[Milton-L] Amazon review

Paul Miller pm9 at comcast.net
Mon Jan 14 23:54:30 EST 2008


This is a review of Paradise Lost I did for Amazon.


Milton in Paradise Lost unfurls a morning star banner heralding the cosmic story of the fall of angels and men in language eminently civil. I am sure that Homer and Dante were Milton's schoolmasters yet Milton exceeds them in the slendid language and poetry of this epic creation. Philip Pullman said "No one, not even Shakespeare, surpasses Milton in his command of the sound, the music, the weight and taste and texture of English words". This is a poem of majesty and sublime lyricism as in Milton's description of Mulciber falling: "from Morn 
To Noon he fell, from Noon to dewy Eve, @@@+PARADISE LOST+@@@ 
A Summer's day; and with the setting Sun @@@+JOHN MILTON+@@@ 
Dropt from the Zenith like a falling Star". 
Each book of Paradise Lost is introduced with an argument, or summary. These arguments were written by Milton and added because early readers had requested a guide to the poem. Milton's purpose in this masterpiece is to tell about the fall of man and justify God's ways to man. After their coup attempt in heaven Satan and the other rebel angels are lying stunned on a lake of fire. Satan rises from the lake and makes his way to the shore. He calls the other angels to do the same, and they assemble by and above the lake. Satan tells them that all is not lost and tries to cheer his followers. Led by Mammon and Mulciber, the fallen angels build their capital and palace Pandemonium. They decide to get at God through his new creation and Satan sets off on this mission. In reading Paradise Lost the poem reads the reader while being read. What I mean is that Milton lets his readers go awry in their affections and he corrects and instructs those misreadings as well as anticipates them. In this way the poem becomes a live text with meaning apprehended through the interplay between the peruser of the poem and the text itself. Milton allows the reader to subjectively question the justice of the current religious paradigm and then leads them back to the perspicacity of deity. Ultimately Paradise Lost is Milton's paean to a vast pattern in the universe, the disruption of that pattern by rebels, and the weaving of those rebellion threads back into an ever more beautiful tapestry. 


Paul Miller
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