Paradise Lost (John Milton)

Discussion in 'Book Reviews' started by BayouHuguenot, Apr 22, 2019.

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  1. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritan Board Doctor

    I understand why most consider Milton to be difficult reading. To paraphrase Samuel Johnson, “You have to drink all of the epic simultaneously.” Milton rarely lets you up for air. It occasionally pays off, though, for Milton can ascend to the highest literary planes. You can’t stay at that pace the whole time, though. Our mortal coil cannot take large amounts of pure beams of light.

    Meaning no disrespect to Milton, this work is fan fiction. It just is. It’s marvelous fan fiction, but still. Milton apparently went beyond even the Apocrypha and apparently drew upon hermetic sources. While interesting, this gets him in trouble as many of his claims are simply wrong. More on that later.

    Wonderful Literary Passages

    Goal of the book: assert eternal providence and justify the ways of God to men (I:25).

    * The description of Pandaemonium is one of those top ten moments of the English language (“Stygian council,” “hollow abyss,” .

    * “the reign of Chaos and old Night” (1:543; III:18).

    * “Of waters issued from a cave and spread/Into a liquid plain, then stood unmoved/Pure as th’ expanse of heav’n” (IV: 454).

    * Like the other great English poet Alexander Pope, Milton affirmed the chain of being, noting that “scale of nature set” (V:508) to which animals aspire to the angelic heights.

    * “Thrones, Dominations, Princedoms, Virtues, Powers/Hear my decree, which unrevoked shall stand” (V:601).

    The Nature of God

    Eternal: “wherein past, present, future he beholds” (III:78). God’s foreknowledge does not cause man’s actions (III:118). From God “all things proceed, and up to him return” (V:469).

    If you hold to the Boethian/Platonic view of time, you will enjoy Milton’s take: “For time, though in eternity, applied/To motion, measures all things durable/By past, present, and future” (V:580).

    Man’s Free Will

    Unfallen Adam was “sufficient to have stood, though free to fall” (III:99).

    Marriage: Pure and Conjugal

    Milton represented the Puritan view of marriage and sex, which was infinitely superior than the Gnosticism that had crept into the church. He writes of Eve, “Yielded with coy submission, modest pride/And sweet reluctant amorous delay” (IV: 310). It was said by someone that the devil will try to get you into bed before your married and keep you out of it afterwards. Milton would agree. He writes, “With kisses pure: aside the Devil turned/For envy, yet with jealous leer malign/Eyed them askance” (IV: 503; also see line 750).

    No Gnostic legalism here. Contrast Milton with the nigh-Galatianism of Methodius of Olympus.

    Indeed, our conjugal love is that by “which perhaps no bliss enjoyed by us excites his [Satan’s] envy more” (IX: 263). Nonetheless, Milton is aware of the dark path sexuality, even married sexuality, can take. Even in marriage it is possible, so argues Milton, to use the spouse as an object of lust. Milton starkly notes this between Adam and Eve after the Fall: “Carnal desire inflaming; he on Eve/Began to cast lascivious eyes, she him/As wantonly repaid; in lust they burn” (IX: 1013)
  2. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    I have struggled various times through Paradise Lost and each time was rewarded for my hard labor. Milton was a genius.

    I remember reading that Milton was mostly BLIND, or else had severe eye problems and had to sit and memorize a portion of his creation each day and then have folks write it down later in the day when they came home. Can you imagine not only creating Paradise Lost but having large chunks of it memorized each day for hours writing for it to be set to writing? The mental energy this entailed would have burn out my poor neurons in a day.
  3. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    Question 1 (I have more):

    In Paradise Lost, God knows Satan's plan and knows that Adam and Eve will fall. So God asks for a volunteer and His own Son volunteers and heaven rejoices at this.

    We know that God's plan was from eternity past, and the Son volunteered from eternity past and not at a moment in time after the earth was created. But do you think God and his divine council did this perhaps after the Fall for the benefit of the elect angels? To know the mind of God, the angels would have to be told, it seems (unless you think they are telepathic). In Paradise Lost it happened right after the fall and this would mean that the angels knew that God's Son had volunteered to go to earth from the beginning of mankind's history.
  4. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    Question 2:

    Also in Paradise Lost, Satan sees Adam and Eve work in the Garden and then they return home and make love.

    BUT....Adam and Eve did not bear children until after the fall, nor become pregnant. It would seem that in an unfallen state a seed would take root in every instance for the married couple not already pregnant or nursing children.

    Do you think there was unfallen intercourse before the Fall? And why did not this produce a pregnancy?
  5. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritan Board Doctor

    Possibly. My only guess is that Milton's angels are there to tell Adam what is going on, so they had to know it themselves. I guess it is a plot device.
  6. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritan Board Doctor

    I don't see why. If that's the case, then the menstrual cycle is an effect of the Fall, but we don't really have any evidence for that. This means that babies are made in a different manner before the fall when they are in the womb, and again, we don't have evidence for that.
  7. Taylor Sexton

    Taylor Sexton Puritan Board Junior

    Thanks for this review. I remember studying Milton in undergrad, and I really enjoyed it. I've even visited his cottage in England! A beautiful little house.

    Are you familiar with the debates over Milton's theology (e.g., that he was accused by some of being an Arian, etc.)? If so, do you have any thoughts on that?
  8. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    I believe the menstrual cycle is a result of the Fall. Is that weird?
  9. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    Regarding the Arianism of Milton, how do people read this:

    ". . . Thron'd in highest bliss

    Equal to God, and equally enjoying

    God-like fruition,"

    Sounds contra-Arian to me. And also this:

    "Hail holy Light, offspring of Heav'n first-born,

    Or of th' Eternal Coeternal beam."
  10. Taylor Sexton

    Taylor Sexton Puritan Board Junior

    Yeah, I'm not sure why there has been such debate over this over the centuries since his death.
  11. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    Somebody needs a dissertation topic probably.
  12. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    The charges of Arianism might be due to Milton speaking of Christ and the Holy Spirit as being subordinate to the Father in the plan of Redemption. The Father is clearly in charge. But I saw this merely as the Economic Trinity and not touching the Ontological Trinity.

    If he is Arian it might be proven from his manuscript De Doctrina Christiana (1823) but I saw nothign heretical in Paradise Lost regarding Arianism in Paradise Lost.
  13. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    The angels:

    Thee next they sang of all Creation first,

    Begotten Son, Divine Similitude,

    In whose conspicuous count'nance, without cloud

    Made visible, th' Almighty Father shines,

    Whom else no Creature can behold; on thee

    Impresst th' effulgence of his Glory abides,

    God the Father addressing the Son:

    Effulgence of my Glory, Son belov'd,

    Son in whose face invisible is beheld

    Visibly, what by Deity I am,

    Christ to God:

    Behold mee then, mee for him, life for life

    I offer, on mee let thine anger fall;

    Account mee man; I for his sake will leave

    Thy bosom, and this glory next to thee

    Freely put off, and for him lastly die
  14. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritan Board Doctor

    Well, it comes down to evidence for the claim.
  15. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    Menstruation equals pain and blood-shedding and a missed opportunity for pregnancy.
  16. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritan Board Doctor

    The pain can be negated pre-fall, and the flow of blood isn't the same as blood-shedding. In any case, the build up of blood is necessary, so that means that there would have been a different way of pregnancy.
  17. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    An egg could have been released only when ready. At will perhaps.
  18. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritan Board Doctor

    Admittedly, all of this is speculative. I guess I am pushing back against the Roman catholic notion that sex is only for pregnancy. Better to stick to the wording of the Book of Common Prayer.

    The union of husband and wife in heart, body, and mind is
    intended by God for their mutual joy; for the help and comfort
    given one another in prosperity and adversity; and, when it is
    God's will, for the procreation of children and their nurture
    in the knowledge and love of the Lord
  19. bookslover

    bookslover Puritan Board Professor

    As for the exactness of Milton's theology, do keep in mind that he takes occasional poetic license in service to the poetry. He wasn't trying to write a theology book.

    And, yes, it's amazing how it was written: Milton, blind by that time, composed the poem in his mind and dictated it to one of his daughters. I couldn't do that in five or six hundred years!
  20. Andrew35

    Andrew35 Puritan Board Freshman

    I've read embarrassingly little of Milton for an English major. Nonetheless, I am a big fan of the contemporary poet Andrew Marvell, a mutual friend of both Milton and John Owen (who disliked each other/were enemies? The history gets really interesting here, from what I can tell, but I've had trouble finding accessible sources).

    Marvell also wrote an anonymous polemical work which Owen helped publish, I believe, attacking one of Owen's personal and political enemies. A Response Transposed, I think it was called. I would love to read the thing, but can't seem to locate it.
    Last edited: Apr 23, 2019
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