This handout comprises a variety of readings: some by writers you will recognize and others by writers unknown to you. The poems you’ll recognize as ‘literary’ texts; the journal, proclamation and parliamentary act you may wonder about.

Please read through all the texts before the class and think about the following questions:

  • Can you identify any coherent imagery in these diverse texts?
  • How would you interpret it and why?
  • What is there in Paradise Lost that would have interested its first readers?

I suggest that you should find out when the most significant events of the Civil War and Restoration period occurred.


January 2013



The measure is English heroic verse without rime, as that of Homer in Greek, and of Virgil in Latin—rime being no necessary adjunct or true ornament of poem or good verse, in longer works especially, but the invention of a barbarous age, to set off wretched matter and lame metre; graced indeed since by the use of some famous modern poets, carried away by custom, but much to their own vexation, hindrance, and constraint to express many things otherwise, and for the most part worse, than else they would have expressed them. Not without cause therefore some both Italian and Spanish poets of prime note have rejected rime both in longer and shorter works, as have also long since our best English tragedies, as a thing of itself, to all judicious ears, trivial and of no true musical delight; which consists only in apt numbers, fit quantity of syllables, and the sense variously drawn out from one verse into another, not in the jingling sound of like endings—a fault avoided by the learned ancients both in poetry and all good oratory. This neglect then of rime so little is to be taken for a defect, though it may seem so perhaps to vulgar readers, that it rather is to be esteemed an example set, the first in English, of ancient liberty recovered to heroic poem from the troublesome and modern bondage of riming.


When I beheld the poet blind, yet bold, 
In slender book his vast design unfold, 
Messiah crowned, God's reconciled decree, 
Rebelling Angels, the Forbidden Tree, 
Heaven, Hell, Earth, Chaos, all; the argument 
Held me a while, misdoubting his intent 
That he would ruin (for I saw him strong) 
The sacred truth to fable and old song, 
(So Sampson groped the temple's posts in spite) 
The world o'erwhelming to revenge his sight. 
Yet as I read, soon growing less severe, 
I liked his project, the success did fear; 
Through that wide field how he his way should find 
O'er which lame faith leads understanding blind; 
Lest he perplexed the things he would explain, 
And what was easy he should render vain. 
Or if a work so infinite he spanned, 
Jealous I was that some less skilful hand 
(Such as disquiet always what is well, 
And by ill imitating would excel) 
Might hence presume the whole creation's day 
To change in scenes, and show it in a play. 
Pardon me, Mighty Poet, nor despise 
My causeless, yet not impious, surmise. 
But I am now convinced that none will dare 
Within thy labors to pretend a share. 
Thou hast not missed one thought that could be fit, 
And all that was improper dost omit: 
So that no room is here for writers left, 
But to detect their ignorance or theft. 
That majesty which through thy work doth reign 
Draws the devout, deterring the profane. 
And things divine thou treat'st of in such state 
As them preserves, and thee, inviolate. 
At once delight and horror on us seize, 
Thou sing'st with so much gravity and ease; 
And above human flight dost soar aloft, 
With plume so strong, so equal, and so soft. 
The bird named from that paradise you sing 
So never flags, but always keeps on wing. 
Where couldst thou words of such a compass find? 
Whence furnish such a vast expanse of mind? 
Just heaven thee, like Tiresias, to requite, 
Rewards with prophecy the loss of sight. 
Well mightst thou scorn thy readers to allure 
With tinkling rhyme, of thine own sense secure; 
While the Town-Bayes writes all the while and spells, 
And like a pack-horse tires without his bells. 
Their fancies like our bushy points appear, 
The poets tag them; we for fashion wear. 
I too, transported by the mode, offend, 
And while I meant to praise thee must commend. 
The verse created like thy theme sublime, 
In number, weight, and measure, needs not rhyme.

ROBERT HERRICK (1591-1674)

The Bad Season Makes the Poet Sad (1648)

Dull to my self, and almost dead to these
My many fresh and fragrant mistresses:
Lost to all music, now; since every thing
Puts on the semblance here of sorrowing.
Sick is the land to'th' heart; and doth endure
More dangerous faintings by her desp'rate cure.
But if that golden age would come again,
And Charles here rule, as he before did reign;
If smooth and unperplext the Seasons were,
As when the Sweet Maria lived here:
I should delight to have my curls half drown'd
In Tyrian dews, and head with roses crown'd.
And once more yet (ere I am laid out dead)
Knock at a star with my exalted head.

The Argument of his Book(1648)

I sing of brooks, of blossoms, birds, and bowers,

Of April, May, of June, and July-flowers;

I sing of May-poles, hock-carts, wassails, wakes,

Of bridegrooms, brides and of their bridal-cakes;

I write of youth, of love, and have access

By these to sing of cleanly wantonness;

I sing of dews, of rains, and piece by piece

Of balm, of oil, of spice and ambergris;

I sing of times trans-shifting, and I write

How roses first came red and lilies white;

I write of groves, of twilights, and I sing

The court of Mab, and of the fairy king;

I write of Hell; I sing (and ever shall)

Of Heaven, and hope to have it after all.

RICHARD LOVELACE (1618-1656/7)

To Lucasta, Going to the Wars (1649)

Tell me not (sweet) I am unkind,

That from the nunnery

Of thy chaste breast, and quite mind,

To war and arms I fly.

True; a new mistress now I chase,

The first foe in the field;

And with a stronger faith embrace

A sword, a horse, a shield.

Yet this inconstancy is such,

As you too shall adore:

I could not love thee (dear) so much,

Loved I not honour more.

To Althea, From Prison (1649)

When Love with unconfined wings

Hovers within my gates,

And my divine Althea brings

To whisper at the grates;

When I lie tangled in her hair,

And fetter'd to her eye,

The gods, that wanton in the air,

Know no such liberty

When flowing cups run swiftly round

With no allaying Thames,

Our careless heads with roses bound,

Our hearts with loyal flames;

When thirsty grief in wine we steep,

 When healths and draughts go free,

 Fishes, that tipple in the deep,

 Know no such liberty.

When (like committed linnets) I

With shriller throat shall sing

The sweetness, mercy, majesty,

And glories of my king;

When I shall voice aloud how good

He is, how great should be,

Enlarged winds, that curl the flood,

Know no such liberty.

Stone walls do not a prison make,

Nor iron bars a cage;

Minds innocent and quiet take

That for an hermitage;

If I have freedom in my love,

And in my soul am free

Angels alone that soar above,

Enjoy such liberty.

JAMES SHIRLEY (1596-1666)

The glories of our blood and state
Are shadows, not substantial things;
There is no armour against fate,
Death lays his icy hand on kings.
Sceptre and crown
Must tumble down,
And in the dust be equal made
With the poor crooked scythe and spade.

Some men with swords may reap the field,
And plant fresh laurels where they kill,
But their strong nerves at last must yield,
They tame but one another still.
Early or late,
They stoop to fate,
And must give up their murmuring breath,
When they, pale captives, creep to death.

The garlands wither on your brow,
Then boast no more your mighty deeds,
Upon death's purple altar now,
See where the victor-victim bleeds.
Your heads must come
To the cold tomb,
Only the actions of the just

Smell sweet and blossom in their dust. (1646)


The Diggers’ Song

You noble Diggers all, stand up now, stand up now,
You noble Diggers all, stand up now,
The wast land to maintain, seeing Cavaliers by name
Your digging does maintain, and persons all defame
Stand up now, stand up now.

Your houses they pull down, stand up now, stand up now,
Your houses they pull down, stand up now.
Your houses they pull down to fright your men in town
But the gentry must come down, and the poor shall wear the crown.
Stand up now, Diggers all.

With spades and hoes and plowes, stand up now, stand up now
With spades and hoes and plowes stand up now,
Your freedom to uphold, seeing Cavaliers are bold
To kill you if they could, and rights from you to hold.
Stand up now, Diggers all.

Theire self-will is theire law, stand up now, stand up now,
Theire self-will is theire law, stand up now.
Since tyranny came in they count it now no sin
To make a gaol a gin, to starve poor men therein.
Stand up now, Diggers all.

The gentrye are all round, stand up now, stand up now,
The gentrye are all round, stand up now.
The gentrye are all round, on each side they are found,
Theire wisdom's so profound, to cheat us of our ground
Stand up now, stand up now.

The lawyers they conjoyne, stand up now, stand up now,
The lawyers they conjoyne, stand up now,
To arrest you they advise, such fury they devise,
The devill in them lies, and hath blinded both their eyes.
Stand up now, stand up now.

The clergy they come in, stand up now, stand up now,
The clergy they come in, stand up now.
The clergy they come in, and say it is a sin
That we should now begin, our freedom for to win.
Stand up now, Diggers all.

The tithes they yet will have, stand up now, stand up now,
The tithes they yet will have, stand up now.
The tithes they yet will have, and lawyers their fees crave,
And this they say is brave, to make the poor their slave.
Stand up now, Diggers all.

'Gainst lawyers and 'gainst Priests, stand up now, stand up now,
'Gainst lawyers and 'gainst Priests stand up now.
For tyrants they are both even flatt againnst their oath,
To grant us they are loath free meat and drink and cloth.
Stand up now, Diggers all.

The club is all their law, stand up now, stand up now,
The club is all their law, stand up now.
The club is all their law to keep men in awe,
But they no vision saw to maintain such a law.
Stand up now, Diggers all.

The Cavaleers are foes, stand up now, stand up now,
The Cavaleers are foes, stand up now;
The Cavaleers are foes, themselves they do disclose
By verses not in prose to please the singing boyes.
Stand up now, Diggers all.

To conquer them by love, come in now, come in now
To conquer them by love, come in now;
To conquer them by love, as itt does you behove,
For hee is King above, noe power is like to love,
Glory heere, Diggers all.


On the double murther of the King. (1667)

(In answer to a libellous paper written by V: Powell, at my house) These verses were those mention’d in the precedent coppy. 

 I think not on the State, nor am concern’d,

 Which way soever that great Helm is turn’d.

But as that Son, whose Fathers danger nigh

Did force his native dumbness, & unty

The fetterd Organs, so this is a cause 5

That will excuse the breach of Nature’s laws,

Silence were criminall, nay, passion now

Wise men themselves, for merit will allow.

What humane Ey could see, & careless pass,

The dying Lyon kick’d by every Ass. 10

Hath Charles so broke Gods Laws he must not have

A quiet Scepter, nor a quiet Grave.

Tombs have been Sanctuary’s, Thieves ly there,

Secure from all their penalty, & feare.

Great Charles his double misery was this, 15

Unfaithfull friends, ignoble Enemy’s.

Had any Heathen been this Princes foe.

He would have wept to see him Injurd soe.

His tytle was his crime, they’d reason good,

To quarrell at a right they had withstood. 20

He broke Gods law’s, & therfore he must dy,

And what shall then become of you, & I?

Slander must follow Treason, but yet, stay,

Take not our Judgment with our King away,

Though you have seiz’d upon all our defence, 25

Yet doe not sequester our common-sence,

But I admire not at this new supply,

No bounds will hold those who at Scepters fly.

Christ will be King, but I ne’re understood

His subjects built his Kingdome up with blood. 30

Except their own, nor that he would dispence

With his commands, though for his defence.

O! to what height of horrour are they come,

Who dare pull down a Crown, tear up a Tomb.

KING CHARLES II (1630-1685)

The Declaration of Breda (April 4 1660)

Charles R.

Charles, by the grace of God, King of England, Scotland, France and Ireland, Defender of the Faith, &c. To all our loving subjects, of what degree or quality soever, greeting.

If the general distraction and confusion which is spread over the whole kingdom doth not awaken all men to a desire and longing that those wounds which have so many years together been kept bleeding, may be bound up. all we can say will be to no purpose; however, after this long silence, we have thought it our duty to declare how much we desire to contribute thereunto; and that as we can never give over the hope, in good time, to obtain the possession of that right which God and nature hath made our due, so we do make it our daily suit to the Divine Providence, that He will, in compassion to us and our subjects, after so long misery and sufferings, remit and put us into a quiet and peaceable possession of that our right, with as little blood and damage to our people as is possible; nor do we desire more to enjoy what is ours, than that all our subjects may enjoy what by law is theirs, by a full and entire administration of justice throughout the land, and by extending our mercy where it is wanted and deserved.

And to the end that the fear of punishment may not engage any, conscious to themselves of what is past, to a perseverance in guilt for the future, by opposing the quiet and happiness of their country, in the restoration of King, Peers and people to their just, ancient and fundamental rights, we do, by these presents, declare, that we do grant a free and general pardon, which we are ready, upon demand, to pass under our Great Seal of England, to all our subjects, of what degree or quality soever, who, within forty days after the publishing hereof, shall lay hold upon this our grace and favour, and shall, by any public act, declare their doing so, and that they return to the loyalty and obedience of good subjects; excepting only such persons as shall hereafter be excepted by Parliament, those only to be excepted. Let all our subjects, how faulty soever, rely upon the word of a King, solemnly given by this present declaration, that no crime whatsoever, committed against us or our royal father before the publication of this, shall ever rise in judgment, or be brought in question, against any of them, to the least endamagement of them, either in their lives, liberties or estates or (as far forth as lies in our power) so much as to the prejudice of their reputations, by any reproach or term of distinction from the rest of our best subjects; we desiring and ordaining that henceforth all notes of discord, separation and difference of parties be utterly abolished among all our subjects, whom we invite and conjure to a perfect union among themselves, under our protection, for the re-settlement of our just rights and theirs in a free Parliament, by which, upon the word of a King, we will be advised.

And because the passion and uncharitableness of the times have produced several opinions in religion, by which men are engaged in parties and animosities against each other (which, when they shall hereafter unite in a freedom of conversation, will be composed or better understood), we do declare a liberty to tender consciences, and that no man shall be disquieted or called in question for differences of opinion in matter of religion, which do not disturb the peace of the kingdom; and that we shall be ready to consent to such an Act of Parliament, as, upon mature deliberation, shall be offered to us, for the full granting that indulgence.

And because, in the continued distractions of so many years, and so many and great revolutions, many grants and purchases of estates have been made to and by many officers, soldiers and others, who are now possessed of the same, and who may be liable to actions at law upon several titles, we are likewise willing that all such differences, and all things relating to such grants, sales and purchases, shall be determined in Parliament, which can best provide for the just satisfaction of all men who are concerned.

And we do further declare, that we will be ready to consent to any Act or Acts of Parliament to the purposes aforesaid, and for the full satisfaction of all arrears due to the officers and soldiers of the army under the command of General Monk; and that they shall be received into our service upon as good pay and conditions as they now enjoy.

Given under our Sign Manual and Privy Signet, at our Court at Breda, this 4/14 day of April, 1660, in the twelfth year of our reign.


JOHN DRYDEN (1631-1700)

From: Astraea Redux



‘Jam redit et virgo, redeunt Saturnia regna.’--VIRG.

[‘The last great age, foretold by sacred rhymes,
Renews its finish'd course; Saturnian times
Roll round again.’]

And welcome now, great monarch, to your own! 250
Behold the approaching cliffs of Albion:
It is no longer motion cheats your view,
As you meet it, the land approacheth you.
The land returns, and, in the white it wears,
The marks of penitence and sorrow bears.
But you, whose goodness your descent doth show,
Your heavenly parentage and earthly too;
By that same mildness, which your father's crown
Before did ravish, shall secure your own.
Not tied to rules of policy, you find 260
Revenge less sweet than a forgiving mind.
Thus, when the Almighty would to Moses give
A sight of all he could behold and live;
A voice before his entry did proclaim
Long-suffering, goodness, mercy, in his name.
Your power to justice doth submit your cause,
Your goodness only is above the laws;
Whose rigid letter, while pronounced by you,
Is softer made. So winds that tempests brew,
When through Arabian groves they take their flight, 270
Made wanton with rich odours, lose their spite.
And as those lees, that trouble it, refine
The agitated soul of generous wine;
So tears of joy, for your returning spilt,
Work out, and expiate our former guilt.
Methinks I see those crowds on Dover's strand,
Who, in their haste to welcome you to land,
Choked up the beach with their still growing store,
And made a wilder torrent on the shore:
While, spurr'd with eager thoughts of past delight, 280
Those, who had seen you, court a second sight;
Preventing still your steps, and making haste
To meet you often wheresoe'er you past.
How shall I speak of that triumphant day,
When you renew'd the expiring pomp of May!
(A month that owns an interest in your name:
You and the flowers are its peculiar claim.)
That star that at your birth shone out so bright,
It stain'd the duller sun's meridian light,
Did once again its potent fires renew, 290
Guiding our eyes to find and worship you.

And now Time's whiter series is begun,
Which in soft centuries shall smoothly run:
Those clouds, that overcast your morn, shall fly,
Dispell'd to farthest corners of the sky.
Our nation with united interest blest,
Not now content to poise, shall sway the rest.
Abroad your empire shall no limits know,
But, like the sea, in boundless circles flow.
Your much-loved fleet shall, with a wide command, 300
Besiege the petty monarchs of the land:
And as old Time his offspring swallow'd down,
Our ocean in its depths all seas shall drown.
Their wealthy trade from pirates' rapine free,
Our merchants shall no more adventurers be:
Nor in the farthest East those dangers fear,
Which humble Holland must dissemble here.
Spain to your gift alone her Indies owes;
For what the powerful takes not, he bestows:
And France, that did an exile's presence fear, 310
May justly apprehend you still too near.

At home the hateful names of parties cease,
And factious souls are wearied into peace.
The discontented now are only they
Whose crimes before did your just cause betray:
Of those, your edicts some reclaim from sin,
But most your life and blest example win.
Oh, happy prince! whom Heaven hath taught the way,
By paying vows to have more vows to pay!
Oh, happy age! oh times like those alone, 320
By fate reserved for great Augustus' throne!
When the joint growth of arms and arts foreshow
The world a monarch, and that monarch you.

ANTHONY A WOOD (1632-1695)

Describes the effect of the Restoration on Oxford:

In this month (April) all tokens of monarchy restored. Arms that had been plastered over in the broken times, especially those in the Public Schools were all plastered over. The sign of the King’s Head that had been dashed out or daubed over in paint tempore Olivari [in Oliver’s time] (and in its place was written “This was the King’s Head”) was new painted....

May. --- Upon the votes in the Parliament House, May 1, Tuesday, the King’s arms are everywhere renewed.

May 1, Tuesday, May poles, May games. A May pole against the Bear [Inn] in Allhallows parish, set up on purpose to vex the Presbyterians and Independents. Dr John Conant, then Vice-Chancellor, came with his beadles and servants to have it sawed down but before he entered an inch into it, he and his party were forced to leave that place....

May 29, Tuesday, the day of the Restoration of King Charles 2 observed in all or most places in England, particularly at Oxon which did exceed any place of its bigness. Many from all parts flocked to London to see his entry; but A.W. was not there, but at Oxon, where the jollity of the day continued till next morning. The world of England was perfectly mad. They were freed from the chains of darkness and confusion which the Presbyterians and fanatics had brought upon them; yet some of them seeing then what mischief they had done, tacked about to participate in the universal joy, and at length closed with the royal party.

This Holy Thursday [May 31] the people of Oxon were so violent for May poles in opposition to the Puritans that there was numbered 12 May poles besides 3 or 4 morrisses, etc. But no opposition appearing afterwards, the rabble flagged in their zeal; and seldom after above 1 or 2 a year.....

June 16, Saturday, John Milton’s and John Goodwin’s books called in and burned. Taken out of those libraries where they were, especially out of the Public Library. About the same time, William Prynne’s books against the bishops and books against archbishop Laud were taken out of the Public Library and put in the study in the gallery.


The general Pardon; Treasons and other Offences mentioned since 1st Jan. 1637.

THE Kings most Excellent Majesty taking into His Gratious and Serious consideration the long and great Troubles Discords and Warrs that have for many Yeares past beene in this Kingdome, And that diverse of His Subjects are by occasion thereof and otherwise falne into, and be obnoxious to great paines and penaltyes, Out of a hearty and pious Desire to put an end to all Suites and Controversies that by occasion of the late Distractions have arisen and may arise betweene all His Subjects, And to the intent that noe Crime whatsoever committed against His Majesty or His Royall Father shall hereafter rise in Judgement or be brought in Question against any of them to the least endamagement of them either in their Lives Libertyes Estates or to the prejudice of their Reputations by any Reproach or Terme of Distinction, And to bury all Seeds of future Discords and remembrance of the former as well in His owne Breast as in the Breasts of His Subjects one towards another.

LUCY HUTCHINSON (?1620-?1675)

Elegy 3:Another on the sunshine

This morning through my window shot his rays,

Where with his hateful and unwelcome beams

He gilt the surface of affliction's streams.

In anger at their bold intrusion, I

Did yet into a darker covert fly;

But they, like impudent suitors brisk and rude,

Me even to my thickest shade pursued;

Whom when I saw that I could nowhere shun,

I thus began to chide th'immodest sun:

'How, gaudy masker, darest thou look on me

Whose sable coverings thy reproaches be?

Thou to our murderers thy taper bear'st;

Th'oppressive race of men thou warm'st and


The blood which thou hast seen pollutes thy light

And renders it more hateful than the night

All good men loathe. You're grown a common bawd,

The brave that lead'st impieties abroad;

Who smiling dost on lust and rapine shine,

Nor shrinkst thy head in at disgorged wine

Which sinners durst not let thee see before;

Now thy conniving looks they dread no more,

Because thou mak'st their pleasant gardens grow

And cherishest the fruitful seeds they sow

In fields which unto them descended not,

By violence, bribery and oppression got.

Thou sawst the league of God himself dissolved,

Which a whole nation in one curse involved;

Thou sawst a thankless people slaughtering those

Whose noble blood redeemed them from their foes;

Thy stained beams into the prison came

But lost their boasts, outshined with virtue's flame;

Thou saw'st the innocent to exile led;

And for all this veild'st not thy radiant head,

But com'st as a gay courtier to deride

Ruins we would in silent shadows hide.

'Since, then, thou wilt thrust into this dark room,

By thine own light read thy most certain doom:

Darkness shall shortly quench thy impure light

And thou shalt set in everlasting night.

Those whom thou flattered'st shall see thee expire

And have no light but their own funeral fire.

There shall they in a dreadful wild amaze

At once see all their glorious idols blaze.

Thy sister, the pale empress of the night,

Shall nevermore reflect thy borrowed light.

Into black blood shall her dark body turn

While your polluted spheres about you burn,

And the elemental heaven like melting lead

Drops down upon the impious rebels' head.

Then shall our king his shining host diaplay,

At whose approach our mists shall fly away,

And we, illuminated by his sight,

No more shall need thy ever-quenched light.

LECTURE NOTES “Milton and the God Problem”

Satan- the best lines linguistically delegate God- book 5, he asks the angels to cast off the yoke of God- 5.787-97

“Monarchy over equals”- issues of social inversion and transcending the god/mortal boundaries

CS Lewis- those who don’t like Milton’s god simply don’t like God. John Beale- C17- “Milton is a poet too full of the devil”. Romantic reading of Milton- the satanic energy breaks free from the religious constraints- Satan represents freedom and imagination- God is stuffy, repetitive, and cannot keep his temper.

Calvinism- 3.77-8- God has foreknowledge of what shall happen. 3.99- “the humans were sufficient to have stood, but free to fall”- Williamson says that God was working for the fall all along. How do we begin to assess the morality of God?

Not an issue of a ‘good’ or ‘bad’ God, but the more important question is what it means to represent belief at all in poetry as a medium. L. suggests that poetry itself is Milton’s ‘God Problem’. How does matter bring forth and endorse transcendence/truth?

Early writing- religious/political conversion. Temporality, belief and the aesthetic. Lycidas- celebrates a specific death but transposes that onto dialogue about all time. 1629- Milton wrote the ode on Xmas eve- first published in 1645 as the first piece in his anthology. Represents the triumph of the infant Christ over the old gods of paganism. We don’t see two alternate ideas of the poet- the poet is the same, and the debt to Virgil is important. L24- “a humble ode”-39- “a self-deprecating, tedious song”- incorporates Pindaric ode form (originally to celebrate athlete’s achievement)- unites greek hymn and Christian hymn.
Not a poem trying to create an historical image of what the nativity was like- very little Mary. The image of Jesus represents more the image of the baby Hercules- the Incarnation serves as the banishment of the pagan gods.
Has sometimes been described as the ‘baroque poem’- over-the-top representation of specific deities. Later on- poetry of the ear, as he was blind. L64-6- lines of stillness as contrast
178- “With hollow shriek, we hear the ? leaving”

The act of making music takes precedence over narration. S12- “and the well-balanced world on hinges hung…” sense of temperance so important from the Reformation

Laudian framework- beauty of holiness. Organ music was introduced in churches post-Baroque to endorse this

“And hell itself will pass away… to peering day”

Presentation of the Golden Age- not the representation. Self-construction v important.Presentation of music- s12, “bid the weltering waves their oozy channels keep”

Alexandrian form- ending with a line of 12 syllables. Last lines- angels surround the Christ child to protect him. ‘Sit in order servicable’. Doesn’t rhyme- doesn’t end properly- looking forward into the future that the poem indicates. Refusal to end- perhaps a concession to the ‘darksome house of clay’- base poetic art- God Problem is one involving the matter of poetic creation in itself

Mourns the drowning of a Cambridge man in 1637- Edward King. His tab colleagues produced a poetry anthology after him and Milton’s Lycidas was the last to appear in the anthology. Long series of poems that have come before- the mourning of King repeatedly raises questions about divine intervention- why did this person have to die?
1638- Milton experimenting with the prophetic voice that had previously been somewhat involved in the Nativity Ode. Has been placed in a line of Spenserian- nationalist, Protestant, republican.

The Christianised ending comes as a surprise- what connects these voices together?

Line 132- “Return, Alpheus, the dread voice is past”

Through the force of the ruptures- the stable ontological reality is doubted and therefore also the principle of devout art. Neither God knows what’s happened to Lycidas- the crisis in truth even in the deitic sphere shows the issues of the Civil War about the validity of language coming from mouths of authority. To revive the pastoral after deciding of its extinction is surely a nod towards self-control and definitism.

Physical catastrophe- drowned man/apocalypse. When the various voices in Lycidas comment on where he is, the geography of British coastline is united with the coastlines of Greek mythology- 153-62- I, me, whilst he the shores and sound of the seas wash far away, where erudite bones are hurled…” Identity is expressed in the wash of surf- sound and physicality v. important.

Presence of multiple voices- conventional for pastoral debate. However, the contingency for the splitting of voices shows the multifaceted victor over the voice of God- how do the multiple voices fit in with the ideas of God etc?

BOD NOTES Milton: Paradise Lost


Full Title Paradise Lost

Author John Milton

Type of work/genre Epic poem

Language English

Written 1656-74, England

Publication 1667 1st ed, 1674 2nd ed

Publisher S Simmons, England

Narrator Milton

Milton’s father had been disowned when he changed from Catholicism to Protestantism

  • Milton was in Europe at the time of the CW but felt compelled to return on its outbreak in 1639
  • First epic poem ever written in English
    • Married Mary Powell, delaying things, and she later deserted him
  • Milton wrote a series of pamphlets calling for more leniency in the Church’s position on divorce
    • Greater publicity but angrier criticism
  • When the second CW ended Milton wrote pamphlets pro-parliament
  • By 1652 he was completely blind
    • Despite this, he re-enteredthe civil service under the protectorate of OC, and when RC failed to take over the position of LP the Restoration put Milton in grave danger
  • Dryden and Marvell admired the poem, which helped it sell
  • He had a private tutor as a youngster and then went to Christ’s at Cambridge
  • Fluent in foreign and classical languages- wrote sonnets in Italian as a teenager- Italian, Greek, Latin, Aramaic, Hebrew, French, Spanish, AS and some Dutch
  • Important pre-poems: ‘On the morning of Christ’s nativity’, ‘Lycidas’, ‘Il Penseroso’, ‘L’Allegro’
  • Thought that poetry should glorify God, promote religious values, enlighten readers and help people to become better Christians
  • Pamphlets the main output of political writings- championing the absolute freedom of the individual- distrust of institutions coupled with the belief that power corrupts human beings. Believed that rulers should prove their right to lead over other people
    • He fought in his middle years for human rights and against the rule of England’s leaders, who he thought were inept
    • In theory he believed in a strict social and political hierarchy where people would obey their leaders and leaders serve the people; actually, he believed that the system in his day was completely corrupt and challenged the rule of Charles I throughout his lifetime, citing that he didn’t think Charles had superior faculties or values
  • In Milton’s time the CofE had split into High Anglican, Moderate Anglican, and Puritan/Presbyterian sects- Milton was Presbyterian, which called for the abolition of bishops, an office in both the Catholic and Anglican churches- he took this further, however, and also called for the abolition of all priests, whom he referred to as ‘hirelings’.
    • In Lycidas, he likens Catholics to hungry wolves leaping into a sheep’s pen
      • An image similar to Satan leaping over the wall of Paradise in PL
      • Felt that every Christian should be his own church so thought the splitting of the Anglican church was healthy
        • This prompted his break from the Presbyterians before 1650, and from that point on, he wished to abolish all Church establishments to keep his own religious, close to Calvinism
        • Highly personal theodicy makes PL both universal and personal
    • He later came to view all organised Christian churches obstacles to true faith- he felt that the individual conscience was a far more powerful tool in interpreting the Word of God
      • In PL- the idea that the Fall is fortunate because it gives individuals the opportunity to redeem themselves through repentance and faith
    • Remaining strong in one’s personal religious convictions: later books of PL, where Michael shows Adam the vision of Enoch and Noah, two individuals that risk death in defending Him
  • Uniting of the Old and New Testaments- doesn’t attempt, however, to provide a unified vision of Christianity
  • In Book IV he makes references to the fact that the Bible doesn’t see men and women as equal
    • Argument that Milton is not a complete misogynist- instead he shows Eve and Adam as important in each other’s effort to become better individuals
    • Adam blames Eve but in the heat and frustration of the moment, after the expulsion
  • He was an early pioneer for divorce- the only caveat existing then was sexual reasons (adultery)
    • In Doctrine of Discipline and Divorce, he says that any sort of incompatibility whatsoever is grounds for divorce- sexual, mental or otherwise
    • He also says that marriage is not just for procreation but for the completion of the other
    • Conversation and companionship v. important- admits that his first marriage might have failed because of this
      • His portrayal of Adam and Eve shows an example of Milton’s belief that two people can complement each other
  • Milton had read Homer’s Odyssey and Iliad and Virgil’s Aeneid- he had begun, by the age of sixteen, to contribute something to the epic of the English language
    • Early ideas included King Arthur and the Knights of the RT, followed by an epic about Oliver Cromwell. Such nationalism would have followed in the train of Homer and Virgil’s ideas of strong, virtuous warriors and noble battles
    • Adam and Eve was an idea that he originally had for a verse play- he decided that this would fail as a drama but succeed as an epic
    • In 1656, Milton began to dictate to his daughters, as he was blind. He finished doing this in 1667, when it was then published in ten books. The afterthought to divide into 12 was in line with how classical epics are divided
  • Milton thought that Paradise Regained was better than Paradise Lost in terms of art and message, but most modern day readers disagree


  • Milton says that his subject will be the Fall
    • Invokes a muse asking for help in relating this ambitious story
  • Satan and his fellow rebel angels are chained to a lake of fire in Hell
    • They free themselves and fly to land
    • They discover minerals here and make Pandemonium
    • Inside, they debate whether to start another war with God
  • Beelzebub suggests corrupting God’s new creation- humankind
  • Satan prepares to leave Hell and is met by his children, Sin and Death, who follow him and build a bridge between Heaven and Earth
  • God tells the council of angels of Satan’s intentions
    • Jesus offers himself as a sacrifice for humankind
  • Satan travels through Night and Chaos and finds Earth
  • Archangel Uriel is standing guard at the sun, and Satan disguises himself as a cherub, saying that he wishes to see and praise God’s creation
  • Satan lands on Earth, sees Paradise, and vows again to commit crimes against God- Paradise brings him pain
  • He jumps over the wall of Paradise, takes the form of a cormorant and perches on top of the Tree of Life
  • Uriel looks down and sees volatile emotions in the face of Satan. He warns the other angels, who search the Garden for intruders
  • Adam and Eve are tending the Garden, obeying God’s supreme order not to eat from the Tree of Knowledge
  • They return to sleep after the day’s work.
    • Satan turns into a toad and whispers into Eve’s ear
    • Gabriel- the guard of Paradise- orders Satan to leave. He is about to battle Gabriel but at that moment God makes a sign of justice appear in the sky- the golden scales- and Satan flees.
  • Eve wakes up and tells Adam that in her dream, an angel tempted her to eat the fruit
  • God is worries about their vulnerability and sends down Raphael to teach them about Satan
  • Raphael comes to earth and meets Adam and Eve. He tells them of Satan’s envy at Jesus’ appointment as second in command to God.
    • Satan gathered other angels together who were also angry about this, and plotted a war against God
    • Abdiel goes back to God
    • The angels then fight, with Michael and Gabriel co-leaders for Heaven’s army
    • The battle lasts two days; God sends the Son to end the war and deliver Satan and the rebels to Hell
  • Raphael warns Adam of Satan; Adam asks him to recount the story of Creation
    • He tells Adam that God sent the Son into Chaos to create the universe
    • Adam asks about the movement of the stars and planets, and Eve walks away. Raphael reprimands him for searching for knowledge
      • He says that humans will learn what they need to know, anything else is not meant for humans to understand
    • Adam tells Raphael about his first memories. He then confesses his intense physical attraction to Eve
      • Raphael tells him that he must love Eve more purely and spiritually, and then retires to Heaven
  • Eight days after his banishment, Satan returns to Paradise. He studies the animals that are there and decides to take on the form of a Serpent
    • Eve suggests working separately to get more done. Satan finds Eve along and compliments her on her beauty and godliness. She is amazed at the speaking animal, and he says that he learnt to speak by eating from the Tree of Knowledge
      • He says that God wants them to eat from the tree and that his order is a test of their courage
  • She eats the fruit. Adam decides that he would rather be fallen with her rather than remain pure and lose her, so they both turn to lust
  • God knows straight away what has happened. He sends the Son to punish them, but with justice and mercy. The Son punishes the serpent, telling it that it shall never walk upright again. He tells Adam and Eve that they must suffer pain and death. Eve must suffer during childbirth and be subservient to Adam, whilst Adam must toil the fields of a depleted Earth
  • Satan has returned to Hell. He speaks in Pandemonium, and everyone believes he has beaten God. Sin and Death travel the bridge that they built on the way to earth.
  • The devils turn into snakes and try and reach imaginary fruit on trees that shrink as they try and reach them
  • God declares that we must suffer hot and cold seasons instead of temperance.
  • Adam and Eve blame each other and become angry
  • Adam wonders why God ever created Eve
  • Eve says that they can survive by loving each other. She blames herself and Adam dissuades her from suicide
  • They pray to God and repent, hoping that this will be revenge to Satan
  • God hears these prayers, and sends Michael down to Earth. Michael tells them that they must leave Paradise.
  • Michael puts Eve into a sleep and takes Adam up to the highest hill, where he shows him a vision of mankind’s future.
  • Adam sees the sins of his descendants and his first vision of death. He asks Michael if there is any alternative to death
  • Michael shows him the vision of Enoch- he is saved by God as his warring peers attempt to kill him
    • Shows him Noah too
  • Adam feels sorry for death but happy for humanity’s redemption
  • Versions of Nimrod and the Tower of Babel- the perversion of pure language into what we have spoken on Earth today.
  • Adam sees the Israelites and Moses triumph, and the Son’s sacrifice
  • Adam and Eve leave Paradise

Some readers consider Satan to be the hero, or protagonist, of the story, because he struggles to overcome his own doubts and weaknesses and accomplishes his goal of corrupting humankind. This goal, however, is evil, and Adam and Eve are the moral heroes at the end of the story, as they help to begin humankind’s slow process of redemption and salvation. Satan is far from being the story’s object of admiration, as most heroes are. Nor does it make sense for readers to celebrate or emulate him, as they might with a true hero. Yet there are many compelling qualities to his character that make him intriguing to readers.

One source of Satan’s fascination for us is that he is an extremely complex and subtle character. It would be difficult, perhaps impossible, for Milton to make perfect, infallible characters such as God the Father, God the Son, and the angels as interesting to read about as the flawed characters, such as Satan, Adam, and Eve. Satan, moreover, strikes a grand and majestic figure, apparently unafraid of being damned eternally, and uncowed by such terrifying figures as Chaos or Death. Many readers have argued that Milton deliberately makes Satan seem heroic and appealing early in the poem to draw us into sympathizing with him against our will, so that we may see how seductive evil is and learn to be more vigilant in resisting its appeal.

Milton devotes much of the poem’s early books to developing Satan’s character. Satan’s greatest fault is his pride. He casts himself as an innocent victim, overlooked for an important promotion. But his ability to think so selfishly in Heaven, where all angels are equal and loved and happy, is surprising. His confidence in thinking that he could ever overthrow God displays tremendous vanity and pride. When Satan shares his pain and alienation as he reaches Earth in Book IV, we may feel somewhat sympathetic to him or even identify with him. But Satan continues to devote himself to evil. Every speech he gives is fraudulent and every story he tells is a lie. He works diligently to trick his fellow devils in Hell by having Beelzebub present Satan’s own plan of action.

Satan’s character—or our perception of his character—changes significantly from Book I to his final appearance in Book X. In Book I he is a strong, imposing figure with great abilities as a leader and public statesmen, whereas by the poem’s end he slinks back to Hell in serpent form. Satan’s gradual degradation is dramatized by the sequence of different shapes he assumes. He begins the poem as a just-fallen angel of enormous stature, looks like a comet or meteor as he leaves Hell, then disguises himself as a more humble cherub, then as a cormorant, a toad, and finally a snake. His ability to reason and argue also deteriorates. In Book I, he persuades the devils to agree to his plan. In Book IV, however, he reasons to himself that the Hell he feels inside of him is reason to do more evil. When he returns to Earth again, he believes that Earth is more beautiful than Heaven, and that he may be able to live on Earth after all. Satan, removed from Heaven long enough to forget its unparalleled grandeur, is completely demented, coming to believe in his own lies. He is a picture of incessant intellectual activity without the ability to think morally. Once a powerful angel, he has become blinded to God’s grace, forever unable to reconcile his past with his eternal punishment.

Adam is a strong, intelligent, and rational character possessed of a remarkable relationship with God. In fact, before the fall, he is as perfect as a human being can be. He has an enormous capacity for reason, and can understand the most sophisticated ideas instantly. He can converse with Raphael as a near-equal, and understand Raphael’s stories readily. But after the fall, his conversation with Michael during his visions is significantly one-sided. Also, his self-doubt and anger after the fall demonstrate his new ability to indulge in rash and irrational attitudes. As a result of the fall, he loses his pure reason and intellect.

Adam’s greatest weakness is his love for Eve. He falls in love with her immediately upon seeing her, and confides to Raphael that his attraction to her is almost overwhelming. Though Raphael warns him to keep his affections in check, Adam is powerless to prevent his love from overwhelming his reason. After Eve eats from the Tree of Knowledge, he quickly does the same, realizing that if she is doomed, he must follow her into doom as well if he wants to avoid losing her. Eve has become his companion for life, and he is unwilling to part with her even if that means disobeying God.

Adam’s curiosity and hunger for knowledge is another weakness. The questions he asks of Raphael about creation and the universe may suggest a growing temptation to eat from the Tree of Knowledge. But like his physical attraction to Eve, Adam is able to partly avoid this temptation. It is only through Eve that his temptations become unavoidable.


Created to be Adam’s mate, Eve is inferior to Adam, but only slightly. She surpasses Adam only in her beauty. She falls in love with her own image when she sees her reflection in a body of water. Ironically, her greatest asset produces her most serious weakness, vanity. After Satan compliments her on her beauty and godliness, he easily persuades her to eat from the Tree of Knowledge.

Aside from her beauty, Eve’s intelligence and spiritual purity are constantly tested. She is not unintelligent, but she is not ambitious to learn, content to be guided by Adam as God intended. As a result, she does not become more intelligent or learned as the story progresses, though she does attain the beginning of wisdom by the end of the poem. Her lack of learning is partly due to her absence for most of Raphael’s discussions with Adam in Books V, VI, and VII, and she also does not see the visions Michael shows Adam in Books XI and XII. Her absence from these important exchanges shows that she feels it is not her place to seek knowledge independently; she wants to hear Raphael’s stories through Adam later. The one instance in which she deviates from her passive role, telling Adam to trust her on her own and then seizing the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge, is disastrous.

Eve’s strengths are her capacity for love, emotion, and forebearance. She persuades Adam to stay with her after the fall, and Adam in turn dissuades her from committing suicide, as they begin to work together as a powerful unit. Eve complements Adam’s strengths and corrects his weaknesses. Thus, Milton does not denigrate all women through his depiction of Eve. Rather he explores the role of women in his society and the positive and important role he felt they could offer in the divine union of marriage.

An omniscient, omnipresent, and omnipotent character who knows everything before it happens. Attempting to present such an unimaginable character accurately, Milton appropriates several of God’s biblical speeches into his speeches in Paradise Lost. God loves his creation and strongly defends humankind’s free will. He presents his love through his Son, who performs his will justly and mercifully.

God, in Paradise Lost, is less a developed character than a personification of abstract ideas. He is unknowable to humankind and to some extent lacks emotion and depth. He has no weaknesses, embodies pure reason, and is always just. He explains why certain events happen, like Satan’s decision to corrupt Adam and Eve, tells his angels what will happen next, and gives his reasoning behind his actions in theological terms. God allows evil to occur, but he will make good out of evil. His plan to save humankind by offering his Son shows his unwavering control over Satan.

The Son
For Milton, the Son is the manifestation of God in action. While God the Father stays in the realm of Heaven, the Son performs the difficult tasks of banishing Satan and his rebel angels, creating the universe and humankind, and punishing Satan, Adam and Eve with justice and mercy. The Son physically connects God the Father with his creation. Together they form a complete and perfect God.

The Son personifies love and compassion. After the fall, he pities Adam and Eve and gives them clothing to help diminish their shame. His decision to volunteer to die for humankind shows his dedication and selflessness. The final vision that Adam sees in Book XII is of the Son’s (or Jesus’) sacrifice on the cross—through this vision, the Son is able to calm Adam’s worries for humankind and give Adam and Eve restored hope as they venture out of Paradise.

Principal themes

Obedience to God

  • The opening lines say that the subject of the poem will be Man’s First Disobedience. Milton places this in the wider context of Satan’s rebellion and Jesus’ resurrection. PL shows that there are two paths that can be followed after disobedience: the downward spiral of increasing sin and degradation, and the road to redemption, represented by Adam and Eve
  • Satan’s decision to rebel is founded solely in him- it comes from nowhere else, was not persuaded nor provoked by others
    • He is denied mercy because he makes the decision to follow through even after having been sent to Hell
    • Adam and Eve understand that their disobedience will be corrected through generations of toil on Earth

Hierarchy of the Universe

  • The hierarchy is based on proximity to God and His grace. This is therefore a spatial hierarchy and leads to a social hierarchy of angels, humans, animals and devils
    • To obey God is to respect the hierarchy that He has created
  • Satan seeks to disrupt the whole hierarchy by trying to corrupt mankind
  • Eve is supposed to be behind Adam since she serves both Adam and God. When she takes the decision into her own hands she is questioning this hierarchy as well- by persuading him that she can work alone he becomes her inferior
    • Adam obeys Eve and his inner instinct rather than God and Reason

The Fall as partly fortunate

  • Adam refers to his sin in Book XII, after having seen the vision of Christ’s redemption, as a felix culpa- happy fault- showing that the Fall does bring good along with the bad
    • The Fall allows God the opportunity to show mercy and temperance and his eternal providence towards mankind
    • Love and compassion shown through the Son are gifts to humankind
      • We must experience pain and death but also mercy, salvation and grace


  • Light and Dark: opposites are common, including Heaven and Hell, God and Satan, Good and Evil, Light and Dark. In the invocation to Book III, Milton asks that the muse fill him with light so that he might be able to tell the story accurately and persuasively
  • Geography of the Universe: Four major regions of the universe preside:
    • Heaven
    • Hell
    • Chaos
    • And a young, vulnerable Earth in between all of these
      • Much of the action occurs on Earth, as the central battleground between the different theodicies being pitted against each other
    • Good and evil work against each other on Earth
      • Milton references the possibilities of both the Earth revolving around the Sun and vice versa, but does not lend it importance
    • Raphael says that it doesn’t matter which orbits which, showing that Milton’s topography of the epic is based upon his religious message and not upon a dependence on contemporary physics/science
  • Conversation and contemplation: Milton seeks to remove the typical war of the epic and instead place the battleground upon the dialogue etc of his characters
    • Conversations make up almost half the text- Milton believed that C&C were essential to be a moral person
      • The sharing of ideas allows the spread of God’s message
    • Adam constantly contemplates God before the Fall, whereas Satan only contemplates himself
    • Adam and Eve must learn to maintain this if they are to keep their happiness outside of Paradise


  • The Scales in the sky
    • On one side of the scales are the consequences of Satan running away, and on the other the consequences of Satan staying to fight with Gabriel. The fighting side flies up, showing its worthlessness. They are not actually on a different sides of the struggle here- God is all-powerful and effectively Gabriel and Satan both get their power from Him, therefore it is a remarkably insular fight
  • The wreath
    • Adam makes Eve a wreath to show his attraction to her, but when he finds out that she has eaten the fruit, the wreath falls to the ground, as does his love and affection. He sees her as a spiritual companion; the fallen wreath is the falling away of pure love

Foreshadowing- Eve seeing her reflection in the lake, and Satan’s transformation into a snake ahead of his final punishment

The Cambridge Companion- Language and Knowledge

Book VIII, 8.267-77: “My self I then perused, and limb by limb / Surveyed, and sometimes went, and sometimes ran / With supple joints, and lively vigour led; / But who I was, or where, or from what cause, / Knew not; to speak I tried, and forthwith spake, / My tongue obeyed and readily could name / What e’er I saw. Thou sun, said I,fair light, / And thou enlightened earth, so fresh and gay, / Ye hills and dales, ye rivers, woods, and plains, / And ye that live and move, fair creatures, tell, / Tell, if ye saw, how came I thus, how here?”

  • Leonard makes the point here that Adam’s language is granted to him; it is afforded no dialect as it is before Babel and before the splitting into dialects. For Milton Adam’s primary set of language is pure as it is granted to him by God
    • This creates problems as it then implies that language has been adulterated by humanity after the Fall. This has a link to the Royal Society wanting to make a ‘pure’ language that names exactly what it needs to, and no more; the return to the primary language, however, is here shown as a literary one- literary language as the root of understanding, ultimately, poetic language as a path to God

Locke, Essay Concerning Human Understanding: “He that in a new-discovered Country, shall see several sorts of Animals and Vegetables… but can speak of them only by a description, till he shall either take the Names the Natives call them by, or give them Names himself.”

  • For Locke, names must be given to things by convention and by cultural necessity. For Adam, names inherently belong; language is God-given and God-appropriated

Milton, Tetrachordon: “Adam who had the wisdom giv’n him to know all creatures, and to name them according to their properties, no doubt but had the gift to discern perfectly” YP 2:602

  • To know the names of things in Paradise is a question of inherently understanding their essence

“…of fellowship I speak / Such as I seek, fit to participate / All rational delight, wherein the brute / Cannot be human consort; they rejoice / Each with their kind, lion with lioness; / So fitly them in pairs thou hast combined; / Much less can bird with beast, or fish with fowl / So well converse, not with the ox the ape; / Worse then can man with beast, and least of all” 8.389-97

Naming is important- the fallen angels lose their names during the Fall, and Eve cannot name flowers after the Fall- “…of their names in heavenly records now/ Be no memorial blotted out and razed / By their rebellion, from the books of life. / Nor had they yet among the sons of Eve / Got them new names.” 1.361-5

  • No devil ever addresses another by name. Satan is the only devil with a name and he is set apart in more ways than one- Satan means ‘enemy’ in Hebrew but he is only named this in Heaven.
    • The fact that the first time Satan speaks his own name (and only time) he recognises his apartness from the world is important- “Of Satan (for I glory in the name, / Antagonist of heaven’s almighty king).’ Satan recognises here who and what he has become. He doesn’t give his name away to the good angels in Paradise- instead he says “Know ye not me?”

Milton’s mentioning of the Classical world is apart, fragmented, from the immediacy of Paradise

  • In book 7, Adam asks Raphael:
    “…what cause
    Moved the Creator in his holy rest
    Through all eternity so late to build
    In Chaos, and the work begun, how soon
    • The word ‘absolution’ cannot apply to the absolving of sins, because sin does not exist. Therefore Adamic language has to be more related to the Latinate culture in which Milton places them by talking about classical mythology. Christopher Ricks makes the point that absolution meant no more, in Latin, than completion. Milton “takes us back to a time when there were no infected words because there were no infected actions” (110)
  • One of the problems with the sinless world, potentially worth exploring, is how sin cannot apply therefore free will is called into question in the most extreme sense- can we condemn even the action of eating the apple since there was no sin? If there is no sin, surely eating the apple is no sin, and therefore the whole process is potentially illegitimate?

Milton’s first editor, Patrick Hume, from the 1695 edition: “Why God was not pleased to create the World 100,000 Years before he did, and how he employed its infinite Power, Wisdom and other unaccountable Perfections before the Creation, are some of those ain and Atheistical Enquires of impertinent and daring Men, who, little acquainted with the turns and motions of their own frail and unruly Wills, would pry into the Secrets of the Eternal Mind, and ask a account of that Almighty Will which created all things how and when he pleas’d. Such Doubts are unresolvable, as not coming within the compass of Human comprehension, for the Question will at last run up to Eternity it self, and the Enquiry will come to this impious and absurd Demand, why God did not make the World co-eternal with himself?” 214

Satan tries to disrupt the hierarchy by making Eve question her own place- “Goddess humane, reach then, and freely taste”

  • In the context of the civil war- seducing Eve with desires to be above her station is understood by us to be bad, but here it is in a sinless world- is this the Republican Milton, essentially saying that the need to transgress is fundamentally human and shown in the purest form of human that there is? Milton shows flaws in humanity before sin has even arrived with us, so does he completely interrogate what sin really means?

Prelapsarian: characteristic of the time before the Fall- innocent, undefiled

  • There is a contest within the narrator to assert prelapsarian language whilst at the same time presenting the Fall as a valid concept. The serpent stakes a claim upon Eve’s language- “he glad / Of her attention gained, with serpent tongue / Organic, or impulse of vocal air, / His fraudulent temptation thus began. / Wonder not, sovereign mistress…”

Genesis doesn’t even specify the serpent to be Satan, though this link was made from pre-Christian times

The genres of Paradise Lost

The epic is principally about knowing and choosing, and the ability to do so

Satan, like Achilles, is motivated by a ‘sense of injured merit’

F. Rhu, Lawrence . The Genesis of Tasso's Narrative Theory: English Translations of the Early Poetics and a Comparative Study of Their Significance. 1st ed. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1993. Print.

Davis, Nick. Stories of Chaos. Vermont: Ashgate Publishing Ltd, 1999. Print.

“In Milton’s Chaos, and Plato’s, the behaviour of elemental matter is only partly accountable by reference to antecedent conditions, since matter possesses a spontaneous power of self-movement; this allows it to move utterly at random, where random occurrence itself is not catchable in the nets of a mathematical science of probability.” P159

  • In chaotic matter there is no concept of cause and effect

BOD NOTES John Milton

  • 1608-1674- civil servant for the Commonwealth under Oliver Cromwell. Wrote during a time of great political and religious flux/upheaval- most famous for Paradise Lost
  • Reflect personal convictions, setting them in contrast with those of his day
  • Wrote in English, Latin and Italian
  • Impassioned defence of free speech of the press: Areopagitica
  • William Hayley: called him the “greatest English author” in 1796 and said he is regarded “as one of the preeminent writers in the English language”
  • Samuel Johnson: Paradise lost is “a poem which… with respect to design may claim the first place, and with respect to performance, the second, among the productions of the human mind” although he did as well describe Milton’s politics as those of an “acrimonious and surly republican”
  • The phases of Milton’s life largely reflect the contours of Stuart Britain. The rule of Charles I and its breakdown meant that Milton circulated poetry largely for private circulation
  • His public perception changed from being someone thought dangerous and radical to someone who was placed in the public office of government, where he even acted as an official spokesperson. However, by the Restoration he was completely blind and the movement stripped him of his public platform, but he completed most of his poetry in this period
  • Read ancient and contemporary works of theology, philosophy, history etc. Kept a commonplace book (aka a kind of scrapbook) that can be now seen in the BL. He had command of Latin, Greek, Hebrew, French, Spanish, and Italian from school/undergrad days, and later added OE and Dutch
  • Continued to write poetry during his period of study- Arcades and Comus were commissioned for masques for noble patrons- Comus argues for the virtuousness of temperance and chastity
  • Went on a grand tour in 1638. Only source for this seems to be his Defensio Secunda. Lewalski argues that this is not supposed to be an autobiography but is supposed to “emphasise his sterling reputation with the learned of Europe”
  • On returning to England he began to write prose tracts against episcopacy- serving the Puritan and Parliamentary side.
    • EPISCOPACY: a form of church governance that has a hierarchy of local authority residing within a bishop
  • In 1643 he went to a manor house in Forest Hill, and came back with a 16 year old bride, Mary Powell. A month later she returned to her family- Milton proved to be a severe 35 year old schoolmaster. She didn’t return until 1645 because of the civil war, the time in between proving a good opportunity for Milton to write several pamphlets arguing for the legality and morality of divorce. It was partly the hostile response to this that may have prompted him to publish Areopagitica.

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