A glorious visionary work written in the seventeenth century, when the fiery forge that shaped the best of the English language was burning hot (Shakespeare
, the King James Version
of the Bible) and patterns that resonate deeply to the present day were set.
Milton sought to 'justify the ways of God to men', but ended up giving Satan most of the best tunes, viz. his speech to his battered horde as they awake to the enormity of their fall from Heaven:....
"Here at least we shall be free;
the 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."
...Especially considering England's contemporary history of revolution and regicide - Milton, an accomplished linguist, held a post in the Cromwellian Protectorate dealing with foreign affairs - the character of Satan the rebel takes on extra resonance.
As an aside, one of my favourite poets Sorley MacLean has translated the Argument beautifully into Scots Gaelic:
...Soillsich, na tha ìseal tog 's cum suas
A chum gu àirde mhóir a' chuspair seo
Gun dearbh mi freasdal Dhé 's gum fireanaich
Mi dhòighean ris an t-sluagh gu léir
That's just the final few lines as I think the poem's still copyright.
Edited 2-3-02 to remove references to now deleted write ups