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

It's generally thought that the parts about God in Paradise Lost are really boring, but for a reason.

Imagine that you are a pious, blind man in the 17th century, you fear god. Now, tell me, would you be wanting Him to be cracking jokes, would you want to be the butt of Gods jokes? Or what if you didn't laugh at God's jokes? Would you goto hell?

Also, Milton was generally thought of as being all caught up on his reading, meaning he had read most everything that someone could read (before he went blind that is). His literary allusions had literary allusions. Impressive stuff.

The Verse:
Heroic blank verse as Homer wrote in Greek and Virgil wrote in Latin.

Like The Iliad and The Aeneid Milton's epic plunges into the narrative at the third crisis, in media res.
(A)Crisis One
The drawing of the rebel angels together and Satan's debate with the seraph, Abdiel.
(B)Crisis Two
The War in Heaven.
(C)Crisis Three
The epic begins here, where Satan and his rebel angels lay vanquished after they have been cast down into Hell.

For Milton, God's pupose and power allows him to bring good out of evil. Milton's purpose is "To justify the ways of God to man".
Man is created because heaven has been depopulated after Satan's banishment from Heaven. Good has come from evil.
Redemptive hope for humanity is the central message of the epic; this is reflected in the first sentence of the epic. This sentence focuses and encompasses the plot.

"Of man's first disobedience...(evil/spiritual death) to ...Restore us and regain that blissful seat." (good/spiritual life) (ll. 1-5)

Invoking the Muse:
"Sing Heavenly Muse":word placement is used for emphasis. The pause created afterwards creates drama. Milton has a tendency to place important words, often verbs, at the beginning of a line for emphasis. eg.) "Restore us", "Instruct us", "Illumine", "Say first"

Epic Question:
"What cause, favoured of heaven... Who first seduced them to that foul revolt?

Epic Answer:
"The infernal serpent whose guile..."

Satan as a Hero:
In the first two books of Paradise Lost Satan appears a heroic character. He is vast, winged and beautiful. But as the epic progresses, Milton accomplishes the complete degradation of Satan. Finally after his victory in Hell, Satan is completely degraded. He hisses and is forced to slither on his belly like a snake. His spitting angels are tempted by apples, only to have the fruit disintegrate as they taste them. They are left alone to suffer in Pandamonium.
Satan's problem, and Milton's definition of sin, is that he is desired not only to exalt himself by battling God, but to exalt himself by "reigning equal over equals". This action separates him from the rest of creation and from God. It causes spiritual death and conflict.
Innocence and bliss by contrast come from being content with one's place in creation and from striving for the greater good of all creation. To be united with creation and with God means spiritual life.

As mentioned (in that badly HTMLed writeup above) John Milton wrote Paradise Lost as an explanation as to why bad things happen to good people. To quote him directly,

"I may assert th' Eternal Providence,
And justify the ways of God to men."

John Milton was probably quite interested in dealing with this question in that he himself had his share of tragedy.

His first marriage was unhappy and consequently ended,
his second wife died in child birth,
his third wife died as well.

At the age of 25 he started to go blind and was completely blind by age 45. Obviously, this would be devastating for such a prolific writer as John Milton was.

How was Paradise Lost written then? John Milton would dictate his works while one of his daughters would write. Coincidently, because of this, his daughters deeply resented him.

No wonder he doubted his faith and wrote this work of art.

Interesting Notes about Paradise Lost - Beelzebub is most often considered another name for Satan. However, in Paradise Lost, Beelzebub is represented as Satan's lieutenant who was "One next himself in power, and next in crime".

Another point of interested would be the fact that Paradise Lost was written in what is often referred to as high style. High Style is when the sentance structure is formed after Latin grammar. This is why it reads a lot like the Bible and why most people find Paradise Lost to be incredibly boring.
Some quotes that I found interesting (All by John Milton)-
  • "I may assert th' Eternal Providence, And justify the ways of God to men."
  • "The mind is its own place, and in itself, can make heaven of hell or a hell of heaven."
  • "In Arms not worse, in foresight much advanc't, 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 Heav'n." - Satan
  • "Had ris'n or heav'd 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 enrag'd might see How all his malice serv'd but to bring forth Infinite goodness, grace and mercy shewn On Man by him seduc't, but on himself Treble confusion, wrath and vengeance pour'd."
  • "Here we may reign secure, and in my choice To reign is worth ambition though in Hell: Better to reign in Hell, then serve in Heav'n." - Satan
  • "to try what may be yet Regaind in Heav'n, or what more lost in Hell?" - Satan

Please feel free to correct me if any of the information posted here is incorrect. I have tried to make this as factual as I possibly could and am pretty sure that everything that I have personally stated is. However, I am certainly no English or History major.

Paradise Lost is a British band which formed in Halifax, West Yorkshire, England in 1988. The line up originally consisted of Nick Holmes (vocals), Greg Mackintosh (lead guitar), Aaron Aedy (rhythm guitar), Stephen Edmondson (bass), and Matt Archer (drums), but Matt was eventually replaced by Lee Morris when he left. The arrangement, which still stands today, is that Greg Mackintosh writes the music while Nick Holmes writes the lyrics, although some tracks on later albums involved more of the band.

Most of them were approximately the same age which, in 1988, was eighteen, but despite their youth they were signed fairly quickly to Peaceville Records and released their debut album Lost Paradise in 1990. Their sound proceeded to change with each subsequent album, starting out with a very raw sound, mostly grinding guitars and gruff vocals accompanied by haunting female backing vocals. It was almost death metal in style, only slower and (slightly) more melodic than most of their contemporaries. Here is the track listing:

  1. Deadly Inner Sense
  2. Paradise Lost
  3. Our Saviour
  4. Rotting Misery
  5. Frozen Illusion
  6. Breeding Fear
  7. Lost Paradise
  8. Internal Torment II

Their next album Gothic, released in 1991, featured a similar musical style but was more polished and featured better structured, more melodic tunes than the last album. The songs were also darker, using sounds which conveyed more a feel of decay and breaking despair than the raw heaviness of the first. This was a style previously unexplored and because of this it played a large part in redefining the gothic metal genre of the time, and even spawned bands inspired by the new sound. The tracks were:

  1. Gothic
  2. Dead Emotion
  3. Shattered
  4. Rapture
  5. Eternal
  6. Falling Forever
  7. Silent
  8. The Painless
  9. Desolate

Their 1992 album Shades of God was released on their new label Music For Nations, and saw a more noticable shift in musical style. The songs were still more focused on having a tune than just making a noise and thus had less of the grinding heaviness of the first two albums, and they also featured some of the best lyrics the band has ever written. Although some of the songs were a tad long-winded many maintain this to be one Paradise Lost's finest moments. Shades of God had the following tracks:

  1. Mortals Watch The Day
  2. Crying For Eternity
  3. Embraced
  4. Daylight Torn
  5. Pity The Sadness
  6. No Forgiveness
  7. Your Hand In Mine
  8. The Word Made Flesh
  9. As I Die

The following year 1993 saw one of their best works, Icon, with a dramatic, heavy, spacious sound, sounding as if it had been recorded in a vast hall or, more appropriately, a vast cathedral, which would be more in keeping with the album's image. The artwork in the inlay is a mix of christian imagery and cold stone statues, and the album actually sports a track called Christendom, which is basically having a bit of a go at the church. Especially in light of this song, the overall message is one of general disdain toward the church and a disenchantment with christendom in general. Paradise Lost had gone back to basics with this album, using just an effects unit and a wah pedal for the guitars, doing away with any post-production tweaking. This album also marked the end of their death metal image and the beginning of a more mainstream metal sound. The tracks were:

  1. Embers Fire
  2. Remembrance
  3. Forging Sympathy
  4. Joys Of The Emptiness
  5. Dying Freedom
  6. Widow
  7. Colossal Rains
  8. Weeping Words
  9. Poison
  10. True Belief
  11. Shallow Seasons
  12. Christendom
  13. Deus Misereatur

Then in 1995 came the pinnacle of their musical creativity, Draconian Times, which received critical acclaim worldwide and sold over 1 million copies, which was unheard of for a band like Paradise Lost. Although similar in sound to their previous album, the sound was much more refined, and it struck a perfect balance with less of the pounding heaviness of Icon and more melody. It sported some brilliant tunes, with fantastic artwork in the inlay. They still kept their dark despair-driven sound but managed to inject more life into it than their previous albums, and included more aggressive songs such as Hallowed Land and Once Solemn, which are excellent examples of how the band can rock out when they want to. This was also their first session with the new drummer, Lee Morris, after Matt Archer had left because he didn't like the direction they were heading musically. The band had already recorded most of the songs with Archer, so Morris' contribution was minimal despite being credited for it in the inlay. Archer's passing did not go entirely undocumented however; as a sort of farewell, the inlay contains a photo of Archer along with the other five members. The album's complete track list:

  1. Enchantment
  2. Hallowed Land
  3. The Last Time
  4. Forever Failure
  5. Once Solemn
  6. Shadowkings
  7. Elusive Cure
  8. Yearn For Change
  9. Shades Of God
  10. Hands Of Reason
  11. I See Your Face
  12. Jaded

Then another noticable shift in direction came with 1997's One Second which, although retaining their trademark dark depressing mood, departed from the metal scene and became more mainstream in style, with a more electronic and keyboard-driven sound. The album had less energy than the previous one and the lyrics did not seem quite as heartfelt, but overall it still ranked as one of their better releases. The tracks on it:

  1. One Second
  2. Say Just Words
  3. Lydia
  4. Mercy
  5. Soul Courageous
  6. Another Day
  7. The Sufferer
  8. This Cold Life
  9. Blood Of Another
  10. Disappear
  11. Sane
  12. Take Me Down
  13. I Despair (limited bonus track)

In 1998 Paradise Lost once again switched labels to the bigger EMI. As a farewell to the smaller labels they had spent so long with they released Reflections, a compilation of their best songs spanning the last ten years, which featured the following:

  1. Say Just Words
  2. Hallowed Land
  3. True Belief
  4. Pity The Sadness
  5. Eternal
  6. Forever Failure - remix
  7. Gothic
  8. One Second
  9. Rotting Misery - in dub
  10. The Last Time
  11. Mercy
  12. Widow
  13. Embers Fire
  14. As I Die
  15. Soul Courageous - live
  16. Blood Of Another - live
  17. As I Die - live

Host - miserable music you can dance to! One Second's electronic theme was developed further on this their next album, released in 1999. It finally saw the band's departure from any kind of metal genre and more into the realms of sleek, brooding but funky music. It perhaps lacked the depth of One Second but it nevertheless was a typically brilliant Paradise Lost album, filled to the brim with memorable riffs and energetic beats. The tracks were:

  1. So Much Is Lost
  2. Nothing Sacred
  3. In All Honesty
  4. Harbour
  5. Ordinary Days
  6. Its Too Late
  7. Permanent Solution
  8. Behind The Grey
  9. Wreck
  10. Made The Same
  11. Deep
  12. Year Of Summer
  13. Host

2001's Believe In Nothing returned to a more guitar-based style, a sort of synthesis of their earlier rock roots and their later electronic sounds. Although, like Host, some of the tracks have a beat almost suited to dance music, the band manages to bring through a dark, funky and stylish modern sound to the rock scene with this album, and although this is their eighth album, the boys show no sign of losing their creativity. The following are its tracks:

  1. I Am Nothing
  2. Mouth
  3. Fader
  4. Look At Me Now
  5. Illumination
  6. Something Real
  7. Divided
  8. Sell It To The World
  9. Never Again
  10. Control
  11. No Reason
  12. World Pretending

2002 sees the release of Paradise Lost's first DVD - Evolve. It features a few of their Music For Nations-era videos (some of the earlier ones are laughably awful) and some highly entertaining home video footage, as well as a load of live performances. Go to Amazon and buy it now! It contains:

Harmony Breaks - Live at The Longhorn, Stuttgart - 5th Sept 1993

  1. Mortals Watch the Day
  2. Joys of the Emptiness
  3. Your Hand In Mine
  4. Widow
  5. Shallow Seasons
  6. Pity The Sadness
  7. As I Die

Promo Videos

  1. As I Die
  2. Pity The Sadness
  3. True Belief
  4. Embers Fire
  5. Widow

Home Movies

One Second Live - Shepherd's Bush Empire, London - 26th Jan 1998

  1. Say Just Words
  2. Hallowed Land
  3. Blood Of Another
  4. True Belief
  5. Disappear
  6. Lydia
  7. Dying Freedom
  8. Mercy
  9. Shadowkings
  10. The Sufferer
  11. Remembrance
  12. Forever Failure
  13. Soul Courageous
  14. One Second
  15. This Cold Life
  16. Embers Fire
  17. As I Die
  18. The Last Time

Promo Videos

  1. The Last Time
  2. Forever Failure
  3. Say Just Words
  4. One Second

Woohoo! 2002 brings yet another album, Symbol of Life. This is their ninth outing, and they arrive atop yet another record label, Gun. Rather than following on from the sounds of their previous album, as is their usual practice, the band seem to have completely reinvented themselves, as if they stepped back and untangled themselves from the path they were treading and started from scratch. Symbol of Life is full of good honest rock tunes with only the occasional synth-driven sound, and contains some of the best songs they have ever made, with songs like Self Obsessed and Perfect Mask providing a new heavy, aggressive attitude which balances out the quiter, melodic tracks like Pray Nightfall and No Celebration. What's more, they managed to out-weird Fear Factory's cover of Cars by covering a Jimmy Somerville song!

  1. Isolate
  2. Erased
  3. Two Worlds
  4. Pray Nightfall
  5. Primal
  6. Mystify
  7. Perfect Mask
  8. No Celebration
  9. Self Obsessed
  10. Symbol of Life
  11. Channel for the Pain
  12. Xavier (cover, limited edition digipack only)
  13. Small Town Boy (cover, limited edition digipack only)

2005 and PL's tenth studio album is finally out! This one is self-titled and possibly worth buying for the cover alone (go and have a look on Amazon, go on!). This is darker and heavier than Symbol of Life and has some brilliant guitar riffs, with the occasional simple-but-effective solo which will get your head banging (the long, majestic solo in Over the Madness will have you air guitaring for ages). It's a brilliant album which I love, but there is still the nagging feeling at the back of my mind when listening to it, the same as the previous album, that the metal here is a lot more slick and polished than their earlier, more raw metal sound. I don't know why this bothers me though, it's still an awesome album. Here are the tracks:

  1. Don't Belong
  2. Close Your Eyes
  3. Grey
  4. Redshift
  5. Forever After
  6. Sun Fading
  7. Laws Of Cause
  8. All You Leave Behind
  9. Accept The Pain
  10. Shine
  11. Spirit
  12. Over The Madness
  13. Let Me Drown
  14. Side You'll Never Know

Having said that, I haven't heard tracks 13 & 14 because I rushed to buy the album as soon as it came out and had to order it from Germany, where the last two tracks are strings remixes of tracks 1 & 12. At least it came in a cool folding digipak though.

Altogether one of my favourite bands of all time, Paradise Lost has rightfully amassed a large underground following which keeps them going despite a lack of chart success. They are still seen as kings of the genre, credited with having helped develop the gothic metal scene of the early nineties and injected some long-needed melody into the metal of the time, inspiring who knows how many new bands and styles. Rock & rule dudes!

Official website: http://www.paradiselost.co.uk

There's a quotation from Paradise Lost that, like many others, I find extremely interesting:
The mind is its own place, and in it self 
Can make a Heav'n of Hell, a Hell of Heav'n. 
What matter where, if I be still the same

At first, I took it to mean that Satan can escape God's punishment by altering his perception, i.e., he can make Hell into Heaven in his mind. After all, one of the subthemes of Paradise Lost is that all of God's creatures must possess free will. But then I started to think, "Why did Satan not manage to free himself?" and, "Why did God give Satan a way to escape eternal suffering?" Then the idea occured to me that Satan was being ironic. Perhaps Hell is not Hell because of its distance from God and its physical pain, but rather it is due to Satan's personality. Consider why God sent Satan and his crew to Hell. Satan viewed himself to be God's equal and was willing to (attempt to) prove it during the battle in Heaven. The thought of rebellion (which begat Sin) and the act of executing the rebellion show an inherent flaw in Satan's character. Satan's pride, a unique and unequaled pride, makes him evil; his pride causes him to oppose God. This same character flaw causes him to attempt to oppose God after being sent to Hell, although unsuccessfully (God will make all of Satan's evil turn into goodness).

So what does it all mean? Satan is free to try to alter his perceptions (God allows him free will), to "make a Heav'n of Hell," but he will always fail precisely because of his mind. What he sees in his mind is salvation, when in reality it is damnation. For me, the most compelling justification for this idea is the last line of the above quotation: "What matter where, if I be still the same." Satan, regardless of where he is, brings Hell with him because Hell is a state of mind. The evil and the wicked are in Hell long before they know it.

If I'm missing something glaringly obvious or have stated something blatantly wrong, please /msg me.

Well, I figured out that I was missing out on something fairly big. When Satan utters the lines above, he does know that he will never have anything like the glory of Heaven; however, he refuses to accept total defeat and misery. Instead, he tries to find ways to bring about joy in a perveted sense, by opposing God. So, if he does realize that he will never restore his lost happiness, most of the above is a misinformed guess. However, the rest of the above quotation...

What matter where, if I be still the same, 
And what I should be, all but less then hee 
Whom Thunder hath made greater?  Here at least 
We shall be free

This is absolutely riddled with irony. While Satan may realize that he will not have the happiness he had in Heaven, he does not understand how absolutely correct his rhetorical question is. Satan and Hell are both a part of each other, and have been since Satan's ambitious thoughts for the throne of Heaven. Satan does not waver because of his change of state; this iron will is exactly what damns him for eternity.

The irony of, "Here at least We shall be free" (emphasis mine), is explained by Milton later in Book I; God has Satan on an invisible leash, and only allows him to do as much evil as He sees fit. In fact, any evil committed by Satan will be turned into goodness and grace for humankind. God, by knowing the nature of Satan that made him fall, devised the perfect and ultimate punishment for Satan and his horrible crew.

Omnipotence, Innocence, and Humanity:

On the characterisation of God, Adam and Eve, and Satan in Paradise Lost

For a Christian to represent God in a work of literature is an extremely tricky thing, particularly in the seventeenth century. To justify the ways of God to men is an almost blasphemous undertaking: there is something approaching the heretical simply in the attempt to achieve a fuller understanding of God’s purpose, since it rejects the idea that God’s design is beyond the wit of man and unknowable. Thus any dramatisation of the Fall must inevitably compromise: God must be seen in human terms, which goes against the very definition of omnipotence. Milton only avoids heresy by suggesting that the poem was effectively written by the Holy Spirit rather than him, and by acknowledging the imperfection inevitable in any such undertaking. Nevertheless, even if he recognises these problems, they are not negated: Milton’s representations of God, the Devil, and Adam and Eve and their possible interpretations are one of the thorniest issues in Paradise Lost.

Let us look, first, at God. In the first place, any conception of God as an individual must bring human sensibilities to bear on what is meant to be a sublime, eternal and incomprehensible force. The very idea that God speaks or thinks or has ideas is diffficult to reconcile with the idea of omnipotence. If God is omnipotent, he contains all; as such, dialogue or consideration or imagination are irrelevant concepts. One cannot think if one already contains the sum total of knowledge and experience and emotion, since thought implies some kind of originality. Consciousness can not really be said to exist in these terms. The only kind of interaction He could have with His creation would be to impart knowledge which He has always had, and this is (more or less) arguably consistent biblically; but the God of Paradise Lost, who claims both omnipotence and personfication, is a theological impossibility, albeit a poetic necessity.

Whilst it is possible in a wider theological context to dismiss this argument out of hand - with the straightforward response that, since a conception of God is definitively so far beyond our capacity, we cannot really say with any degree of certainty what is and is not possible for Him - it is much harder to do so in terms of Paradise Lost alone. And for the drama to work, God has to be a dynamic character, capable of emotion and decisions and new ideas. He is even capable of deceiving the heavenly host: God’s very first words seem like a lie. He says, at the beginning of book III:

Only begotten Son, seest thou what rage
Transports our Adversary, whom no bounds
Prescribed, no bars of hell, nor all the chains
heaped on him there, nor yet the main abyss
Wide interrupt can hold: so bent he seems
On desperate revenge, that shall redound
Upon his rebellious head...

If God is capable of the omniscience suggested by his prior knowledge that Satan’s revenge shall ‘redound upon his rebellious head’ - and reiterated throughout the epic - then he is surely capable of constructing a prison capable of holding his enemy. Consider Book I, line 641: God ‘but still his strength concealed’’. This, too, is a kind of lie. The only alternative to such a conception is that, for dramatic purposes, Milton made God fallible - but this is surely a bridge too far in dramatic licence for any seventeenth century Christian, and is besides repeatedly undermined by the text. Indeed,these specific words of God are contradicted in Book I by the narrator:

...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

This raises some disturbing questions. What is the relationship between narrator and God? If a narrator is, in the technical literary sense, omniscient, is he equal, or even superior, to God? After all, he contradicts God directly here, and, for example, seems to ‘see’ the moment of Eve eating the fruit, or Satan gaining entrance to Eden, before the Almighty does. Whilst this may be overcome on technical grounds - since the work is written in the past tense, we can take the narrator’s knowledge as entirely gleaned from God, and agree that Milton would have been confident of his readers understanding this shorthand, particularly given his regular references to his Muse - there is still something odd about their relative positions within the narrative, which, though decisively contradicted when writ large, can nevertheless seem, in individual moments, like a subversion of the natural order widely understood in the sevententh century.

If it seems odd for God to be able to think in human terms because of his omnipotence, there is at least one problem solved in Adam and Eve: like us, they may have revelation, and encounter new and thought -provoking ideas. This barrier is removed. But another stands in it’s place: if God knows too much to be able to cogitate, he at least shares humanity’s comprehension of good and evil. But Adam and Eve really should not: they should be innocent. Again, any version of them represented by Milton must inevitably be corrupted: any emotion is in some sense a representation of virtue or vice, and the two of them continually make observations or remark on feelings inconsistent with a pre-lapsarian world. Single words may serve as excellent examples of the kinds of thigns they ought not feel or think, but do: Adam and Eve know ‘doubt’, ‘blame’, ‘greed’, ‘hope’, ‘honour’ and ‘dishonour’, ‘scorn’ and ‘anger’, ‘malice’, ‘guile’, ‘shame’, ‘fear’, and ‘suspicion’. All thes come in the span of just 100 lines. Even those which are only abstract concepts - ideas the potentiality of which they can see in either the behaviour of Satan or in the possible consequences of being tempted - push the conception of innocence; those which refer directly to their current state directly contradict it. Stanley Fish considers book IV, 304-8

She as a veil down to the slender waist
her unadorned golden tresses wore
Dishevell’d, but in wanton ringlets wav’d
As the Vine curls her tendrils, which implied

The use of the words ‘dishevelled’ and ‘wanton’ seem particularly incongruous with the pre-lapsarian world. But this example can at least be explains in terms of the narrator’s voice, as a way of pointing up the disparity between the garden and the fallen world inhabited by Man: those examples directly from Adam and Eve’s speech are harder to justify theologically.

Really, this is more a case of Milton making explicit a conflict already implicit in Genesis than creating it in his own dramatisation as with his representation of God. The Fall, logically, ought to be impossible unless the Fall has already happened: if they are truly innocent, they could only take the decision to eat the fruit in such ignorance that they could not be thrown out of the Garden. For their behaviour to deteriorate after the Fall is not enough: it has to be entirely transformed.

Fish comes up with a kind of answer:

The relationship between the reader and the vocabulary of Paradise is one aspect of his relationship with its inhabitants. Just as the fallen consciousness infects language, so does it make the unfallen consciousness the mirror of itself... Fallen man’s perceptual equipment, physical and moral, is his prison; any communication from a world beyinf the one he has made for himself reaches him only after it has passed through the distortions of his darkened glass.

In a sense this is unanswerable. If it is beyond our comprehension, there is very little argument that can be successfully employed against it, in much the same way as in the previous discussion of God as omnipotent and conscious being. But what it does mean is that Adam and Eve are pushed a little further away from us, despite their being presented in humanly comprehensible terms; almost paradoxically, because the reader notices the difficulty of their human characteristics in a pre-Lapsarian world, he is reminded further of the distance between their world and his.

They may be more comprehensible, though, to a twenty-first century reader than a seventeenth. In Book IX their defiance of God seems almost heroic by modern standards; just as we may find ourselves rooting for Dr Faustus, and hoping he is not punished for his adventurous choice, we are instinctively sympathetic to Eve when she says

What fear I then, rather what know to fear
Under this ignorance of good or evil,
Of God or death, of law or penalty?
Similarly, ther e is a kind of nobility - acknowledged by Milton in
So saying, she embraced him, and for joy Tenderly wept, much won that he his love
Had so enobled, as of choice to incur
Divine displeasure for her sake, or death
- in Adam’s sacrifice for the sake of love. the words of Adam and Eve concerning the fall may make us think of Auden
Mortal, guilty, but to me
The entirely beautiful
or Eliot
Do I dare to eat a peach?
or Frost
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
or even Dylan Thomas
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

or any of a vast number of twentieth century artists who have insisted on humanity’s self-determination as a noble thing. This is sharply at odds with a standard seventeenth century Christian view, of course; but Milton must intend their words, in the moment of the Fall, to be invested with some kind of dignity, at least. He could surely not have written a couplet as emotive as

Our state cannot be severed, we are one,
One flesh; to lose thee were to lose myself

without any intention to portray them in at least a partly positive light.

His presentation of Satan is perhaps still more unsettling. It is commonly accepted that Satan ‘gets all the best tunes’: more controversial is the assertion of the likes of Shelley and Empson that, as Shelley puts it,

Milton’s devil as a moral being is far suprior to his God, as onewho perseveres in some purpose which he has conceived to be excellent, in spite of adversity and torture.

Blake explains it thus:

The reason Milton wrote in fetters when he wrote of angels and God, and at liberty when he wrote of Devils and Hell, is becasue he was a true poet and of the Devil’s party without knowing it.
...that is, that he was more poetically attracted to the story of Satan, with it’s extraordinary drama, than that of God. (There is nothing to be gained by pursuing the idea of Milton as a Satanist.)

This is all very exciting sounding stuff, but rather misses the point, which is this: whereas both God and Adam and Eve have serious impediments barring them from being sympathetic and convincing characters, Satan has a much clearer run at it. He is neither omnipotent nor innocent, and is therefore much closer to human than the other characters. This is not to say that Milton is more symapthetic towards him: rather, that he is inherently much easier to sympathise with. Also, at a very basic level, he has the most exciting story of all of the characters, and undergoes the most fundamental changes.

It may be instructive to compare him to The Changeling’s Deflores, or Lear’s Edmond, or any other malcontent character in 17th century literature. We do not exactly root for these characters, just as we do not root for Satan; but to fail to recognise their humanity and the traits shared with them is just as foolish as to suggest that they are an accurate representation of all of mankind. In just the same way, as Fallen humans, Milton suggests, we are closer to Satan in spirit than Adam and Eve. Even if we disagree with C.S. Lewis’ assertion that Satan is less a character than a device, he puts this view forward very well:

Of the major characters whom Milton attempted he is incomparably the easiest to draw... The Satan in Milton enables him to draw the character well just as the Satan in us enables us to receive it.

Being nearly done with Paradise Lost (book XI out of XII, the second edition (?) way of dividing the books), I must say I find Christ nearly as interesting a character as Satan, if not more so. Christ is the noble one, the might King of Kings, who sacrifices himself for the poor and weak humans, giving up his throne to become, for our salvation, one of us. However, Satan has two advantages as a literary character that Christ does not. The first, less important one, is that he gets much more screen time. He gets a lot more time to present his side of the case. And he is quite the character, with his noble, never-give-up fight for a lost cause. The other advantage Satan has over Christ is novelty. Satan is a new character. The noble rebel against God is a much newer idea than the humble servant who submits himself to God's will. Christ is fascinating, but the idea of him has been beaten into our culture for over 2000 years and beyond. The god who gives his life for our salvation is an old, old idea. Osiris and Mithras did it long before Christ, and since Christ it has been the central mythos of Western culture. Satan gets our attention more than Christ by his pure newness. We see him and say, "whoa, cool idea." We see Christ and say "Been there, done that." In the end, it is Satan, and not Christ, who holds our attention.

In closing, I think it would be amazing to see a rewritten Paradise Lost, done by a modern author with Milton's literary and poetic gift. It would be cool to see a more balanced version, playing heavily on the contrast between the two characters. Both have their amazing strengths, but Milton's cultural background and literary focus on the Fall of Man prevented him from letting Christ come into full bloom as the antithesis of Satan. A more balanced work, allowing both characters to argue, through both words and actions, their respective positions of humility and determination could be one of the greatest pieces of writing of all time.

Lovelorn Washeteria

The flier on the laundromat cork board says:

Last seen headed west
300 block of the fertile crescent
If found, please contact Adam or Eve.

All the number strips have been torn from the bottom.

He mutters to himself,

"I'll show you Paradise Lost."

His eyes seek her out and he wonders how many more bad cliches he'll be forced to survive before God gets bored enough to kill him. She's been frail and pale before, like a 1940's starlet on a well lit death bed. Or a consumptive showgirl who coughs like Hell, but still kicks real high. But now, she looks as if her soul is actually rejecting her body.


Well, what did he expect, really? Falling for a 'Tragic Beauty' the way he did. Falling isn't even the correct word. Drawn In, maybe. Or better yet, Horribly Compelled. He'll never question the wisdom of a moth winging it into a bug zapper ever again. Given whom he loves, he no longer has the right to.

" Shitshitshit."

No one should have to face impending doom in a laundromat. It's fucking redundant. And it leaves no room for sword brandishing bravery either. Sure, he always wanted an action sequence. But this Love conquering Death bullshit really smokes monkey pole. No, truly. It does. Because there is no one to actually hit. And there just isn't any sucker punching the good Lord. Not the way he wants to, at least. And it's a shame. It's a mother-fucking, crying shame.

Now, here he is. Romantic protagonist slain by irony in a laundromat in South East Portland. Maybe things would be different if when he smiled, it made a 'tinging' sound. Maybe things would be different if he was six foot three. If he'd been born in January. If he wasn't plagued by the continual visual of the long finger of God grinding her out before his very eyes. Grinding her out like a cigarette in an ashtray.

She says that there is always enough time as long as none of it is wasted. Or maybe she said that there would be enough time if they didn't waste any more of it. He considers the ominous implications of that. And reaches his usual conclusion: God Sucks.

Well. Win some. Lose some. Loan some.

She's leaning her forehead against one of the dryers. For the heat and the vibration. Eyes closed. He does what he can, but at the end of the day there's really only one man who can take her pain away in a permanent fashion. In a way, she's not dying. She's just leaving him for another man.

He doesn't know how to pray. But he knows what to pray for.

He goes to her and turns her around, slides his arms around her waist. He shuffles her gently in a slow circle. There is nothing but the blare of the idiot box for a soundtrack. But he holds her to him, and dances with her anyway.

And then, without warning. Their music inexplicably starts.

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