2/11/2019

"The Paradise Lost" by John Milton : Summary .

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Milton has written his own summaries of each book in the “Arguments" (argumentum in Latin means subject matter) to be found at the beginning of each book in any modern edition. Those were added by Milton between the first and second editions at the request of early readers. The whole subject, Milton says, is announced at the beginning of the poem: it will be man's disobedience and the loss of Paradise. The primary cause of all this is Satan, who had rebelled against God with a huge number of angels and had been cast out of Heaven into Hell before Adam and Eve were created.

Beginning according to the epic formula "in the midst of things,”
the epic tells first of the fallen angels in Hell. Satan informs them of a prophecy about a new creature named man and suggests that the
fallen angels call a council. A council hall, Pandemonium, is built by
magic, and Satan begins a debate on the subject of how to recover Heaven. After some discussion it is decided that Satan should go alone to find the newly created world and man. With some difficulty he flies upward, gets through Hell's gates, maintained by Sin and Death, and is directed by Chaos to the new world.
Meanwhile, God, sitting on his throne in Heaven, shows his Son the figure of Satan flying through the air, and predicts Satan's success in corrupting man. Man is created free and could stand, but will fall of his own free will. Man will be seduced by Satan; however he will be given grace, if someone in Heaven will offer to die for man's sin. The Son volunteers to die for man and the angels join together to sing His praise in hymns.

As this is happening, Satan has flown to the rim of our universe
sees in passing the Limbo of Vanity, and comes to the orb of the sun,
where he changes himself into the form of a lower angel and pretending to be enthusiastic about finding man, tricks the angel of the sun, Uriel, into giving him directions. He finds his way to Mt Niphates, within sight of Eden, and alights there Satan is almost overcome by doubts and passions as he thinks about what he wants to do, but at length he confirms himself in his evil purpose and goes into Eden. When he first sees Adam and Eve he is awestruck by their beauty but he listens to their conversation and discovers that the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge is forbidden to them. This, he decides, will be his means of seducing them.
Meanwhile, Uriel has discovered Satan's fraud and has warned Gabriel at the Gate of Paradise that some evil spirit has escaped from
Hell, and Gabriel and his fellow angels begin a search. After Adam
and Eve have said their evening prayer and gone to sleep, the angels
discover Satan at Eve's ear, tempting her in a dream. Satan is brought to Gabriel for questioning and answers him scornfully until he sees a sign from Heaven showing his destiny and he flies out of Paradise.

When Eve awakes, she tells Adam about her dream, which disturbs him, but he comforts her and they go out for their daily work. God sends Raphael to tell Adam everything necessary for him to know of his position with respect to God and to warn him of Satan's presence. Adam sees Raphael coming in the distance and goes out to welcome him, then Raphael sits down to a dinner
prepared by Eve and tells Adam of Satan's revolt and the War in Heaven. In that war the Son ultimately has had the victory and glory driving Satan and his huge army over Heaven's wall and into the
deep.

After Satan and his legions have been expelled from Heaven, Raphael says, God sends the Son to create the world in six days while the angels celebrate the act of creation in hymns.

Adam asks Raphael questions about the celestial bodies and Raphael suggests that man does not need to know as much as God. Adam, changing the subject, tells Raphael what he knows creation and his first meeting with Eve. Raphael listens, then warns Adam again and leaves.

Night falls and Satan returns to Paradise and enters the body of the serpent. Next morning, as they prepare to go to work., Eve suggests that she and Adam divide their labours and work different places in order to get more done. Adam goes against his suggestion, maintaining that the Enemy would like to find her
one, but Eve persists until he finally gives in and lets her go.

The serpent finds Eve alone and subtly flatters her at first, then convinces her that he has eaten the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge and
gained wisdom and speech. Gradually she is persuaded that he is telling the truth and she eats. Pleased with the intoxicating sensation of eating the forbidden fruit, she hesitates for a while before giving Adam her new-found knowledge, then tells him the same story the serpent told her. Out of love for her, Adam eats the fruit too, and the effects of the sin are immediately apparent: Adam and Eve discover that they are naked and they begin to quarrel and accuse one another.
The guardian angels leave Paradise after God has told them that they could not have prevented the Fall. God sends the Son to judge Adam and Eve, but He also clothes them out of pity.

At the gates of Hell, Sin and Death, by a miraculous empathy with Satan, feel that they are due to make their appearance on earth.
To make the way easier they build a broad highway or bridge over Chaos. As they prepare to go to Earth they meet Satan, proud of his success, heading back to Hell. At Pandemonium, however, where he
expects to be cheered, Satan is greeted by a universal hiss; in token of his act he and the fallen angels are made into serpents. In Heaven, God foretells the final victory of the Son over Sin and
Death, while on Earth Adam and Eve are bitterly grieving over their fate and accusing each other of their sin. Eve suggests suicide, but
Adam reminds her that her offspring (Jesus) will eventually overcome and wipe out their sin.
The Son carries the prayers of the repenting Adam and Eve up to God and intercedes for them. God accepts the prayers but sends
Michael with a band of cherubim to drive the pair out of Eden. Adam
has noticed certain signs that they will have to leave Paradise and
goes out to meet Michael when he comes. Michael takes Adam up to
high hill and prophesies what will happen to man before the Flood
brings an end to the world. Michael surveys all human history pointing out to Adam the transmission of the seed which will eventually lead to the Christ. Although the history is bleak, Adam is comforted by the promise of the seed as he descends the hill with
in a dream. He awakens Eve, who has been given the same information
in a dream, and Michael, taking them both by the hand, leads them out of Paradise (now guarded by cherubim and a fiery sword), which they will never be able to enter again

Summary of Book I:

The subject of Paradise Lost is announced at the beginning
Book I, it is "Man's first disobedience" and the consequent Paradise. Milton invokes his Muse, the same Christian source of inspiration that gave Moses the Ten Commandments on Mt. Sinai, to help him rise above the pagan epic poets of the past and justify the ways of God to men. The prime cause of man's fall is Satan, formerly an angel whose pride caused him to war against God and to be thrown out of Heaven and whose envy of man and desire for revenge on God caused him to deceive Eve and help bring about the fall of Adam and Eve.

Satan is seen just after he and his fellow rebel angels have been
hurled down into Hell, a place of fiery torment but no light. Chained on the burning lake, he speaks to his next highest comrade, Beelzebub lying beside him. Satan is struck by the horrible changes in Beelzebub's appearance caused by the Fall, but he still defies God and refuses to repent. He even claims to have shaken the throne of God, which we find out later is a lie (I, 105: VI, 834; VII, 585-586).
He refuses to serve God, whom he calls a tyrant. But while he boasts
in this way, the poet says, he is inwardly tortured by his own despair
Beelzebub asks Satan what they should do against God's all powerful force, and Satan answers proudly that they should do everything within their ability to pervert God's will.
Having been permitted by God to "Heap on himself damnation”,
and having been allowed to move, Satan flies by means of his wings
from the burning lake to a plain, believing he is doing so on his own
power. Surveying the doleful surroundings, Satan decides it is "Better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven." Although the other fallen
angels lie "grovelling and prostrate" on the lake of fire, Satan calls them to arms, addressing them by their angelic titles. They come looking like the Biblical plague of locusts.
Among them are Moloch, who later became a pagan god to whom children were sacrificed, and other heathen gods and goddesses such as Astarte, Orus, Dagon, Isis and Osiris. Belial, a lewd and grossly sexual devil, is last among them. Satan rallies them with high-sounding words and they appear to be a large and glorious army. Satan feels a huge pride in his troops of demons, which make him forget for the moment the scars he has from his earlier combat. Struggling to keep back tears of despair, he addresses them, calling
them to war, if not against God, then against God's new creation man. A council of war should be called, he says. They respond with  shout of defiance against God Mammon then leads a group of fallen angels to dig into a volcanic hill for molten metal and erect suddenly and by magic what looks like a temple, but is really Pandemonium, the capital of Hell, designed by the demonic architect, Muleiber.

With their rustling wings, the devils appear from a distance to be like a swarm of bees as they go into Pandemonium to consult over the method of war against God.

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