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Paradise Lost

Paradise Lost

Product no.: 0-14-042426-1
Spatially, the action ranges over the whole earth, and beyond the universe to Heaven, Chaos and Hell. Back to the begetting of the Son of God and forward to the Second Coming.

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Publisher's Synopsis

The young Milton (1608-74) took Virgil as a model and planned a career progressing from pastoral poetry to heroic verse. Yet it was only in his fifties that - blind, bitterly disappointed by the Restoration of Charles II and briefly in danger of execution - he finally turned his energies to work on the grand scale.

Although originally conceived as a tragedy on the Fall of Man, the epic form he eventually used allowed Milton to conjure up a vast, awe-inspiring cosmos, to range across huge tracts of space and time - and to put a naked Adam and Eve at the very centre of his story.

Long regarded as one of the most powerful and influential poems in the English language, Paradise Lost still inspires intense debate about whether it manages 'to justify the ways of God to men' or exposes the cruelty of Christianity and the Christian God.

John Leonard's illuminating introduction is fully alive to such controversies; it also contains full notes on Milton's highly individual use of language and many allusions to other works.


"Milton presents God as a harsh and uncompromising judge over his subjects, hardly the figure one would expect a poet to present whose goal is to 'justifie the wayes of God to men'. C. S. Lewis explains the aversion that readers often feel towards Milton's God by blaming the modern reader: 'Many of those who say they dislike Milton's God only mean that they dislike God: infinite sovereignty, by its very nature, includes wrath also.'

But Milton seems to be doing more than merely portraying the Christian God; he is, according to William Empson, 'struggling to make his God appear less wicked than the traditional Christian one.' Perhaps this is why Milton's God often appears on the defensive, explaining again and again that his foreknowledge of the fall has nothing to do with fate: Adam and Eve fall of their own free will, not because God in any way decreed it.

This defensive tone is hardly becoming in an omnipotent deity, yet Milton needs to use it in order to justify God; hence the endless potential for contradiction in Milton's presentation of God (and those of many seventeenth-century writers as well)."       ~Luxon, Thomas H., ed. The Milton Reading Room


"Th’ infernal serpent; he it was, whose guile
Stirred up with envy and revenge, deceived
The mother of mankind, what time his pride
Had cast him out from Heav’n, with all his host

Of rebel angels, by whose aid aspiring
To set himself in glory above his peers,
He trusted to have equaled the Most High,
If he opposed; and with ambitious aim

Against the throne and monarchy of God
Raised impious war in Heav’n and battle proud
With vain attempt. Him the Almighty Power
Hurled headlong flaming from th’ ethereal sky

With hideous ruin and combustion down
To bottomless perdition, there to dwell
In adamantine chains and penal fire,
Who durst defy th’ Omnipotent to arms.

Nine times the space that measures day and night
To mortal men, he with his horrid crew."


John Milton (1608-1674) is best remembered for his heroic epic verse retelling the story of Adam and Eve and the Fall. In his sympathetic portrayal of man's struggle with good and evil, "That, to the height of this great argument, I may assert Eternal Providence, And justify the ways of God to men" Milton has inspired countless works by artists, film makers, musicians, authors, and poets into the 21st Century including John Keats's Endymion; William Blake created illustrations for Paradise Lost and wrote Milton: a Poem (1804-10); Percy Bysshe Shelley writes "Milton stands alone in the age which he illumined" in his Preface to The Revolt of Islam; and Lord George Gordon Byron, in his Introduction and Dedication to Don Juan writes:

If, fallen in evil days on evil tongues,
Milton appealed to the Avenger, Time,
If Time, the Avenger, execrates his wrongs,
And makes the word "Miltonic" mean "Sublime,"
He deigned not to belie his soul in songs,
Nor turn his very talent to a crime;
He did not loathe the Sire to laud the Son,
But closed the tyrant-hater he begun.

Editor Leonard, John
Author Milton, John
Book Type Trade Paperback
Page Count 453 pp.
Publisher Penguin Books 2000
Browse these categories as well: Christian Classics: Ancient and Modern, Mystic and Esoteric Christianity, Inspirational Poetry, Prose and Sacred Art, Swedenborg and Western Cosmology, Masterworks of the Western Mystery Tradition, Noteworthy Releases 2000

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