April 30, 2008
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Paradise Lost

by John Milton

Blake was right: in Paradise Lost, Satan and his crew are by far the most interesting and, for the most part, admirable characters. They are in a bad place. Literally. They address themselves with commendable directness to their problems. Shall they continue the war, which they now know to be hopeless? Shall they reconcile themselves to accept eternal punishment? Shall they attempt to remodel Hell to make it less unpleasant, or to change themselves to better fit their circumstances? Or shall they use their wits to conquer a new world?

Adam's a problem, and Eve is worse, and much of Paradise Lost seeks to justify woman's subjugation to man. If Milton is of Satan's party, he is also of the party of fish without bicycles. Marvell paraphrases:

But ’twas beyond a mortal’s share
To wander solitary there :
Two paradises ’twere in one
To live in Paradise alone.

Much of the language is wonderful, even to the most casual reader:

Some natural tears they dropt, but wiped them soon:
The world was all before them where to choose
Their place of rest, and Providence their guide.
They, hand in hand, with wand'ring steps and slow,
Through Eden took their solitary way.

Milton is more fun than his reputation would suggest, and this lovely edition is nicely printed, nicely bound, yet not unreasonably expensive.