Paradise Lost – Part I : An Introduction

“The  mind is its own place, and in itself  can make  a heaven of hell and a hell of heaven.”  

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I’ve decided that rather than scurrying from one book to another like I have been doing, it is time for a leisurely stroll during which I will be writing at least 4 or 5 articles about “Paradise Lost” by John Milton.  There are so many facets to this English epic about the creation of the world.

First are the many differing reactions to “Paradise Lost” over the last 350 years.  No other book in the English language has been praised as highly and yet also attacked so totally.

Then there is the matter of the verse.  Milton’s blank verse set the standard for poetic verse in English for centuries until T. S. Eliot and other modernists pointed out how much damage Milton had done to English poetry.  Yet is English poetry that much better today?

Did you know that the word ‘satanic’ was invented by Milton for ‘Paradise Lost?  Also ‘ecstatic’, ‘sensuous’, and ‘jubilant’ along with hundreds of other English words were all created by Milton?

Then there is “Paradise Lost’, the movie.  The all-out fighting scenes between the flying angels of God versus the flying angels of Satan would put to shame the battle scenes in “Lord of the Rings”.  Too bad Hollywood dropped the planned movie last year over concerns about costs.   Hollywood could also have really done justice to the scenes of naked innocence in the Garden of Eden.

Then there is the question of whether John Milton is a misogynist or rather an early feminist.   Satan tempts Eve with the apple from the Tree of Knowledge. She eats the apple and gives it to Adam who also eats it.  Then God kicks both of them out of Paradise.  (I hope I’m not giving out any plot spoilers to anyone.)

Of all the dubious things in the Bible, one of the most dubious to me has always been God kicking Adam and Eve out of Paradise for eating the apple from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.  Does the Almighty One have a bug up his or her butt against smart people or against people who want to be smart?  As John Milton himself might have written,

 “The wing-ed creature up through His darkest nether regions didst fly.”

 Stay tuned starting Sunday to the answers to this question and many others, as I focus like a laser on “Paradise Lost” by John Milton for the next few weeks.

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6 responses to this post.

  1. My all time favourite book of poetry. I just love it. And I especially love that sexy Satan and his ever-so-convincing arguments for why sin is good fun. I look forward to the rest of your posts.

    Reply

  2. Hi Lisa,
    Yes, its been quite a trip for me to listen to and read ‘Paradise Lost’, a book I had avoided, but now find is spectacularly interesting. I can see why nearly all poets took up Milton’s grand style of verse for 250 years, but I can also see why it was necessary for Eliot and the moderns to rebel against it. Maybe now after 100 years of modernism, we can again give Milton his due.

    Reply

    • Oh yes, we studied Eliot at university too (I was there in the old days, before studying Twilight and The Brady Bunch was de rigeur) and I agree, I don’t want to see any kind of literature set in stone.

      Reply

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