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Paradise Lost

John Milton

(1608 - 1674 AD)

Here I include some selected stanzas from the Epic 'Paradise Lost' by John Milton.

The lines, as well as the following biography of the poet, are taken from the Penguin Popular Classics paperback edition.





John Milton (1608 - 74). The most famous epic poet in the English language, Paradise Lost is considered his masterpiece.

John Milton was born at Cheapside in 1608, son of a scrivener. He was educated in Christ's College, Cambridge, where he began writing poetry, and his early verse includes 'On the Morning of Christ's Nativity', the 'Arcades', and the two poems, 'L'Allegro' and 'Il Penseroso'. On leaving Cambridge, Milton studies privately at his father's home, preparing for a future as poet or clergyman. His 'masque', Comus, was performed at Ludlow in 1634, and a year later he moved from Hammersmith to Horton, Buckinghamshire, where he wrote Lycidas, an elegy. For the next twenty years, leading up to the writing of Paradise Lost, his poetic output was limited to sonnets, most famously 'On the late Massacre in Piedmont', on his blindness and on his deceased wife, although which wife is disputed. In the late 1630s Milton travelled abroad, chiefly in Italy, and on his return established himself in London. He turned to politics, becoming an ardent pamphleteer and the first he put his name to, The Reason of Church Government, was published in 1642, the year he married Mary Powell. They temporarily separated and as a result he published The Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce, which made him notorious, and he developed his strong opinions in Tetrachordon, On Education and Areopagitica, respectively covering divorce, education and the liberty of the press. Rejoined by his wife in 1645, she bore him three daughters before her death in 1652, the year their youngest was born and that Milton went totally blind. After a brief second marriage (1656-8), he published The Ready and Easy Way to Establish a Free Commonwealth (1660) in defence of republicanism. However, the Restoration was inevitable, and on its arrival Milton was arrested, fined, and released. In 1663 he married Elizabeth Minshull, who survived him. Returning to the poetic form, he published Paradise Lost in 1667 and its sequel Paradise Regained, together with Samson Agonistes, in 1671. John Milton died of gout in 1674 and is buried beside his father in St Giles', Cripplegate.

Milton's great theme in Paradise Lost is 'to justify the ways of God to men', which developed his controversial poem into a work of genius.



Book I, The Argument

242 - 270

"... Satan, with his Angels, now fallen into Hell--described here not in the Centre, but in a place of utter darkness, fitliest called Chaos. Here Satan, with his Angels lying on the burning lake, thunderstruck and astonished, after a certain space recovers, as from confusion; calls up him who, next in order and dignity, lay by him: they confer of their miserable fall. Satan awakens all his legions, who lay till then in the same manner confounded. They rise: their numbers; array of battle; their chief leaders named, according to the idols known afterwards in Canaan and the countries adjoining. To those Satan directs his speech; comforts them with hope yet of regaining Heaven..."

   'Is this the region, this the soil, the clime,'

Said then the lost Archangel, 'this the seat

That we must change for Heaven, this mournful gloom

For that celestial light? Be it so, since he

Who now is sovran can dispose and bid

What shall be right: farthest from his is best,

Whom reason hath equalled, force hath made supreme

Above his equals. Farewell, happy fields,

Where joy for ever dwells! Hail, horrors! hail,

Infernal World! and thou, profoundest Hell,

Receive thy new possessor -- one who brings

A mind not to be changed by place or time.

The mind is its own place, and in itself

Can make a Heaven of Hell, a Hell of Heaven.

What matter where, if I be still the same,

And what I should be, all but less than he

Whom thunder hath made greater? Here at least

We shall be free; the Almighty hath not built

Here for his envy, will not drive us hence;

Here we may reign secure, and, in my choice,

To reign is worth ambition, though in Hell:

Better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven.

But wherefore let we then our faithful friends,

The associates and co-partners of our loss,

Lie thus astonished on the oblivious pool,

And call them not to share with us their part

In this unhappy mansion, or once more

With rallied arms to try what may be yet

Regained in Heaven, or what more lost in Hell?'


































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