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Discussion - Paradise Lost > Paradise Lost--Through Book 11

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message 1: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments We bid goodbye to Satan and his cohorts, and move forward now to the "what next" after the fall.

After a brief discussion in Heaven between God and the Son concerning the eventual future of man, followed by the message to Adam and Eve that they must leave Eden, the bulk of the book is taken up with Michael's vision for Adam of the future of the human race. (Feminist outrage at Eve being shunted off to sleep while the men do the important talk is duly noted.)

While some readers dismiss Book 11 (and 12) as afterthoghts of dubious value (I am reminded of the same dismissal of Dante's Purgatorio and Paradisio by those who think the Inferno is the only part of the Comedy worth reading), I think that underestimates their purpose and importance. Milton is still dealing with a number of his core themes; man's relationship with God, predestination vs. foreknowledge, hope.


message 2: by MadgeUK (last edited Aug 18, 2010 03:36AM) (new)

MadgeUK In his Yale lectures Professor Rogers puts Book 11 and Part of Book 12 together and also deals at length with Milton's experiences of the Fall of the Revolution, likening that to Adam and Eve's Fall and to his own Fall with regard to both his Utopian dreams and his loss of eyesight. I found it a very fine, and moving, exposition of both the history of the times and of the reasons behind the difference in the poetry of the final books, and of Michael's stern didactism. I commend it to y'all. His explanations defend the books against those critics who have dismissed them as inferior:-

http://oyc.yale.edu/english/milton/co...


message 3: by Dianna (new)

Dianna | 393 comments I have to say I found the last two chapters of the book anti climactic after the intensity of the previous 2 chapters.


message 4: by Laurel (new)

Laurel Hicks (goodreadscomlaurele) | 2438 comments MadgeUK wrote: "In his Yale lectures Professor Rogers puts Book 11 and Part of Book 12 together and also deals at length with Milton's experiences of the Fall of the Revolution, likening that to Adam and Eve's Fal..."

Thanks, Madge. I'll give it a listen.


message 5: by [deleted user] (new)

Books 11 & 12 seem easier to discuss together as a unit than individually. Can we turn this thread into a discussion of both and then use next week's discussion to wrap up overall thoughts and ideas about the poem?


message 6: by MadgeUK (last edited Aug 18, 2010 08:18PM) (new)

MadgeUK Good idea Kate - Rogers does this and it seems to make sense. Although he doesn't cover Book 12 entirely with Book 11 but continues it like this:-

'In this final lecture on Paradise Lost, Book Twelve's justification for the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the garden is examined alongside the Genesis account. The nature of Milton's God, whether literal or liberal, is examined at length. The poem's closing lines are closely read, with substantial attention paid to Milton's final, complicated take on the poem-long consideration of Providence and free will.


message 7: by MadgeUK (last edited Aug 18, 2010 10:59PM) (new)

MadgeUK This is my summary of Professor's Rogers Lecture No 19 on Book 11 and part of Book 12:-

In this penultimate lecture Professor Rogers summarises Milton's life in politics from his high aspirations for England becoming a new Jerusalem, his disappointment in the English people and their government and a later hope for an elitist Parliament of the Saints, through to the final disappointment of the Restoration. He refers to Milton's previous writing - the liberal politics contained in Aeropagitica, how in The Reason of Church Governments in the 1640s (before the Revolution) he 'looked ahead to a political future in which the reformed government would usher in the reign of Christ at the end of time', that the Nativity Ode and Comus had anticipated the Apocalypse just as in Book 11 Adam 'seems to be continually anticipating an ending' and Michael 'puts the brakes on'. Rogers calls Michael 'the killjoy angel' and of course he is the angel of the Apocalypse from the Book of Revelation. Rogers postulates that the high hopes of Milton's earlier political life through to the Restoration, with the Parliament of the Saints in between, are charted within PL (which I have been trying to draw attention to in my previous posts).

Rogers mentions the disappointment that people often feel when reading Books 11 and 12 and says 'that we so miss Raphael...the affable Raphael had charmed us with that endearing uncertainty that he had about the structure of the Cosmos...he made an art out of his uncertainty and placed his blessing on the ambiguities and uncertainties of the poem'. We now have the didactic Michael, 'the killjoy angel', who lectures Adam on history in laboured, declarative sentences and whose purpose seems to be to make Adam feel very culpable. It is as if not only Adam and Eve are to be punished but that we, the readers, are too 'We're punished because if we want to finish this stupid poem we have an obligation to read and experience Michael's uncompromising pedagogy, his teaching of Adam.' Rogers agrees with critics that these last two books are 'disappointing' but suggests that they are 'troubled and worrisome' because of Milton's own disappointing history of the failed Puritan Revolution. 'Milton has taken great pains to keep from this poem anything like a direct allusion to the political turmoil of his day but what I am hoping to be able to do....is to show on of the ways in which Michael's treatment of scriptural history is still intimately connected to the contemporary political history that Milton himself was enmeshed in.'

Milton's poem appeared over twenty-three years after the publication of the 'exhuberantly liberal' poem of Aeropagitica when Milton was 'wildly optimistic' about the success of the Revolution. He had faith that a Utopia could be founded on English soil and he had faith in populas, 'the people'. He felt that God had infused the power of reason and virtue into every single human individual so that they could govern themselves in a non-authoritarian, egalitarian manner. But the real English people turned out to be much more conservative than the Puritan elite who had displaced Charles I and soon wanted the monarchy back. So Milton changed his ideas and decided that the people needed a small, elect body of people to govern them in Parliament. As time went on, however, this elect body also failed and the people, now 'the rude and inconsiderate multitude', began to clamour for a return of the King, so Milton again revised his ideals yet again and decided that England needed a small spiritual elite with military powers - a Council of Saints, a junta! So in a little more than a decade Milton had shifted from an exhuberant belief in liberalism to authoritarianism. Fortunately, before Milton's junta could be adopted and the people forced into submission, the King was restored.

Rogers thinks that Milton uses the narrative of the fall of Paradise to chart his own experience of the loss of the English commonwealth. For Milton, Adam and Eve were like the English people in the 1650s who show little reason and little virtue so, Rogers suggests, the irritable Archangel Michael has to be introduced to teach them a lesson. Eve escaped from Raphael's lesson and preferred kisses but she cannot escape Michael. Readers cannot escape either as they are forced into reading the sonorous, didactic style in these final books, a style which some have called 'modern' but which jars with the earlier books. There is a shift too from vision in Book 11 to narrative in Book 12, from the use of the eyes to the use of reason and this, given the onset of Milton's glaucoma and blindness, is also significant (see Lines 4ll-420) . ('Purge and dispel' may be a reference to Milton's own belief that something he had eaten caused his blindness.) Adam has to be 'enforced' to see this history because he cannot yet internalise it with his reason. He also sees musicians, 'a beavy of fair women, richly gay' dancers upon which men 'let their eyes Rove without rein' but when Adam tells Michael, 'true opener of mine eyes' (L598), that he likes this vision he is chided and here Milton reveals his Puritanism, his dislike of anything aesthetic.

In his later description of the Flood, Michael tells Adam that even Paradise will be swept away and will become an 'island salt and bare', 'to teach thee that God attributes to place/no sanctity'. Places aren't divine, only the people who live in them. After Michael has told Adam of the hell that Paradise will become, he tells him he 'will not be loth/To leave this Paradise [because:] thou shalt possess/A Paradise within thee, happier far', by virtue of his reason. Here we have Milton's insistence on the superiority of inward reason and inward spirit over the sanctity of churches, other holy places or church doctrine.

So we have experienced, along with Adam, the loss of Paradise, the loss of the beauty of the earlier books of PL, necessary because Adam & Eve did not remain obedient and sinless (and neither did we, the readers). However, in Book 12 the poem changes again and Michael brings some optimism/redemption into the narrative and there is some 'reemergence of a lot of the things we associate with Milton, including the epic simile.' (I haven't read Book 12 yet!)


message 8: by [deleted user] (new)

God speaks to the angels:

O Sons, like one of us Man is become
To know both Good and Evil, since his taste [ 85 :]
Of that defended Fruit; but let him boast
His knowledge of Good lost, and Evil got,
Happier, had suffic'd him to have known
Good by it self, and Evil not at all.


I once heard a concert pianist say that the music is made not by the way you play the notes, but by the way you play the silence between the notes. I just don't see how we can understand Good if we don't understand Evil. They can only be measured relative to each other. And the relationship is constantly evolving; things which were once assumed to be good are now understood to be evil.


message 9: by MadgeUK (new)

MadgeUK I suppose if A&E had remained innocent in the Garden of Eden they couldn't be evil and so it didn't matter. Good and Evil only matter in relation to one another once something goes wrong and what went wrong was the 'taste' of the apple, which they had been told was wrong. Until that time there was no right or wrong.

Then the question becomes that if A&E had remained innocent there would have been no evil for us either and we would have remained outside of Paradise, presumably unsaved. I think.


message 10: by MadgeUK (new)

MadgeUK Well yes, according to Raphael they could have achieved the status (and digestion:)) of angels as could we all if we remain pure and unsullied by sin. It is a nice Utopian dream isn't it? As a bit of an idealist myself, I feel quite sorry for Milton that his dreams fell so drastically apart:(.


message 11: by MadgeUK (new)

MadgeUK LOL. Utopian dreams often do not make sense which is why, I suppose, there are no Utopias:).


message 12: by Aranthe (last edited Aug 21, 2010 06:13PM) (new)

Aranthe | 103 comments Poor little book 11 seems to have been abandoned, so I thought I'd post a Pinky trail from PL to The Oresteia.

The part of this book that begins in line 556 and continues through 699 elaborates on the cryptic verses of Genesis 6:1-4 that speaks of the "sons of God" marrying the "daughters of man" and producing the Nephilim, an obscure word that is used only twice in the Bible, here and in the book of Numbers in a reference back to this usage.

There are three fairly standard views on this short section. In PL, Milton chose the one that assumes that the sons of God are the descendants of Seth and the daughters of man, the descendants of Cain.

A second view is that the sons of God were tyrannical kings descended from Lamech, the first recorded bigamist and a violent man who seemed rather proud of his violence.

The third view is suggested by the word Nephilim, which translates "fallen ones"—that they were fallen angels.

There's no way to know which, but what struck my Pinky chord is verse 4b, which says of the Nephilim, "These were the mighty men who were of old, the men of renown." If one speculates the third view, it parallels the Greek idea of the age of heroes, a hero in that sense being the offspring of a god and a human who has some extraordinary physical attributes and isn't always Mr. Nice Guy.

Which brings us finally to The Oresteia, which tells of the consequences of the Trojan War that ended the Greek age of heroes ends.


message 13: by [deleted user] (new)

Thanks Aranthe! I was feeling like book 11 was getting the short end of the deal, but I couldn't figure out anything I wanted to say about it. Glad you figured out a way to restart the conversation. :)


message 14: by [deleted user] (last edited Aug 21, 2010 07:02PM) (new)

For one Man found so perfet and so just,
That God voutsafes to raise another World
From him, and all his anger to forget.
But say, what mean those colourd streaks in Heavn,
Distended as the Brow of God appeas'd


Does this mean that Noah has supplanted Adam as God's hope for makind? The one just man?


message 15: by Thomas (new)

Thomas | 4409 comments Aranthe wrote: "Poor little book 11 seems to have been abandoned, so I thought I'd post a Pinky trail from PL to The Oresteia.

The part of this book that begins in line 556 and continues through 699 elaborates ..."


I'm sorry, but I have to ask. What is a "Pinky trail"?


message 16: by MadgeUK (new)

MadgeUK Zeke wrote: "Does this meant that Noah has supplanted Adam..."

That's a good point Zeke. If mankind was indeed destroyed by the Flood, the only descendant of Adam left was Noah. However, if Noah was perfect and just - without sin(?), why are we (well you!), his descendants, still sinners?

(Thanks for rolling the ball again Aranthe.)


message 17: by MadgeUK (new)

MadgeUK Why is Milton saying that he was 'perfet and so just' then?


message 18: by [deleted user] (new)

Can anyone explain all the extra trees to me? God gathers his angels and says:

Lest therefore his now bolder hand
Reach also of the tree of life, and eat,
And live for ever, dream at least to live
For ever, to remove him I decree,


And then urges them to guard the entrances to paradise:

And on the east side of the garden place,
Where entrance up from Eden easiest climbs,
Cherubick watch; and of a sword the flame
Wide-waving; all approach far off to fright,
And guard all passage to the tree of life:
Lest Paradise a receptacle prove
To Spirits foul, and all my trees their prey;
With whose stolen fruit Man once more to delude.


What does "all my trees their prey mean?"


message 19: by MadgeUK (new)

MadgeUK Kate wrote 'What does all my trees their prey mean...'

The Book 4 description of Paradise says that God had 'showered the earth' with 'cedar and pine and fir and branching palm' and there was a 'circling row of goodliest trees loaden with fairest fruit', which presumably means an orchard. God doesn't want Satan and the fallen angels to poach his garden! I feel just the same way about mine!


message 20: by [deleted user] (new)

MadgeUK wrote: "Kate wrote 'What does all my trees their prey mean...'

The Book 4 description of Paradise says that God had 'showered the earth' with 'cedar and pine and fir and branching palm' and there was a 'c..."


These trees seem to have "special attributes" though. Or why say With whose stolen fruit Man once more to delude?

He doesn't seem worried about poaching so much as what other temptations their fruits might represent. And while he specifically mentions the tree of life, he also implies the other trees might confer various (questionable) benefits as well.


message 21: by MadgeUK (new)

MadgeUK OK I've looked it up, although the Tree of Life will presumably bear fruit. There is a reference to the Five Trees of Paradise in the Coptic Gospel of Thomas V 19:-

'Jesus said Blessed is he who was before he came into being. If you become disciples to me and listen to my words, these stones will minister unto you. For you have five trees in Paradise, which do not change, either in Summer or Winter, and their leaves do not fall. He who knows them shall not taste of death.'

There are also five sacred trees in the Hindu paradise. They are:-

Mandara, which relieves ailments and physical stress.

Parijatra, which is of gold and copper and arose out of an ocean of milk.

Samtanaka, a tree of wonder which promotes fertility in men.

Sandalwood, which is fragrant and keeps evil spirits at bay.

Kalpa turu, the tree of eternity which emerged as a result of churning the ocean of milk.

And in Hebrew Pardes = Paradise = orchard. More explanations here:-

http://www.bardic-press.com/thomas/sa...


message 22: by Roger (new)

Roger Burk | 1717 comments Milton was unaware of the Gospel of Thomas, since it was lost from ancient times until 1945. It seems unlikely he would know much about Hinduism either.


message 23: by MadgeUK (last edited Aug 22, 2010 01:16PM) (new)

MadgeUK I didn't know that it was lost until 1945, thanks. Milton could have seen references to it as the Gnostic Gospels have been known about since medieval times. There are ancient Christian texts attacking the Gnostics

I think it is highly likely that he would know about Hinduism, just as he knew about Islam, the Greek religions etc. Sacred texts from Hindu and Islam have been present in British libraries for many centuries and Cambridge had one of the oldest libraries in Milton's time. Queen Elizabeth I met Hindu and Muslim scholars and King James I corresponded with an Indian Moghul. The East India Company was formed in 1600 and established a significant presence there from 1615 onwards but we didn't hold India as a Dominion until 1858, when the East India Company was ceded to the crown. Oliver Cromwell renewed their 1609 trading charter in 1647 and in 1670 King Charles II 'provisioned it with the rights to autonomous territorial acquisitions, the right to mint money, acquire fortresses and troops and to form alliances'. As Secretary of Foreign Tongues Milton was probably in the thick of the 1647 negotiations and would have undoubtedly met Hindus. (He mentions Malabar and Decca in Book 9 when writing about the fig tree.)

http://www.bl.uk/onlinegallery/sacred...

http://www.google.co.uk/search?q=hist...


message 24: by MadgeUK (last edited Aug 22, 2010 01:17PM) (new)

MadgeUK I've just found this fascinating titbit about Manicheism, a Gnostic sect, which may be relevant: Apparently St Augustine was attracted by Manicheism in his youth and gave an account of the diet of Manichean elect:. they believed that the fruits of certain trees contained trapped particles of the divine, which could be released by consumption and digestion, with the result that the Manichee fruit eater, according to Augustine, would 'breathe out angels' or 'bring up bits of God'! That piece of information about the Manichean digestive system would surely have fascinated Milton:):)


message 25: by Rhonda (new)

Rhonda (rhondak) | 202 comments I am a little more than surprised at various comments about Milton's failure to do as he set out, but I have to assume that these are legitimate analyses based upon the entire work through Book XII. I have read the comments which have been gathering on the discussion for Book X and have given them a great deal of thought and respect. Most importantly, I must disagree with Madge in that we have concentrated on the religious aspects at the expense of the epic; while it is true that we have not mentioned all the parallels with the Aeneid (and I feel this is a far closer match than that of Homer despite the similarities we have mentioned) the important effort has to be that which Milton stated: to justify the ways of God to men (Book I 26.) It is Milton’s point of view as to which is the greatest of his efforts when he says, The end of learning is to know God, and out of that knowledge to love Him and imitate Him” Thus while it is important whether Milton has succeeded in his poetry and in the epic style, we ought to principally evaluate Milton’s desired outcome against whether his path has been faithful and accurate. This requires our understanding of Milton’s belief system, not whether what Milton believed was right or wrong.

Thus while I have the highest respect of those judging his poetry, certainly by allowing that this is Neoclassical English writing like Pope, Dryden. Steele, Addison, Gay and others, one ought to admit that Milton is remarkably consistent in his scholarship and his verse. Far from believing the man is showing off, he is, in my mind, seeking to emulate the epic in a grand style. Thus I would argue that while it is remarkable that he could even recall most of these references as a blind man, he felt obligated to include them in a classical manner which is worthy of those who have written the great epics before him.

Milton has recorded that he was inspired during the night and would rise and record such in verse. In this sense he believed himself to be a prophet for God’s purpose; it is not necessary that we accept this as true before we can evaluate Milton's argument. Clearly he believed this and it is a key part which we must acknowledge as if it were true in order to make judgment as to his efficacy.

However I am more than a little confused with the analysis of those standing outside of a loving relationship with God judging His very nature and what provides justification. While it is true that the name of Christian (or anything else for that matter) does not indicate the truth of a relationship, with the greatest of respect for my fellow readers, God is not merely an intellectual exercise and you cannot judge him adequately with the depreciatory contempt of a skeptic. One cannot even begin to understand the love God has for each of us without loving him first. This is not ancillary but critical in the relationship. Said in another way, one cannot stand outside a relationship and begin to understand the very personal nature it entails. God's relationship with us is personal in the sense that God loves each of us as if we WERE the only one. I find this as awe inspiring as does Milton.
Thus while I allow that one has the right to judge whether God's relationship with man is adequate or lacking and even if Milton's explanation of such is lacking (indeed, the latter is the greater issue here but the former an indication of whether it is possible,) I do not believe that one with whom God has not developed a personal loving relationship is capable of judging such a thing. Calvin in the Institutes talks about the reflexive nature we have with God: we come to understand ourselves because we desire to know God. Yet we also come to know God because we come to know ourselves.
''Freely we serve,
Because we freely love, as in our will
To love or not; in this we stand or fall.''
Book V, 538-40

It is in this way in which I would argue that Milton does involve us in a kind of dialectic but not one which Kierkegaard might define as an either/or situation. Indeed it was Kierkegaard writing against the idealism of Hegel which cautioned against the mere rattling of ideas against each other without a necessary resulting synthesis: It is not possible for one to intellectualize God’s justice without participating. Instead we must live and understand the dialectic in a very real way in order to possibly produce not just the necessary “this” and opposing “that,” but the very real synthesis. It is only through such a living synthesis as a solution to the dialectic, as it were, which is capable of achieving a result with any authentic value. One must enter in to the relationship by placing oneself in place to either succeed or fail in such quests as Milton has detailed.

Milton in Book XI gives Adam the same means of understanding God’s truth as he claimed for himself, that of the dream. This understanding of God’s nature which he grants to Adam through Michael is the same he claimed for himself. The greater issue involved in Book XI is whether we can, in effect, understand the necessity of what Milton asks of us, to live virtuously and be obedient to God. Surely if one does not accept the premise that God has an existence then it would be difficult to judge the effect of the latter. In another way, if we are still wondering why we should ever be obedient to the laws which God has given us, then how ought we to be concerned if Milton does not impress us further? This is a plainly intellectual pursuit but one with a stacked deck against an authentic decision, this reaffirming one’s lack of desire to believe.

Indeed there has been only one man who has not fallen short of the mark, but Milton’s point is that God has loved us so much that He has given his own son for that love. As I have stated before, this is something which God has not required of man (vide Abraham and Isaac) but he has required of himself. We may not understand the necessity of the introduction of sin and death or even accept what the story of the Garden really means, but the greater issue is that Milton is suggesting that one cannot understand the purpose of what God has in store for us by reason alone. We must, just as Milton has claimed and just as Adam AND Eve have claimed in the epic, allow that God’s word is communicated through our dreams if we wish to judge the truth of what Milton proposes to do. Hence Eve says (in Book XII)
Whence thou returnst, and whither wentst, I know; [ 610 :]
For God is also in sleep, and Dreams advise,
Which he hath sent propitious, some great good
Presaging, since with sorrow and hearts distress
Wearied I fell asleep: but now lead on;


The greater issue is, in the last books of PL, whether one is now disposed to accept the sacrifice as God’s only son as a means to purification. Without understanding that God’s means for salvation is Christ coupled with man’s dedication to obedience to God’s laws makes the entire argument only a poetic device. Of course Milton never intended this as only a poetic device or only a great epic: for evaluation of his argument, it seems to me as Roger suggested some time ago, we must admit that the premises of Milton’s reasoning are true. It is my particular view that we must judge not whether Milton has convinced one to believe in God or even if he is denigrating women, but whether he has been able, given his assumptions, to provide successfully and accurately a reasonable means for mankind’s salvation and the possibility of basking in the presence of God once more.


Lastly, for those unhappy about the way women are treated in the epic, I suggest that here at least Eve is not pushed out of the way, but given special dispensation to understand God directly. I do not believe that Milton is suggesting superiority in either gender but difference. He says early on that
Whence true authority in men: though both
Not equal, as their sex not equal seemed;
For contemplation he and valour formed,
For softness she and sweet attractive grace;
He for God only, she for God in him:
Book IV, 295-299

Thus, while one is free to argue against the way in which Milton has argued the Bible’s account of how men and women were created, we are not free to argue that this is Milton’s point of view. Adam was formed from the earth by God and Eve was formed from part of Adam. As I have stated before, Milton believed in the spiritual sanctification of a marriage between a man and a woman as the natural combination by which to form a Godly spiritual union. My contemplation of such a position, far from leaving me angry in the modern vein of those women who deny the codependency and the perceived subjugation, I have come to admire this aspect of Milton as not only a novel presentation but one which seems correct.


message 26: by Dianna (new)

Dianna | 393 comments Rhonda, I read your whole long post and I'm just a straightforward girl from Missouri that says what I think in as few words as possible. It seems to me that you are preaching. You mention how someone cannot judge the nature of God who stands "outside of a loving relationship with" --him--. I don't think we can or should judge one another's "relationship" or lack of a "relationship" with God.

I think Milton did what he set out to do and each individual will interpret that based on his or her schema just like we interpret every other written or spoken word from anyone whether it is about God, Satan, Milton, Cookie Monster or the Tooth Fairy.


message 27: by MadgeUK (last edited Aug 22, 2010 03:17PM) (new)

MadgeUK Thanks for this thoughtful and insightful post Rhonda. I agree with you about the Aeneid but there wasn't a lot of analysis of that either, nor of many of the classical allusions but I understand that folks here are more interested in the religious aspects and accept that.

Are you saying here that unless one believes in God one cannot understand Milton? I realise that the 'justification' element requires belief but I do not agree that the epic as a whole requires belief because I think that it is 'great' enough to stand on its own literary merits, irrespective of religion. Also, I think I am the only one here who is an actual atheist and so those who are believers are surely capable of evaluating Milton in the same way as yourself, with, of course, differences about doctrine?

Although I know little about the religious aspects of this great poem, I do know that Milton did not believe that you could not understand God by the 'virtue of reason alone'. Pretty well everything he wrote put the emphasis on reason and there are a number of passages in PL which reiterate this emphasis. His raison d'etre throughout life was that it was through reasoning, self discovery and obedience to God via the scriptures that you came to an understanding of God or anything else. Personal Biblical interpretation through reason was a core Puritan belief. His over-riding belief in reason is also why he believed, mistakenly, that the English people could reason themselves into living in a self-governing Utopia.

It is not IMO necessary just to take on board Milton's own avowal that 'the end of learning is to know God etc.' We can disagree with that, as I do, and still appreciate what he has to say. We can also appreciate the epic style, history and classicism within the poem and the brilliance of the poetry itself without deprecating anything he has to say about his belief in God or the way to salvation. Nor should we be restricted to looking at Milton's aim to justify the ways of God to man, especially as mankind has been pondering this question for centuries without having come up with a satisfactory answer! The jury was out on this as soon as Milton published the poem and it is atill out.

Surely we are in fact free to argue what we darn well like? You may believe that Adam was formed from the earth by God and Eve was formed from part of Adam but I certainly do not and there may be others here who think not. Similarly, the 'correctness' of belief in the sanctity of marriage, subjugation and so on is open to interpretation in this day and age. What is freedom of speech, or for that matter free will, all about if we are not free to argue about these things? Equally, I am free to argue that the aspects of the Civil War which Milton incorporated into PL were also important to him because of his particular background and disappointments, and that he would have wanted us to discuss those with equal fervour, just as he did. Had we been reading PL amongst English people there might have been more emphasis on this aspect and far less emphasis on the religious, just as there was when my grand-daughter recently read PL at school for her A-levels.

There are always many ways of reading a good book and reading from a religious p.o.v. is only one of them. Milton has provided us with too richer a poem for it to be read in a one-dimensional way and I believe that we would do him an injustice if we did so.


message 28: by MadgeUK (new)

MadgeUK Amanda wrote: "Righteous and perfect/sinless aren't the same thing.'..."

Thanks Amanda.


message 29: by MadgeUK (new)

MadgeUK Dianna wrote: "Rhonda, I read your whole long post and I'm just a straightforward girl from Missouri that says what I think in as few words as possible. It seems to me that you are preaching. You mention how s..."

I very much agree with your second paragraph Dianna.


message 30: by [deleted user] (last edited Aug 22, 2010 02:42PM) (new)

Rhonda, you seem to have done a good job of setting the cat in amongst the pigeons here! The crux of your argument seems to rest here in the third to last paragraph:

"The greater issue is, in the last books of PL, whether one is now disposed to accept the sacrifice as God’s only son as a means to purification. Without understanding that God’s means for salvation is Christ coupled with man’s dedication to obedience to God’s laws makes the entire argument only a poetic device. Of course Milton never intended this as only a poetic device or only a great epic: for evaluation of his argument, it seems to me as Roger suggested some time ago, we must admit that the premises of Milton’s reasoning are true. It is my particular view that we must judge not whether Milton has convinced one to believe in God or even if he is denigrating women, but whether he has been able, given his assumptions, to provide successfully and accurately a reasonable means for mankind’s salvation and the possibility of basking in the presence of God once more."

It sounds as if you are saying that Paradise Lost is a sort of Biblical exigesis and should only be approached that way. It certainly could be, and Milton's theodicy has been questioned by lots of critics over 300+ years. I'm not in a position to argue whether or not he succeeds at this level.

But by framing this as an epic and by including the other secular and philosophical issues of his day, Milton opened the door to discussing God outside of a narrow Biblical framework. He then took on the burden, intentionally I presume, of justifying God within a much bigger context. God's actions now have to appear justifiable in response to issues of free will, freedom, justice, pursuit of knowledge, etc. raised by Satan and by Adam and Eve. He has to be awe inspiring within the poem itself. God has be justifiable in this poem on an artistic and intellectual level as well as a religious one, and that is where Milton fails in his stated aim.


message 31: by MadgeUK (last edited Aug 22, 2010 02:46PM) (new)

MadgeUK Good post Kate, especially the last para. On what level do you think Milton fails? One, two or all three? Does he have to justify God just because he said he wanted to do so in one line of the poem? Can't he be allowed to fail in this aim, yet succeed in many other ways?


message 32: by MadgeUK (last edited Aug 22, 2010 03:05PM) (new)

MadgeUK I am beginning to feel sorry for the poor old guy. He must be churning in his grave:(:(:(

http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg....


message 33: by [deleted user] (new)

MadgeUK wrote: "Good post Kate, especially the last para. On what level do you think Milton fails? One, two or all three? Does he have to justify God just because he said he wanted to do so in one line of the poe..."

Artistically Blake has Milton nailed. Milton is much more fascinated by the actions of the troublemakers in this poem than he is by the righteous, and his poetry is strongest when he's arguing their point of view. He actually seems a rather sensuous person. Well, a lot of sensuality came through in his poetry anyway.

Intellectually I think he fails to resolve his faith and his reason, and here is where most of the unanswered questions lie. He brings up issues of free will, personal liberty, pursuit of knowledge but God doesn't deal with any of them very well :)

Whether this poem works on a religious level, I can't say.

I like some of the poetry. Some of his imagery is fantastical, almost surreal. I appreciate his breadth of knowledge. But really I think PL is a success because of all the internal tension. Milton fights the whole way through to come up with answers he just doesn't have. And so the intellectual and artistic elements of the poem just shudder to a halt in the last 2 books.

I could descend to irony and revive the Shakepearean analogy. Milton, the narrator, is easily the tragic hero of PL. His "fatal flaw" is probably his own hubris in attempting something of this scope.


message 34: by Rhonda (new)

Rhonda (rhondak) | 202 comments For those who believe I was preaching or intending to preach, I apologize. I have intended no such thing. My greater point was not to suggest that one must believe according to Milton, but that to judge or evaluate his success, one must accept his premises. I do not demand that anyone believe anything, but it is necessary to see things as Milton sees them before we can make any sense from them.
There have been several here who have suggested, correctly, that the truth or falsity of an argument must be evaluated from first assuming the premises of that argument. I find that many of the comments here have neglected this necessity. Much commentary I read commits the same fallacy. Thus I maintain that one is free to judge Milton without accepting his premises, but I find such judgment meaningless.
As to the dialectic, I am suggesting that it is not an intellectual dialectic but an actual one. I beg your indulgence if I am not explaining this well, but the great Hegel spent entire tomes writing specifically about this, as did so many who followed him, including Husserl, Sartre and Heidegger in the mid twentieth century. The real dialectic is one in which you as a person commits him or her self in a real wrestling match. Thus it is necessary to suspend belief and enter in to the argument before it becomes more than a fiction.
The difference is that of participation. While one may certainly evaluate from the outside, I suggest that the right answers cannot be achieved from this perspective. It is Milton, rather than I, who asks that you participate personally in the issues which he raises. Only when one accepts the premises, (which means suspending one's own personal beliefs,) can one decide if a man or woman has made his/her point. Afterwards, of course, one may return and examine the premises and decide whether those are either properly defined or true. Significant conclusions, however, are only realizable when one is part of the dialectic.
Further, this is the ultimate failure of reason as a sufficient issue for deciding Milton's success: while reason is participatory in the extreme, it is not a sufficient means for determining what Milton suggests. Clearly one is free to say:
"I do not think Milton succeeded in what he was trying to do in justifying the ways of God to men because I do not accept his premises."
One certainly has the freedom of will to say such things, but I am suggesting, with all due respect, that the outcome is meaningless: to reject the sufficiency of an argument by denying the premises is a different sort of judgment altogether. While it may be valuable in its own right, it does not answer the question concerning this or any other book's argument.
I am suggesting, as I think that Roger echoed some time ago, that in order to judge this or any argument accordingly, one must suspend one's own personal belief and follow along with what a person says. The only piece of Milton's theology with which I have openly agreed or disagreed (other than my obvious faith in the existence of God and Christ) is his somewhat novel argument concerning marriage. I have stated that I find this a novel argument and I have never seen it argued in this way before. I admittedly am very taken with Milton's argument.
However even had I not believed it, I would be obligated for the sake of Milton's argument, to suppose that what he believed were so. His points concerning prophecy and dreams are equally key, in my opinion, and I offer no personal opinion about such. Whether they are true or not does not matter except as we must accept them as part of the argument which he maintains that he has proven. The truth or falsity of an argument depends by necessity on the careful statement of his premises. Milton has been very careful with his premises. Thus as we go into Book XII, I only ask that one not argue with whether the premises are, in fact, true until we have seen the entre reasoning process.


message 35: by MadgeUK (last edited Aug 24, 2010 12:02AM) (new)

MadgeUK I think I agree with you Kate. Is his fascination with troublemakers more exasperation though? The fond parent remonstrating with the naughty child. He was rather sensuous for a Puritan as his divorce tract shows and the fact that, though he has Michael criticise them in PR 11, he liked music and the arts.

I think you have to have a certain amount of hubris to embark on an epic in the first place! Was PL his nemesis though - I hate to think that because he failed in his 'justification', he is languishing with the Immortals on the outskirts of Heaven. I want him in Heaven partaking of ambrosia that will restore his sight and not harm his digestive system:).


message 36: by Roger (last edited Aug 22, 2010 03:48PM) (new)

Roger Burk | 1717 comments I conceive that Milton was writing to fellow-believers, not to unbelievers that he was trying to convert. He wanted to provide believers a connected story that made sense as a whole, and one in the highest and best form for such a topic, to increase and ennoble their faith. I propose that he succeeded. He made the evil and fallen characters more interesting because that is how they appear in the real world. A believer perhaps should react with a shudder of horror at how attractive evil can be. He tries to make God approachable by having him use wry irony with Christ and pull Adam's leg about being lonely in the Garden; in this perhaps he does not succeed so well.


message 37: by MadgeUK (new)

MadgeUK Rhonda wrote: "For those who believe I was preaching or intending to preach, I apologize. I have intended no such thing. My greater point was not to suggest that one must believe according to Milton, but that t..."

Thanks Rhonda. I am pleased to see that at least one person agrees with me about the dialectics:)

As an atheist, I have found that I have had to suspend my disbelief both whilst reading the poem and in participating in arguments surrounding the religious points of view which have been put forward here. So I think I might fulfil your criteria:).

I am not sure, however, that the suspension of disbelief is entirely necessary to understand this poem or any other work of the imagination. I look forward to Everyman's response to this as I know that he has elequently argued before against Shelley's premise in respect of Shakespearean performances. There are those who would use a purely pragmatic approach to determine Milton's success.


message 38: by Aranthe (last edited Aug 22, 2010 03:59PM) (new)

Aranthe | 103 comments "Aranthe wrote: "Poor little book 11 seems to have been abandoned, so I thought I'd post a Pinky trail from PL to The Oresteia."

Thomas wrote: "I'm sorry, but I have to ask. What is a "Pinky trail"?"


It's a reference to Steven Spielberg's animated series Pinky and the Brain, my term for an obscure logic trail that mimics Pinky's left-field responses to Brain's oft-repeated question, "Are you pondering what I'm pondering?"

Though his answer is always an apparent non sequitur, one of the later episodes reveals that there is method in Pinky's madness by visualizing the connection between what is going on in the scene and how Pinky arrives at his seemingly unrelated response.


message 39: by Thomas (new)

Thomas | 4409 comments Kate wrote: "I could descend to irony and revive the Shakepearean analogy. Milton, the narrator, is easily the tragic hero of PL. His "fatal flaw" is probably his own hubris in attempting something of this scope. "

The scope is certainly a problem. Justifying the ways of God is really only something that God can do, and ultimately the justification is one based on faith. I think what Milton is doing is sharing a personal revelation, his experience of faith informed by the scriptures, his political experience, his blindness, his marriages, his life.

Milton's revelation is presented as a "justification" of God on universal terms, a justification to man, for all people. This is where it fails as a theological argument, in my opinion. Even if revelation is something we have in common (we all have the Bible), each person's faith is not.

But as Laurele points out, this is a postmodern point of view and most of Milton's contemporaries would not have had objections. (Unless they were Catholic, in which case they would be in hiding.)


message 40: by Thomas (new)

Thomas | 4409 comments Aranthe wrote: ""Aranthe wrote: "Poor little book 11 seems to have been abandoned, so I thought I'd post a Pinky trail from PL to The Oresteia."

Thomas wrote: "I'm sorry, but I have to ask. What is a "Pinky trail..."


Aha. Thanks, Aranthe. Sounds like something to see, right after I see the animated Odyssey that is. Hope they have it at the Dollar store :)


message 41: by [deleted user] (new)

Roger wrote: "He tries to make God approachable by having him use wry irony with Christ and pull Adam's leg about being lonely in the Garden; in this perhaps he does not succeed so well. "

Wry irony is probably even more difficult in blank verse than it is in quick little on-line comments. ;)

I can see what you're referring to in the discussion with Adam, but with Christ I'm not so sure. Do you mean during the war in heaven when he tells Christ to go clean house before Satan's and Michael's armies wreck the place?


message 42: by MadgeUK (last edited Aug 23, 2010 12:22AM) (new)

MadgeUK Thomas wrote: "Kate wrote: "I could descend to irony and revive the Shakepearean analogy. Milton, the narrator, is easily the tragic hero of PL. His "fatal flaw" is probably his own hubris in attempting something..."

Good observations, especially about the justification.

Catholics themselves were generally OK under Cromwell as there was an amnesty after the end of the Civil War, although their churches were pillaged because of Puritan iconoclastic zeal. Milton himself, though anti-catholic, argued for religious tolerance in several of his tracts. If you are referring to Ireland, Cromwell was putting down a Royalist rebellion in which mainly catholics took part, not purging catholics as such, although there were many military atrocities, especially at Drogheda, which was typical of the sort of military siege and massacre which took place during wars of those times:(:(. There were, in fact, quite a few catholics in the New Model Army although supporters of the King were largely catholic and supporters of Cromwell were largely Protestant. However, the fight was really over the King's attitude towards Parliament, belief in his divine right to rule and his insistence on introducing episcopal rites to the Protestant Church, not over catholicism itself. In Ireland in particular, there were atrocities on both sides and there has been a lasting legacy of bitterness about that, as we know:(. Dreadful times:(


message 43: by [deleted user] (new)

Thomas wrote: "I think what Milton is doing is sharing a personal revelation, his experience of faith informed by the scriptures, his political experience, his blindness, his marriages, his life. "

I like that. I hadn't quite made that connection, but I think that's exactly what he was doing.

As to what his contemporaries thought, PL seems to have generated controversy from the outset. Although the focus of the controversy seems to change from era to era.


message 44: by Roger (new)

Roger Burk | 1717 comments Kate wrote: "Roger wrote: "He tries to make God approachable by having him use wry irony with Christ and pull Adam's leg about being lonely in the Garden; in this perhaps he does not succeed so well. "

Wry iro..."


I was thinking of Book 5, Lines 718-732, where God smiles at His Son when advising that They take counsel lest They be unthroned.


message 45: by [deleted user] (new)

Roger wrote: "I was thinking of Book 5, Lines 718-732, where God smiles at His Son when advising that They take counsel lest They be unthroned.
"


I hadn't noticed that. Thanks


message 46: by Laurel (new)

Laurel Hicks (goodreadscomlaurele) | 2438 comments Roger wrote: "I conceive that Milton was writing to fellow-believers, not to unbelievers that he was trying to convert. He wanted to provide believers a connected story that made sense as a whole, and one in th..."

Well said, Roger and Rhonda. When I expressed the wish to come back to Milton again after reading the earlier classics together, what you say was part of what I had in mind. Or actually, you added to what I have in mind, and I agree with your addition. Wish I could write more, but I'm resting now from a jet-boat trip down the Rogue River, and tomorrow the plays begin.


message 47: by MadgeUK (new)

MadgeUK Roger wrote: "I conceive that Milton was writing to fellow-believers, not to unbelievers that he was trying to convert. He wanted to provide believers a connected story that made sense as a whole, and one in th..."

I agree Roger although I do not understand why God cannot use humour or, for that matter, be 'approachable', if he is a loving God?


message 48: by MadgeUK (last edited Aug 24, 2010 12:03AM) (new)

MadgeUK Amanda wrote: "MadgeUK wrote: I want him in Heaven partaking of ambrosia that will restore his sight and not harm his digestive system:)"

Oh, I hope he's there because when I get there we are going to have some WORDS ..."


Are you sure he will want to speak to you after what you have said about him Amanda? :):):)


message 49: by Roger (new)

Roger Burk | 1717 comments MadgeUK wrote: "Roger wrote: "I conceive that Milton was writing to fellow-believers, not to unbelievers that he was trying to convert. He wanted to provide believers a connected story that made sense as a whole,..."

I don't know if He can or not--I'm just saying that Milton's portrayal of it doesn't work quite right, at least for me.


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