Milton deals with the classic biblical narrative of ‘the Fall’, of humankind and of Satan, so the paradise that is lost has the double meanings of both the garden of Eden and heaven. The main points are twofold: that Satan cannot have back what he started with because he cannot defeat God, so will instead frustrate God’s works as much as possible, and that God’s grace for humans will suffice for those who love him and will in time restore them to him. In the meantime however, sin and evil will continue to be prominent in the world because of the Fall. Milton’s subsequent work, ‘Paradise Regained’, focuses on the saviour who came to redeem and restore that which in this book was lost.
This is the first epic poem I’ve got through in full, and it helped me respect the genre (since reading this I’ve also started Dante’s ‘Inferno’). Milton uses artistic licence to pad out and imagine his way through the short accounts the Bible gives us, but this helped me consider the detail of how events may have happened. I was fascinated by Milton’s war council held in hell, where Satan and the other fallen angels, recently cast out of heaven, plan their next move. I also enjoyed Milton’s depiction of an angel showing Adam what would happen in the course of time. My paraphrase is this: “Yes, things are going to be hard for some time, but God will make things right in due course, through his son.”
The book contains the infamous line from Satan:
Better to reign in hell than to serve in heaven.
Oh, pride. The first sin, the downfall of probably all of us at times. When will we learn?