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Paradise Lost: Bk I 
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Post Paradise Lost: Bk I
Book I Discussion

Please use this thread to discuss Book I of Paradise Lost



Last edited by Saffron on Fri Jan 23, 2009 9:20 am, edited 1 time in total.



Fri Jan 16, 2009 8:02 pm
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How's this for a start: I just learned that the word Pandemonium was coined by Milton in the first book of Paradise Lost.

[From Pandaemonium, capital of Hell in Paradise Lost, an epic poem by John Milton : Greek pan-, pan- + Late Latin daemonium, demon (from Greek daimonion, from daimn, lesser god, demon; see demon).]


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That's a great factoid. The origin and evolution of words is fascinating. Milton comes up with the name for a place, meaning "all of the demons," and it works it way into our language as a quality of that place, the tremendous cacophany of it.


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Sat Jan 17, 2009 9:33 am
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Interesting sidebar:

Milton lines 15 & 16:

Above th' Aonian Mount, while it pursues [ 15 ]
Things unattempted yet in Prose or Rhime.

And now the reference for the bolded text:

Orlando Furioso ("Orlando Enraged")

CANTO 1

II
In the same strain of Roland will I tell
Things unattempted yet in prose or rhyme,
On whom strange madness and rank fury fell,
A man esteemed so wise in former time;
If she, who to like cruel pass has well
Nigh brought my feeble wit which fain would climb
And hourly wastes my sense, concede me skill
And strength my daring promise to fulfil.

Back to me: I guess Milton is just trying to let us know that the tale he is about to tell is a doozy!


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Sat Jan 17, 2009 9:48 am
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http://www.dartmouth.edu/~milton/readin ... ndex.shtml

Summary of Book 1
Quote:
This first Book proposes, first in brief, the whole Subject, Mans disobedience, and the loss thereupon of Paradise wherein he was plac't: Then touches the prime cause of his fall, the Serpent, or rather Satan in the Serpent; who revolting from God, and drawing to his side many Legions of Angels, was by the command of God driven out of Heaven with all his Crew into the great Deep. Which action past over, the Poem hasts into the midst of things, presenting Satan with his Angels now fallen into Hell, describ'd here, not in the Center (for Heaven and Earth may be suppos'd as yet not made, certainly not yet accurst) but in a place of utter darkness, fitliest call'd Chaos: Here Satan with his Angels lying on the burning Lake, thunder-struck and astonisht, after a certain space recovers, as from confusion, calls up him who next in Order and Dignity lay by him; they confer of thir miserable fall. Satan awakens all his Legions, who lay till then in the same manner confounded; They rise, thir Numbers, array of Battel, thir chief Leaders nam'd, according to the Idols known afterwards in Canaan and the Countries adjoyning. To these Satan directs his Speech, comforts them with hope yet of regaining Heaven, but tells them lastly of a new World and new kind of Creature to be created, according to an ancient Prophesie or report in Heaven; for that Angels were long before this visible Creation, was the opinion of many ancient Fathers. To find out the truth of this Prophesie, and what to determin thereon he refers to a full Councel. What his Associates thence attempt. Pandemonium the Palace of Satan rises, suddenly built out of the Deep: The infernal Peers there sit in Councel.



Mon Jan 19, 2009 12:04 am
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I wanted to add a footnote to this opening of dicussion to Book 1. I happened to have seen this on the Seven Deadly Sins series on the History Channel. Only when Dante wrote "Inferno", was hell described in detail. There is no mention of the levels of hell in the Bible. Dante came up with the whole thing. I would like to think or perhaps surmise that Milton's "Paradise Lost" is almost like a prequel to "Inferno". Sort of a here is how it happened folks. If you mess up, you can see where you are going to go by looking at "Inferno". Just a little tid bit for you to chew on. :whistle:


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Mon Jan 19, 2009 12:56 pm
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So I have had a copy of Paradise Lost sitting on a bookshelf for at least 10 years now. I don't know why I never got around to reading it, just one of those things. It wasn't the epic poetry style that kept me from it as the Iliad is probably my favorite work ever and it certainly wasn't the story - who doesn't love a fantastical tale of demons, angels, man, and war. But whatever it was that was keeping me from reading it apparently was attempting to protect me from the subpar mediocre (at best) plodding of Milton.
There seems to be a paradox in reading this for me. Much of Book I is subpar writing that is being forcefully fit into the Epic Poetry style. Where the Iliad gloriously raises the style to sublime art, with Milton it exists as a combination of restricting the story and forcing unusual juxtapositions of lines. The paradox exists in the fact that there are moments (most often lines, sometimes whole segments) that are brilliant. Lines 157-165 (I'm reading from a Signet addition, though I assume the line#s will be the same in any addition - or close)- Satan lays out his and the rest of the fallen's goal to do only ill in the world in opposition to god- is spoken brilliantly.
There are other lines that I would imagine people who have not read the poem would recognize also, even if they didn't know where they came from (The mind is its own place,and in itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven; or Better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven)- all brilliant. There are in fact several places where I'd stop and go back and read a line several times to relect on it. Those lines however exist within a frame work of banal, poor story telling.
So far, through Book 1 I already find Milton's style to be too much of a ramble.



Mon Jan 19, 2009 12:59 pm
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Ibid: So I have had a copy of Paradise Lost sitting on a bookshelf for at least 10 years now. I don't know why I never got around to reading it, just one of those things. It wasn't the epic poetry style that kept me from it as the Iliad is probably my favorite work ever and it certainly wasn't the story - who doesn't love a fantastical tale of demons, angels, man, and war. But whatever it was that was keeping me from reading it apparently was attempting to protect me from the subpar mediocre (at best) plodding of Milton
I'm glad you got us started on looking at the poem from the level of the reader response to it as a work of imaginative (and didactic) literature. There are certainly other levels of commentary as well, which Robert T and Tom are covering. The diversity of views on how effective the poem is will be interesting to hear. I fear for you in the following ten books if you thought the first two were, overall, weak! The first two are often thought of a smashing beginning, followed by anticlimax, as if Milton got tired out dictating One and Two. Anyway, I hope you can keep going, and, as Milton might phrase it, justify having this book on your shelf all these years.

Reading this for first time in 15 years or more, I was impressed with the sense of mastery, command, even arrogance that Milton brings to the task. It does take a bit of confidence to annnounce to the world your intention to undertake "Things unattempted yet in Prose or Rhyme." Yet with this boast Milton isn't saying that he's the first to retell the biblical story of creation, sin, and redemption; maybe it's only that he's the first to do this in prose or rhyme. There were numerous dramatic treatments of his themes in popular literature, but he considers himself the first to do what he's about to attempt. Who knows what he really means? Is it that he's the first to retell the Old Testament stories as an epic? Or is it that no one else has put it all together such that the result will "justify the ways of God to men?"

Did you notice the preface to the poem, where Milton says he's writing it in English heroic verse (iambic pentameter), despite the fashion for rhymed couplets? Milton wrote plenty of rhymed verse himself before PL, much of it really beautiful stuff, but apparently by the time of PL his purpose had become more serious and stern, and he didn't write any afterwards. His models were the classical epics of Homer and Virgil, not the lesser modern works that tricked themselves out with the ornamentation of rhyme. As I read Book One, I could see how skillful was his use of the heroic verse, lines of ten syllables in the general pattern of stressed/unstressed, etc. The lines do make the poem easier and more enjoyable to read, I think. Such a minor thing as the lines almost always ending with a stressed syllable (while often not beginning with one), creates an effect that was thought to be strong (therefore "heroic", I guess). That said, his style in the poem is not universally liked. Some criticize it as latinate or Baroque.

Despite the sternness of Milton, and his deep desire to edify and instruct, he also clearly intends the poem as an entertainment. How could he not, with his epic models in front of him, that had entertained people for hundreds of years? Ibid has already said something about the entertainment value. Just one thing I'd mention, in reference to his feeling that the Illiad is so much superior as an epic, is that for me Milton's catalogue of demons is better than Homer's catalogue of ships. I also find the whole of Book One has a sustained level of invention that, again, sends me back to thoughts of Milton's mastery.

I had one further thought, actually a suggestion. If we can copy from the online poem into our posts those passages we want to highlight, it would save everyone the trouble of referring to the text.

[/i]


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Mon Jan 19, 2009 10:55 pm
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...Illiad is so much superior as an epic, is that for me Milton's catalogue of demons is better than Homer's catalogue of ships
The catalogue of ships is one of the few parts of the Iliad that to a modern reader contributes nothing of real value to the poem (to the ancient listener however they heard their homeland or ancestoral nations called out for them to cheer on).

It could be Milton's style, choice of words or even the translation that I'm reading, but I was just wholely unimpressed to this point. The thing that will keep me going is that the subject matter is so much fun and the great experience of reading these characters and situations that were introduced by Milton yet have taken on a life (or many lives) of their own and in many ways over the last 300+ years have entered nearly into the world of cliche from their overuse and adoption as 'un'official cannon.



Tue Jan 20, 2009 10:52 am
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I don't want to be nit-picky but I have a problem with a fundamental piece of this story. Satan has just fought and lost a war against god. In defeat Satan and his followers are cast out of heaven into this lake of fire (hell?)

First, really? That's what god chooses. God casts this guy out so that Satan can live on to cause trouble again (for enternity no less)....Shouldn't there be some greater power in god's arsenal than simply sending Satan for a timeout?

Second, how does a war between 2 immortal armies work? When an angel is killed do they simply spring up yet again at the back of the line? Do they go to some other heaven?



Tue Jan 20, 2009 11:05 am
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Ibid wrote:
When an angel is killed do they simply spring up yet again at the back of the line? Do they go to some other heaven?


Ibid, we're dealing with mythology so we needn't expect ordinary experience. Being angels, they can't be killed, but they are sensitive and suffer injury. As Milton explains in Book 6:

. . .Satan, being an ethereal spirit, soon heals, for spirits: "All heart they live, all head, all eye, all ear, / All intellect, all sense, and as they please, / They limb themselves, and color, shape or size / Assume, as like them best, condense or rare" (Study Master notes).



Tue Jan 20, 2009 12:25 pm
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When I first read this work, I had the same questions. So I asked one of my professors who was a former Catholic priest. This is what he said. God knows and sees all before it even happens. He knows that he has to have a system of checks and balances. So instead of out right destroying Satan, he banished him. Knowing that he will need him sometime in the future.

As for the angelic death, there is. Nothing but God and Satan are truly immortal. When an angel dies, they become one with their "masters". Forever part of the spiritual pool of good and evil.


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Tue Jan 20, 2009 12:28 pm
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Raving Lunatic wrote:
As for the angelic death, there is. Nothing but God and Satan are truly immortal. When an angel dies, they become one with their "masters". Forever part of the spiritual pool of good and evil.


Raving, apparently Catholics are not in agreement on this point. I have it from the Saint's mouth: Angels cannot die.

". . . , angels do not have 'lower' life-functions such as digestion, growth, or sexual reproduction. In fact, they cannot reproduce themselves in any way at all, since they do not have parts that can serve as angelic 'genetic material'. But, then again, neither do they grow old or suffer from sickness and physical deterioration. (For instance, unlike some of us oldsters, angels do not need reading glasses of various strengths for different tasks!) Needless to say, angels cannot die or, as St. Thomas would put it, undergo corruption" (Angels and Demons by Alfred J. Freddoso, University of Notre Dame).
http://www.nd.edu/~afreddos/pdfs/angelsdemons.pdf



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Thomas Hood wrote:
Raving Lunatic wrote:
As for the angelic death, there is. Nothing but God and Satan are truly immortal. When an angel dies, they become one with their "masters". Forever part of the spiritual pool of good and evil.


Raving, apparently Catholics are not in agreement on this point. I have it from the Saint's mouth: Angels cannot die.

". . . , angels do not have 'lower' life-functions such as digestion, growth, or sexual reproduction. In fact, they cannot reproduce themselves in any way at all, since they do not have parts that can serve as angelic 'genetic material'. But, then again, neither do they grow old or suffer from sickness and physical deterioration. (For instance, unlike some of us oldsters, angels do not need reading glasses of various strengths for different tasks!) Needless to say, angels cannot die or, as St. Thomas would put it, undergo corruption" (Angels and Demons by Alfred J. Freddoso, University of Notre Dame).
http://www.nd.edu/~afreddos/pdfs/angelsdemons.pdf


Haha- I wonder exactly how St. Thomas was able to acquire this knowledge. Perhaps he captured an angel and examined it, sort of like an alien autopsy. So funny, so foolish - and there are grown ups that actually believe this... :?



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Raving Lunatic wrote:
When I first read this work, I had the same questions. So I asked one of my professors who was a former Catholic priest. This is what he said. God knows and sees all before it even happens. He knows that he has to have a system of checks and balances. So instead of out right destroying Satan, he banished him. Knowing that he will need him sometime in the future.

As for the angelic death, there is. Nothing but God and Satan are truly immortal. When an angel dies, they become one with their "masters". Forever part of the spiritual pool of good and evil.


That answer would open an entire can of worms about the nature of god then huh? His benevolence/malevolence, does he need Satan to justify his own existence or will Satan once again serve the will of god - interesting.



Tue Jan 20, 2009 2:08 pm
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