
been predominantly secular, he made it theological, and the change of approach
meant a great change of temper and of atmosphere. The old themes are introduced
in all their traditional dignity, but in Milton's hands they take on a different
significance and contribute to a different end.
Biblical Theme :
Paradise Lost may properly be classed among the greatest epic poems,
though its theme is neither mythical nor historical. The theme of Paradise Lost is
biblical and religious. This poem is undoubtedly one of the highest efforts of the
poetical genius; and in respect of majesty and sublimity, it is by no means inferior
to any known epic poem, ancient or modern. It follows the Greek model of epic
poetry. The central event of this epic poem is the fall of man. The subject is
derived from the Old Testament; and it is astonishing how, from the few hints
given in that scripture, Milton was able to raise so complete and regular a structure
in his poem.
Satan once again impresses us as being fit Go be an epic hero. At the very
outset in Book II, he is described as being seated on a "throne of royal state" in the
midst of great splendour. We are told that from his despair he has been "uplifted
beyond hope" and that now he is aspiring to rise even higher. He is insatiate to
pursue his war against Heaven even though his war is doomed to fail. He tells his

21
comrades that he has not given up Heaven as lost; and he gives them an assurance
that they would rise again to Heaven and would, in fact, appear to be more
glorious and more awful than if they had not suffered a fall. In his second speech
Satan again impresses us greatly, this time by offering to undertake a hazardous
journey in search of the new world created by God. While none of the other fallen
angels comes forward to undertake this arduous and dangerous task, Satan is ready
to go. He speaks of the royal powers and the royal privileges which he enjoys as
their leader and he therefore believes that it is his duty to undertake the task that
has been proposed. This certainly raises him in our estimation. He is not even
prepared to take a companion with him; "This enterprise none shall partake with
me".
When the meeting of the fallen angels has come to an end, Satan's
supremacy is described to us in words which heighten our impression of his
greatness. In the midst of his infernal peers, he seems to be their "mighty
paramount'1; be seems to be "alone the Antagonist of Heaven"; he seems to be "no
less than Hell's dread emperor with pomp supreme and God-like imitated state".
Round him at this time are a cluster of fiery seraphim who carry their bright and
horrendous weapons. Thus not only has Satan spoken in a tone of self
aggrandizement but his dignity majesty have been emphasized by the author also.
Of course, this not mean that Satan is the true epic hero; but this does mean that
been endowed by Milton with a number of heroic trails.
Book II, like Book I, has a number of epic similes. Indeed as many as ten
similes of this kind here. In this kind of simile, a starts with a comparison between,
say A and B; but the second m grows bigger and bigger until it eclipses the first,
with the result white the comparison is effectively made and the idea conveyed s
fully, the attendant imagery seem to be even more important.

One important effect of such similes is to contribute to the grander of the


poem and thus to heighten its epic character. For instance, murmur of applause

22
which comes from the fallen angels at the end Mammon's speech is compared to
the sound of raging winds which have subsided. This simile leads us to imagine
hollow rocks, a storm which has been blowing furiously over the ocean all night, a
number of tired sailors who have kept watch all night, a boat which now lies
anchored in a rocky bay. A little later, the sounds which are heard in a valley when
the clouds dissolved and the sun have begun to shine brightly once again.

Here again the comparison does not just end here, but develops into an
elaborate and lovely Nature picture. In another comparison, we are made to
visualize Satan burning like a comet in the sky. Another simile brings to our minds
the fury of Hercules who, in his agony began to uproot the pine-trees of Thessaly
and who flung his servant into the ocean. In this way the epic similes, or the long-
tailed similes as they also known, add to the interest of the narrative and enrich the
poem.

23
Introductory Speech on
Paradise Lost
Noting could be further from Milton than this richly comic source in the
Iliad : It does nothing at all to explain what it is in the later passage that moved us
so. The myth is a blind : if we think it the real meaning or even an important part
we are mistaken. There is something very different behind it, something which no
critic has ventured to define and which need not be sought for here. Enough that
the passage illustrates the frequent importance in Milton of the covert meaning.
The whole question is usually settled or rather cut short by the statement that
Milton is a musical poet that a rather high proportion of his meaning is conveyed
through sound as against statement. This may be perfectly true, but it does not
exonerate the critic from the task of trying to extract a meaning from the Miltonic
music. If he finds them little related to or at variance with the professed meaning
of the poem, he cannot help himself, his own experience may be fallible, but in the
last resort it is all he can trust.
In dealing with Paradise Lost I shall try first to give the outlines of Miltons
professed plan, then to ask what modifications the readers experience forces him
to make in the plan and finally to suggest what the poem can most truly be said to
mean.
Although contemporary novelists and short-story writers construct their writings
more carefully than their predecessors, critics are still apt to forget how important
a part of the meaning of a work of literature the construction may be. The close
construction of Othello, compelling the mind to dwell unremittingly on the terrible
story, befits the almost purely domestic tragedy that the play is and forms an
essential part of the tragic meaning. The looser construction of Antony and
Gleopatra, not necessarily bad because it is loose, gives the feeling of great
happenings in wide space contrasted with the pair who found their best empire in
each other and this feeling cannot be spared from the meaning of the play. Now

24
Milton, bred in the classical tradition and naturally gifted with a powerful mental
control, can hardly have done other than impose a rigorous unity on his great
poem. this unity would be perfectly conscious and thus a very important element
of the professed meaning. It is with the construction of the poem that I propose to
begin my enquiry. But construction has another significance, for the impression of
greatness given by a work of art is very largely due to the sense of control implied
by good construction. We feel that the mind which for all its heat of excitement
can shape the material into a harmonious order must be mighty indeed. As
Longinus might have said, for what is greatly planned we keep our astonishment.
The reason why of all Shelleys lyrics the Ode to the West Wind is the most
powerful is that as well as containing the qualities common to most of Shelleys
other ambitious lyrics it is much more masterfully shaped. On the construction,
then of Paradise Lost depends not only the professed meaning but much of the
power of the poem.
These questions of construction may, in Milton of all poets, seem too simple not to
have been answered long ago. Yet none of the better known critics has added much
to Addisions brief comment on the Fable and how it is evolved. Let me enlarge a
little on this surprising deficiency.
Matthew Arnold, in his Preface to the 1853 volume of his poems laments
that whereas to the Greeks the total effect of a poem was all-important, the English
care only for the separate parts. He laments further that, as a natural result, the
English poets of the Romantic Revival lack unity and what, following Goethe, he
calls architectonic power. Unfortunately, when he comes to criticize Milton, he
insists on showing his patriotism by failing to apply the architectonic test. He does
indeed say that it would be possible to point out the masterly construction of
Paradise Lost, but he leaves the matter at that and proceeds to air his pet
obsession, the Grand Style. Other critics of Milton, too, are disappointingly
reticent on matters of construction. A number of them note the constructional
mastery, but without entering into details. Lamb, for instance, from whom it would

25
be unfair to demand systematic criticism, objecting to Johnsons remark that no
one ever wished Paradise Lost longer.
This is a very different account from Raleighs. Instead of everything being
subordinated to the single theme of the Fall of man, whose climax is the eating of
the apple by Eve, there are two themes, neither of which is the theme which
Raleigh considers of chief importance. I happen to agree with Raleigh; but when a
critic like Saurat holds entirely different views with firm conviction, one cannot
treat Raleighs proposition as too obvious to need any proof.

How astonishingly the construction of Paradise Lost has been misunderstood in


the past is made clear by the comments that have been passed on the four great
personal passages, the preludes to the First, Third, Seventh and Ninth Books. For a
long time they were considered blemishes, perhaps excusable for their beauty, but
faulty because they are accretions.

26
The Construction of Paradise Lost
In describing the construction of Paradise Lost, as I see it, I shall have to
sketch, as briefly as possible, the outline of the poem from beginning to end. The
opening needs little comment. It is natural that Milton, believing in the high
seriousness of his purpose, should invoke the Holy Spirit to be his help and that he
should outline the scope of his plan. Homer had done much the same before,
invoking the Muse and putting forward the wrath of Achilles as his theme. There is
nothing in Miltons opening to suggest two great contrasted themes. Satan is
mentioned as the instrument of Mans fall, not as the subject of half of the poem.
Being the chief instrument, he is to be described first and as his machinations
against Man begin after he has been thrown into Hell, it is fitting that Hell and its
inhabitants should first be described. Hell, then is the subject of the first
movement of the poem. Miltons opening is at once the prologue to the whole
poem and the prologue to the first movement.

In the first movement we are shown Hell : the terror is inaction, the futility
of any possible course of action; for the fallen angels are still full of a divine
energy. Then Satan thinks of Man and the outler of energy is provided. Man is at
present distant, dim uncertain, but he and his new habitation supply the hope and
motives of the inhabitants of Hell. Till Satan goes on his journey, the reader
imagines himself in Hell, a spectator of its intents and a listener to the council held
within it: he does not contemplate Hell from without. And here it may be remarked
that the location of the reader is of the highest moment for understanding the
construction of the poem, for the centre of importance will be where the reader
imagines himself of be situated, and not necessarily where the action is taking
place. Then Satan, the reader accompanying him, struggles up through Chaos to
the first glimmerings of light that penetrate Chaos from Heaven; and at this point,
the end of Book Two, the first movement of the poem closes.

27
Addison considered the invocation of light at the beginning of Book Three rather
as an Excrescence, thean as an essential part of the poem : but it is (and this has
been noticed before) a singularly beautiful and very necessary transition from one
movement to another.
Satan has struggled up to the light, and the Third Book begins with perfect
aptitude Ail, holy light.
Not only is this transition apt, but within the invocation the thought moves with
perfect aptitude to the description of Heaven, the theme of the second movement.
After calling on light, Milton naturally thinks of the deprivation of it in himself, of
his kinship in blindness with Homer and Thamyris and of his need for celestial
illumination of his inner mind to compensate for the loss of physical vision.
The Picture of Heaven corresponds of that of Hell and gains greatly in beauty by
the contrast. Saurat is wrong in calling the scenes in Heaven an interlude and
making the contrast between Hell and Paradise. Paradise is not contrasted with
Hell; it stands in contrasted relationship to Hell and Heaven. The correspondences
and contrasts between Hell and Heaven are easily seen. Divine beatitude is
described, but more shortly than Hells concrete miseries. Far below, Adam and
Eve, in blissful solitude, are the unconscious cause in Heaven, as they had been in
Hell, of debate and deliberation. As in the council in Hell Satan alone accepts the
perilous journey through Chaos to Earth, so in the council in Heaven the Son alone
dares sacrifice himself for the redemption of Man.
Another intentional contrast is between the divided occupations of the
fallen Angels in Hell when the council is over and the common hymn of praise in
Heaven when the issue of the heavenly council has been decided. Though Hell and
Heaven and their inhabitants are described, Man is always the theme of activity,
and Man, though better known in Heaven, remains to the reader minute, distant
and ignorant of the great events of which he is becoming the cause. The second
movements ends with line 415 of the Third Book.

28
We are now book traverses the universe, who in the remaining lines of the book
traverses the universe, deceives Uriel, and raches the Earth. At the begining of the
Fourth Book there are twelve introductory lines beginning Of for that warning
voice, whose significance in the construction may be asked. Milton apparently
wishes to mark some new feature, but he does not wish to stress it very strongly,
for the prologue is slight compared with the four other prologues, to Books One,
Three, Seven and Nine. The answer seems to be that it marks an important new
stage in the story, the extension of the filed of events to the Earth, but without
marking a vital change of atmosphere. As will be pointed out shortly, the definite
transference of interest from Heaven and Hell to Earth is marked by the long
introduction to the Seventh Book. It is not till this book that the reader definitely
feels himself on Earth; in the earlier books he watches Adam and Eve from
without, or is rather a visitor in Paradise than lives there. Moreover, from Book
Three, 416 to Book Five, 561, where Raphael begins his narrative, there is much
shifting of scene : the reader lives, if anywhere in particular, in the firmament or in
the spaces between the universe and Heaven. I think if one compares the
impressions derived from the descriptions of Paradise location will be clear. In the
earlier book Paradise is described with such a remote beauty that we feel it to be a
colony of heaven, not real Earth, we see it from without, suffused with an
unearthly glow; at any rate we do not for any length of time enter the minds of
Adam and Eve.
We think of the catastrophe coming. Raphaels final warning, lines 633-43 and
departure, complete, with a boding solemnity it is impossible to overpraise, the
preparations for the ensuing tragedy. For hitherto Heaven has never remitted its
guard over Paradise. But with the departure of Raphael Havens vigilance is with
drawn; Gabriels honest watch is quite ineffective; Man is left to his own resource
and the stage is empty for the three chief actors, Adam Eve and the Serpent.
The prologue to the Nith Book, which as a functional portion of the construction I
incline to think the finest of all the prologues, effects a double change of

29
atmosphere. It suggests the blackness of storm clouds after the treacherous beauty
of a dazzling sky, and it takes the action from the Garden of Eden into its final
scene, the mind of Man. Though in the Eighth Book the and in very truth this
prologue does mark the entrance of the dramatic element and of the more potent
human passions (bating Satans in the early books) into the poem. The
conversations between Adam and Eve and between Eve and Satan in the Ninth and
Tenth Books fragments of which Milton may have had in his mind from the time
when he intended to treat the fall in a play are more dramatic than any others in the
poem. One touch before the catastrophe illustrates the dramatic tone a touch
quite unlike anything that has gone before. Satan hopes to find Eve alone and by a
lucky chance he does so. The prologue has one more function : it marks a return
from the great central episode to the main theme. Milton in the opening lines
refers back to the opening of the whole poem, thereby reminding us that the
episodic books, Five to Eight, should be put back into their proper sequence of
time and that Mans disobedience is the main theme. He refers back by the simple
expedient of repetition.
The rest of the Ninth Book describes the immediate effect of the forbidden
fruit on Adam and Eve, and ends with their futile quarrelling.
Much still remained for Milton to do. He had, according to his gigantic plan, to
outline the scheme of the world to the end of time : he had to describe the effects
of the Fall, the central event of all time, on Hell, Heaven, Paradise and the mind of
Man : he had also to enlarge the scene from the narrow tragic stage of the Garden
to the measure of the world as he knew it, that what he wished to convey by his
story might acquire a human reality. In reality its triumph is more than balanced by
the Grace called forth is Heaven. So potent is this effluence of grace the redeemed
mankind will be more excellent than ever in his days of happy ignorance. Thus the
fall led to greater good than it occasioned evil. Meanwhile the Earth is made
subject to death and mutability and Adam and Eve to all the woes of common
humanity. But already by the end of book ten grace has softened their hearts to

30
repentance. When at the beginning of book eleven god accepts their prayers and
we are assured that the world is not doomed to immediate destruction, a place of
comparative rest has been reached and Milton takes advantage of it to insert
episodically the history of mankind from Cain and Abel to the end of time. Not
only did he choose the right place for the episode but he had the happy idea of
narrating events in the form of pageants presented to the eyes of Adam. This is a
fine piece of craft. There had been nothing of the sort before and the novelty was
exactly what was wanted to prevent the interest flagging. Unfortunately the
pictorial method took much space and could not be applied to the whole of history.
Milton has to abandon it in the Twelfth Book and to scramble too hastily in
straightforward narrative through the ages. But the episode fulfils its functions.
History is recorded to the end of time in close relation to the fall and the reader,
confined in the ninth and tenth books within the leafy bounds of Paradise, sees
wide across the world. In the mouth of Michael, Milton puts his weightiest
pronouncement on the art of living in the world with which he is familiar.
Many have praised the end of the poem, but often as if it could be detached.
However beautiful in itself, its full grandeur can only be left if one realizes what
has led up to it. The action, that has started in Hell, shifted to Heaven, narrowed to
the firmament, to Earth, to the Garden of Eden and its tenants, has broadened once
again to Earth but to a different earth and broadened once again to Earth but to a
different Earth and brings itself to a close in showing us two minute human
creatures erring and uncertain like their descendants and with all the world before
them in which to exercise their hazardous and momentous power of choice.

31
Critical Analysis of the poem Paradise Lost, Book I & II
The first thing to be considered in an epic poem is the fable, said Addison.
Paradise lost deals with the rebellion of the angels, the creation, the temptation of
man and the fall the subject-matter of the poem is taken partly from the books of
the Old Testament of the Bible. The fable of this epic poem, as Milton tells it may
roughly be divided into three parts : the rebellion of the angels and their material
strife with God (Books I, II, III and the greater part of V and VIII) and the wiles of
Satan against man, the transgression of Eve and Adam and their expulsion from
paradise (Books IX-XII). According to one critic, the chief characteristic of this
epic poem may be summed up in the word sublimity. Miltons imagination is
lofty and grand his style is majestic and sonorous. Magnificent imagery
accompanies and expresses magnificent ideas. No one who reads this poem can
fail to be struck at once with this peculiar power of Milton. He can exercise it in
half a dozen lines, such as the following :
Here let those
Who boast in mortal things and wandering tell
Of Babel and the works of Memphian kings,
Learn how their greatest monuments of fame
And strength and art are easily outdone
By spirits reprobate and in an hour
What in an age they, with incessant toil
And hands innumerable, scarce perform.
Or he can sustain the spell through scores and scores of lines, as in Book XI and
elsewhere.
Paradise Lost is the product of a Puritan's prolonged meditations on the
Bible. It paints the visions which the Bible has given him. He lets nothing
intervene between the Bible and himself. He allows himself complete liberty in
interpreting it But he puts his entire faith in it. He accepts the whole of biblical

32
history as genuine and sacred. But he retells it as one who bears all the burden of
contemporary knowledge, whose personality is intense and self-centred, and who
has little dramatic sense. He projects himself, his feelings, knowledge, and
aspirations into the characters of his epic, both the primitive human creatures and
the super-human beings, whether belonging to heaven or hell.
The strange result is a ceaseless conflict between his faith and his
temperament which deflects the poem from its purpose and divides his sympathy
in spite of the poet's intention. The moral thesis of the account of the creation in
the Bible is complete submission to God, But Milton, who wished to emphasise
this moral, had an independent spirit and had lived independently. He had
welcomed and advocated the rebellion against the prelates and even the King, and
celebrated the glories of regicide. In spite of himself, he was in deep sympathy
with Satan, the great rebel of Heaven and the enemy of God. The pride and
indomitable courage of the rebellious angel stirred in him the emotion of the
interest hours of his life, and he could not help seeing God as the King of England,
surrounded by submissive and meek angels, as by creatures who spent their lives
feasting, singing, and fighting wars. He paid lip-service to the duly of obedience,
but in his heart he was singing a hymn to freedom and rebellion. It is into Satan he
has put most of himself, his pride, and his temperament. As a sincere believer, he
intended to justify the ways of God to men. But he could not do it the imagination
by which a man can get outside himself and his own time and evoke strange and
far-away beings was not among Milton's gifts.
But Milton was capable of vast conceptions. He could present the universe
with a sense of its immensity which leaves far behind the curious, grotesque, and
complicated conceptions of Dante in The Divine Comedy. The two Hells have
often been compared-Dante's various and fragmentary, divided into innumerable
compartments; Milton's immense and indeterminate, and producing an
incomparable total effect with its "darkness Visible" and with the gigantic forms of
the angels changed into demons sprawling on the burning marl. The picture of the

33
creation of the world is no less great. A powerful imagination vivifies the biblical
text; and the Creator's act, when He drew space out of chaos and made it fruitful is
described with marvellous force.
The picture of Eden has been derided as too much like an English park. But Milton
has diffused the richest poetry over his ideal garden, without letting his
descriptions fade to vagueness. About his lawns and groves, he has caused to
revolve a sun and stars in their earliest perfect splendour. He drew accurately but
his total effects are nonetheless great and splendid. His paradise remains one of the
most beautiful dreams of the men who have been in love with Nature.

The Bible supplied him with the elements of the drama depicted in the
poem. It is the eternal drama of conscience, man hesitating between good and evil,
exposed to temptation and prone to fail. From his own experience in life, Milton
had come to the conclusion that the danger to a man's soul lay in woman, a danger
which was great in proportion of his capacity for love. To him woman was man's
inferior, an imperfect creature, dangerous if she were not kept in check. His view
was supported by his memories as by the story of Eve. His Eve is charming and
capricious, coquettish and wayward, incapable of sound reasoning and an easy
prey to sophistry. Man's duty is not to humble himself before her, but to feel and
proclaim himself master. Adam's crime consists in his chivalrous behaviour on the
day on which he sinned in order that he might share the punishment of his guilty
wife.
Milton also rebels against the doctrine of the superiority of virginity to
marriage. In the complete union of husband and wife, in which the husband is the
chief and the wife his obedient companion, Milton sees supreme morality and true
felicity. His famous apostrophe, "Hail, wedded love", sounded the dirge of the old
conception, and restored true and perfect love, equally distinct from lust and from
asceticism or Platonism, to its place in the centre of human life.

34
Milton's God, considered purely as a literary character, is unfortunately tinged
with the narrow and literal theology of the time. He is a being enormously
egotistic, the despot rather than the servant of the universe, seated upon a throne
with a chorus of angels about him eternally singing his praises and gratifying a
kind of divine vanity. It is not necessary to imagine Heaven for such a character;
the type is too common upon earth. But in Satan, Milton breaks away from crude
medieval conceptions. Here he follows the dream again, and gives us a character
to admire and understand:
Hail, horrors ! hail,
Infernal World ! and thou, profoundest Hell,
Receive thy new possessor-one who brings
A mind not to be changed by place or time.
The mind is its own place, and in itself
Can make a Heaven of Hell, a Hell of Heaven
....................................................................
....................... and, in my choice.
To reign is worth ambition, through in Hell :
Better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven.
(Book I, Lines 250-263)

In this magnificent heroism Milton has unconsciously immortalised the Puritan


spirit, the same unconquerable spirit that set men to writing poems and allegories
when in prison for the faith, and that sent them over the stormy sea to establish a
free commonwealth in the wilds of America. Of the theology of Paradise Lost, the
least said the better; but to the splendour of the Puritan dream and the glorious
melody of its expression no words can do justice.
"The biblical story of Adam and Eve, their temptation by the serpent and their loss
of innocence and perfect happiness, possesses the universality of a myth. Milton
believed that it embodied the most fundamental truth about the human situation;

35
that through the 'myth' of the Fall our paradoxical condition, possessed of reason
but betrayed by our passions, capable of greatness and yet inherently weak, noble
and yet corrupted, could be represented poetically. He treated the idea of the Fall
and of fallen man being rescued from the worst consequences of sin by divine
mercy Jess as a historical fact that as the condition in which life is lived at all
times. All through a man's life there is a ceaseless struggle between the forces of
good and evil in his personality. Being a seventeenth-century man, Milton still
accepted Genesis as literally true, but it is obvious from Paradise Lost that the idea
of the Fall as history meant infinitely less to him as a poet than the story's capacity
to reveal timeless truth about man's relationship with sin, salvation, and free will;
something which mattered very much to Milton as a Protestant and basically
individualist religious thinker. He reveals the nature of Divine Providence and the
meaning of the fall by producing a series of situations which are crises, in which
the forces of good and evil are displayed at work in relationships between people.
The poem provides a carefully contrasted series of situations through which we are
invited to become sharers in a powerful drama. We grow involved with the
characters of the poem to a high degree and through sharing their emotions we
experience the sensations of various spiritual states."

The poem begins with the scenes in Hell during which Satan rouses his
followers from helplessness and is chosen by them as the leader who will find a
way to earth and corrupt man so that God's purpose may be spoiled and God's
victory over the rebellious angels rendered less glorious. These scenes are full of
splendid effects: military revolutions, eloquent speechmaking, and heroic
defiances of God and His angels. Satan and his followers make a strong impact on
the reader's imagination, so strong indeed that some critics have been deceived
into thinking Satan to be the real hero of the poem. But Satan is, of course, the
prime representative and work of evil. Milton made Satan so interesting because

36
he was aware that evil can be exciting and alluring: it must be so, or how would
we, in certain states of mind, come to love and desire it ?

The scenes in Hell in Books I and II make us familiar with the atmosphere
and compelling qualities of evil. In Book IV Adam and Eve are introduced.
Milton's idyllic description of Eden and their life there gives us some insight into
what we as people living after their fall from perfect grace can never know: the
feeling of a state of complete innocence. We already know its opposite from
reading the first two Books and have gained some idea of absolute goodness from
the scenes in Heaven in Book III. So when Satan's tempting begins, we are
prepared to enter imaginatively into a sequence of mental and emotional states
which give us an insight into the gradual movement towards self-destruction
which is part of the meaning of sinfulness.

After the fall has taken place, our experience is further extended. We discover,
through the archetypal characters Adam and Eve, whose feelings stand for those of
all mankind following after them, the sorrow, sense of defilement and agony of
deprivation which are traditionally connected with the experience of sin. Further,
we watch Adam's and Eve's recovery and share their wonder at the miracle of
goodness reborn.

Milton introduces personal comments from time to time as a means of interpreting


events for the reader. He can thus stress the many differences between how things
look on the surface and what they are in reality. There is, for example, his
judgment on Belial:
he seemed
For dignity composed, and high exploit.
(Book II, Lines 110-2)

37
Especially he points out the difference between how people interpret their own
feelings or behaviour to themselves or to others, and the hidden truth behind it all.
In the world of Hell with its succession of lying, self-interested and self-deluded
characters, or in the world of Eden, sadder but no less terrible because of the
deeply tragic self-deluding of Eve and then Adam, Milton's explanatory remarks
are essential. In particular, the vital moral perspectives of Books I and II might not
have been possible without them, for beneath the magic of Satan's majestic
speeches it is easy to forget or overlook the important irony.

Milton recorded his religious beliefs in a Latin work called De Doctrina


Christiana which he composed at about the same time as Paradise Lost, but which
he never published. From this prose work and from other sources it is clear that
Milton carried to great lengths the Protestant belief that every man must work out
his own salvation.
He thought that every Christian capable of doing so should study the
Scriptures attentively, and one rule of his typically independent investigation was
influential in the writing of Paradise Lost. For Milton the doctrine of the
Atonement" possessed little real importance. He believed much more intensely in
the idea of the Father choosing to offer man the possibility of individual atonement
and grace through sending his Son into the world. These two ways of looking at
the same process can produce very different results: the first encourages a
common devotion to the figure of Christ the Saviour; the second leaves a man very
much aware of the personal nature of his relationship with God and the importance
of his own efforts in striving after salvation. Milton's lack of interest in the
sacrifice of Christ can be linked with his sturdy Protestant individualism and belief
that each man is the architect of his own powers of choice. Paradise Lost mirrors
Milton's beliefs in throwing all its stresses on to Adam and Eve's deciding between
good and evil. Because of this his dramatisation of the human predicament has all
the more relevance and impact for the individual reader. It also increases the vivid

38
and pathetic quality in the central scenes of the poem, when Adam and Eve are left
dramatically exposed to the seductive power of evil.

39
Paradise Lost: John Milton - Summary and Critical
Analysis
The fable or story of the epic is taken from the Bible; it is the simple and
common story of the fall of Adam and Eve from the grace of God due to their
disobedience of Him. Paradise Lost encompasses a little more of the biblical story.
In heaven, Lucifer (who became Satan after his being thrown to the hell), was
unable to accept the supremacy of God, and led a revolt against His divine
authority. After a terrible war with His Angels, he was finally thrown into hell,
where they lay nine days in a burning lake.

Then Lucifer arose from the burning pitch and resolved- though at the same
time despairing that all was not lost, that he would take revenge on God.
Arousing his friends, he did his best to bring them to spirits, and decided that his
purposes could be achieved by guile rather than by force; he decided to take
revenge on God by spoiling his latest creation the Eden and the human beings
there. The devils built an elaborate palace, Pandemonium, in which Satan
organized a conference to decide on immediate action. Moloch advised war. Belial
recommended a slothful existence in Hell.

Mammon proposed peacefully improving hell so that it might equal and


rival Heaven. Beelzebub, second in command, arose and informed that God and
created Earth, which he had peopled with good creatures called humans. It was
Beelzebubs proposal to investigate this new creation, seized it, and seduces its
inhabitants to the cause of the fallen angels, and saw Satan approaching Earth.
Gods angel Gabriel under the command of God, appointed two other angels to
safeguard Adam and Eve, but they arrived too late to prevent Satan. He had
already influenced Eves dreams. Eve, in her strange dream had been tempted to
taste the fruit of the Tree of knowledge. After the sinful act of disobedience had

40
been committed, God sent the angel Raphael to the garden to warn them. Raphael
told Adam and Eve in detail the story of the Great War between the god and the
bad angles (many of such stories are told in such conversation and flashback). He
told of the creation of the world and how the Earth was created in six days and
angelic choir singing the praises of God or the seventh days. He cautioned Adam
not to be too curious. Adam then told how he had been warned against the Tree of
knowledge of God and Evil, and how Eve was created from his rib. After the
departure of Raphael, Satan entered the body of a sleeping serpent. In the
mourning Eve proposed that they work apart. Adam, remembering the warning of
Raphael, opposed her wishes, but Eve prevailed and the couple parted. Alone, Eve
was accosted by the serpent, which flattered her into tasting the fruit of the Tree of
knowledge. Eve gave the fruit to Adam, who was at first horrified, but who in his
love for Eve, also ate the fruit. Just after eating the forbidden fruit, the couple
knew lust for the first time. They knew sickening shame. The guardian angel came
to earth to pass judgment. Christ sentenced the serpent to be forever a hated enemy
of mankind. He also announced punishment of Eve; her sorrow would be
multiplied by the bearing of children and that she would be the servant of Adam to
the end of time. Adam, said Christ, would eat in sorrow, would eat bread only by
toiling and sweating. This was the curse to man. But more important, he lost Gods
grace. As Christ announced the punishment, Death and sin, left the gates of Hell to
join their father Satan on Earth. Satan sent sin and Death as his ambassadors on
Earth. He went back to hell to see that his followers had all become hissing
snakes. God made great changes on earth. He replaced the eternal spring with the
changing seasons; he created the violence and misery of storms, winds, hail, ice,
floods and earthquakes; he sentenced Adam and Eve to expulsion from Eden.
Adam and Eve thought of committing suicide, but Michael, the angel sent by God,
gave them new hope; he gave Adam a vision of life and death, the rise and fall of
kingdoms and empires, and also showed them how the future Adam and Eves
progeny would go through their evil days, to the flood when God would destroy

41
all life except the good seeds preserved by Noah, and be finally redeemed through
Christs incarnation, death, resurrection and ascension as the redeemer. After
Michael gave Adam and Eve this vision, they were pacified, especially because
they saw that their children would be saved. They walked from the heights of
paradise to the barren plains below. Metaphorically, they fell from the original
bliss of gods grace to the present state of mortality, guilt, shame and suffering.

This simple story of fall has become a locus of many times after Milton used in
his epic. He took an apparently very simple story of the Fall from the Bible, but
he blended within it his puritan thoughts, Renaissance humanism, his political as
well as domestic ideals, and many such meanings. The invocation is the very
beginning of the epic in which Milton prays to the Muse, the Christian spirit, to
help him write well. The ninth book is the climactic part of the epic narrative, as
well as a book that contains several thematic issues of the whole epic.

The most obvious theme of Paradise Lost is justifying the fall of man,
Gods punishment and the reopening of his path of salvation to them; in short, the
epic justifies how God is right in his treatment of man throughout all these. Milton
has explored the sin which brought about the downfall of man. The prime cause of
the fall is disobedience to God; the cause of Eves disobedience is her passion
overwhelming her right reason. Adam is also guilty of disobedience; his sin is
dread of loneliness and also the surrender of his God given reason to passion. Due
to love, he immediately decides to share Eves fate. Milton emphasizes the
importance of reason. Man is noble by nature, but he has free will, and hence free
to choose and capable of action, morally good or bad for which he alone is
responsible. Milton does not believe in Calvinism according to which God has
decided everything, and a mans destiny has been fixed before his birth. Milton is
a great humanist pinning his faith in the liberty and adventure of man. Milton
therefore believes that God was justified in leaving Adam and Eve exposed to

42
evils, and leaving their reasoning free; only that defines human beings as supreme
creatures. God was also right in punishing Adam and Eve. The purpose of Paradise
Lost is, therefore, to assert eternal providence and justify the way of God to men.

Milton believes in the orthodox idea of redemption. When men will be


redeemed through Christ, they will rise to a more excellent state than Paradise
from which Adam and Eve were turned out. Thus Adam did a useful act while
sinning. Tillyard says, Paradise Lost is a mental pilgrimage; the loss of one
paradise and the finding on this earth of a paradise within ourselves, that is happier
far. The paradise in which Adam and Eve lived before eating the forbidden fruit
was like a prison. It might have satisfied God, but it would have kept man
spiritually undeveloped. So long as knowledge was withheld from man, his
obedience to God was meaningless. Moreover the virtue which Adam and Eve
possessed in Paradise was a fugitive and cloistered virtue, and therefore it was
no virtue in the real sense. What man lost by disobedience was only a state of
innocence and ignorance. Men gain spiritual rebirth by controlling their passions.
And they will find a Paradise within them happier far. Man has all the powers of
working out the best, and moves upward, and finds the paradise within himself.
This could not be possible by paying homage to God in a state of ignorance in
Edens paradise. Eve sins through weakness of reason where as Adam through
weakness of will.
Miltons style in writing the Paradise Lost has been called a grand style,
which means it is an elevated, serious, highly crafted, and different from common
speech. It is in fact so unfamiliar to common language, even the usual literary
language, that Dr. Johnson accused Milton of pedantry. The charge is basically
based on his writing that was heavily Latinated. Indeed many critics have
complained that Milton spoilt the English language. But in other ways he has
contributed to the development of the English language as a literary language.
Miltons grand, style can be discussed under four or five heads: rhythm and

43
music, word game and figures of speech, diction and decorum, syntax, and the
remoteness and sublimity of language and theme.

The meter or rhythm of Miltons epic poem is usually called the blank
verse, but it is not the common blank verse (lines in iambic pentameter without
rhyme); Milton adapted it to his own convenience and purpose. The lines in
Paradise Lost do contain ten syllables usually, but the lines contain any number of
stresses from three to eight. So, it would not be appropriate to say that this is done
by using traditional techniques of variation. Furthermore, the stresses differ in
degree and position. The pause or caesura is another even more important feature
of rhythm in Milton. The pause falls at different places of the lines, and the weight
of different pauses is also different; there are light or shorter pauses and heavy or
longer pauses give different effects to the narrative.

Miltons diction is heavily Latin. Even when he uses English words, they
have the Latin connotations beneath. The words are so meticulously chosen that
many critics have blamed his diction as too labored. Milton somehow invented
English that is extremely unfamiliar and pedantic. He uses words in such ways that
there are always both literal and symbolic meanings, with both English
denotations and Latin connotations. His descriptions are florid and highly
picturesque. He uses images to reinforce the theme. He shifts tone along with the
change of description and setting. That usually helps him shift the emotional
intensity, or avoid monotony.

Miltons treatment of the supernatural in Paradise Lost

44
The element of the supernatural has always been an important constituent
of poetry. It strikes that note of mystery and wonder which true poetry always tries
to evoke. The film of familiarity and the coating of custom always blur our vision
and so things of everyday experience often fail to excite that sense of wonder in
us. Of course it must be admitted that great poetry with the help of that light which
is "the consecration and the poet's dream" can illuminate an ordinary thing into
something extraordinary and direct our mind's attention to the loveliness and the
wonders of the world before us by awakening it from the lethargy of custom; but it
is a fact that a supernatural subject, if properly treated, can more easily and
directly create that mental attitude.

The subject matter of Paradise Lost itself is supernatural. Milton deals here
with beings and events which transcend the limitations of our poor human
experience. The bowery loneliness and blissful innocence of Paradise, the sapphire
throne and holy light of Heaven, the icy torments and fiery horrors of Hell, the
inconceivable monstrosities and tremendous confusions of Chaos, angels, devils,
Gorgons, Hydras, Chimaeras, Sin and Death, all are far from our thoughts. But
still Milton has achieved signal success among all those poets who have
introduced into their work the agency of supernatural beings. This success of his,
if carefully analyzed, will be found to depend on two main factors. First he has
tried, as far as it is practicable and consonant with our fundamental conception of
the supernatural, to create a human interest in the speeches and actions of his
characters and secondly, he has been wise enough to avoid all exact details, thus
leaving on our minds only a mysterious impressionistic picture: It is very difficult
to handle supernatural beings in poetry whose main function is to deal with
images. But poetry which relates to the beings of another world ought to be
mysterious as well. So the success of a poem on a supernatural subject depends on
the happy combination of these two elements. Dante in going to make his Divine
Comedy picturesque has divested it of mystery. His "angels are good men with

45
wings. His devils are spiteful ugly executioners. His dead men are merely living
men in strange situations". But Milton has achieved singular success in combining
the picturesque with the mysterious in the great epic of his life. But in going to do
it he had to stand guilty before the bar of logic and metaphysics. His spirits are
both material and immaterial at the same time. Macaulay in his celebrated Essay
on Milton rightly remarks: "The spirits of Milton are unlike those of almost all
other writers. His fiends, in particular, are wonderful creations. They are not
metaphysical abstractions. They are not wicked men. They are not ugly beasts.
They have no horns, no tails, none of the fee-faw-fum of Tasso and Klopstock.
They have just enough in common with human nature to be intelligble to human
beings. Their characters are like their forms, marked by a certain dim resemblance
to those of men, but exaggerated to gigantic dimensions, and vieled in mysterious
gloom".

In his descriptions of Hell and Chaos, Sin and Death, Milton achieves
wonderful effects with the help of his "dim intimations". Remote suggestions and
not direct and definite descriptions are alone effective in impressing on our minds
things and beings that are supernatural and therefore transcend our sense
experiences. Any attempt at lucidity and plain business like description would
certainly have spoiled some of his finest effects in Paradise Lost by divesting them
of the element of mystery. He does not vulgarise Hell like Dante by measuring it
with ruler and compass, but throws over it a far more mysterious and powerful
fascination when he calls it :
"A Universe of death which God by curse "
Created evil, for evil only good,
Where all life dies, death lives, and Nature breeds
Perverse, all monstrous, all prodigious things,
Abominable, inutterable and worse
Than fables yet have feigned, or fear conceived,

46
Grogons and Hydras, and Chiraaeras dire"

What a dreadful region of gloom, suffering, horror, and annihilation is this!


The presentation of Chaos is even more powerful. When the Hell-gates are
opened, Satan, Sin and Death are amazed, because-
Before their eyes in sudden view appear
The secretes of the hoary deep, a dark
Illimitable ocean, without bound
Without dimension; where length, breadth and highth,
And time, and place, are lost, where eldest Night
and Chaos, ancestors of Nature, hold
Eternal anarchy, amidst the noise
Of endless wars and by confusion stand.

The description of Death is a wonderful achievement of Milton. It is a


bundle of vagueness, incongruities and contradictions. Any attempt at definiteness
would have at once spoiled that monstrous intangibility. The poet writes:

"The other shape-


If shape if might be called that shape had none
Distinguishable in member, joint, or limb;
Or substance might be called that shadow seemed,
For each seemed either-black it stood as Night,
Fierece as ten Furies, terrible as Hell
And shook a dreadful dart"
In describing the companions of the hoary Anarch of Chaos, Milton says:
"With him
Sat sable-vested Night, eldest of things,
The consort of his reign; and by them stood,

47
Orcus and Ades, and the dreaded name
Of Demogorgon; Rumour next and Chance
And Tumult and Confusion all embroiled
And Discord with a thousand various mouths"
What a strange administures of metaphysical abstraction and mythological
personalities! Here concrete persons thin away into vague abstractions and vague
abstractions shape themselves into concrete realities.
But Dr. Johnson finds fault with Milton for his inconsistency in the treatment of
supernatural agents who are sometimes material bodies and sometimes immaterial
conceptions. But Milton was too great a poet not to know that poetry is no
philosophy and what is bad philosophy may be quite good poetry. He was not
ready to court disgraceful failure in going to affect metaphysical accuracy. So with
a rare genius and true poetical insight he has achieved great success in his
treatment of the supematural-a task in which even a great poet like Dante proved a
failure.

48
Paradise Regained : Its Relation to Paradise Lost
The mistaken idea that Paradise Regained is a sequel to Paradise Lost rests partly
on the titles of the two poems and the opening lines of Paradise Regained, party on
the statement of Thomas Ellwood. When Milton writes
I who ere while the happy Garden sung,
By one mans disobedience lost, now sing
Recoverd Paradise to all mankind,
He might appear to mean that he will now complete Paradise Lost by a
supplementary poem. But he cannot really mean this, because the recovery of
Paradise is an essential part of Paradise Lost, treated at considerable length in that
poem. All he can mean is that he is now going to write a poem. All he can mean is
that he is now going to write a poem in which the recovery of Paradise is to be the
principal not the second subject. It is unnecessary to press the point further, as
Raleigh has turned his wit with considerable effect on the old heresy and may have
done something to scotch it. He also makes excellent fun of poor Ellwood. But the
whole passage in Ellwoods autobiography gives such an amusing picture of
Milton in his middle age and has been usually understood in so humorless a
fashion, that I cannot help quoting the whole and adding my comments. This is
tediously written stuff. Ellwood may have been honest and kindly, but he was not
at all intelligent. Milton, we know was given to satire and irony. Aubrey noted of
Milton.
And then there is the story of Milton and his servant, told by Jonathan
Richardson is his life of Milton, a story there is no reason to doubt.
Further, irony is one of the few human qualities Milton allows God the Father in
Paradise Lost and Milton was not exempt from the law of making God in his own
image. How can one doubt that he was making fun of Ellwood when remarking
pleasantly that Ellwood has put Paradise Regained into his head. It is a
misfortune that Ellwoods modest and free discourse on Paradise Milton lent him

49
his manuscript. And Ellwoods final remark is it not the instinct of every critic of a
friends dubious verses to take refuge in But I do hope you will not stop here but
write some more ? And in so doing he blundered into the subject that had ranked
second in importance in Paradise Lost the subject fully discussed and settled by
God the Father in heaven and dominating the last two books. Well might Raleigh
imagine Milton in his muse considering the abysses of human stupidity.

Still, though Milton doubtless wrote Paradise Regained not at the chance
suggestion of one of his less intelligent friends but as the result of nature
deliberation, he had Paradise Lost in his mind when he wrote it. For one thing, he
assumes in the first book especially, some knowledge of the earlier poem. The
councils of heavenly and infernal beings, for instance, would be abrupt and
disturbing, had we not been made familiar with them before. A line, took like and
Eden raisd in the waste wilderness the seventh in the poem, loses some in
Paradise Lost : the Garden of Eden first reduced from immortality to morality by
Adams sin and finally by the Flood (itself the effect of sin) into And when the
beasts in the wilderness grow mild at Christs approach, we are meant to
remember how in Paradise they grew hostile when sin had entered in. But there
are different and closer links. Paradise Regained seems to be not a continuation
that was impossible, as Paradise Lost has taken history down to the destruction of
the world and the division of all things into heaven and hell but a corrective to
features of Paradise Lost that Milton had come by that time to disapprove of. The
change of tone during the course of the earlier poem has been noticed. Miltons
opinions changed but to rewrite the first half or so of his great poem was out of the
question : all he could do was to write a new poem that would be entirely to his
liking and express unequivocally the ideas that held his mind about the sixth year
of the Restoration.

50
Milton must have realised that homogeneity is exceedingly difficult of
attainment in a long poem, for there is always the danger that the poet may change
in the years that must be spent in the actual composition of an epic. Dissatisfied
with the change of tone in Paradise Lost, he may well have taken up his old idea of
the brief epic on the model of the Book of Job. And homogeneity he does most
certainly achieve. Another defect he put right was that of balance. We found that
the climax of Paradise Lost could not quite sustain the weight imposed on it. The
emphasis is too strongly on the first books. In Paradise Regained the beginning is
of the quietest and there is a most carefully planned rise of power sustained nearly
to the end. The characters too are thoroughly kept in hand : Satan is not allowed to
usurp too much sympathy, while it is Christ, not his adversary, who exhibits the
greatest vigour.

51
Paradise Regained : Its Subject and Characters
In Paradise Regained there is no difficulty in detecting the subject for it is stated
and restated with the greatest clarity and there is small sign of any discrepancy
between admitted and unadmitted meaning. Moreover there is hardly any
theological discussion. Milton was completely dominated by the thought that a
man must rule his mind before his actions can avail anything. Probably the whole
of the struggle between King and Parliament presented itself to him as a dreadful
example of ill-regulated actions of men attempting to rule other before they had
learnt to rule themselves. If this is so, it is easy to see why Milton chose the
Temptation rather than any other incident in the Gospels as summing up the life of
Christ on earth. It was in the quiet of the wilderness that Christ gained the final
dominion over his mind : once that was done, his right actions were inevitable and
in a way subsidiary. Further, the Temptation took place before Christ had begun
his ministry. He is the antithesis of the hasty idealist or the opportunist politician.
Mary recounts how his life has been hitherto Private, inactive, calm,
contemplative.

And he goes out into the desert to think things over finally before begining his
work. Satan is clever enough to know that the strongest temptation to Christ will
concern not the senses but the desire for action. He rejects with scorn Belials
advice to seduce him with women and points out that he is framed for action,
speaking of his amplitude of mind to greatest Deeds. And so, after the obvious
bait of food to a hungry man, Satan turns all his energies into luring Christ to do
actions, good in themselves but bad unless preceded by the fullest self mastery
and performed at the dictates of reason.
Money brings honor, friends, conquest and realms says Satan and Christ replies
that the true conquest and realm is inward.

52
Christ replies by rejecting all outward aids. The inner light is all that is needed for
mental well-being.
He who receives
Light from above, from the fountain of light,
Within thyself, much more with Empire joynd.
Catholics, Quakers and Agnostics would comment differently on these lines, but
they are the essence of Miltons religion when he wrote Paradise Regained. They
sum up his extreme individualism and his dislike of all authority except what
comes directly from God to the human being.

Satan, on his side, stands for passion, the passion that rushes to ill-grounded and
ill-considered acts. And it is the passion that fails. He is one who had aimed,
against reason, at glory and who Satan is of course much more : he is one of
Miltons most successful characters and so different from his namesake in Paradise
Lost that it is a pity he cannot be given another title. I will speak of him at the end
of the chapter, but the character of Christ is more closely bound up with the
thought of the poem and must be discussed at once.

I have already mentioned that there is little theological discussion. This is


most strikingly true in the treatment of Christ for the plain fact is that Christ is no
longer in the main the Redeemer of man. He merely typifies the way in which the
human soul can be regenerated. The Pauline fabric of fall, grace redemption and
regeneration, seems to pull himself up and assert with suspicious truculence the
dogmas he had worked into the fabric of Paradise Lost. In the great speech where
Christ deals with ancient philosophy, after the lines quoted concerning the inner
light, Milton inserts and abrupt attack on the Greek philosophers for being
ignorant of true doctrine.

53
It is beside the mark to attributes, as Saurat does, some of the sentiments to a
mood of fatigue. The whole speech is a masterpiece of restrained eloquence,
whose rise and fall hint at the stores of power that lie all ready beneath the surface.
There is no question but it expresses Miltons considered opinions perhaps his
most keenly felt opinions, at the time. The mood which it expresses (after the first
few lines) is one of mortification or masochism rather, not fatigue. He goes out of
his mind : the Greek philosophers, his early love Plato included, the disinterested
thirst for knowledge, the poets and orators of Greece and Rome. Against these he
defiantly puts the orthodox scheme of sin and salvation, the poetry and political
wisdom of the ancient Hebrews. Even granting his undoubted admiration of the
Psalms, we have reason to be astounded at his assertions. I can only conclude that
Milton had before Paradise Regained undergone some important mental
experience, whose nature can be conjectured from a hint given before. It was
suggested that Milton had come to doubt the wisdom of his action during the Civil
War. For all his accumulation of knowledge he had been led into a course of action
which had apparently achieved nothing. He had been led to influence mens deeds
instead of enlightening their minds. For the second time in his life (the first had
been in his earliest divorce tract) he admits himself to have been in the wrong. In
spite of his growing distaste for dogma it was in the Bible, especially in the
Psalms, that he found expressed what for him was of all things most important, the
communion of the isolated human being with God. Hence and not from mere Stoic
passivity was derived the paradise within which alone made life worth while.

In the anguish of admitting himself to be wrong the turns against his old supports,
as if they had been responsible for his error of judgment. His very affection for
them, their power over him makes him the fiercer. He must not be their slave, only
if he subjects them to enjoy them again. For in many passages of the poem enjoy
them he does. He has not cast out the love of knowledge and of the humanities :
only he cannot allow them to usurp a place to which they are not entitled.

54
The above is conjectural. But I may plead that none of the explanations of this
puzzling speech with which I am acquainted have seemed to me in the least
adequate. The usual one is that Milton in some sort did not mean what he said. But
is it really likely, is it even possible, that Milton should have inserted, in the
longest speech occupying the most prominent of all positions in a poem on which
he lavished every care to construct and to execute without blemish, a series of
opinions he had hastily adopted in a spirit of irresponsible pique ?

This tone is very true to human nature, to the hawker who, having tried to pass off
his trash by begging, demands a civil answer to a civil question, or to the
disappointed politician who complains of the ingratitude of the country in refusing
to accept something it does not want and demands angrily that his nostrum should
be given a chance. For all his subtly there is a streak of coarseness in Satan, and
we are made to feel that he is more at home with the crude ambitions of the world
ling than with the subtler selfishness of the scholar or philosopher.

55
Major Themes in Paradise Lost

Introduction

Modern criticism of Paradise Lost has taken many different views of Milton's
ideas in the poem. One problem is that Paradise Lost is almost militantly Christian
in an age that now seeks out diverse viewpoints and admires the man who stands
forth against the accepted view. Milton's religious views reflect the time in which
he lived and the church to which he belonged. He was not always completely
orthodox in his ideas, but he was devout. His purpose or theme in Paradise Lost is
relatively easy to see, if not to accept.

Milton begins Paradise Lost by saying that he will sing, "Of Man's First
Disobedience" (I, 1) so that he can "assert Eternal Providence, / And justify the
ways of God to men" (I, 25-26). The purpose or theme of Paradise Lost then is
religious and has three parts: 1) disobedience, 2) Eternal Providence, and 3)
justification of God to men. Frequently, discussions of Paradise Lost center on the
latter of these three to the exclusion of the first two. And, just as frequently,
readers and those casually acquainted with Paradise Lost misunderstand what
Milton means by the word justify, assuming that Milton is rather arrogantly
asserting that God's actions and motives seem so arbitrary that they require
vindication and explanation.

However, Milton's idea of justification is not as arrogant as many readers think.


Milton does not use the word justification in its modern sense of proving that an
action is or was proper. Such a reading of justify would mean that Milton is taking
it upon himself to explain the propriety of God's actions a presumptuous
undertaking when one is dealing with any deity. Rather, Milton uses justify in the
sense of showing the justice that underlies an action. Milton wishes to show that

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the fall, death, and salvation are all acts of a just God. To understand the theme of
Paradise Lost then, a reader does not have to accept Milton's ideas as a vindication
of God's actions; rather the reader needs to understand the idea of justice that lies
behind the actions.

Disobedience

The first part of Milton's argument hinges on the word disobedience and its
opposite, obedience. The universe that Milton imagined with Heaven at the top,
Hell at the bottom, and Earth in between is a hierarchical place. God literally sits
on a throne at the top of Heaven. Angels are arranged in groups according to their
proximity to God. On Earth, Adam is superior to Eve; humans rule over animals.
Even in Hell, Satan sits on a throne, higher than the other demons.

This hierarchical arrangement by Milton is not simply happenstance. The


worldview of the Middle Ages, Renaissance, and Restoration was that all of
creation was arranged in various hierarchies. The proper way of the world was for
inferiors to obey superiors because superiors were, well, superior. A king was king
not because he was chosen but because he was superior to his subjects. It was,
therefore, not just proper to obey the king; it was morally required. Conversely, if
the king proved unfit or not superior to his subjects, it was morally improper to
obey him and revolution could be justified.

God, being God, was by definition superior to every other thing in the universe
and should always be obeyed. In Paradise Lost, God places one prohibition on
Adam and Eve not to eat from the Tree of Knowledge. The prohibition is not so
much a matter of the fruit of the tree as it is obeying God's ordinance. The proper
running of the universe requires the obedience of inferiors to their superiors. By
not obeying God's rule, Adam and Eve bring calamity into their lives and the lives
of all mankind.

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The significance of obedience to superiors is not just a matter of Adam and Eve
and the Tree of Knowledge; it is a major subject throughout the poem. Satan's
rebellion because of jealousy is the first great act of disobedience and commences
all that happens in the epic. When Abdiel stands up to Satan in Book V, Abdiel
says that God created the angels "in their bright degrees" (838) and adds "His laws
our laws" (844). Abdiel's point is that Satan's rebellion because of the Son is
wrong because Satan is disobeying a decree of his obvious superior. Satan has no
answer to this point except sophistic rigmarole.

Further instances of the crucial importance of both hierarchy and obedience occur
in both large and small matters. The deference with which Adam greets Raphael
shows the human accepting his position in regard to the angel. The image is one of
the proper manners between inferior and superior. Eve's normal attitude toward
Adam reflects the same relationship.

The crucial moment in the poem results from disobedience and a breakdown of
hierarchy. Eve argues with Adam about whether they should work together or
apart, and Adam gives in to her. The problem here lies with both humans. Eve
should not argue with her superior, Adam, but likewise, Adam, should not yield his
authority to his inferior, Eve.

When Eve eats the fruit, one of her first thoughts is that the fruit "may render me
more equal" (IX, 823) to which she quickly adds, "for inferior who is free?" (IX,
826). Her reasoning, from Milton's point of view, is incorrect. Freedom comes
precisely from recognizing one's place in the grand scheme and obeying the
dictates of that position. By disobeying God, Eve has gained neither equality nor
freedom; she has instead lost Paradise and brought sin and death into the world.

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Likewise, when Adam also eats the fruit, he disobeys God. Further, he disobeys by
knowingly putting Eve ahead of God. Disobedience and disruption of the correct
order result in sin and death.

Finally, in the last two books of the epic, Milton shows example after example of
people who ignore the responsibilities they have and try to either raise themselves
above God or disobey God's commands. The result is always the same
destruction.

The first part of Milton's purpose in Paradise Lost then is to show that
disobedience leads to a breakdown of hierarchical or social order with disastrous
consequences. Some have argued that Milton puts himself in a contradictory
position in Paradise Lost, since he supported the overthrow of Charles I. In his
political writings, Milton makes it clear that obeying an inferior is equally as bad
as disobeying a superior. In the case of a king, the people must determine if the
king is truly their superior or not. Thus, Milton justifies his position toward
Charles and toward God.

Eternal Providence

Milton's theme in Paradise Lost, however, does not end with the idea of
disobedience. Milton says that he will also "assert Eternal Providence." If Man had
never disobeyed God, death would never have entered the world and Man would
have become a kind of lesser angel. Because Adam and Eve gave in to temptation
and disobeyed God, they provided the opportunity for God to show love, mercy,
and grace so that ultimately the fall produces a greater good than would have
happened otherwise. This is the argument about the fall called felix culpa or
"happy fault."

The general reasoning is that God created Man after the rebellion of Satan. His
stated purpose is to show Satan that the rebellious angels will not be missed, that

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God can create new beings as he sees fit. God gives Man a free will, but at the
same time, God being God, knows what Man will do because of free will. Over
and over in Paradise Lost, God says that Man has free will, that God knows Man
will yield to Satan's temptation, but that he (God) is not the cause of that yielding;
He simply knows that it will occur.

This point is theologically tricky. In many ways, it makes God seem like a cosmic
prig. He knows what Man will do, but he does nothing to stop him because
somehow that would be against the rules. He could send Raphael with a more
explicit warning; he could tell Gabriel and the other guards where Satan will enter
Eden; he could seal Satan up in Hell immediately. He could do a number of things
to prevent the fall, but he does nothing.

From the standpoint of fictional drama, a reader may be correct in faulting God for
the fall of Adam and Eve. From a theological / philosophical standpoint, God must
not act. If Man truly has free will, he must be allowed to exercise it. Because of
free will then, Adam and Eve disobey God and pervert the natural hierarchy. Death
is the result, and Death could be the end of the story if Paradise Lost were a
tragedy.

Justification of God's Ways

Eternal Providence moves the story to a different level. Death must come into the
world, but the Son steps forward with the offer to sacrifice himself to Death in
order to defeat Death. Through the Son, God is able to temper divine justice with
mercy, grace, and salvation. Without the fall, this divine love would never have
been demonstrated. Because Adam and Eve disobeyed God, mercy, grace, and
salvation occur through God's love, and all Mankind, by obeying God, can achieve
salvation. The fall actually produces a new and higher love from God to Man.

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This idea then is the final point of Milton's theme the sacrifice of the Son which
overcomes Death gives Man the chance to achieve salvation even though, through
the sin of Adam and Eve, all men are sinful. As Adam says, "O goodness infinite,
goodness immense! / That all this good of evil shall produce, / And evil turn to
good" (XII, 469-471). The fall of Man, then, turns evil into good, and that fact
shows the justice of God's actions, or in Milton's terms, "justifies the ways of God
to men."

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Conclusion & Findings
Every literature in the world is enriched with epic poem or poems and English
literature in not an exception John Miltons Paradise Lost is an invaluable
contribution to the genre of epic poems of English literature. In this great poem
Miltons consummation as all epic poet has been highlighted. His subject narrative
quality grand style in writing this epic pictorial quality usage of Homeric simile
etc. have made this poem great and everlasting Miltons. Actually Milton has
fulfilled his long nourished dream in writing this great and enlightened epic poem.
Now we are to point out the epic features Paradise Lost Book-II.

The subject matter of Paradise Lost is one of the conspicuous characteristics of


this epic poem Milton declares about the subject of this poem Mans first
disobedience. About the subject matter of Paradise Lost Dr. Samuel Johnsons
remark is noteworthy Miltons subject is not the destruction of a city, conduct of a
colony or foundation of an empire but the fate of the world revolutions of the
heaven and earth; rebellion against the supreme king raised by the highest order,
the overthrow of their host and the punishment of their crime, the creation of a
new race of reasonable beings; their original peace and happiness their forfeiture
of immortality and their restoration to hope and peace. Actually this subject
undoubtedly fits or suits an epic poem like Paradise Lost. In this respect
Paradise Lost is an epic.

The grand style is another epic feature, which is conspicuous in this poem.
According to the classical view an epic poem must be written in a dignified or
majestic style. In this respect, Paradise Lost is an ideal epic poem. It is written is
bombastic epic language. Its dignified blank verse is remarkable. Latin quotations
syntax and perspicuous words and phrases are very apt to lend weight to the view

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that Paradise Lost is an epic. Moreover, the first Book is started with invocation
to the muses its also an epic style.

Miltons usage of Homeric similes in abundance in this poem is also praiseworthy.


His epic similes are on the category of Homers Iliad. In this first Book Satan is
compared with Laviathan. His shield is compared with the sun. His arrow is
compared with an ask tree etc. In the second Book we are acquainted with a good
number of epic similes. When Satan is at the Hell Gate he is opposed by Death.
Then Satans fierce attitude is compared with a burring comet.
Satan Stood
Unterrified and curned like a comet
That fires to the length of opsicuous huge
In the Arctic sleyand from his horrid
Hair shakes pestilence and war.

Satan is compared with a pyramid of fire when he starts his journey capturing
some information from chaos.
Like a pyramid of fire Satan rose up.

Satans journey though chaos is also hazardous. And is describing this journey
Milton has employed an epic simile.

Or more endangered than when argo passd


Through Bosporus betwixt the justling rocks
Or when ulysses shunned by the lorboured land
charibdis and by other whirlepool steard

Thus there are a good number of epic simile scattered is Paradise Lost Book II
by Milton. Miltons incomparable narrative quality is one of the most conspicuous

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and vivid characteristics of Paradise Lost. It is quite epical. His imaginative
faculty has been reflected hero. The manner in which he has given a vivid
description of hell in unique and lends weight to the view that Paradise Lost is
an epic poem. The hell is a dismal place where no light visits. Its is the place of
eternal darkness. There are the horrible and corrosive flames of fire, which only
make the darkness visible hero. There is no solid ground but only solid fire. There
is no water in the rivers or lake but only liquid fire. The description of the coldest
region. There is no fire but only while wind and butter cold Ice is falling hero. As
the ice does not melt it makes the mountains of ice. The sinners are taken here
after they have been burnt to experience cold. So all these descriptions can be
found in no ordinary poems. Besides, his description is so much animated that we
feel we are visiting the spot. This is called pictorial quality, which is another
characteristic feature of an epic poem and this is obvious in Paradise Lost.

An epic poem must have an epic hero. In this respect Paradise Lost an epic
poem. Someone calls Satan the epic hero. But some critics call Adam an epic hero.
A critic dismisses Satan saying that Satan is the rejection of the conventional
conception of the hero. Actually an epical hero must be a towering personality. He
should have historical importance. In this respect Satan or Adam is successful.
Both the characters are from the holy Bible. But Satan who is represented hero as
a sort of Napoleon and represents renaissance spirit cannot be the dominating hero
of this epic because is Book II he turns into an ugly load. A great hero can not be
so.
In the light of the above discussion we infer that Paradise Lost is rich in many
epic features. Though Book II is not pungent or cogent as the first Book it can
never be denied that this Book also possesses some remarkable epic
characteristics.

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Bibliography

Sl. No Name of books Name of Authors


1. A Critical Commentary on Miltons Paradise Alan Rudrum
Lost
2. Milton and Others George Williamson
3. A Readers Guide to John Milton Marjorie Hope
4. A Milton Handbook James Holly Hanford
5. Paradise Lost (Books I & II) W. Ruddick
6. Miltons Epic Poetry C.A. Patrides
7. A History of Literature in the English Christopher Ricks
Language (Volume-2)
8. A Short History of English Literature George Saintsbury
9. Miltons Samson and the Christain Tradition F.M. Krouse
10. Samson Agonistes F.T. Prince

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