[Milton-L] humans in hell, repentance, etc.

Nancy Rosenfeld rfeld_zn at ein-hashofet.co.il
Sun Jul 23 11:42:55 EDT 2006

The recent thread (Satan's ability to repent, differences between regret, remorse and repentance, etc.) is fascinating. I thought I'd de-lurk and call attention to two passages from Paradise Regained which have long piqued my curiosity. Having failed in his temptation of the Son, Satan falls (again): “So struck with dread and anguish fell the Fiend,/ And to his crew, that sat consulting, brought/ Joyless triumphals of his hoped success” [. . .]

So Satan fell and straight a fiery globe

Of angels on full sail of wing flew nigh,

Who on their plumy vans received him soft

>From his uneasy station, and upbore

As on a floating couch through the blithe air,

Then in a flowery valley set him down (4.576-78, 581-86).

   Even the most careful reader would be pardoned for assuming at first reading that the him of line 583 is Satan. Not until lines 594-95 does it become clear that it is the Son who is fed and rested by the angelic choirs. A lesser ambiguity pertains to the victorious Son when he is described as:

            True image of the Father whether throned

            In the bosom of bliss, and light of light

            Conceiving, or remote from heaven, enshrined

            In fleshly tabernacle and human form,

            Wandering the wilderness (4.596-600).

The latter, however, could refer to Satan, image of the Father, originally enthroned in heaven, thrown far from heaven, then enshrined in human form and left to wander the wilderness. What are the ramifications of this surely intentional blurring of boundaries between Son, fallen angel and human at the close of the "brief epic"?

Nancy Rosenfeld

Dept. of English Language and Literature, University of Haifa, Israel

English Studies Unit, Jezreel Valley College, Israel.

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