Milton, John

Paradise Lost (1674)


Paradise Lost is the great epic poem of the English language, a tale of immense drama and excitement, of rebellion and treachery, of innocence pitted against corruption, in which God and Satan fight a bitter battle for control of mankind's destiny. The struggle ranges across heaven, hell, and earth, as Satan and his band of rebel angels conspire against God. At the center of the conflict are Adam and Eve, motivated by all too human temptations, but whose ultimate downfall is unyielding love.

The poem concerns the Judeo-Christian story of the Fall of Man, the temptation of Adam and Eve by the fallen angel Satan and their expulsion from the Garden of Eden. Milton's purpose is to "justify the ways of God to men" and elucidate the conflict between God's eternal foresight and free will. In the early nineteenth century, the Romantics began to regard Satan as the protagonist of the epic. Milton presents Satan as an ambitious, proud being who defies his creator, omnipotent God, and who wages war on Heaven, only to be defeated and cast down. Indeed, William Blake, a great admirer of Milton and illustrator of the epic poem, said of Milton that "he was a true Poet, and of the Devil's party without knowing it." Milton incorporates Paganism, classical Greek references and Christianity within the story. The poem grapples with many difficult theological issues, including fate, predestination, and the Trinity.

The cover art is Thomas Cole's 1828 painting "The Garden of Eden". Note: Milton published this second edition in 1674 consisting of twelve books, the original had ten books and was published in 1667.

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