History of Literature

John Milton

"Paradise Lost"

BOOK 1, BOOK 2, BOOK 3, BOOK 4, BOOK 5, BOOK 6   Illustrations by G. Dore

BOOK 7, BOOK 8, BOOK 9  Illustrations by J. Martin

BOOK 10, BOOK 11, BOOK 12  Illustrations by H.Fuseli

Illustrations by G. Dore


John Milton

John Milton

born Dec. 9, 1608, London, Eng.
died Nov. 8, 1674, Chalfont St. Giles, Buckinghamshire

one of the greatest poets of the English language. He also was a noted historian, scholar, pamphleteer, and civil servant for the Parliamentarians and the Puritan Commonwealth.

Milton ranks second only to Shakespeare among English poets; his writings and his influence are an important part of the history of Englishliterature, culture, and libertarian thought. He is best known for Paradise Lost, which is generally regarded as the greatest epic poem in the English language. Milton's prose works, however, are also important as a valuable interpretation of the Puritan revolution, and they have their place in modern histories of political and religious thought.

Milton's grandfather, an Oxfords hire yeoman, had been a staunch Roman Catholic who had disinherited his son, the poet's father, for turning Protestant. John Milton, Sr., went to London, where he made his way to prominence and a comfortable fortune as a scrivener, or notary, and through the collateral business of private banking or money lending. Milton was to pay repeated tributes to his father's generous concern with his education. Of his mother (d. 1637) Milton said only that she was well esteemed and known for her charities. He had an older sister, Anne, and a younger brother, Christopher, who became a lawyer.

Education and early poems

Milton was educated at St. Paul's School, London. The conventional date given for his admission is 1620, but it may have been as early as 1615. In addition to his regular schoolwork in Latin, Greek, and, later, Hebrew, the boy had instruction at home, perhaps partly in modern languages, from private tutors. Milton was a voracious student; he traced the initial cause of his later blindness to his having, from his 12th year, rarely quit his books before midnight. Along with a couple of Latin exercises that have survived, his earliest attempts at verse, made when he was 15, were rhymed paraphrases of Psalms 114 and 136. Milton's closest friend, at school and later, was Charles Diodati, the son of a prominent physician of Italian origin, who went from St. Paul's to Oxford.

On April 9, 1625, Milton entered Christ's College, Cambridge; he received his Bachelor of Arts degree in March1629 and his Master of Arts in July 1632. His experience at Cambridge can be partly gathered from his abundant Latin verse and his seven Latin prolusions (public speeches that were expected to display the speaker's learning and rhetorical and argumentative powers). Apparently in March 1626 he clashed in some way with his tutor and was suspended temporarily. On his return to the university he was assigned to another tutor and graduated at the normal time.

Milton's nickname at the university, “the Lady,” was apparently bestowed because of his handsome and delicate features and a purity of mind and behaviour that disdained the diversions of his coarser fellows. During his seven years at Cambridge he seems to have moved from some unpopularity to general respect and, among dons and cultivated students, to high esteem. He did not love the scholastic logic that dominated the curriculum; then, as well as later, he denounced it as barren. In his last prolusion (c. 1631/32) he proclaimed the fervent creed and dream of a young Renaissance humanist who was at once a Christian and a Platonist. By Milton's own account, his early enthusiasm for the sensual poetry of Ovid and other Roman writers gave way to an appreciation of the idealism of Dante, Petrarch, and Edmund Spenser. He then moved on to Platonic philosophy and finally came to hold the mysticism of the biblical Book of Revelation in the highest esteem.

Meanwhile, Milton had been learning his craft and sometimes revealing his inner self in writing Latin verse. (Latin was then the standard language of the university world.) The young poet's sensuous instincts were revealed inthese poems and were further displayed, along with his mastery of Italian, in six Italian pieces (1630?), with which his first English sonnet, “O Nightingale,” may be linked.

Early in 1628 Milton wrote the first of his extant English poems (apart from the two psalms), “On the Death of a Fair Infant,” an elegy, in the Elizabethan vein, on his baby niece, Anne Phillips. In part of an academic prolusion in English couplets (“At a Vacation Exercise,” July 1628) he declared his devotion to his native language, a style free from eccentricity, and exalted themes concerning nature and humanity. And in the Latin “Elegy VI,” addressed to Diodati in the Christmas season of 1629–30, he praised the light verse kindled by wine and love but turned from that to celebrate the ascetic purity of the heroic poet. The elegy ended with a reference to a poem he had just written, his first great poem in English, “On the Morning of Christ's Nativity.” Such a poem, composed shortly after his 21st birthday, may be taken as a kind of announcement of his poetical coming of age and future direction, both in its religious theme and in its mastery of conception and form and image and rhythm. Probably in 1631 Milton wrote the companion poems “L'Allegro” and “Il Penseroso.” Though less ambitious in theme than the “Nativity,” they have their own complexity, concealed beneath a unique grace and charm. Milton had lately (1630) also written the lines “On Shakespeare,” which were printed in the Shakespearean Second Folio, 1632.

Milton's scholarly and literary gifts had from childhood marked him out in the minds of his family and teachers for the ministry; in his later prose he said he had refused to “subscribe slave” in a church governed by prelacy, but the date of his negative decision is not known. As his academic career approached its end, the problem of an occupation came up, and the poem “Ad Patrem”—though some scholars link it with Comus (1634)—may well have been written in 1631–32. In “Ad Patrem” (“To Father”), with a mixture of filial gratitude, firmness, and confidence in poetry and himself, Milton assumes or urges that he should not be pushed into some basely lucrative profession by a father who has fostered his literary pursuits and is himself a devotee of the muses.

Horton period (1632–38)

On taking his Master of Arts degree in July 1632, Milton retired to his father's house—until 1635 at Hammersmith, then at the country estate at Horton, near Windsor—and proceeded to give himself the liberal education Cambridge had not provided. It was in these years that he laid the foundation or set the direction of his liberal thinking. He sought to digest the mass of history, literature, and philosophy, to gain the “insight into all seemly and generousarts and affairs” needed by the citizen-poet who would be a leader and teacher.

Two short religious poems written at this time, “On Time” and “At a Solemn Musick” (1632–33?), are early renderings ofthe beatific vision that always kindled Milton's imagination. Both contrast the grossness of temporal life, the jarring discord of sin, with the eternity and harmony of heaven and good. The same contrast is sounded in the masque known as Comus . During 1630–34, perhaps in 1632, Milton had, at the invitation probably of the musician Henry Lawes, written Arcades, a miniature masque of Jonsonian courtliness. This presumably led to a request from Lawes for another masque.Comus was presented on Sept. 29, 1634, before John Egerton, earl of Bridgewater, at Ludlow Castle in Shropshire, in honour of his becoming lord president of Wales. The acted version of Comus, though somewhat shorter than the text familiar to readers, in length and elevated seriousness went far beyond the limits of the usual court masque, which emphasized lavish costumes, spectacle, music, and dancing. Comus is a masque against “masquing,” contrasting a private heroism in chastity and virtue with the courtly round of revelry and pleasure. It was Milton's first dramatizing of his great theme, the conflict of good and evil.

The allegorical story in Comus centres on a virtuous Lady who becomes separated from her two brothers while traveling in the woods. The Lady encounters the evil sorcerer Comus, son of Bacchus and Circe, who imprisons her by magic in his palace. In debate the Lady rejects Comus' hedonistic philosophy and defends temperance and chastity. The chastity the Lady represents is not mere abstinence; it is a positive love of the good that is both Christian and Platonic. Comus, who is portrayed with a dramatic irony that anticipates the treatment of Satan in Paradise Lost, puts forth specious naturalistic arguments which the Lady answers first on the rational level; then, with a conscious change of tone, she rises to an impassioned religious affirmation of chastity, and the masque's epilogue celebrates the love of virtue.

If Comus is, in a way, a song of innocence, “Lycidas” (written in November 1637) is a song of experience—Milton's first attempt to justify the ways of God to himself and to men. His former fellow collegian, Edward King, was drowned in a shipwreck in the Irish Sea in August 1637, and Milton was asked to contribute to a volume of elegies; “Lycidas,” signed“J.M.,” appeared at the end of an undistinguished collection of pieces in Latin, Greek, and English (1638). The classical pastoral elegy had, from its Greek beginnings, proved its value as a dramatic vehicle for almost anything that a poet wished to say. Milton, working as usual within a venerable tradition, as usual re-created it. He had no reason to feel deep personal sorrow, but the drowning of a virtuous and promising young man, on the threshold of service as a clergyman, brought home the whole enigma of life and death, of the rightness of things in a world where such events could happen. What if his own talents—which during his years of study he had been nurturing—should be cut off? At the poem's end, divine justice and providence and the conditions of earthly life are vindicated not by reason but by the beatific vision of Lycidas' soul received into heaven. It is impossible to summarize the complexities and depths of the poem, its reverberating solidity of reference, its rich variety of pace and tone, the artistic control that dominates turbulent emotions and ends with the high serenity of victory won. “Lycidas” may be the greatest short poem in the English language.

Italian tour (1638–39)

In May 1638, a year after his mother's death, Milton set off—with one servant—on a visit to Italy. He sojourned chiefly in Florence, Rome, and Naples. Milton and some of his early Latin poems were cordially welcomed among men of letters and patrons and their academies. This experience warmed his heart and nourished his self-confidence. (It should be remembered that at home he had very little literary acquaintance and, outside a small circle, no poetic reputation.) In Naples he was the guest of Giambattista Manso, marchese di Villa, who had been the patron of Torquato Tasso, and in Florence he made a call—later recorded in Areopagitica—on the aged astronomer Galileo Galilei, who was under house arrest because his views on the universe conflicted with the doctrine of the Roman Catholic church. Milton felt obliged to forgo a visit to Sicily and Greece because of news of mounting political tension in England, although he lingered some time longer in Italy. In August 1638 Milton's friend Diodati died. Milton had been informed of his loss while in Italy; on his way home he stopped to see Diodati's uncle, Giovanni Diodati, who was professor of theology at the University of Geneva.

Middle period (1641–60)

Milton returned to England in July 1639, settled in a house in London, and prepared to take in pupils. He composed an elaborate pastoral elegy on Diodati, “Epitaphium Damonis” (c. 1640), which has commonly been ranked as his finest Latin poem, though as an elegy it is inferior to “Lycidas.” Milton had returned to England with plans for an Arthurian epic; like other ambitious poets of the Renaissance, he hoped to write the great modern heroic poem. But he was also deeply anxious about the Puritan cause. In his denunciation of hireling clergy in “Lycidas,” Milton had virtually declared his Puritan allegiance, and the years 1641–60 he gave almost wholly to pamphleteering in the cause of religious and civil liberty. There is an important personal passage in his fourth tract, The Reason of Church-Government Urg'd Against Prelaty (1642), that show sit was a heavy sacrifice to put aside his craving for poetic immortality and leave his cherished studies to “embark in a troubled sea of noises and hoarse disputes.” And, as his work went on, he was sustained by the conviction that in his many and varied defenses of liberty he was, in another way, fulfilling his epic and patriotic aspirations. His first five pamphlets (1641–42) were contributions to the attack made on prelacy in the Anglican church by a group of Presbyterian divines (called, from their initials, the “Smectymnuus” group). The attack was directed chiefly against the church's episcopal hierarchy, The Book of Common Prayer, and ritual, as being a compromise with Rome. The group urged a return to the democratic simplicity and purity of the apostolic church. Milton's first tract was Of Reformation Touching Church Discipline in England (1641). This begins by assailing the Anglican service and ends with a vision of the new and grand Reformation. In a personal passage in his fourth pamphlet, The Reason of Church-Government, Milton explains his religious conception of poetry and the deferment of his great epic because of what he feels to be his public duty.

Notoriety came in 1643, with Milton's pamphlet Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce (enlarged edition 1644), which was followed by three more tracts in 1644 and 1645 on the same theme. His preoccupation with the subject of divorce was presumably hastened by his own marital disaster. In June(?) 1642, several months before the outbreak of the Civil Wars, Milton had married Mary Powell, the daughter of a royalist squire of Oxfords hire who owed money to his father. Success could hardly be predicted for the marriage of a scholar and poet of 33 to an uneducated girl half his age from a large, easygoing household. The young wife, visiting her family a little later, declined—doubtless with their backing—to return to her new husband's household. The shock must have been especially severe for a man who—as one may infer from the anguished cries that recur in the Doctrine—had approached marriage with high hopes and earnest prayers, and there was no release from such a tragic mistake. In the tracts Milton argued that the sole cause admitted for divorce—adultery—might be less valid than incompatibility and that the forced yoke of a loveless marriage was a crime against human dignity. For this he was attacked as a libertine by royalists and Presbyterians alike. In 1645 friends brought about a reunion between Milton and his wife, and in1646, when the Powells had been ruined by the war, he took into his house, for nearly a year, the whole noisy family of 10. Three daughters, Anne, Mary, and Deborah, were born in 1646, 1648, and 1652. A son died in infancy. Mrs. Milton dieda few days after Deborah's birth.

In 1644 Milton published what are for modern readers his best-known pamphlets, Of Education and Areopagitica . Of Education is one of the last in a long line of European expositions of Renaissance humanism. His aim was to mold boys into enlightened, cultivated, responsible citizens and leaders on the basis of the study of the ancient classics, in due subordination to the Bible and Christian teaching. But he also gave notable emphasis to science. Areopagitica is on the freedom of the press and was specifically written to protest an order issued by Parliament the previous year requiring government approval and licensing of all published books. Milton argues that to mandate licensing is to follow the example of the detested papacy. He defends the free circulation of ideas as essential to moral and intellectual development and reasserts above all his belief in the power of truth to triumph over falsehood through free inquiry and discussion. Areopagitica is now regarded as a classic plea on behalf of civil liberties and democratic values, but the tract seems to have had very little effect in its own time.

During the next four years Milton may have worked chiefly on his The History of Britain (1670). On Feb. 13, 1649, two weeks after the execution of Charles I, Milton's first political tract, The Tenure of Kings and Magistrates , appeared. In it he expounds the doctrine that power resides always in the people, who delegate it to a sovereign but may, if it is abused, resume it and depose or even execute the tyrant. A month later he was invited to become secretary for foreign languages to Cromwell's Council of State. Hitherto a detached observer, Milton, in spite of his private studies, was doubtless eager to have a hand in the workings of government. He was not on the policy-making level, but he had the easy command of Latin needed for foreign correspondence. Also, as a publicist of demonstrated sympathy with the revolution, he was expected to continue his defense of the cause against the multiplying attacks on the regicides.

Milton's first effort in this line was Eikonoklastes (October 1649), one of a number of answers to Eikon Basilike, a book edited from the late king's papers by his chaplain, John Gauden. During 1651 Milton was censor and supervisory editor of the chief Commonwealth newspaper, Mercurius Politicus, edited by Marchamont Needham. In this year appeared his Latin Defence of the People of England. CharlesII, in exile, had engaged Claudius Salmasius (Claude de Saumaise), the most eminent of classical scholars, to arraignthe regicides (Defensio Regia pro Carolo I, 1649). Milton was less effective in legal argument than in discrediting Salmasius by personal abuse; like some other crusaders, he tended to see opponents as monstrous enemies of a sacred cause who must be destroyed by any means.

If he was, then and later, uplifted by the vanquishing of a renowned antagonist, he was inevitably and profoundly depressed by the loss of his eyesight; it had been failing for years, and blindness became complete in the winter of 1651–52. Milton was only 43, and the great poem was still unwritten. Blindness reduced his strictly secretarial duties, though he continued through 1659 as a translator of state letters.

The Second Defence of the People of England—also in Latin, since it was also addressed to Europe at large—was much more worthy of its subject and its author. In it he celebrated the achievements of the Commonwealth leaders (though he was bold enough to warn Cromwell against one-man rule). In 1659 two more tracts on church and state were published. In A Treatise of Civil Power in Ecclesiastical Causes Milton argued for religious freedom (except for Roman Catholics, since Catholicism had shown itself a danger to national security). In Considerations Touching the Likeliest Means to Remove Hirelings out of the Church he reasserted the ideal of a clergy of apostolic simplicity of life.

His last political pamphlet, The Readie and Easie Way to Establish a Free Commonwealth, was published in March 1660 and again, enlarged, in April. It was an act no less courageous than futile, since machinery was patently moving to bring back Charles II and install him as king (he made his triumphal entry on May 29). Milton's pamphlet is a cry of incredulity and despair from the last champion of “the good Old Cause.” The glories of the Commonwealth, to which he himself had given 20 years and his eyesight, were being swept away by a nation of slaves “now choosing them a captain back for Egypt.” The Restoration was the last and heaviest of Milton's many disillusionments.

The Restoration government executed the Commonwealth leader Sir Henry Vane the Younger and exhumed and hangedat Tyburn the bodies of Cromwell, Henry Ireton, and John Bradshaw. Milton himself, as a noted defender of the regicides, was in real danger. In the summer of 1660 a warrant was out for his arrest; he was kept in hiding by friends. In August the Act of Oblivion, granting pardon to most Commonwealth supporters, was passed. Milton was safe within its terms but was nevertheless taken into custody (and released on December 15). According to various early stories, his life was spared through the intercession either of the poet Andrew Marvell, who in 1657 had become a fellow secretary and was now a member of Parliament, or of the royalist playwright Sir William Davenant, whose life Milton had earlier been the means of saving. It may have been decided that the blind writer was now harmless and that token proceedings against him would be enough.

The large bulk of Milton's prose—which fills four times as many volumes as his poetry—is read only by scholars, but much of it is important for several reasons. In an age of great prose, Milton's, at its best, has an individual if often undisciplined greatness, and Areopagitica at least is a classic document. Moreover, as the record of Milton's growth (a leftward growth, in religion and politics) and of his dreams and disillusionments, his prose works are the essential introduction to Paradise Lost, Paradise Regained, and Samson Agonistes, providing a bridge between the radiant idealism of his youth and the much-tried faith and fortitude of his later years. In particular, his A Treatise on Christian Doctrine held a central place in his thoughts and labours. He seems to have finished it by about 1658–60 (it was first printed and translated by Charles Sumner in 1825). Its importance is that it expounds, with differences, the theological frame of Paradise Lost. Viewed in perspective, most of Milton's essential beliefs are those of traditional Christianity, but he does depart from orthodoxy on a few points, notably his denial of predestination. Brought up, like most Anglicans of his time, as a Calvinist, he regarded himself as one at least until 1644, but his final belief was in the Arminian doctrine—the salvation not of a predestined few but of all believers, who constitute the true elect. Milton above all insisted on humanity's rational freedom and responsible power of choice.

Sonnets and other poems (1642–58)

Milton's early poems, in English, Latin, Greek, and Italian, were published at the beginning of 1646 (dated 1645). During the 20 years given to public affairs he was mostly cut off from poetry but did write 17 occasional sonnets, versifieda number of psalms, and began the composition of Paradise Lost. Some of the sonnets are deeply personal: two on his blindness (1652–55) and one on the death in 1658, some months after childbirth, of his second wife, Katherine Woodcock, whom he had married in 1656.

The major sonnets have much poetical as well as autobiographical interest, and as a group they illustrate (with “Lycidas”) both in texture and rhythm the beginnings of the grand style (i.e., a literary style marked by a sustained and lofty dignity and sublimity) that was to have full scope in Paradise Lost. One is less conscious of sonnet structure and of rhymes than of a single massive unit that approaches a paragraph of Milton's blank verse.

Paradise Lost

By 1650 Milton had given up the idea of composing a Britishepic. Instead he chose what was considered the most momentous event, next to the life and death of Christ, in the world's history—the fall of mankind from grace. It is not known when Paradise Lost was actually begun. Guesses have centred on 1655–58. Clearly, the lines on the poet's having fallen on evil days, in the prelude to Book 7, were composed after the Restoration, and the whole may have been done pretty much in the order in which it stands. It was finished by 1665. The first edition of 1667 was in 10 books; this was reissued in 1668 and 1669, and in some of these issues Milton added the prefatory note on his use of blank verse and “The Argument.” In the second edition (1674), Books 7 and 10 were each split into two, making a total of 12 books. The arguments, which summarize the contents of each book and were formerly grouped together, were placed at the head of the respective books.

Paradise Lost is an epic poem written in blank verse—i.e., unrhymed iambic pentameter verse. It tells the story of Satan's rebellion against God and his expulsion from heaven and the subsequent temptation and expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden. By Milton's time the Fall of Man had already received innumerable literary treatments, narrative and dramatic, so that the simple tale in Genesis and the more shadowy role of Satan in heaven, earth, and hell had acquired a good deal of interpretative and concrete embellishment. So the main motives and events of Paradise Lost had abundant literary precedent, though they were handled with powerful originality; Milton, like a Greek dramatist, was reworking a story familiar in outline to his audience. His story, moreover, gave him the advantage of immemorial belief and association in the minds of his earlier readers. This advantage no longer operates in the same way—although, for modern readers, the fable still possesses at least the immemorial and universal import of archetypal myth.

The story of the Fall of Man had little of the solidity and variety of character and action of the classical epics, however, and so Milton the classicist naturally borrowed much in the way of form and style and epic convention. While he was said to have known the Homeric poems by heart, his great classical model was Virgil's Aeneid, with which Paradise Lost has some inner as well as surface affinities.

Some Virgilian features of Paradise Lost are easily observable. Milton centres the magnificent first two books of his poem on the figure of Satan and his legions as they lie in hell. Virgil has a roll call of the Italian chiefs who gather to oppose Aeneas; Milton's roll call of the leaders of the fallen angels, in making them individuals, also becomes a survey of the spread of heathen idolatry over the Eastern world. The realistic power of the debate of the fallen angels in hell dwarfs all other epic councils. Epic accounts of Hades are combined, in Milton's pictures of hell, with Christian lore, but the lurid and dismal scenes and the physical and mental diversions of the fallen angels symbolize their spiritual death and futile striving. The wars of gods and Titans and giants in classical literature supply details for the war in heaven in Paradise Lost, which is a large metaphor for the anarchy of sin. And Odysseus' and Aeneas' retellings of past events become the archangel Raphael's account of Satan's revolt and war and the Son's creation of the world.

Much has been written about Milton's powerful characterization of Satan, who is one of the supreme figures in world literature. Satan has, on a superhuman scale, the strength, the courage, and the capacity for leadership that belong to the ancient epic hero, but these qualities are all perverted in being devoted to evil and self-aggrandizement. In his first grand speech to his lieutenant Beelzebub, Satan's defiance of God manifests his egoistic pride, his false conception of freedom, and his alienation from all good; and his other public harangues reinforce and amplify our sense ofpower that is religiously and morally corrupt and blind. Against the background of hell, Satan maintains the false magnificence of his “heroic” stature, but outside of hell he loses even that. In his soliloquy addressed to the Sun, he reveals, like Dr. Faustus or Macbeth, his despairing consciousness of his own evil and damnation, a consciousness that gives him potentially tragic dimensions. Thus Satan and his fellows are enveloped in dramatic irony because—though the corruption of man is achieved—they fight and scheme in ignorance of the unshakable power of God and goodness.

Adam and Eve are enveloped in a parallel kind of irony. The picture of the Garden of Eden is a symbolic rendering of Milton's vision of perfection, but it is presented when the reader accompanies Satan into the garden, so that idyllic innocence and happiness are seen only under the shadow of evil. Though the pair have had warnings, Eve is beguiled by an appeal to her vanity and ambition, by the hubristic dream of attaining godlike knowledge and power; and Adam allows his love for Eve to oversway his love for God. Both, far from attaining godlike knowledge, succumb to animal lust; yet, when grace and penitence begin to work in them, they have astrength beyond the reach of Satan. On the other hand, though there is promised redemption for the faithful, and though the poem is, logically, a divine comedy with a happy ending, Milton's panorama of human history gives little ground for hope on earth. Irony, profoundly compassionate irony, pervades the moving last lines which describe Adam and Eve as they depart from Eden—not now the majestic lords of creation but two frail human beings beginning life anew in the world of sin and sorrow and death, though “with Providence their guide” and the hope of achieving a “paradise within.”

The more one reads Paradise Lost the more one recognizes Milton's powers of imagination and organization. Everywhere, on the largest or the smallest scale, in abstract idea or concrete act, theme and material are closely knit through parallel and contrast. The central conflict and contrast between good and evil are reflected and intensified in the contrasts between heaven and hell, light and darkness,order and chaos, love and hate, humility and pride, reason and passion. In the council in hell, Satan alone volunteers forthe perilous journey to earth to bring about the Fall of Man; inthe council in heaven, the Son alone volunteers to suffer on earth for man's salvation. Satan unlooses the destructive anarchy of war; the Son creates the world. Eve and Adam reenact the sin and fall of Satan. The boundless scene of Paradise Lost is indeed only a backdrop or magnified reflection of the drama that goes on in the hearts of the human protagonists, and, when they fall, the ideal world of eternal spring and eternal life becomes the world we live in.

To speak of the setting in more literal terms, Milton's imagination fills space so immense that the created universe—the Ptolemaic one—hangs from heaven like one of the smallest stars close to the Moon. Milton showed his awareness of the Copernican universe, but the Ptolemaic one had the advantages of traditional familiarity and of keeping earth and man at the focal centre. In his handling of vast space Milton's imagination and language work with a suggestive vagueness that is very different from the minute particularity of Dante's world. He is excited by the starry dance of the cosmic order and, likewise, by the fecundity of Eden, and his account of creation is alive with the sense of movement and growth. The poem is rich in its appeal to both the eye and the ear.

Milton's preface stresses the novelty and rightness of blank verse for a heroic poem, and his manipulation of rhythm and sound is of course one of his supreme achievements. The continuous flow of his long sentences and paragraphs is naturally unlike the dramatic blank verse of Shakespearean dialogue, and it builds up a continuous onward pressure. While the iambic pentameter line remains the norm, there may be extra syllables, and there is endless variety in the number, weight, and position of stresses. At the same time there is a secondary and still more fluid system of rhythmic units, which flow from the caesura in one line to the caesura in the next, resulting in an infinity of permutations and combinations. Milton's blank verse is never monotonous, and the pattern of sound is so wedded to the pattern of sense that each is essential to the other.

Milton's frequently Latinate syntax and diction have sometimes been censured, especially by modern poets and critics for whom colloquial speech and rhythm are the only acceptable medium. But Milton's means of achieving the elevation required by a lofty theme is intermixed with pure simplicity. His use of Latinate syntax or structure and his freedom in the placing of phrases and clauses greatly enlarge and enrich his range of emphasis and his use of economy, contrast, suspension, all the devices of forceful utterance—devices often really colloquial. Many other functional elements of the grand style can be noted: periphrasis, epic similes, geographic, historical, and mythological allusions, and so on.

Last major works

In Paradise Lost (Book 9) Milton had spoken of “patience and heroic martyrdom” as themes unsung, though nobler than martial prowess, and this “better fortitude” was celebrated in the epic poem Paradise Regained and the tragedy Samson Agonistes (published in the same volume in1671). Paradise Regained is a natural sequel to Paradise Lost : Christ, the second Adam, wins back for man what the first Adam had lost. But Milton did not, as might have been expected, deal with the Crucifixion; instead, he showed Christ in the wilderness overcoming Satan the tempter, thereby proving his fitness for his ultimate trial and, in his human role, showing what humankind might achieve throughstrong integrity and humble obedience to the divine will. Although the poem has been found cold by the mass of readers and critics, it nevertheless has all the fire of Milton's religious and moral passion and his reverence for true heroism.

For some readers, the drama of Samson Agonistes is the most powerful and completely satisfying of Milton's major works. It is by far the greatest English drama on the Greek model and is known as a closet tragedy—i.e., one more suitedfor reading than performance. The play deals with the final phase of Samson's life and recounts the story as told in the Book of Judges of the Old Testament. The action, up to the reported catastrophe, is wholly psychological; it is the process by which Samson, “eyeless in Gaza at the mill with slaves,” moves from preoccupation with his misery and disgrace to selfless humility and renewed spiritual strength, so that he can once more feel himself God's chosen champion. He is granted a return of his old strength and pullsdown the pillars that support the temple of the Philistine god Dagon (also spelled Dagan), crushing himself along with his captors. The drama must owe a great deal of its power to Milton's sense of kinship with his hero; he has been eyelessin London among a nation of slaves. But nowhere does the classical impersonality and restraint of Milton's art show so strongly; there is nothing in the drama that does not belong to the story of Samson. And Milton's classical style appears in a new phase, in a rugged, sinewy, colloquial texture, and inirregular rhythms of new expressiveness.

Altogether, if Samson was his last epic poem, it was a grand testament. Like Samson, Milton was able to conquer despairor to sublimate it in his last three great poems. These expressed not his earlier revolutionary faith in men and movements but a purified faith in God and the regenerative strength of the individual soul.

Last years (1658–74)

The poet's final 16 years of life, during which these three works were finished or composed, were peaceful, although there were concrete troubles: a frugal domestic economy necessitated by greatly diminished resources; blindness and what was sometimes a more severe affliction, the pains of gout; and a degree of friction with his daughters, due probably to faults on both sides. Apart from the publication of books, the chief events of these years were Milton's marriage (1663) to a third wife, the young and amiable Elizabeth Minshull, who survived him, and the removal, during the plague of 1665, to a house (now a Milton museum) at Chalfont St. Giles, Buckinghamshire.

The publications of Milton's late years were Paradise Lost (1667), for which he received £10; textbooks of simplified Latin grammar (1669) and logic (1672); The History of Britain(1670); Paradise Regained and Samson Agonistes (1671); the second, enlarged edition of the Poems of 1645 (1673); the second, revised edition of Paradise Lost (1674); and Epistolae Familiares with the Prolusiones Oratoriae (1674). A Brief History of Moscovia appeared in 1682. A Latin dictionary on which Milton had long worked was completed by others and published in 1693. Edward Phillips translated Letters of State (1694). Milton's great epic poems were, of course, composed in his head, especially at night, as famous allusions in Paradise Lost indicate; when he was ready “to be milked,” he would dictate, often with one leg flung over the arm of his chair. The taking of dictation, the correcting of copy, and reading aloud in various languages were services performed by paid assistants, his two nephews, his younger daughters, and friends and disciples.

In religion Milton had moved from the low-church Anglicanism of his parents to Presbyterianism to Independency to independence. In the latter part of his life, according to his early biographer John Toland, “he was not a professed member of any particular sect among Christians, he frequented none of their assemblies, nor made use of their peculiar rites in his family.” But, as Samuel Johnson observed, “his studies and meditations were an habitual prayer.” Milton died “of the gout stuck in,” just before his 66th birthday. His burial in the churchyard of St. Giles, Cripplegate, was attended by “all his learned and great friends in London, not without a friendly concourse of the vulgar.”


Milton's reputation grew steadily after 1667 and was well established before Joseph Addison's papers on Paradise Lostappeared in The Spectator (1712); these were instrumental in extending the poet's fame to the Continent. His influence on 18th-century verse was immense. In the 19th century two main streams of critical opinion are evident. On the one hand, the revolutionary Romantic poets William Blake and Percy Bysshe Shelley launched the “Satanist” misinterpretation of Paradise Lost and made its author, like themselves, a rebel; their attitude is summed up in Blake's saying that Milton was of the devil's party without knowing it (in other words, that he had projected himself into Satan, who was the poem's real hero). On the other hand, other critics—also concentrating on the epic—threw overboard Milton's beliefs and ideas as long-dead fundamentalism and attended to the poem's purely literary qualities.

The poet's influence waned during the Victorian age, and in the 20th century the new poetry and criticism launched by Ezra Pound and T.S. Eliot were strongly anti-Milton and pro-John Donne. But during the 1940s and '50s a shift in critical attitudes took place, and dozens of books and hundreds of articles were given to the ideas and beliefs of the thinker, the publicist, and the poet and brought a new refinement of perception and analysis to the aesthetic study of Milton's poetry. By the second half of the 20th century his works had regained their place in the canon of Western literature.

Douglas Bush


Type of work: Poem
Author: John Milton (1608-1674)
Type of plot: Epic
Time of plot: The Beginning
Locale: Heaven, Hell, and Earth
First published: 1667

Considered the greatest epic in modern literature, Milton's poem in twelve books tells of man's happiness in the Garden of Eden and of his first disobedience; within this story, the angel Raphael tells Adam the history of Satan and his band of rebellious angels. The poem ends with the expulsion from Paradise and a vision of mankind's coming misery, but Michael also offers the future hope of the Redeemer who will one day bring salvation to mankind.

Principal Characters

Adam, the first man and representative of mankind. Though gifted with reason and restraint, he allows an excessively passionate tenderness for Eve to blind him. Forewarned by the archangel Raphael of danger from Satan, he nevertheless yields to Eve's entreaty that she alone be trusted. When he learns that she has fallen, he chooses to join her rather than turn from her. His first reaction after his own fall is to rebuke and blame her for his own sin. After falling into almost suicidal despair, he repents, and when the archangel Michael foretells the future redemption of mankind by Christ, he accepts his fate with gratitude.
Eve, the first woman and representative of womanhood. Beautiful, gentle, and submissive, she holds Adam enthralled. She is horrified when Satan first approaches her in a dream, but piqued by what she considers Adam's lack of faith in her, she stubbornly insists on working alone, thereby leaving herself vulnerable to the serpent's temptation. Like Adam, after the Fall she is first lustful, then quarrelsome. Finally, she too accepts her fate with dignity and resignation.
Satan (Lucifer), chief of the fallen angels, adversary of God and man. A splendid conception, his heroism and grandeur are tainted by a perversion of will and accompanying perversion of intellect. Rebellious against God, he is incapable of understanding Him. A self-tormented spirit, conscious of his loss but unwilling to repent, he allows evil to eat away at him, tarnishing his splendor. His degradation is complete when he wills to enter the body of the serpent. His attempt to seduce man succeeds, but his triumph is temporary and hollow.
Beelzebub (bi-eTzs-bub), Satan's chief lieutenant. Less confident and less splendid than his chief, he works his will and serves as his mouthpiece. In the council of the fallen angels in Pandemonium, he presents forcefully Satan's plan of indirect war on God through man. His proposal carries.
Moloch (mo'lok), fiercest of the fallen angels. Appropriately worshipped in later years with human sacrifice, he is bloody-minded and desperate. If the fallen angels cannot win Heaven, he chooses either to make Heaven intolerable for the angels who did not fall or to anger God to the point that He will annihilate the fallen spirits.
Belial (Ъё'11-э1), a fallen angel industrious only in vice. Smooth and oily, he favors peace at any price and expresses the hope that if the fallen angels do not call God's attention to themselves, He will forget them and allow then-sufferings to decrease. He favors a proper course but for improper reasons, basing his surrender on sloth, not on acceptance of God's will.
Mammon (mam'an), the materialistic fallen angel. Like Belial, he is opposed to a second war against Heaven, but he favors a plan of development of natural resources and exploitation of Hell to raise an empire that will rival Heaven.
Mulciber (Vulcan) (mul'si-Ьэг), Mammon's chief engineer and architect. Formerly the planner of many of Heaven's buildings, he is now architect of Pandemonium, Satan's palace in Hell.
Sin, Satan's daughter, born from his brain without a mother. She is the loathsome keeper of Hell's gates, through which she lets Satan pass to attack the world. She and her grisly son Death follow Satan to Earth to prey on mankind.
Death, son of Sin and Satan by their incestuous union. He ravishes Sin and begets a horde of hellhounds on her. His voraciousness is so great that he would devour his own mother, except for the fear that her death would involve his own destruction. His fierce reaction to Satan is mollified by the latter's offer of hosts of men and beasts for him to devour if Satan's assault on Earth succeeds.
God the Father, All-knowing and all-powerful, He foresees Satan's activities and man's fall, but extends to man His grace and brings forth good from evil.
Christ (Messiah), the only Son of God. He is first granted by His Father the overthrow of Satan and his legions in the War in Heaven, then granted His wish to sacrifice Himself to redeem man.
Michael (ml'kal), the warrior angel. Chief of the angelic forces in the War in Heaven, he is a worthy opponent of Satan. He is God's messenger to Adam and Eve to tell them of their banishment from Paradise and their coming death; however, he is allowed by God's grace to foretell to Adam the future of the human race and the redemption to come.
Abdiel (ab'dl-el), angelic servant of God. Alone among Lucifer's angel hordes, he remains steadfast and is rewarded by God's own praise and the favor of striking the first blow against Satan in the war against the rebel angels. Clearly one of Milton's favorite creations in "Paradise Lost," he is perhaps an idealized version of the poet himself.
Raphael (raf'Ial, ra'fi-э!), God's messenger to Adam to warn him of Satan's presence in Paradise. Gracious and friendly, he still is capable of severe judgment and warns Adam particularly against unreasonable and passionate adoration of Eve.
Gabriel (ga'bri-9l), chief of the angelic guards in Paradise. He is a leader in the War in Heaven against the evil angels.
Uriel (yoor'i-sl), regent of the Sun. Even though an angel, he is incapable of seeing through the mask of a hypocrite and fails to recognize Satan in his disguise as a lesser angel. He directs the evil spirit to Paradise, but sees his actions in Paradise and hastily warns Gabriel that an evil spirit has gained entrance there.
Uzziel (й-zl'el, uz'I-el), Ithuriel (l-thu'ri-sl), and Zephon (ze'fon), angel guards in Paradise.

The Story

In Heaven, Lucifer, unable to abide the supremacy of God, led a revolt against divine authority. Defeated, he and his followers were cast into Hell, where they lay nine days on a burning lake. Lucifer, now called Satan, arose from the flaming pitch and vowed that all was not lost, that he would have revenge for his downfall. Arousing his legions, he reviewed them under the canopy of Hell and decided his purposes could be achieved by guile rather than by force.
Under the direction of Mulciber, the forces of evil built an elaborate palace in which Satan convened a congress to decide on immediate action. At the meeting, Satan reasserted the unity of those fallen and opened the floor to a debate on what measures to take. Moloch advised war. Belial recommended a slothful existence in Hell. Mammon proposed peacefully improving Hell so that it might rival Heaven in splendor. His motion was received with great favor until Beelzebub, second in command, arose and informed the conclave that God had created Earth, which He had peopled with good creatures called humans. It was Beelzebub's proposal to investigate this new creation, seize it, and seduce its inhabitants to the cause of the fallen angels.
Announcing that he would journey to Earth to learn for himself how matters were there, Satan flew to the gate of Hell. There he encountered his daughter, Sin, and his son, Death. They opened the gate and Satan winged his way toward Earth.
God, in his omniscience, beheld the meeting in Hell, knew the intents of the evil angels, and saw Satan approaching the Earth. Disguised as various beasts, Satan acquainted himself with Adam and Eve and with the Tree of Knowledge, which God had forbidden to man.
Uriel, learning that an evil angel had broken through to Eden, warned Gabriel, who appointed two angels to hover about the bower of Adam and Eve. The guardian angels arrived too late to prevent Satan, in the form of a toad, from beginning his evil work. He had influenced Eve's dreams.
Upon awaking, Eve told Adam that in her strange dream she had been tempted to taste of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge. God, seeing that danger to Adam and Eve was imminent, sent the angel Raphael to the garden to warn them. At Adam's insistence, Raphael related in detail the story of the great war between the good and the bad angels and of the fall of the bad angels to eternal misery in Hell. To Adam's further inquiries Raphael responded with an account of the creation of the world and of how Earth was created in six days, an angelic choir singing the praises of God on the seventh day. He cautioned Adam not to be too curious, that there were many things done by God which were not for man to understand or to attempt to understand. Adam then told how he had been warned against the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, how he had asked God for fellowship in his loneliness, and how Eve was created from his rib.
After the departure of Raphael, Satan returned as a mist to the garden and entered the body of a sleeping serpent. In the morning, as Adam and Eve proceeded to their day's occupation, 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, liking what she tasted, took a fruit to Adam, who was horrified when he saw what Eve had done. Yet in his love for Eve, he also ate the fruit.
Having eaten, the couple knew lust for the first time, and after their dalliance they knew sickening shame. The guardian angels now deserted the transgressors and returned to God, who approved them, saying they could not have prevented Satan from succeeding in his mission.
Christ descended to Earth to pass judgment. Before Adam and Eve, who in their shame, had been reluctant to come out of their bower to face Him, Christ sentenced the serpent to be forever a hated enemy of humanity. He told Eve that 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, his ground would be cursed, and he would eat bread only by toiling and sweating.
Meanwhile, Death and Sin, having divined Satan's success, left the gates of Hell to join their father on Earth. Within sight of Earth, they met Satan, who delegated Sin and Death as his ambassadors on Earth. Back in Hell, Satan proudly reported his accomplishments to his followers. He was acclaimed by hisses, however, as his cohorts became serpents, and Satan himself was transformed into a serpent before their reptilian eyes. Trees similar to the Tree of Knowledge appeared in Hell, but when the evil angels tasted the fruit, they found their mouths full of ashes.
God, angered at the disaffection of Adam and Eve, brought about great changes on Earth. He created the seasons to replace eternal spring, and the violence and misery of storms—winds, hail, ice, floods, and earthquakes. He caused all Earth's creatures to prey upon one another.
Adam and Eve argued bitterly until they realized that they must face their common plight together. Repenting their sins, they prayed to God for relief. Although Christ interceded for them, God sentenced them to expulsion from Eden and sent the angel Michael to Earth to carry out the sentence. Adam and Eve, lamenting their misfortune, contemplated suicide, but Michael gave them new hope when he brought to Adam a vision of life and death; of the rise and fall of kingdoms and empires; of the activities of Adam's and Eve's progeny through their evil days to the flood, when God would destroy all life except that preserved by Noah in the ark; and of the subsequent return to evil days and Christ's incarnation, death, resurrection, and ascension as mankind's redeemer.
Despite the violence, evil, and bloodshed in the vision, Adam and Eve were pacified when they saw that mankind would be saved. They walked hand in hand from the heights of Paradise to the barren plains below.

Critical Evaluation

With Paradise Lost, John Milton realized his longstanding ambition to write an epic poem based upon a classical model, following conventions established by Homer and Vergil. The task was formidable, for during the seventeenth century the epic was considered man's greatest creative achievement. For his theme, Milton chose a grand synthesis of the Christian religion based upon the Bible. Centering on the Fall of Adam and Eve and their restoration to God's favor, the epic ranges over time from the rebellion of Satan and his followers in Heaven until Judgment Day, offering a comprehensive account of Christian history, belief, and values. Primarily a Protestant epic, emphasizing moral choice and salvation through faith, it narrates the most significant biblical events and represents what the minor seventeenth century poet Samuel Barrow called "the story of all things."
Its characters range from the divine to the demonic, from God the Father and Christ to Satan and his followers. Yet the narrative focus centers upon Adam and Eve, initially flawless human beings who violate God's covenant, fall from grace, and are restored. Satan, the most thoroughly developed character, is created on a grand scale with a single-minded goal of revenge and most closely resembles the conventional epic hero. Yet the mythic hero is Christ, the character who performs the positive actions of the story—creation, judgment, and redemption. Adam, the human hero, undergoes a change of fortune through the Fall and is restored; he stands as Milton's long-suffering hero of faith and resignation, in the tradition of Prometheus and Job.
Structurally, the epic forms three major parts, each consisting of four books. In books 1 to 4, Milton introduces the characters, settings (Heaven, Hell, Chaos, and Earth), and major conflicts. Book 1 accounts for the fall of Satan and his millions of followers and its immediate aftermath; in book 2, a council in Hell determines the course of action for Satan: revenge through deception and seduction of mankind. In book 3, a contrasting council in Heaven establishes that man will fall and lays the groundwork for his redemption through the willing sacrifice of Christ. Book 4 introduces the human characters Adam and Eve, who lead an idyllic life in the Garden of Eden, their only restraint being God's prohibition against the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge. Satan briefly appears in the garden following his journey through Chaos but is driven away by angelic guards.
The middle books (5-8) concern the mission of the angel Raphael in the garden, sent by God to warn Adam about the danger posed by Satan. These books, sometimes referred to as "the education of Adam," prepare readers for the Fall of Man through a psychological treatment of character that makes it credible. Unfalien Adam learns of Satan's fall and punishment. In conversation with Raphael, Adam confesses his uxoriousness, and thus the reader is prepared for Adam to disobey God's commandment motivated by a desire to share Eve's fate. Through the use of exposition, the middle books introduce numerous epic conventions. Raphael's narrative of the War in Heaven, which includes events that took place before the beginning of book 1, is an extended account of warfare, a theme Milton associates with the demonic. In this section, Milton continues his strategy of balancing and contrasting books; Raphael's account of the destructive War is counterbalanced by the narrative of Creation in book 7.
The final section (9-12) narrates the Fall and restoration of Adam and Eve, following Satan's return to the garden and assumption of the form of the serpent. Satan cleverly deceives Eve, and Adam willingly disobeys God in order to share her fate. In the final two books, the archangel Michael illuminates for Adam human history from his own time until Judgment Day, allowing Adam to comprehend all the panorama of human suffering and unhappiness that results from the Fall and to recognize Christ as man's redeemer. At the end, both Adam and Eve are reconciled to the loss of Eden and depart as wayfaring, warfaring Christians.
Written in blank verse in which the verse paragraph, not the line, is the most significant unit, Paradise Lost achieves a dignified, sonorous tone while incorporating traditional epic conventions. Milton chose blank verse because he considered it the closest English equivalent to classical epic verse. Biblical, classical, and Renaissance allusions abound, particularly character and place names. Often the allusions have typological significance, for Milton follows the Christian tradition of viewing Old Testament figures as precursors to and types of Christ. He extends the device by citing classical myth for parallels to Christian events and beliefs. Among the striking stylistic elements, one finds heavy use of Latinate diction, epic similes, frequent inversions, and complex schemes of repetition. Classical allusions and imagery recur as significant motifs in the narrative.
Although he incorporates familiar epic conventions such as the invocation of the muse, the statement of theme, the roll call, the dream, settings on different levels, and different orders of being, Milton frequently associates these conventions with the demonic, in part because he rejects traditional heroism in warfare in favor of the hero who suffers and endures for the right. Like other epic poets, he speaks in the authorial persona or voice, not only in prologues but within the narrative, in order to guide the reader, to express approval or disapproval, or to admonish or caution.
Paradise Lost forms an encyclopedic and comprehensive mythology based upon the Bible. For more than two centuries, readers considered the poem a sound theological interpretation of history and, like Milton, believed that it chronicled actual events, except for those passages obviously intended as allegorical. Like other epics, it embodies a value system that advocates a code of living and answers the most profound questions that man can ask concerning values and beliefs. For modern readers, the epic stands as the greatest example of its genre in English literature and a synthesis of Christianity unsurpassed in poetry.


Type of work: Philosophic address
Author: John Milton (1608-1674)
First published: 1644

Milton's impassioned argument for unlicensed printing, the Areopagitica, appeared in November, 1644, during a stormy period in English history. Parliament had rebelled against the authoritarian rule of King Charles I two years earlier, and its supporters, Puritans for the most part, were beginning to demonstrate their military superiority in periodic battles against the Royalist forces. Since Parliament had abolished the venerable Court of the Star Chamber, which previously had exercised control over the press, Milton for a time took advantage of the new freedom to publish a series of pamphlets against the episcopal form of church government inherited from Roman Catholicism. When Parliament convoked the Westminster Assembly of churchmen in 1643 to advise the lawmakers on religious reform, however, this freedom proved to be short-lived, for the Assembly soon recommended, and Parliament passed, a new licensing order which differed from the earlier one chiefly in that the responsibility passed from the bishops to a twenty-man Committee of Examinations.
In defiance of the order, Milton issued four pamphlets between 1643 and 1645 defending divorce, a subject in which he had a strong personal interest, as his own marriage to Mary Powell had turned out very unhappily. In the midst of this concern, Milton turned his attention to the issue of censorship; he addressed the Aeropagitica, itself another unlicensed pamphlet, to Parliament.
Milton's title derives ultimately from the Areopagus, a hill in Athens which served as a governmental meeting place from early in the city's history. Thus the name had been extended to the Athenian council, which exercised both civil and religious authority. Milton may well have intended to acknowledge similar jurisdiction by Parliament, for nowhere in the Areopagitica does he argue for the separation of church and state; as a matter of fact, he needed the support of those who opposed such separation. In addition, one of the political arguments of Socrates in the fourth century B.C. was called Areopagiticus; Milton's work was similar insofar as it was shaped like an oration but not actually delivered as a speech. Christian humanists of the English Renaissance regarded the oration as a species of poetry calculated to stir an audience and move it to the practice of virtue, as Sir Philip Sidney's Apology for Poetry (c. 1580), also a classical oration in form, illustrates. Finally, Milton probably also had in mind Saint Paul, who addressed the Areopagus as a gathering of religious men who nonetheless required further enlightenment (Acts 17:22-31). Milton alludes to Saint Paul a number of times in the Areopagitica.
A thorough classical scholar, Milton knew intimately the techniques of the great orators of the ancient world and skillfully adapted them to the pamphlet form. The Areopagitica is much more than an oration, however; it is also a bold appeal by a patriotic Englishman who is eager that his nation increase its stature by granting intellectual liberty to its writers. As in the case of the divorce pamphlets, his motives were hardly disinterested. Nevertheless, he crafted the Areopagitica as a general defense of freedom of the press that could not be interpreted as mere special pleading, for its argument transcends his own difficulties with censors and the problems of intellectuals disenchanted with what, in the 1640s, looked like dangerous backsliding into the tyranny of the past. Milton deploys his immense learning, remarkable verbal facility, and diplomatic skill in composing a work designed to force the Lords and Commons to see the issue in the context of Parliament's—and England's—continuing struggle for liberty from oppression.
To gain the goodwill of the lawmakers, Milton applauds their concern about the press, "for Books are not absolutely dead things, but doe contain a potencie of life in them to be as active as that soule was whose progeny they are." For this reason, prior censorship is a terrible and destructive act: "Who kills a Man kills a reasonable creature, Gods Image; but hee who destroyes a good Booke, kills reason it selfe, kills the Image of God. as it were in the eye." Throughout the arguments that follow, he balances his sense of injustice already done against expressions of confidence that Parliament consists of rational men who will act to redress it.
His first argument consists of a survey of the history of licensing, which he judges the inevitable handmaiden of tyranny in the ancient world and particularly in the Roman Catholic church. He singles out the activities of the Inquisition and those of the sixteenth century Council of Trent, in its attempt to counter the effects of the Protestant Reformation by establishing an index of forbidden books and an elaborate system of imprimaturs (the term means "it may be printed") by ecclesiastical authorities. Milton acknowledges this argument as his weakest one by placing it first; still, it was bound to carry emotional weight in a society that had been cultivating fear of Rome for more than a century.
Conceding that a thing may possibly be good in itself despite its association with oppressive regimes of the sort Parliament has repudiated, Milton next argues the necessity of access to all manner of ideas, including bad ones. Even good books can be misused, and bad ones "to a discreet and judicious Reader serve in many respects to discover, to confute, to forewarn, and to illustrate." Throughout his essay, it should be noted, Milton has this "discreet and judicious Reader" in mind, for he is defending the rights of earnest seekers after truth, not recommending erroneous and dangerous books to the multitude. His essay Of Education, written in the same year, addresses the educational needs of "our choicest and hopefullest wits." In Milton's eyes, virtue worthy of the name is possible only to such a seeker, for it cannot thrive, cannot even exist, except by confronting the evil that lurks in the library:

As therefore the state of man now is; what wisdome can there be to choose, what continence to forbeare without the knowledge of evill? He that can apprehend and consider vice with all her baits and seeming pleasures, and yet abstain, and yet distinguish, and yet prefer that which is truly better, he is the true warfaring Christian. I cannot praise a fugitive and cloister'd vertue. unexercis'd & unbreath'd, that never sallies out and sees her adversary, but slinks out of the race, where that immortall garland is to be run for, not without dust and heat. Assuredly we bring not innocence into the world, we bring impurity much rather: that which purifies us is triall, and triall is by what is contrary.

The printed text of this famous passage refers to "wayfaring" rather than "warfaring" Christians, but textual scholars have pointed out that Milton's r's can easily be confused with his v's, and "warfaring" accords with the militant context and with Milton's attitude toward Christianity generally.
A key qualifying clause is the first one in the passage: "as therefore the state of man now is." Book 9 of Paradise Lost (1667, 1674) attributes a similar argument to Satan as part of Eve's temptation, but such reasoning applies only in a fallen world. Such pursuits as Milton has Satan recommend in the later work here "are not temptations, nor vanities; but usefull drugs and materialls wherewith to temper and compose effect and strong med'cins, which mans life cannot want" (that is, cannot be without). In the latter-day warfare against Satan, Christians must turn his own duplicitous arguments against him, for in the world as it is, good and evil are always intermingled, and only moral choices can disentangle them. Virtue consists precisely in making such choices. To prevent man from choosing is to deny the possibility of virtue. Only by familiarity with evil can a person reject it in favor of the good.
Milton goes on to praise Sir Guyon, the hero of book 2 of a classic by another Christian humanist, Edmund Spenser. In The Faerie Queene (1590, 1596), Spenser "brings him in with his palmer through the cave of Mammon, and the bowr of earthly blisse that he might see and know, and yet abstain." It is significant that Milton has cited a character devoted to a "classical" virtue, temperance, governed by reason, as are justice and continence, which he also emphasizes in this part of his argument. God commands these virtues but "gives us minds that can wander beyond all limit and satiety." In Paradise Lost Milton would stress the temptation of pride in such minds, but here he presents warfaring Christians as people who exercise humanistic virtues and thus attain worthiness in the sight of God. This emphasis clearly diverges from the Calvinism in which Milton was reared and to which he still professes allegiance at the time of the writing of the Areopagitica.
Milton's third major argument concerns the futility of censorship. Books are, after all, only one way in which malign influences are propagated. Plato was more consistent in his Republic than is Parliament in its licensing order, for he regulated all manner of education and recreation to forestall the evil influences that reside in music, dance, conversation, and many other activities when left unscrutinized. Plato, however, was describing an ideal and not a real commonwealth. No discipline imposed from without can prevent real people from finding opportunities to indulge their moral weaknesses, and the effort will only remove the means by which the self-disciplined can test and develop their virtue. Furthermore, Milton adds, even the backlog of previously published books to be examined and judged imposes a Herculean burden on the censors. Could a committee of examiners wise enough and industrious enough be found, and if so, how could they be prevailed upon to spend all their working hours in such a negative occupation as reading suspect books in search of error? Thus Milton demonstrates the impossibility of controlling the circulation of evil and also the foolishness of a law that expects to dam the flow of opinion in this way.
Finally, Milton argues that licensing is the enemy of truth. Though absolute and knowable, men do not possess it in its fullness.

Truth indeed came once into the world with her divine Master, and was a perfect shape most glorious to look on: but when he ascended, and his Apostles after him were laid asleep, then strait arose a wicked race of deceivers, who . . . took the virgin Truth, hewd her lovely form into a thousand peeces, and scatter'd them to the four winds. From that time ever since, the sad friends of Truth, such as durst appear, . . . went up and down gathering up limb by limb still as they could find them. We have not yet found them all, Lords and Commons, nor ever shall doe, till her Masters second comming.

Until such time as truth reappears in its wholeness, there remains a long task of recovery which licensing can only impede. Although Milton thinks of the available truth as largely the possession of Protestant Christendom, the capacities that can reassemble more pieces are diffused widely and require maximum encouragement. In contending that scholars will not suffer the funneling of their efforts through a censor, Milton is affirming what the situation was already demonstrating, as he and other writers disdained to recognize the authority of a committee which, he implies, inevitably must consist of their intellectual inferiors. To think that a mature, reflecting Christian could not without danger to his faith contemplate such books as came along was a patent insult. Having repudiated Roman Catholic authority in one century and the severities of the English episcopacy in the next, reformers would inevitably oppose a relapse into yet another form of passive obedience. For Milton, viewing the ongoing political and religious struggle, the Reformation was incomplete; in many respects it had scarcely begun in England. The head of the church was still nominally, if not effectively, Charles I, a monarch already repudiated and destined for execution, although it is unlikely that rational men in 1644 could have anticipated the reality of 1649.
After presenting his arguments, Milton envisions the fully reformed nation:

Methinks I see in my mind a noble and puissant Nation rousing herself like a strong man after sleep, and shaking her invincible locks: Methinks I see her as an Eagle muing her mighty youth, and kindling her undazl'd eyes at the full midday beam; purging and unsealing her long abused sight at the fountain it self of heav'nly radiance.

Milton uses all the weapons of his rhetorical arsenal to convince Parliament that its part in this consummation of a greater England is the promotion of intellectual freedom: "Give me the liberty to know, to utter, and to argue freely according to conscience, above all liberties." Milton would not, however, extend such liberty to all. He explicitly denies the free press to Roman Catholics; in his mind they would employ this freedom to destroy that of others. Only truth-seekers qualified, and Milton could define this concept only by this arbitrary exclusion.
At the end of his essay, Milton puts to Parliament a practical question which can be appreciated even better centuries later: "What Magistrate may not be mis-inform'd, and much the sooner, if liberty of Printing be reduc't into the power of a few[?]" He calls on the Lords and Commons to demonstrate their own capacity for virtue, "to redresse wilingly and speedily what hath bin crr'd—that is to revoke the order which created the licensing committee.
Although Parliament did not rescind the licen>ing order for another half century, the Areopagitica endures as the first great defense of freedom of the press in English. John Locke's Letters on Toleration (1689 -16421 and John Stuart Mill's On Liberty (1859) notably extended and enlarged the scope of Milton's argument, but from a literary standpoint the Areopagitica remains the greatest work of its kind.


Author: John Milton (1609-1674)
First published: "On the Morning of Christ's Nativity," 1629; "L' Allegro," 1631; "II Penseroso," 1631; Lycidas, 1637; all published in Poems, 1645

While John Milton's reputation rests primarily upon his long works, Paradise Lost, Paradise Regained, and Samson Agonistes, his lyric poetry, written for the most part before he reached the age of forty, shows the same genius at work and reveals the wide range of his interests and abilities. He worked with many different verse forms and traditions adapted from his study of Latin, Greek, Hebrew, French, and Italian; many of his youthful lyrics are either translations from one of these languages or from original poems. He did a fine English version of the famous Horatian ode "To Pyrrha," translated many of the Psalms from Hebrew into English verse, and at seventeen composed an elegy for the vice-chancellor of Cambridge and a long poem commemorating the discovery of the Gunpowder Plot. He mastered the style and spirit of classical literature, as well as its verse forms and vocabulary. The influence of the Greeks and the Romans is pervasive in both his pastoral poem, Lycidas and his great epic.
Milton's twenty-one sonnets, composed at intervals over a thirty-year period, illustrate remarkably well the variety of tones at his command. Five of the first six were written in Italian, and all six show his temporary immersion in the Petrarchan tradition. He proclaims himself the servant of the Muse and Love and sings the praises of his anonymous lady in terms that belie the traditional concept of Milton as the stern Puritan moralist.
More characteristic of Milton's work is the better-known "How Soon Hath Time," a poem in which he muses on the fact that he has reached his twenty-third birthday and still has little notion of where life will take him. He is, however, prepared to follow the will of God:

Yet be it less or more, or soon or slow,
It shall be still in strictest measure ev'n
To that same lot, however mean or high,
Toward which Time leads me, and the will of Heav'n;
All is, if I have grace to use it so,
As ever in my great task-Master's eye.

Some ten years after the composition of this poem, Milton returned to the sonnet form to write a witty piece addressed to whatever "Captain or Colonel or Knight in Arms" who might come to his house during the Civil War. He asks, tongue in cheek, that his home be spared, as that of the great poet Pindar was when Alexander the Great conquered his homeland. This poem is especially interesting as one of the very few pieces showing Milton in a mildly humorous frame of mind.
The same period saw Milton using the sonnet to pay graceful tribute to virtuous ladies and to a friend, the composer Henry Lawes, to praise leaders of the Parliamentary cause—Fairfax, Cromwell, and Vane—and to issue harsh-sounding tirades against critics of his treatises:

I did but prompt the age to quit their clogs
By the known rules of ancient liberty,
When straight a barbarous noise environs me
Of Owls and Cuckoos, Asses, Apes and Dogs.

The massacre of a group of Waldensians in the Piedmont occasioned one of his finest poems, which rises above his protest about a specific incident as a defense of all seekers after religious truth. Milton seldom surpassed the power of the opening lines: "Avenge, О Lord, thy slaugh-ter'd Saints, whose bones lie scatter'd on the Alpine mountains cold."
Milton's mastery of the sonnet form is shown most clearly in "On His Blindness," where he grapples with the question of how, sightless, he can exercise his God-given poetic talents:

When I consider how my light is spent,
Ere half my days, in this dark world and wide,
And to that one Talent which is death to hide,
Lodg'd with me useless, though my Soul more bent
To serve therewith my Maker, and present
My true account, lest he returning chide;
"Doth God exact day-labor, light denied,"
I fondly ask; But patience to prevent
That murmur, soon replies, "God doth not need
Either man's work or his own gifts; who best
Bear his mild yoke, they serve him best; his State
Is Kingly. Thousands at his bidding speed
And post o'er Land and Ocean without rest:
They also serve who only stand and wait."

The sonnets formed only a small part of Milton's poetic achievement. His early works, in addition to translations and Latin verses, included speeches for allegorical pageants presented at Cambridge and portions of entertainments for noble families. Arcades, composed in 1632, when Milton was twenty-four, forshadows Comus in its pastoral, allegorical theme and in its mellifluous speeches and songs:

Nymphs and Shepherds dance no more
By sandy Ladon's Lillied banks.
On old Lycaeus or Cyllene hoar,
Trip no more in twilight ranks.
Though Erymanth your loss deplore,
A better soil shall give ye thanks.

Even at this stage in his poetic development, Milton knew the incantatory effect of resounding classical names, which were to be used often in Paradise Lost.
Before he was thirty, Milton wrote four poems that reveal fully that gift that was to make him one of England's two or three greatest poets. "On the Morning of Christ's Nativity" belongs to the Baroque tradition in its rich imagery, its religious intensity, and its musical quality. All Milton's learning comes into play as he portrays the exodus of the pagan deities at the birth of Christ:

Peor and Baalim
Forsake their Temples dim,
With that twice-batter'd god of Palestine,
and mooned Ashtaroth
Heav'n's Queen and Mother both,
Now sits not girt with Tapers' holy shine,
The Libyc Hammon shrinks his horn,
In vain the Tyrian Maids their wounded Thammuz

The dynamic, turbulent quality of the portion of the poem from which this stanza is taken contrasts sharply with the serene, pastoral tone of the beginning and end of the hymn, where Milton is describing the birth of the Christ Child at Bethlehem:

But peaceful was the night
Wherein the Prince of light
His reign of peace upon the earth began:
The Winds, with wonder whist,
Smoothly the waters kiss't,
Whispering new joys to the mild Ocean,
Who now hath quite forgot to rave,
While Birds of Calm sit brooding on the charmed wave.

Milton has been criticized by some who believe that these contrasting tones destroy the unity of the poem, yet by emphasizing both the peaceful and the forceful aspects of the Incarnation, he has attempted to capture one of the central paradoxes of the Christian faith. He sets forth this paradox in more philosophical terms, reminiscent of Edmund Spenser's Hymnes, in the four introductory stanzas of the Nativity ode.

That glorious Form, that Light unsufferable.
And that far-beaming blaze of Majesty.
Wherewith he wont at Heav'n's high Council-Table,
To sit the midst of Trinal Unitv,
He laid aside; and here with us to be, Forsook the
Courts of everlasting Day,
And chose with us a darksome House of mortal Clay.

The interests that were to culminate in Paradise Lost are already evident in this poem, composed nearly thirty-five years before the great epic.
"UAllegro" and "II Penseroso" are companion pieces setting forth the pleasures of the cheerful man and the pensive one. Writing in the same tetrameter line in both poems, Milton has carefully worked out parallel, but contrasting, sections. The man of mirth seeks the company of gay rural people in the daytime and frequents the city at night, attending the theater "if Jonson's learned Sock be on, or sweetest Shakespeare, fancy's child, warble his native Wood-notes wild." The melancholy man prefers solitude; his favorite time of day is evening, when he can wander alone in the woods, contemplating the stars. He spends his days in the cloister with his books and looks forward to ending his life in a hermitage. The mirthful man listens for the lark, the herald of morning; the pensive one awaits the song of the nightingale. Both men love music, but the latter is moved by the organ's peals and the anthems of a choir, while the former seeks a more romantic melody:

And ever against eating Cares,
Lap me in soft Lydian Airs,
Married to immortal verse,
Such as the meeting soul may pierce
In notes, with many a winding bout
Of linked sweetness long drawn out,
With wanton heed, and giddy cunning,
The melting voice through mazes running;
Untwisting all the chains that tie
The hidden soul of harmony.

Even the rhythms of the two poems echo the contrast the poet is making. The address to mirth that begins "L'Allegro" moves rapidly, joyfully:

Haste thee. Nymph, and bring with thee
Jest and youthful Jollity,
Quips and Cranks, and wanton Wiles,
Nods and Becks, and Wreathed Smiles,
Such as hang on Hebe's cheek,
And love to live in dimple sleek.

Summoning melancholy, the poet shapes his words to a slower, statelier pace:

Come pensive Nun, devout and pure,
Sober, steadfast, and demure,
All in a robe of darkest grain,
Flowing with majestic train.

Seldom, if ever, has the essence of a mood been so clearly conveyed as it is in "L Allegro" and "II Pense-roso," through an almost perfect fusion of idea, image, and sound. Milton understood the appeals of both the active and the contemplative life, and he makes both paths equally attractive to his reader.
It is in Lycidas, the pastoral elegy written on the death of a young Cambridge student, Edward King, who was a promising poet, that Milton's assimilation of the classical tradition is most evident. The detachment and the artificiality of the Greek and Latin pastoral made the form appropriate for lamenting an acquaintance; Milton did not know King well enough to feel deep personal grief. More important, the pastoral elegy as it was developed by Theocritus, Vergil, and their imitators traditionally encompassed discussions of literature and society. Lycidas has as much to say about Milton's poetic ambitions and his distress at the state of religion in his time as it does about the death of King.
The poem includes many conventions of the pastoral elegy: the lament of nature for the dead poet; the appeal to the sea nymphs who might have saved him; the reminiscences of his brother shepherd, who watched his flock and played his pipes with him; and the final turn from grief to joy with the realization that Lycidas lives again, immortal, as the genius, the guardian spirit, of the shore. The image of the poet as shepherd was so often used in Renaissance lyrics that it became a popular cliche; Milton adopts, too, the traditional Christian concept of Christ as the good shepherd to integrate his criticism of the clergy into the poem.
The lament for Lycidas is framed by two brief sections focusing attention on the narrator, the shepherd poet who is Milton himself. He first addresses the prematurely withered laurels and myrtles, plants associated with poetic fame, and declares his intention to sing of his dead friend. After the exalted conclusion of the lament, when Lycidas' immortality is proclaimed, a second voice enters to describe the departure of the shepherd-singer:

At last he rose, and twitch't his Mantle blue:
Tomorrow to fresh Woods, and Pastures new.

These lines suggest that perhaps even then Milton was contemplating greater things as a poet; the conventional classical pattern was to serve one's apprenticeship by writing pastoral poetry in preparation for the master-work, the epic.
The main section of Lycidas falls into three parts. The first includes the mourning of the singer and his meditations on mortality. If Lycidas can die so young, why seek fame through writing? Apollo answers his question; it is not human, but divine, acclaim that is to be desired:

"Fame is no plant that grows on mortal soil,
Nor in the glistering foil
Set off to th' world, nor in broad rumor lies,
But lives and spreads aloft by those pure eyes
And perfect witness of all-judging Jove;
As he pronounces lastly on each deed,
Of so much fame in Heav'n expect thy meed."

The second part introduces a procession of mourners: a herald of the sea who protests his innocence in the shepherd's drowning; Camus, the god of the river that runs through Cambridge, lamenting his loss; and finally St. Peter, who voices Milton's disgust with the priests of his time:

He shook his Mitred locks, and stern bespake:
"How well could I have spar'd for thee, young swain,
Enough of such as for their bellies' sake,
Creep and intrude and climb into the fold?
Of other care they little reck'ning make,
Than how to scramble at the shearers' feast,
And shove away the worthy bidden guest.
Blind mouths! that scarce themselves know how to hold
A Sheep-hook, or have learn'd aught else the least
That to the faithful Herdman's art belongs!"

A calmer tone prevails in the third part, in which Milton calls on the valleys round about to bloom with flowers for the shepherd's hearse. His quiet grief is expressed in the famous lines:

Look homeward, Angel, now, and melt with ruth;
And, О ye Dolphins, waft the hapless youth.

At this point there is an abrupt change as the poet proclaims Lycidas' immortality, and the elegy ends on a joyful note.
A study of Milton's shorter poems brings a new awareness of the poet's genius. He was the master of many voices—the lyric, the philosophic, and the satiric—even in his early works, which show little evidence of an inexperienced pen at work. Few writers have had so fine a mastery of the English language, and perhaps no other Englishman has surpassed him as a writer of Latin, Italian, and Greek verse. He would stand as one of his country's most remarkable literary men if his fame rested solely on the works discussed here.









Paradise Lost





Illustrations by G. Dore






Book I

Of Man's first disobedience, and the fruit
Of that forbidden tree whose mortal taste
Brought death into the World, and all our woe,
With loss of Eden, till one greater Man
Restore us, and regain the blissful seat,
Sing, Heavenly Muse, that, on the secret top
Of Oreb, or of Sinai, didst inspire
That shepherd who first taught the chosen seed
In the beginning how the heavens and earth
Rose out of Chaos: or, if Sion hill
Delight thee more, and Siloa's brook that flowed
Fast by the oracle of God, I thence
Invoke thy aid to my adventurous song,
That with no middle flight intends to soar
Above th' Aonian mount, while it pursues
Things unattempted yet in prose or rhyme.
And chiefly thou, O Spirit, that dost prefer
Before all temples th' upright heart and pure,
Instruct me, for thou know'st; thou from the first
Wast present, and, with mighty wings outspread,
Dove-like sat'st brooding on the vast Abyss,
And mad'st it pregnant: what in me is dark
Illumine, what is low raise and support;
That, to the height of this great argument,
I may assert Eternal Providence,
And justify the ways of God to men.
Say first--for Heaven hides nothing from thy view,
Nor the deep tract of Hell--say first what cause
Moved our grand parents, in that happy state,
Favoured of Heaven so highly, to fall off
From their Creator, and transgress his will
For one restraint, lords of the World besides.
Who first seduced them to that foul revolt?
Th' infernal Serpent; he it was whose guile,
Stirred up with envy and revenge, deceived
The mother of mankind, what time his pride
Had cast him out from Heaven, with all his host
Of rebel Angels, by whose aid, aspiring
To set himself in glory above his peers,
He trusted to have equalled the Most High,
If he opposed, and with ambitious aim
Against the throne and monarchy of God,
Raised impious war in Heaven and battle proud,
With vain attempt. Him the Almighty Power
Hurled headlong flaming from th' ethereal sky,
With hideous ruin and combustion, down
To bottomless perdition, there to dwell
In adamantine chains and penal fire,
Who durst defy th' Omnipotent to arms.
Nine times the space that measures day and night
To mortal men, he, with his horrid crew,
Lay vanquished, rolling in the fiery gulf,
Confounded, though immortal. But his doom
Reserved him to more wrath; for now the thought
Both of lost happiness and lasting pain
Torments him: round he throws his baleful eyes,
That witnessed huge affliction and dismay,
Mixed with obdurate pride and steadfast hate.
At once, as far as Angels ken, he views
The dismal situation waste and wild.

A dungeon horrible, on all sides round,
As one great furnace flamed; yet from those flames
No light; but rather darkness visible
Served only to discover sights of woe,
Regions of sorrow, doleful shades, where peace
And rest can never dwell, hope never comes
That comes to all, but torture without end
Still urges, and a fiery deluge, fed
With ever-burning sulphur unconsumed.
Such place Eternal Justice has prepared
For those rebellious; here their prison ordained
In utter darkness, and their portion set,
As far removed from God and light of Heaven
As from the centre thrice to th' utmost pole.
Oh how unlike the place from whence they fell!
There the companions of his fall, o'erwhelmed
With floods and whirlwinds of tempestuous fire,
He soon discerns; and, weltering by his side,
One next himself in power, and next in crime,
Long after known in Palestine, and named
Beelzebub. To whom th' Arch-Enemy,
And thence in Heaven called Satan, with bold words
Breaking the horrid silence, thus began:--
"If thou beest he--but O how fallen! how changed
From him who, in the happy realms of light
Clothed with transcendent brightness, didst outshine
Myriads, though bright!--if he whom mutual league,
United thoughts and counsels, equal hope
And hazard in the glorious enterprise
Joined with me once, now misery hath joined
In equal ruin; into what pit thou seest
From what height fallen: so much the stronger proved
He with his thunder; and till then who knew
The force of those dire arms? Yet not for those,
Nor what the potent Victor in his rage
Can else inflict, do I repent, or change,
Though changed in outward lustre, that fixed mind,
And high disdain from sense of injured merit,
That with the Mightiest raised me to contend,
And to the fierce contentions brought along
Innumerable force of Spirits armed,
That durst dislike his reign, and, me preferring,
His utmost power with adverse power opposed
In dubious battle on the plains of Heaven,
And shook his throne. What though the field be lost?
All is not lost--the unconquerable will,
And study of revenge, immortal hate,
And courage never to submit or yield:
And what is else not to be overcome?
That glory never shall his wrath or might
Extort from me. To bow and sue for grace
With suppliant knee, and deify his power
Who, from the terror of this arm, so late
Doubted his empire--that were low indeed;
That were an ignominy and shame beneath
This downfall; since, by fate, the strength of Gods,
And this empyreal sybstance, cannot fail;
Since, through experience of this great event,
In arms not worse, in foresight much advanced,
We may with more successful hope resolve
To wage by force or guile eternal war,
Irreconcilable to our grand Foe,
Who now triumphs, and in th' excess of joy
Sole reigning holds the tyranny of Heaven."
So spake th' apostate Angel, though in pain,
Vaunting aloud, but racked with deep despair;
And him thus answered soon his bold compeer:--
"O Prince, O Chief of many throned Powers
That led th' embattled Seraphim to war
Under thy conduct, and, in dreadful deeds
Fearless, endangered Heaven's perpetual King,
And put to proof his high supremacy,
Whether upheld by strength, or chance, or fate,
Too well I see and rue the dire event
That, with sad overthrow and foul defeat,
Hath lost us Heaven, and all this mighty host
In horrible destruction laid thus low,
As far as Gods and heavenly Essences
Can perish: for the mind and spirit remains
Invincible, and vigour soon returns,
Though all our glory extinct, and happy state
Here swallowed up in endless misery.
But what if he our Conqueror (whom I now
Of force believe almighty, since no less
Than such could have o'erpowered such force as ours)
Have left us this our spirit and strength entire,
Strongly to suffer and support our pains,
That we may so suffice his vengeful ire,
Or do him mightier service as his thralls
By right of war, whate'er his business be,
Here in the heart of Hell to work in fire,
Or do his errands in the gloomy Deep?
What can it the avail though yet we feel
Strength undiminished, or eternal being
To undergo eternal punishment?"

Whereto with speedy words th' Arch-Fiend replied:--
"Fallen Cherub, to be weak is miserable,
Doing or suffering: but of this be sure--
To do aught good never will be our task,
But ever to do ill our sole delight,
As being the contrary to his high will
Whom we resist. If then his providence
Out of our evil seek to bring forth good,
Our labour must be to pervert that end,
And out of good still to find means of evil;
Which ofttimes may succeed so as perhaps
Shall grieve him, if I fail not, and disturb
His inmost counsels from their destined aim.
But see! the angry Victor hath recalled
His ministers of vengeance and pursuit
Back to the gates of Heaven: the sulphurous hail,
Shot after us in storm, o'erblown hath laid
The fiery surge that from the precipice
Of Heaven received us falling; and the thunder,
Winged with red lightning and impetuous rage,
Perhaps hath spent his shafts, and ceases now
To bellow through the vast and boundless Deep.
Let us not slip th' occasion, whether scorn
Or satiate fury yield it from our Foe.
Seest thou yon dreary plain, forlorn and wild,
The seat of desolation, void of light,
Save what the glimmering of these livid flames
Casts pale and dreadful? Thither let us tend
From off the tossing of these fiery waves;
There rest, if any rest can harbour there;
And, re-assembling our afflicted powers,
Consult how we may henceforth most offend
Our enemy, our own loss how repair,
How overcome this dire calamity,
What reinforcement we may gain from hope,
If not, what resolution from despair."
Thus Satan, talking to his nearest mate,
With head uplift above the wave, and eyes
That sparkling blazed; his other parts besides
Prone on the flood, extended long and large,
Lay floating many a rood, in bulk as huge
As whom the fables name of monstrous size,
Titanian or Earth-born, that warred on Jove,
Briareos or Typhon, whom the den
By ancient Tarsus held, or that sea-beast
Leviathan, which God of all his works
Created hugest that swim th' ocean-stream.
Him, haply slumbering on the Norway foam,
The pilot of some small night-foundered skiff,
Deeming some island, oft, as seamen tell,
With fixed anchor in his scaly rind,
Moors by his side under the lee, while night
Invests the sea, and wished morn delays.
So stretched out huge in length the Arch-fiend lay,
Chained on the burning lake; nor ever thence
Had risen, or heaved his head, but that the will
And high permission of all-ruling Heaven
Left him at large to his own dark designs,
That with reiterated crimes he might
Heap on himself damnation, while he sought
Evil to others, and enraged might see
How all his malice served but to bring forth
Infinite goodness, grace, and mercy, shewn
On Man by him seduced, but on himself
Treble confusion, wrath, and vengeance poured.
Forthwith upright he rears from off the pool
His mighty stature; on each hand the flames
Driven backward slope their pointing spires, and,rolled
In billows, leave i' th' midst a horrid vale.
Then with expanded wings he steers his flight
Aloft, incumbent on the dusky air,
That felt unusual weight; till on dry land
He lights--if it were land that ever burned
With solid, as the lake with liquid fire,
And such appeared in hue as when the force
Of subterranean wind transprots a hill
Torn from Pelorus, or the shattered side
Of thundering Etna, whose combustible
And fuelled entrails, thence conceiving fire,
Sublimed with mineral fury, aid the winds,
And leave a singed bottom all involved
With stench and smoke. Such resting found the sole
Of unblest feet. Him followed his next mate;
Both glorying to have scaped the Stygian flood
As gods, and by their own recovered strength,
Not by the sufferance of supernal Power.
"Is this the region, this the soil, the clime,"
Said then the lost Archangel, "this the seat
That we must change for Heaven?--this mournful gloom
For that celestial light? Be it so, since he
Who now is sovereign can dispose and bid
What shall be right: farthest from him is best
Whom reason hath equalled, force hath made supreme
Above his equals. Farewell, happy fields,
Where joy for ever dwells! 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.
What matter where, if I be still the same,
And what I should be, all but less than he
Whom thunder hath made greater? Here at least
We shall be free; th' Almighty hath not built
Here for his envy, will not drive us hence:
Here we may reign secure; and, in my choice,
To reign is worth ambition, though in Hell:
Better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven.
But wherefore let we then our faithful friends,
Th' associates and co-partners of our loss,
Lie thus astonished on th' oblivious pool,
And call them not to share with us their part
In this unhappy mansion, or once more
With rallied arms to try what may be yet
Regained in Heaven, or what more lost in Hell?"
So Satan spake; and him Beelzebub
Thus answered:--"Leader of those armies bright
Which, but th' Omnipotent, none could have foiled!
If once they hear that voice, their liveliest pledge
Of hope in fears and dangers--heard so oft
In worst extremes, and on the perilous edge
Of battle, when it raged, in all assaults
Their surest signal--they will soon resume
New courage and revive, though now they lie
Grovelling and prostrate on yon lake of fire,
As we erewhile, astounded and amazed;
No wonder, fallen such a pernicious height!"
He scare had ceased when the superior Fiend
Was moving toward the shore; his ponderous shield,
Ethereal temper, massy, large, and round,
Behind him cast. The broad circumference
Hung on his shoulders like the moon, whose orb
Through optic glass the Tuscan artist views
At evening, from the top of Fesole,
Or in Valdarno, to descry new lands,
Rivers, or mountains, in her spotty globe.
His spear--to equal which the tallest pine
Hewn on Norwegian hills, to be the mast
Of some great ammiral, were but a wand--
He walked with, to support uneasy steps
Over the burning marl, not like those steps
On Heaven's azure; and the torrid clime
Smote on him sore besides, vaulted with fire.
Nathless he so endured, till on the beach
Of that inflamed sea he stood, and called
His legions--Angel Forms, who lay entranced
Thick as autumnal leaves that strow the brooks
In Vallombrosa, where th' Etrurian shades
High over-arched embower; or scattered sedge
Afloat, when with fierce winds Orion armed
Hath vexed the Red-Sea coast, whose waves o'erthrew
Busiris and his Memphian chivalry,
While with perfidious hatred they pursued
The sojourners of Goshen, who beheld
From the safe shore their floating carcases
And broken chariot-wheels. So thick bestrown,
Abject and lost, lay these, covering the flood,
Under amazement of their hideous change.
He called so loud that all the hollow deep
Of Hell resounded:--"Princes, Potentates,
Warriors, the Flower of Heaven--once yours; now lost,
If such astonishment as this can seize
Eternal Spirits! Or have ye chosen this place
After the toil of battle to repose
Your wearied virtue, for the ease you find
To slumber here, as in the vales of Heaven?
Or in this abject posture have ye sworn
To adore the Conqueror, who now beholds
Cherub and Seraph rolling in the flood
With scattered arms and ensigns, till anon
His swift pursuers from Heaven-gates discern
Th' advantage, and, descending, tread us down
Thus drooping, or with linked thunderbolts
Transfix us to the bottom of this gulf?
Awake, arise, or be for ever fallen!"
They heard, and were abashed, and up they sprung
Upon the wing, as when men wont to watch
On duty, sleeping found by whom they dread,
Rouse and bestir themselves ere well awake.
Nor did they not perceive the evil plight
In which they were, or the fierce pains not feel;
Yet to their General's voice they soon obeyed
Innumerable. As when the potent rod
Of Amram's son, in Egypt's evil day,
Waved round the coast, up-called a pitchy cloud
Of locusts, warping on the eastern wind,
That o'er the realm of impious Pharaoh hung
Like Night, and darkened all the land of Nile;
So numberless were those bad Angels seen
Hovering on wing under the cope of Hell,
'Twixt upper, nether, and surrounding fires;
Till, as a signal given, th' uplifted spear
Of their great Sultan waving to direct
Their course, in even balance down they light
On the firm brimstone, and fill all the plain:
A multitude like which the populous North
Poured never from her frozen loins to pass
Rhene or the Danaw, when her barbarous sons
Came like a deluge on the South, and spread
Beneath Gibraltar to the Libyan sands.
Forthwith, form every squadron and each band,
The heads and leaders thither haste where stood
Their great Commander--godlike Shapes, and Forms
Excelling human; princely Dignities;
And Powers that erst in Heaven sat on thrones,
Though on their names in Heavenly records now
Be no memorial, blotted out and rased
By their rebellion from the Books of Life.
Nor had they yet among the sons of Eve
Got them new names, till, wandering o'er the earth,
Through God's high sufferance for the trial of man,
By falsities and lies the greatest part
Of mankind they corrupted to forsake
God their Creator, and th' invisible
Glory of him that made them to transform
Oft to the image of a brute, adorned
With gay religions full of pomp and gold,
And devils to adore for deities:
Then were they known to men by various names,
And various idols through the heathen world.
Say, Muse, their names then known, who first, who last,
Roused from the slumber on that fiery couch,
At their great Emperor's call, as next in worth
Came singly where he stood on the bare strand,
While the promiscuous crowd stood yet aloof?
The chief were those who, from the pit of Hell
Roaming to seek their prey on Earth, durst fix
Their seats, long after, next the seat of God,
Their altars by his altar, gods adored
Among the nations round, and durst abide
Jehovah thundering out of Sion, throned
Between the Cherubim; yea, often placed
Within his sanctuary itself their shrines,
Abominations; and with cursed things
His holy rites and solemn feasts profaned,
And with their darkness durst affront his light.
First, Moloch, horrid king, besmeared with blood
Of human sacrifice, and parents' tears;
Though, for the noise of drums and timbrels loud,
Their children's cries unheard that passed through fire
To his grim idol. Him the Ammonite
Worshiped in Rabba and her watery plain,
In Argob and in Basan, to the stream
Of utmost Arnon. Nor content with such
Audacious neighbourhood, the wisest heart
Of Solomon he led by fraoud to build
His temple right against the temple of God
On that opprobrious hill, and made his grove
The pleasant valley of Hinnom, Tophet thence
And black Gehenna called, the type of Hell.
Next Chemos, th' obscene dread of Moab's sons,
From Aroar to Nebo and the wild
Of southmost Abarim; in Hesebon
And Horonaim, Seon's real, beyond
The flowery dale of Sibma clad with vines,
And Eleale to th' Asphaltic Pool:
Peor his other name, when he enticed
Israel in Sittim, on their march from Nile,
To do him wanton rites, which cost them woe.
Yet thence his lustful orgies he enlarged
Even to that hill of scandal, by the grove
Of Moloch homicide, lust hard by hate,
Till good Josiah drove them thence to Hell.
With these came they who, from the bordering flood
Of old Euphrates to the brook that parts
Egypt from Syrian ground, had general names
Of Baalim and Ashtaroth--those male,
These feminine. For Spirits, when they please,
Can either sex assume, or both; so soft
And uncompounded is their essence pure,
Not tried or manacled with joint or limb,
Nor founded on the brittle strength of bones,
Like cumbrous flesh; but, in what shape they choose,
Dilated or condensed, bright or obscure,
Can execute their airy purposes,
And works of love or enmity fulfil.
For those the race of Israel oft forsook
Their Living Strength, and unfrequented left
His righteous altar, bowing lowly down
To bestial gods; for which their heads as low
Bowed down in battle, sunk before the spear
Of despicable foes. With these in troop
Came Astoreth, whom the Phoenicians called
Astarte, queen of heaven, with crescent horns;
To whose bright image nigntly by the moon
Sidonian virgins paid their vows and songs;
In Sion also not unsung, where stood
Her temple on th' offensive mountain, built
By that uxorious king whose heart, though large,
Beguiled by fair idolatresses, fell
To idols foul. Thammuz came next behind,
Whose annual wound in Lebanon allured
The Syrian damsels to lament his fate
In amorous ditties all a summer's day,
While smooth Adonis from his native rock
Ran purple to the sea, supposed with blood
Of Thammuz yearly wounded: the love-tale
Infected Sion's daughters with like heat,
Whose wanton passions in the sacred proch
Ezekiel saw, when, by the vision led,
His eye surveyed the dark idolatries
Of alienated Judah. Next came one
Who mourned in earnest, when the captive ark
Maimed his brute image, head and hands lopt off,
In his own temple, on the grunsel-edge,
Where he fell flat and shamed his worshippers:
Dagon his name, sea-monster,upward man
And downward fish; yet had his temple high
Reared in Azotus, dreaded through the coast
Of Palestine, in Gath and Ascalon,
And Accaron and Gaza's frontier bounds.
Him followed Rimmon, whose delightful seat
Was fair Damascus, on the fertile banks
Of Abbana and Pharphar, lucid streams.
He also against the house of God was bold:
A leper once he lost, and gained a king--
Ahaz, his sottish conqueror, whom he drew
God's altar to disparage and displace
For one of Syrian mode, whereon to burn
His odious offerings, and adore the gods
Whom he had vanquished. After these appeared
A crew who, under names of old renown--
Osiris, Isis, Orus, and their train--
With monstrous shapes and sorceries abused
Fanatic Egypt and her priests to seek
Their wandering gods disguised in brutish forms
Rather than human. Nor did Israel scape
Th' infection, when their borrowed gold composed
The calf in Oreb; and the rebel king
Doubled that sin in Bethel and in Dan,
Likening his Maker to the grazed ox--
Jehovah, who, in one night, when he passed
From Egypt marching, equalled with one stroke
Both her first-born and all her bleating gods.
Belial came last; than whom a Spirit more lewd
Fell not from Heaven, or more gross to love
Vice for itself. To him no temple stood
Or altar smoked; yet who more oft than he
In temples and at altars, when the priest
Turns atheist, as did Eli's sons, who filled
With lust and violence the house of God?
In courts and palaces he also reigns,
And in luxurious cities, where the noise
Of riot ascends above their loftiest towers,
And injury and outrage; and, when night
Darkens the streets, then wander forth the sons
Of Belial, flown with insolence and wine.
Witness the streets of Sodom, and that night
In Gibeah, when the hospitable door
Exposed a matron, to avoid worse rape.
These were the prime in order and in might:
The rest were long to tell; though far renowned
Th' Ionian gods--of Javan's issue held
Gods, yet confessed later than Heaven and Earth,
Their boasted parents;--Titan, Heaven's first-born,
With his enormous brood, and birthright seized
By younger Saturn: he from mightier Jove,
His own and Rhea's son, like measure found;
So Jove usurping reigned. These, first in Crete
And Ida known, thence on the snowy top
Of cold Olympus ruled the middle air,
Their highest heaven; or on the Delphian cliff,
Or in Dodona, and through all the bounds
Of Doric land; or who with Saturn old
Fled over Adria to th' Hesperian fields,
And o'er the Celtic roamed the utmost Isles.
All these and more came flocking; but with looks
Downcast and damp; yet such wherein appeared
Obscure some glimpse of joy to have found their Chief
Not in despair, to have found themselves not lost
In loss itself; which on his countenance cast
Like doubtful hue. But he, his wonted pride
Soon recollecting, with high words, that bore
Semblance of worth, not substance, gently raised
Their fainting courage, and dispelled their fears.
Then straight commands that, at the warlike sound
Of trumpets loud and clarions, be upreared
His mighty standard. That proud honour claimed
Azazel as his right, a Cherub tall:
Who forthwith from the glittering staff unfurled
Th' imperial ensign; which, full high advanced,
Shone like a meteor streaming to the wind,
With gems and golden lustre rich emblazed,
Seraphic arms and trophies; all the while
Sonorous metal blowing martial sounds:
At which the universal host up-sent
A shout that tore Hell's concave, and beyond
Frighted the reign of Chaos and old Night.
All in a moment through the gloom were seen
Ten thousand banners rise into the air,
With orient colours waving: with them rose
A forest huge of spears; and thronging helms
Appeared, and serried shields in thick array
Of depth immeasurable. Anon they move
In perfect phalanx to the Dorian mood
Of flutes and soft recorders--such as raised
To height of noblest temper heroes old
Arming to battle, and instead of rage
Deliberate valour breathed, firm, and unmoved
With dread of death to flight or foul retreat;
Nor wanting power to mitigate and swage
With solemn touches troubled thoughts, and chase
Anguish and doubt and fear and sorrow and pain
From mortal or immortal minds. Thus they,
Breathing united force with fixed thought,
Moved on in silence to soft pipes that charmed
Their painful steps o'er the burnt soil. And now
Advanced in view they stand--a horrid front
Of dreadful length and dazzling arms, in guise
Of warriors old, with ordered spear and shield,
Awaiting what command their mighty Chief
Had to impose. He through the armed files
Darts his experienced eye, and soon traverse
The whole battalion views--their order due,
Their visages and stature as of gods;
Their number last he sums. And now his heart
Distends with pride, and, hardening in his strength,
Glories: for never, since created Man,
Met such embodied force as, named with these,
Could merit more than that small infantry
Warred on by cranes--though all the giant brood
Of Phlegra with th' heroic race were joined
That fought at Thebes and Ilium, on each side
Mixed with auxiliar gods; and what resounds
In fable or romance of Uther's son,
Begirt with British and Armoric knights;
And all who since, baptized or infidel,
Jousted in Aspramont, or Montalban,
Damasco, or Marocco, or Trebisond,
Or whom Biserta sent from Afric shore
When Charlemain with all his peerage fell
By Fontarabbia. Thus far these beyond
Compare of mortal prowess, yet observed
Their dread Commander. He, above the rest
In shape and gesture proudly eminent,
Stood like a tower. His form had yet not lost
All her original brightness, nor appeared
Less than Archangel ruined, and th' excess
Of glory obscured: as when the sun new-risen
Looks through the horizontal misty air
Shorn of his beams, or, from behind the moon,
In dim eclipse, disastrous twilight sheds
On half the nations, and with fear of change
Perplexes monarchs. Darkened so, yet shone
Above them all th' Archangel: but his face
Deep scars of thunder had intrenched, and care
Sat on his faded cheek, but under brows
Of dauntless courage, and considerate pride
Waiting revenge. Cruel his eye, but cast
Signs of remorse and passion, to behold
The fellows of his crime, the followers rather
(Far other once beheld in bliss), condemned
For ever now to have their lot in pain--
Millions of Spirits for his fault amerced
Of Heaven, and from eteranl splendours flung
For his revolt--yet faithful how they stood,
Their glory withered; as, when heaven's fire
Hath scathed the forest oaks or mountain pines,
With singed top their stately growth, though bare,
Stands on the blasted heath. He now prepared
To speak; whereat their doubled ranks they bend
From wing to wing, and half enclose him round
With all his peers: attention held them mute.
Thrice he assayed, and thrice, in spite of scorn,
Tears, such as Angels weep, burst forth: at last
Words interwove with sighs found out their way:--
"O myriads of immortal Spirits! O Powers
Matchless, but with th' Almighth!--and that strife
Was not inglorious, though th' event was dire,
As this place testifies, and this dire change,
Hateful to utter. But what power of mind,
Forseeing or presaging, from the depth
Of knowledge past or present, could have feared
How such united force of gods, how such
As stood like these, could ever know repulse?
For who can yet believe, though after loss,
That all these puissant legions, whose exile
Hath emptied Heaven, shall fail to re-ascend,
Self-raised, and repossess their native seat?
For me, be witness all the host of Heaven,
If counsels different, or danger shunned
By me, have lost our hopes. But he who reigns
Monarch in Heaven till then as one secure
Sat on his throne, upheld by old repute,
Consent or custom, and his regal state
Put forth at full, but still his strength concealed--
Which tempted our attempt, and wrought our fall.
Henceforth his might we know, and know our own,
So as not either to provoke, or dread
New war provoked: our better part remains
To work in close design, by fraud or guile,
What force effected not; that he no less
At length from us may find, who overcomes
By force hath overcome but half his foe.
Space may produce new Worlds; whereof so rife
There went a fame in Heaven that he ere long
Intended to create, and therein plant
A generation whom his choice regard
Should favour equal to the Sons of Heaven.

Thither, if but to pry, shall be perhaps
Our first eruption--thither, or elsewhere;
For this infernal pit shall never hold
Celestial Spirits in bondage, nor th' Abyss
Long under darkness cover. But these thoughts
Full counsel must mature. Peace is despaired;
For who can think submission? War, then, war
Open or understood, must be resolved."
He spake; and, to confirm his words, outflew
Millions of flaming swords, drawn from the thighs
Of mighty Cherubim; the sudden blaze
Far round illumined Hell. Highly they raged
Against the Highest, and fierce with grasped arms
Clashed on their sounding shields the din of war,
Hurling defiance toward the vault of Heaven.
There stood a hill not far, whose grisly top
Belched fire and rolling smoke; the rest entire
Shone with a glossy scurf--undoubted sign
That in his womb was hid metallic ore,
The work of sulphur. Thither, winged with speed,
A numerous brigade hastened: as when bands
Of pioneers, with spade and pickaxe armed,
Forerun the royal camp, to trench a field,
Or cast a rampart. Mammon led them on--
Mammon, the least erected Spirit that fell
From Heaven; for even in Heaven his looks and thoughts
Were always downward bent, admiring more
The riches of heaven's pavement, trodden gold,
Than aught divine or holy else enjoyed
In vision beatific. By him first
Men also, and by his suggestion taught,
Ransacked the centre, and with impious hands
Rifled the bowels of their mother Earth
For treasures better hid. Soon had his crew
Opened into the hill a spacious wound,
And digged out ribs of gold. Let none admire
That riches grow in Hell; that soil may best
Deserve the precious bane. And here let those
Who boast in mortal things, and wondering 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.

Nigh on the plain, in many cells prepared,
That underneath had veins of liquid fire
Sluiced from the lake, a second multitude
With wondrous art founded the massy ore,
Severing each kind, and scummed the bullion-dross.
A third as soon had formed within the ground
A various mould, and from the boiling cells
By strange conveyance filled each hollow nook;
As in an organ, from one blast of wind,
To many a row of pipes the sound-board breathes.
Anon out of the earth a fabric huge
Rose like an exhalation, with the sound
Of dulcet symphonies and voices sweet--
Built like a temple, where pilasters round
Were set, and Doric pillars overlaid
With golden architrave; nor did there want
Cornice or frieze, with bossy sculptures graven;
The roof was fretted gold. Not Babylon
Nor great Alcairo such magnificence
Equalled in all their glories, to enshrine
Belus or Serapis their gods, or seat
Their kings, when Egypt with Assyria strove
In wealth and luxury. Th' ascending pile
Stood fixed her stately height, and straight the doors,
Opening their brazen folds, discover, wide
Within, her ample spaces o'er the smooth
And level pavement: from the arched roof,
Pendent by subtle magic, many a row
Of starry lamps and blazing cressets, fed
With naptha and asphaltus, yielded light
As from a sky. The hasty multitude
Admiring entered; and the work some praise,
And some the architect. His hand was known
In Heaven by many a towered structure high,
Where sceptred Angels held their residence,
And sat as Princes, whom the supreme King
Exalted to such power, and gave to rule,
Each in his Hierarchy, the Orders bright.
Nor was his name unheard or unadored
In ancient Greece; and in Ausonian land
Men called him Mulciber; and how he fell
From Heaven they fabled, thrown by angry Jove
Sheer o'er the crystal battlements: from morn
To noon he fell, from noon to dewy eve,
A summer's day, and with the setting sun
Dropt from the zenith, like a falling star,
On Lemnos, th' Aegaean isle. Thus they relate,
Erring; for he with this rebellious rout
Fell long before; nor aught aviled him now
To have built in Heaven high towers; nor did he scape
By all his engines, but was headlong sent,
With his industrious crew, to build in Hell.
Meanwhile the winged Heralds, by command
Of sovereign power, with awful ceremony
And trumpet's sound, throughout the host proclaim
A solemn council forthwith to be held
At Pandemonium, the high capital
Of Satan and his peers. Their summons called
From every band and squared regiment
By place or choice the worthiest: they anon
With hundreds and with thousands trooping came
Attended. All access was thronged; the gates
And porches wide, but chief the spacious hall
(Though like a covered field, where champions bold
Wont ride in armed, and at the Soldan's chair
Defied the best of Paynim chivalry
To mortal combat, or career with lance),
Thick swarmed, both on the ground and in the air,
Brushed with the hiss of rustling wings. As bees
In spring-time, when the Sun with Taurus rides.
Pour forth their populous youth about the hive
In clusters; they among fresh dews and flowers
Fly to and fro, or on the smoothed plank,
The suburb of their straw-built citadel,
New rubbed with balm, expatiate, and confer
Their state-affairs: so thick the airy crowd
Swarmed and were straitened; till, the signal given,
Behold a wonder! They but now who seemed
In bigness to surpass Earth's giant sons,
Now less than smallest dwarfs, in narrow room
Throng numberless--like that pygmean race
Beyond the Indian mount; or faery elves,
Whose midnight revels, by a forest-side
Or fountain, some belated peasant sees,
Or dreams he sees, while overhead the Moon
Sits arbitress, and nearer to the Earth
Wheels her pale course: they, on their mirth and dance
Intent, with jocund music charm his ear;
At once with joy and fear his heart rebounds.
Thus incorporeal Spirits to smallest forms
Reduced their shapes immense, and were at large,
Though without number still, amidst the hall
Of that infernal court. But far within,
And in their own dimensions like themselves,
The great Seraphic Lords and Cherubim
In close recess and secret conclave sat,
A thousand demi-gods on golden seats,
Frequent and full. After short silence then,
And summons read, the great consult began.




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