Song on May Morning – John Milton

John Milton (1629)
National Portrait Gallery, London
source Wikipedia

I always have such good intentions to start reading poetry on a regular basis, but somehow those good intentions get backlogged.  So I thought that the least I could do is to post a poem every now and then on my blog.  Who knows, I may even start a full-fledged poetry project one day …….. but not yet …….


Song on May Morning
Now the bright morning Star, Dayes harbinger,
Comes dancing from the East, and leads with her
The Flowry May, who from her green lap throws

The yellow Cowslip, and the pale Primrose.
   Hail bounteous May that dost inspire [ 5 ]

   Mirth and youth, and warm desire,

   Woods and Groves, are of thy dressing,

   Hill and Dale, doth boast thy blessing.

Thus we salute thee with our early Song,
And welcome thee, and wish thee long. [ 10 ]

This poem is by John Milton, best know for his work, Paradise Lost, which I read earlier this year and reviewed here.  As you read through the poem you can perhaps discover two main themes.  Have you found them yet?  The focus in this poem is on “dawn” and, of course, “May.”  In fact, if you found the first theme, you will then know that this ten-line poem is an aubade. What is an aubade, you ask?  I didn’t know either.  The definition of an “aubade” is “a poem or piece of music appropriate to the dawn or morning.” Do you notice “song” in the title of the poem?  It appears that Milton covered the definition very thoroughly.  And, in honour of my Language Freak Summer Challenge, did you know that “aubade” translated into French, Spanish, German, Italian and German is “aubade”?  However in Japanese it is オーバード. 

Yellow Cowslips
Photo courtesy of Caroline
source Flickr

The poem mentioned both primroses and yellow cowslip.  I am familiar with primroses but had no idea what cowslip looked like, so I investigated.  As you will see from the photo above, I found a picture of beautiful yellow cowslip. Yet it only took me a moment to realize that strangely the cowslip looked very similar to …………. primroses (see photo below) ………… :-Z

Photo courtesy of Pirate_Renee
source Flickr

More investigation revealed that primroses, or Primula Vulgaris, are actually a family of flowering plants, of which cowslip is one.  I must say I was rather disappointed.  In this poem, not only would you think that “bounteous May” would be able to produce more than one type of flower, but also that Milton would have the creativity to include more natural variety.  Oh, well.  At least I learned something.

And so, as you read through this poem, do any particular words stand out for you?  What feelings does it evoke?  What images does it bring to your mind?

And welcome bounteous, flowry, May!



A Preface to Paradise Lost by C.S. Lewis

C.S. Lewis does it again.  Not only does he supply enlightening commentary to accompany a reading of Paradise Lost, but he touches on a number of other books and subjects, conveying fascinating information in an extremely accessible narrative.

A Preface to Paradise Lost is a compilation of Lewis’ Ballard Matthews Lectures, which he gave in 1941 to students at the University College of Northern Wales. Lewis’ expertise was Medieval and Renaissance literature, and while reading this book, it is apparent that he is in his element, as he covers not only Paradise Lost but also gives the reader an introduction to the genre of epic and insights into how to read it.

Lewis’ initial chapters — more than one-third of the book — cover epic poetry, both primary and secondary, and he provides numerous examples contrasting the two, from The Odyssey, The Iliad, Beowulf, The Aeneid and, of course, Paradise Lost, to further the readers’ understanding.  Next, in a lecture titled, The Unchanging Human Heart, he deals with how to read a poem (or book), which is perhaps my favourite lecture of all.  How do we deal with the gulf between our era and the author’s?  Do we read only for what is relevant to us, or do we attempt to engage with the author?  Lewis deals with both approaches:

“A method often recommended may be called the method of The Unchanging Human Heart.  According to this method the things which separate one age from another are superficial ……. if we stripped [off the superficialities] …… we should find beneath … an anatomy identical with our own ….. we shall find the Unchanging Human Heart, and on this we are to concentrate.   

I held this theory myself for many years, but I have now abandoned it.  I continue, of course, to admit that if you remove from people the things that make them different, what is left must be the same, and that the Human Heart will certainly appear as Unchanging if you ignore its changes ……. [thus] our whole study of the poem will then become a battle between us and the author in which we are trying to twist his work into a shape he never gave it, to make him use the loud pedal where he really used the soft, to force into false prominence what he took in his stride, and to slur over what he actually threw into prominence ……….. I do not say that even on these terms we shall not get some value out of our reading; but we must not imagine that we are appreciating the works the old writers actually wrote ……

Fortunately, there is a better way.  Instead of stripping the knight of his armour you can try to put his armour on yourself ………. I would much rather know what I should feel like if I adopted the beliefs of Lucretius than how Lucretius would have felt if he had never entertained them.  The possible Lucretius in myself interests me more than the possible C.S. Lewis in Lucretius …… 

To enjoy our full humanity we ought, so far as is possible, to contain within us potentially at all times, and on occasion to actualize, all the modes of feeling and thinking through which man has passed …….. Only thus will you be able to judge the work ‘in the same spirit that its author writ’ and to avoid chimerical criticism.  It is better to study the changes in which the being of the Human Heart largely consists than to amuse ourselves with fictions about its immutability ……….”

Finally Lewis delves into Paradise Lost, but instead of summarizing the chapters, Lewis concentrates on expounding on particular characters and certain themes.  He explores the poem’s theology, hierarchy, Satan, Satan’s followers, the angels, Adam and Eve, unfilled sexuality, and the Fall. Addressing some of the controversies over the poem, Lewis deals with the difficulties with his typical logical summations and a sprinkling of dry wit.  And while mostly praising Milton’s achievement, he does not hesitate to point out perceived flaws in the work, and while doing so, gives the reader a more profound comprehension of the challenges of Milton’s task.

While amazingly thorough, Lewis’ writing is simple, clear and understandable.  His lectures encourage the reader to read critically, and his explanation of Milton’s worldview is not only helpful, but necessary, to gain a good understanding of the poem.  While being very readable, this guide is the definitive “go-to” book for tackling Paradise Lost for readers who want to go in-depth with their study.

Paradise Lost Review

Paradise Lost by John Milton

                                                                           “Of Man’s first disobedience and the fruit
Of that forbidden tree whose mortal taste
 Brought death into the world and all our woe,
With loss of Eden, till one greater Man
Restore us and regain the blissful seat,
Sing, Heavenly Muse, that on the secret top
Of Oreb or of Sinai didst inspire
That shepherd who first taught the chosen seed
In the beginning how the heavens and earth
Rose out of Chaos; or, if Sion hill
Delight thee more, and Siloa’s brook that flowed
Fast by the Oracle of God, I thence
Invoke thy aid to my adventurous song,
That with no middle flight intends to soar
Above the Aonian mount, while it pursues
Things unattempted yet in prose or rhyme.”


Samuel Johnson declared that Paradise Lost is “a poem …… which respect to design may claim the first place, and with respect to performance, the second, among the productions of the human mind …..”   It is a poem about the rebellion in Heaven and the ejection of the fallen Angels; it is about the Garden of Eden, the deception of the snake, and the fall of Man.  But it is much more than all these points, separately and as a whole. Just as Satan falls into the depths of the burning pit of Hell, Milton delves into the depths of the human Soul and conversely soars to the heights of the God of Heaven, weaving a tapestry of images and profundity that will leave the reader amazed and speechless.  Initially, the reader believes he is following Milton’s lead, not realizing until later that he is part of the tapestry itself and Milton’s words have become part of his soul.


John Milton’s Cottage
courtesy of Old Skool Paul (sourced Flickr)
Creative Commons License

In this poem, Satan’s actions are especially shockingly compelling as we follow his fall from Heaven, his brash, swaggering leadership of the fallen angels, and then his quest to best God to get his spiteful, yet senseless, vengeance.  We think of Hell as a place, full of fire and brimstone, burning and torment, and while Milton gives Hell a location in this poem, it is much more than that.  Satan carries Hell inside him.  It torments him, not only with thoughts of rage and hate and revenge, but almost more effectively with thoughts of despair, regret and impossible hope.  Conflicting emotions scrape and tear at him incessantly.  For him, Hell is not external; it is an internal condition from which he cannot escape.

Milton’s superlative crafting of the character of Satan has led many people to believe he was perhaps too successful, making Satan the most exciting and heroic character of the poem.  William Blake stated that “the reason Milton wrote in fetters when he wrote of Angels and God, and at liberty when of Devils and Hell, is because he was a true poet, and of the devil’s party without knowing it”.  It is certainly true that Milton intimately understood “the devil’s party”.  Like us all, he experienced sin within himself and within others:  rage, treachery, deceit, the desire for power, etc.  And with his astonishing talent, he was able to craft a character that is perhaps the most Satan of all the Satans in the history of literature.  Milton’s Satan is capable of tricking not only Adam and Eve and angels, he is able to trick the reader of Paradise Lost as well, in such a subtle manner that certain readers admire his bravado, respect his machinations, and feel sorry for his plight.  While Milton’s brilliance in this area of the poem is breath-taking, it is also unsettling.  C.S. Lewis in his lectures on Paradise Lost, approaches this issue in a dexterous manner, saying that if the reader chooses to admire Satan, he must only realize what he is admiring:

“No one had in fact done anything to Satan; he was not hungry, nor over-tasked, nor removed from this place, nor shunned, nor hated —- he only thought himself impaired.  In the midst of a world of light and love, of song and feast and dance, he could find nothing to think of more interesting than his own prestige …..

……… Satan lies about every subject he mentions in Paradise Lost.  But I do not know whether we can distinguish his conscious lies from the blindness which he had almost willingly imposed on himself ……

…….  What we see in Satan is the horrible co-existence of a subtle and incessant intellectual activity with an incapacity to understand anything.  This doom he has brought upon himself; in order to avoid seeing one thing he has, almost voluntarily, incapacitated himself from seeing at all.  And thus, throughout the poem, all his torments come, in a sense, at this own bidding  …..

……. the design of ruining two creatures (Adam & Eve) who had never done him any harm, no longer in the serious hope of victory, but only to annoy the Enemy (God) whom he cannot directly attack ……

…….  From hero to general, from general to politician, from politician to secret service agent, and thence to a thing that peers in at bedroom or bathroom windows, and thence to a toad, and finally to a snake  ——-  such is the progress of Satan.  This progress, misunderstood, has given rise to the belief that Milton began by making Satan more glorious than he intended and then, too late, attempted to rectify the error.  But such an unerring picture of the ‘sense of injured merit’ in its actual operations upon character cannot have come about by blundering and accident.  We need not doubt that it was the poet’s intention to be fair to evil, to give it a run for its money —- to show it first at the height, with all its rants and melodrama and ‘Godlike imitated state’ about it, and then to trace what actually becomes of such self-intoxication when it encounters reality.”


Depiction of Satan
Gustave Doré (1866)
source Wikipedia

Yet in spite of the beautiful images painted amid the stark reality, Milton seems to rush the end of the poem, packing the whole Old Testament into the last two books and surprisingly uses a more direct narrative instead of showing the reader with his usual subtle yet beautiful verse.  Lewis remarks on the lack of genius in the last books in comparison to the earlier wonderful artistry of the poem:

“It (Paradise Lost) suffers from a grave structural flaw.  Milton, like Virgil, though telling a short story about the remote past, wishes our minds to be carried to the later results of that story.  But he does this less skillfully than Virgil.  Not content with following his master in the use of occasional prophecies, allusions, and reflections, he makes his two last books into a brief outline of sacred history from the Fall to the Last Day.  Such an untransmuted lump of futurity, coming in a position so momentous for the structural effect of the whole work, is inartistic.  And what makes it worse is that the actual writing in this passage is curiously bad.  There are fine moments, and a great recovery at the very end.  But again and again, as we read his account of Abraham or of the Exodus or of the Passion, we find ourselves saying, as Johnson said of the ballad, ‘the story cannot possibly be told in a manner that shall make less impression on the mind’.  ……….  If we stick to what we know we must be content to say that Milton’s talent temporarily failed him …….”

Yet even with its flaws, Paradise Lost is an epic that is at once majestic, beautiful, poignant, tragic and instructive.  It opens a window into the Biblical story of the fall, allowing the reader to live the experiences and emotions first-hand.  What a task Milton took on and how well he succeeded!  I predict this read be my favourite of the year.  My feeble summary only covers the surface of its significance; you will only have to read it yourself to discover its grandeur!

Further reading:
         A Preface to Paradise Lost – C.S. Lewis
         Charles Williams Selected Writings (contains an essay on Milton)


Paradise Lost Read-Along Books XI & XII

Paradise Lost Read-Along

Book XI

Heaven hears Adam and Eve’s prayers for restoration and the Son intercedes on their behalf with the Father:

” ……….. Now, therefore, bend thine ear
To supplication; hear his sighs, though mute;
Unskilful with what words to pray, let me
Interpret for him, me his advocate
And propitiation; all his works on me,
Good or not good, ingraft; my merit those
Shall perfect, and for these my death shall pay.” (30 – 36)

God accepts His Son’s sacrifice but divulges that they must leave Paradise as they are tainted with sin.  They have lost Happiness and Immortality which are replaced by the “final remedy,” Death.

” …………….. so Death becomes
His final remedy, and after life
Tried in sharp tribulation, and refined
By faith and faithful works, to second life.”  (61 – 64)

Sadly, man now knows both good and evil when he should have been content to know good only.

God commissions the angel Michael to take from among the Cherubim “flaming warriors” and return to to the Garden to evict the luckless couple, yet if they are obedient, he will reveal a new covenant to them.

As Michael prepares to descend, Adam tells Eve he anticipates that God will hear their prayers and that they will live instead of perish.  Though she feels herself unworthy of forgiveness, she is grateful for the pardon and suggests they live in the Garden “though in fallen state, content.”  Yet Adam anticipates that they have not understood all the changes that will arise from their fall and with his assumption, down comes Michael “from a sky of jasper,” “a glorious apparition.”  He indeed confirms that their humble prayers were heard and that “one bad act with many good deeds well-done may’st cover.”  However he cannot allow them to remain in Paradise.

Adam laments, “heart-struck, with chilling gripe of sorrow stood, that all his senses bound”; and Eve cries her protest.  But Michael gives her a response that is at once wise and universal:

“Lament not, Eve, but patiently resign
What justly thou hast lost, nor set thy heart
Thus overfond, on that which is not thine.”  (287 – 289)

Adam shares his fear that he will no longer be able to be close to God, yet Michael comforts him.

“Yet doubt not but in valley and in plain
God is as here, and will be found alike
Present, and of his presence many a sign
Still following thee, still compassing thee round
With goodness and paternal love …..”  (349 – 353)

Michael then takes Adam up the hill of Paradise to show him all the torment, tragedy, hatred, violence, misery and disease that will be a result of their sin. He sees Cain and Abel; death and sorrow.  Adam despairs, whereupon Michael gives him advice for living:  “the rule of not too much, by temperance taught,” “nor love thy life nor hate, but what thou liv’st live well; how long or short permit to Heaven.”  He relates the story of Noah and how God promises never to destroy the Earth again by flood.

Adam, Eve and the archangel Michael
by Gustave Doré

Book XII

Still revealing the future, Michael discourses on how the “second source of men” will have the judgement fresh in their minds and therefore will exist peacefully for a long time until Nimrod builds the Tower of Babel to reach to Heaven and God punishes him, visiting on the people a confusion of language and cacophonous din.  Appalled, Adam censures the attempt of man to dominate man, as it was never in God’s plan; birds, beasts, fish and fowl were to be in subjection of man, yet “man over men he made not lord” instead intending “human left from human free.”  Michael agrees, stating:

“……….. Justly though abhorr’st
That son, who on the quiet state of men
Such trouble brought, affecting to subdue
Rational liberty; yet know withal,
Since thy original lapse, true liberty
Is lost, which always with right reason dwells
Twinned, and from her hath no dividual being
Reason in Man obscured, or not obeyed,
Immediately inordinate desires
And upstart passions catch the government
From Reason, and to servitude reduce
Man, till then free.  Therefore, since he permits 
Within himself unworthy owers to reign
Over free reason, God, in judgement just,
Subjects him from without to violent lords,
Who oft as undeservedly enthral
His outward freedom.  Tyranny must be,
Though to the tyrant thereby no excuse.
Yet sometimes nations will decline so low
From virtue, which is reason, that no wrong,
But justice, and some fatal curse annexed,
Their inward lost …………..”  (79 – 101)

After Noah, men begin to worship idols and slavery ensues, yet God calls Abraham, the blessed patriarch, and through his line a “Great Deliverer” will come who will “bruise the Serpent’s head.”  Michael’s speech continues through Moses.  When Adam asks why “so many laws and so many sins among them; how can God with such reside?”, the angel explains “law was given them, to evince their natural pravity”.  His narrative progresses through the Old Testament to the Messiah whereupon Adam rejoices at the coming conqueror yet Michael corrects his misconception.  Salvation will not be obtained by battle but by “obedience and by love, through love alone fulfil the Law”; Christ will defeat Sin and Death, then Earth “shall all be Paradise, far happier place than this of Eden, and far happier days.”  Adam asks if he should repent of his sin or rejoice at the good that will spring from it and who will be the guide for God’s people.  Michael says God will send His Spirit and also there is the Church but he goes on to warn about false teachers full of ambition, superstitions and traditions that will “taint”, using the Church to gain wealth and secular power.  Corruption will reign:

“……….. Yet many will presume,
Whence heavy persecution shall arise
Of all who in the worship persevere
Of Spirit and Truth; the rest, far greater part,
Will deem in outward rites and specious forms
Religion satisfied; Truth shall retire
Bestuck with slanderous darts, and works of Faith
Rarely be found; so shall the World go on,
To good malignant, to bad men benign,
Under her own weight groaning ……”  (530 – 538)

…. until the return of the Lord.  Michael instructs Adam to:

“………………… Only add
Deeds to thy knowledge answerable; add faith;
Add virtue, patience, temperance; add love,
By name to come called Charity, the soul 
Of all the rest: then wilt thou not be loth
To leave this Paradise, but shalt possess
A Paradise within thee, happier far.”  (581 – 587)

Adam wakes Eve who has been consoled in her dream by the hope of her seed to come.  Michael takes one of their hands in each of his and then leads them from the Garden of Paradise:

“Some natural tears they dropped, 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 wandering steps and slow,
Through Eden took their solitary way.”  (645 – 649)

The Explusion of Adam & Eve from Paradise
by Benjamin West (1791)
source Wikipaintings


Wow, what a marathon ending!  These last two books appeared rushed to me; Milton packed nearly the whole Old Testament teachings into these two books/chapters.  Again, I’m not an expert in poetry, but the sound, tone and pacing of the poem did not feel as grand, as beautiful or as skilfully woven, when compared to the rest.  There were certainly brilliant moments, but only snacks here and there instead of the smorgasbord to which we’ve become accustomed.  In fact, it is certainly ironic that these two chapters were so packed with information, yet I’m having to think harder to find areas of the poem to comment on.

When Michael showed Adam the future, he gave him images in book XI but only narrative in Book XII. Was this because Adam would be overwhelmed by the visual evidence of the results of their sin?  Or is it simply the structure Milton chose for the poem?

For the first time, I noted a commentary on his own times inserted into the text, and his push for a “rational liberty.” (see above, Book XII, lines 79 – 101) However as interesting as it was, again I felt it was rushed or inserted before the poem end, a pet topic that Milton felt the need to bring to the forefront.

Historically, there are so many Paradise Lost paintings/engravings of stern angels pointing the way out of Heaven, and Adam and Eve running like stricken and tragic sinners, yet actually the angel gave them hope and then gently led them out of the Garden.  Within a destructive, disastrous, heartbreaking circumstance, Milton did a spectacular job of revealing hope and restoration without altering their condition, a lovely combination of encouragement, pathos and reality.

Not only can I not believe that I’ve come to the end of this read, I can’t believe that I waited so long to read it.  Milton’s verse is so grand and beautiful!  I will definitely read this again in the very near future. Final review to come ………….

Milton dictated to his daughters the (Paradise Lost)
Eugene Delacroix
source Wikipaintings

Paradise Lost Read-Along Book IX & X

Paradise Lost Read-Along

Book IX

The poet changes images from scenes of harmony to “tragic, foul distrust, and breach disloyal on the part of man, revolt and disobedience ……” and makes a reference to a “celestial patroness” who visits him at night to inspire him to verse, as he is perhaps too old to have the words come to him without divine help.

Meanwhile Satan rises with the mist in the Garden and finds the perfect creature to inhabit for his deception;  the snake, who is crafty and can easily move around without arousing suspicion.  Again he railing his discontent and spewing evil:

“………. and the more I see
Pleasures about me, so much more I feel
Torment within me, as from the hateful siege
Of contraries; all good to me becomes
Bane, and in Heaven much worse would be my state.” (119 – 123)

“For only in destroying do I find ease
To my relentless thoughts……..” (129 – 130)

Still he wishes to best God in any way possible, boasting that he will tarnish creation in less time than it took the Almighty to create it:

“In woe then, that destruction wide may range:
To me shall be the glory sole among
The Infernal Powers, in one day to have marred
What he, Almighty styled, six nights and days
Continued making, and who knows how long 
Before had been contriving? …….”  (134 – 139)

Then “in at his mouth The Devil entered” the serpent and waited until morning.

Adam and Eve wake, but when it is time to perform their duties in the garden, curiously Eve suggests that they part and each work separately, thus accomplishing more work.

“For, while so near each other thus all day
Our task we choose, what wonder if so near
Looks intervene and smiles, or object new
Casual discourse draw on, which intermits
Our day’s work, brought to little, though begun
Early, and the hour of supper comes unearned.” (220 – 225)

Adam cautions his spouse that they have been warned that there is evil lurking in the Garden and they would be safer if they remained united, but Eve relates her hurt at his mistrust of her judgement.  Yet still Adam persists:

“But God left free the Will; for what obeys,
Reason is free, and Reason he made right,
But bid her well beware, and still erect,
Lest, by some fair appearing good surprised,
She dictate false, and misinform the Will
To do what God expressly hath forbid.
Not then mistrust, but tender love, enjoins
That I should mind thee oft; and mind thou me.” (351 – 358)

Stubbornly resistant, Eve states that she is going alone with his permission and warning, confident that a proud foe would not seek the weaker victim, and “thus saying, from her husband’s hand her hand soft she withdrew …..”

Satan in the guise of the Serpent, finds Eve and is initially disarmed:

“Her graceful innocence, her every air
Of gesture or least action, overawed
His malice, and with rapine sweet bereaved
His fierceness of the fierce intent is brought.
That pace the Evil One abstracted stood
From his own evil, and for the time remained
Stupidly good, of enmity disarmed,
Of guile, of hate, of envy, of revenge.” (459 – 466)

But not for long:

“But the hot hell that always in him burns,
Though in mid Heaven, soon ended his delight,
And tortures him now more the more he sees
Of pleasure not for him ordained: then soon
Fierce hate he recollects, and all this thoughts
Of mischief, gratulating, thus excites: …….” (467 – 472)

Astounded at the Serpent’s ability of speech, Eve ponders what this could mean, but when Satan commends her beauty and appeals to her vanity, she readily accepts his story that he gained speech and wisdom by eating from the Forbidden Tree.  Immediately she sees herself gaining stature until she is above Adam.  Of course, she would not actually die, but simply die to being Human, while becoming a god herself.  And the Serpent ate of the tree and he still retains life.  And so:

“Forth-reaching to the fruit, she plucked, she eat;
Earth felt the wound, and Nature from her seat;
Sighing through all her works, gave signs of woe
That all was lost …………”  (781 – 784)

Immediately she wonders if she should share the knowledge/fruit with Adam or keep it all to herself.  But thinking that she may actually die for her transgression and jealous of the possibility of Adam marrying again, she chooses to take it to her partner so he will share her same fate, whatever that might be.

Adam, when she tells him of her actions, is horrified:

“………. Adam, soon as he heard
The fatal trespass done by Eve, amazed
Astonied, stood and blank, while horror chill
Ran through his veins, and all his joints relaxed.
From his slack hand the garland wreathed for Eve
Down dropped, and all the faded roses shed.”  (888 – 893)

What an effective image!  Adam had brought a wreath of flowers to Eve, expecting to crown his Queen and he is met by a creature “defaced, deflowered and now to death devote!”. Distraught, he contemplates the implications of obeying God’s command, but decides he cannot live without his partner.  With Eve’s coaxing, he eats of the fruit.  Immediately inflamed and drunk with lustful desire, they retire into the woods for sexual play and later sleep overcomes them.  Yet they wake:

“As from unrest, and, each the other viewing,
Soon found their eyes how opened, and their minds
How darkened; innocence, that as a veil
Had shadowed them from knowing ill, was gone;
Just confidence, and native righteousness,
And honour, from about them, naked left
To guilty shame ……” (1051 – 1057)

They have gained knowledge, but it is the knowledge of the good they have lost and the evil that they have gained.  Each blames the other for their transgression, bickering for hours on end as to who is culpable.

Satan finds snake to inhabit
by Gustave Doré (1866)

Book X

The Angels hear of Adam and Eve’s grievous sin, and are filled with sorrow and compassion.  Returning to Heaven, God holds them blameless:

“I told ye then he should prevail, and speed
On his bad errand —- Man should be seduced
And flattered out of all, believing lies
Against his Maker, no decree of mine
Concurring to necessitate his fall,
Or touch with lightest moment of impulse
His free will, to her own inclining left
In even scale………”  (40 – 47)

God visits Adam and Eve in the Garden, where they confess their sin and he asks Adam, “was she thy God, that her thou didst obey before his voice?”  He pronounces judgement on the pair, yet with judgement comes mercy as the Son:

” …… pitying how they stood 
Before him naked to the air, that now
Must suffer change, disdained not to begin
Thenceforth the form of servant to assume,
As when he washed his servants’ feet so now,
As father of his family, he clad
Their nakedness  ……….” (211 – 217)

Meanwhile, Sin and Death are at the gates of Hell and “found a path over this main from Hell to that new World where Satan now prevails ….”.  Meeting Satan on their way their congratulate him on his victory, and he tells them:

“All yours, right down to Paradise descend;
There dwell, and reign in bliss; thence on the Earth
Dominion exercise and in the air
Chiefly on Man, sole lord of all declared;
Him first make sure your thrall, and lastly kill ….” (398 – 403)

When Satan arrives in Pandemonium and relates his Triumph, he expects “their universal shout and high applause to fill his ear, when contrary, he hears, on all sides, from innumerable tongues a dismal universal hiss, the sound of public scorn ……”, then “His visage drawn he felt to sharp and spare, his arms clung to his ribs, his legs entwining each other, till supplanted, down he fell, a monstrous serpent on his belly prone …..”  His followers experience the same phenomenon and, “thus was the applause they meant turned to exploding hiss, triumph to shame…”  A tree grows in Hell similar to the Tree of Knowledge but when they try to eat the fruit, it turns to ash in their mouths.

Sin and Death begin to move through the world.  In Heaven, God instructs the angels to change the universe, causing cold and hot climates, producing winds, thunder and snow and various other effects that alter the paradisiacal conditions of the Earth.  Adam, hiding in the gloomy shade, laments his miseries and when Eve comes to comfort him he replies:

“Out of my sight, thou serpent; that name best
Befits thee with him leagued thyself as false 
And hateful: nothing wants, but that thy shape
Like his, and colour serpentine, may show
Thy inward fraud, to warn all creatures from thee.”  (866 – 871)

He berates her, laying all the blame for their condition at her feet but, instead of acting with like animosity, she responds with a wonderful contriteness, asking for his forgiveness and fully accepting blame.  She suggests that if Death does not find them, they should seek him out themselves.  Her humbleness and lack of pride have a surprising affect on Adam. Claiming God’s punishment just, he encourages her to accept their fate and go forward with hope.  Some of the punishments they have so far experienced (ie. childbirth) have brought forth joy as well as pain and that is a comfort.

“No more mentioned, then, of violence 
Against ourselves, and wilful barrenness,
That cuts us off from hope, and savours only
Rancour and pride, impatience and despite,
Reluctance against God and his just yoke
Laid on our necks……..”  (1041 – 1046)

“What better can we do than, to place 
Repairing where he judged us, prostrate fall
Before him reverent, and there confess
Humbly our faults, and pardon beg, with tears
Watering the ground, and with our sighs the air
Frequenting, sent from hearts contrite, in sign
Of sorrow unfeigned and humiliation meek?
Undoubtedly he will relent, and turn
From his displeasure, in whose look serene
When angry most he seemed and most severe
What else but favour, grace, and mercy shone?” (1086 – 1096)


Wow!  There was so much information, action and images packed into these two books, particularly book IX.

At the beginning of book IX, Milton mentions his celestial patroness or Muse, telling of her impartations of inspired verse and that he is not skilled enough on his own to create such poetic display.  There are certain scholars who feel that Milton’s brilliance is not as apparent in the latter parts of the poem as the beginning (I am not noticing this, but, of course, I’m not a scholar), so I wondered if he is setting up this humble claim as a reason for a decrease in poetical ability……??

Again Satan’s torment is palpable and his personification of deception alarming.  Occasionally he still feels joy, peace, happiness and knows what they mean, yet with any positive emotion felt, his rage, self-loathing and malice return at even greater strength.

I had to wonder while I was reading this, whether Adam and Eve were familiar with deception.  They would have had no exposure to it, but God did mention that they were completely equipped to meet their deceiver.  I imagine, that while Adam and Eve had a certain sense of wonder and innocence, that they were not created as children.  They were created as full-grown beings with sense and reason.  It was their free-will that gave them the right to choose, and they made an horrendous mistake.

I had to shudder at the speech Satan gave his minions.  Once again, he is only concerned with power and prestige: “Thrones, Dominations, Princedoms, Virtues, Powers —“.  He gives the image of an army: “a broad way is now paved, to expedite your glorious march” and says that man’s disgrace is “worth their laughter”.  Chilling.

The most poignant lines of the poem:

“O much deceived, much failing, hapless Eve,
Of thy presumed return!  event perverse!
Thou never from that hour in Paradise
Found’st either sweet repast or sound repose;
Such ambush, hid among sweet flowers and shades,
Waited, with hellish rancour imminent,
To intercept thy way, or send thee back
Despoiled of innocence, of faith, of bliss.”  (404 – 411)

And whomever has read through this whole post, deserves some type of award!!! 🙂

Paradise Lost Read-Along Book VII & VIII

Paradise Lost Read-Along

Book VII

The poet invokes the Muse of astronomy, Urania, as he recalls “evil days” into which he fell (I assume this refers to his blindness), after which Adam requests Raphael to describe the creation of the world after the fall of the rebel angels.   Raphael agrees but notes “to recount almightly works what words or tongue of Seraph can suffice, or heart of man suffice to comprehend.”  He also cautions Adam as to his pursuit of knowledge:

“But Knowledge is as food, and needs no less
Her temperance over appetite to know
In measure what the mind may well contain,
Oppresses else with surfeit, and soon turns
Wisdom to folly, as nourishment to wind.” (126 – 130)

The account of Genesis is then recounted by the angel.  Such music and singing, sweet and soft, “choral and unison”, that greeted creation in a symphony of praise to the Creator.

Creation of the Birds
by Gustave Doré (1866)
source Wikipaintings


Again, this part was difficult to understand but I believe Adam questions Raphael as to why Earth is so small compared to the rest of the universe.  Eve, listening thus far, decides to leave at this point.  Raphael then goes into copious detail about Heaven, Earth, the Cosmos, the Sun, etc.

“And for the Heaven’s wide circuit, let it speak
The Maker’s high magnificence, who built
So spacious, and his line stretched out so far,
That Man may know he dwells not in his own —
An edifice too large for him to fill,
Lodged in a small partition, and the rest 
Ordained for uses to his Lord best known.” (100-106)

Yet he ends with another caution about he curiosity of man:

“Solicit not thy thoughts with matters hid:
Leave them to God above; him serve and fear.
Think only what concerns thee and thy being;
Dream not of other worlds, what creatures there
Live, in what state, condition or degree,
Contented that thus far hath been revealed
Not of Earth only, but of highest Heaven.”  (167-178)

Grateful for the chance to learn from Raphael, Adam reciprocates by relating the story of his creation to the angel.  Milton’s verse is enchanting as he describes Adam waking from a sound sleep in the garden, his discovery of himself and the world around him and the creation of a companion, Eve.  Leading her to their “nuptial bower”, there he first feels a passion that transports him beyond power and even beyond reason.  Raphael reminds him that he shares the carnal nature of beasts and not to get carried away with sexual pleasure:

“But, if the sense of touch, whereby mankind 
Is propagated, seems such dear delight
Beyond all other, think the same vouchsafed
To cattle and each beast; which would not be
To them made common and divulged if aught
Therein enjoyed were worthy to subdue
The soul of man and passion in him move.” (579 – 585)

This carnal pleasure is not in itself true love.  True love elevates, whereas passion lowers the soul.

“What higher in her society thou find’st
Attractive, human, rational, love still:
In loving thou dost well, in passion not,
Wherein true love consists not.  Love refines
The thoughts, and heart enlarges, hath his seat
In Reason, and is judicious, is the scale
By which to heavenly love thou may’st ascend,
Not sunk in carnal pleasure, for which cause
Among the beasts no mate for thee was found.” (586-594)

Adam assures the angel there is a union of minds between them, “in us both one soul,” then he prods on tender ground, inquiring if angels share love by “looks only.”  Blushing a “celestial rosy hue”, Raphael reveals that when angels embrace there is no need for “flesh to mix with flesh,” and with one last warning for our curious first man, he ascends back to Heaven.


Well, the reading is certainly getting harder and I am having to re-read in parts to get the gist of what is happening, especially when Raphael begins to talk about the universe, mixing Ptolemaic and Copernican theories.  Whew!

I’m not sure yet how I feel about Milton’s portrayal of Adam and Eve.  Their literary creation must have been a difficult task to accomplish.  On one hand it’s necessary to make them appear innocent and pure before the Fall, yet they also need to be capable of being tempted, so in reality he needs to give them some sort of flaw (is that the word I’m searching for?).  Perfect and yet not perfect.  I’m not sure if it’s possible to do this task well.

Honestly, I don’t have much to add with regard to these books.  Once again, very enjoyable, yet not as easy to assimilate as at the beginning of the poem, on more levels than just understanding.  I’m interested to see how Milton will handle the temptation of Eve and the Fall, because we all know who is still watching the Garden!

Satan Views Eden
by Gustave Doré 

Paradise Lost Read-Along Book V and VI

Paradise Lost Read-Along

Book V

Eve awakes, disturbed by the dream she had experienced and relates it in detail to Adam, who tries to comfort her by minimizing its importance.  The reader is left with this beautiful and poignant image:

“So cheered he his fair spouse, and she was cheered
But silently a gentle tear let fall
From either eye, and wiped them with her hair;
Two other precious drops that ready stood,
Each in their crystal sluice, he, ere they fell,
Kissed as the gracious signs of sweet remorse
And pious awe, that feared to have offended.”

God sends the angel Raphael to the bower of Adam and Eve to warn them of the treacherous foe near them and to remind them of their freedom as human beings to choose right from wrong.  Raphael arrives in great splendour:

“A Seraph winged.  Six wings he wore, to shade
His lineaments divine:  the pair that clad
Each shoulder broad came mantling o’er his breast
With regal ornament; the middle pair
Girt like a starry zone his waist, and round
Skirted his loins and thighs with downy gold
And colours dipped in Heaven; the third his feet
Shadowed from either heel with feathered mail,
Sky-tinctured grain.  Like Maia’s son he stood,
And shook his plumes, that heavenly fragrance filled 
The circuit wide ……”

Eve begins to prepare choice delicacies for their visitor and the reader gets more evidence of the hierarchical structure of the poem:

“Nearer his (Raphael’s) presence, Adam, though not awed,
Yet with submiss approach and reverence meek,
As to a superior nature, bowing low ..”

Potent images of the delightful beauty of the garden abound.  Raphael takes a moment to caution Adam with regard to his obedience.  Again free will is emphasized:

“…….. That thou art happy, owe to God;
That thou continuest such, owe to thyself.”

God has given man happiness, but it is in man’s power to keep it or lose it based upon his choices.

Raphael then begins to relate the story of the war of the angels in Heaven, telling of Satan’s jealousy of the Son’s elevation.  Satan counsels his followers to “cast off the yoke”, stating that “if not equal all, yet free, equally free.”  But Abdiel, a Seraphim, abhors Satan’s “counterfeited truth” and delivers a heated speech condemning his evil words.  When mocked by the rebel angels, “with retorted scorn his back he turned on those proud towers, to swift destruction doomed.”

Raphael conversing with Adam and Eve
by John Martin (1826)

Book VI

Civil war rages in Heaven.  Satan and Abdiel have a battle of words, Satan stating that it is liberty that he is fighting for, and mocking those who are lazy and choose only to serve, whereupon Abdiel retorts:

“……………. This is servitude
To serve the unwise, or him who hath rebelled
Against his worthier, as thine now serve thee,
Thyself not free, but to thyself enthralled;
Yet lewdly dar’st our ministering upbraid.
Reign thou in Hell, thy kingdom …….  ” (178-183)

The battle scenes reminded me so clearly of the battle scenes in The Iliad.  Satan has “all his right side” sheered by the sword of Michael and “first knows pain.”  His removal from the field is modelled on the rescue of Hector during one of the battles in The Iliad.  Then:

“Gnashing for anguish, and despite, and shame
To find himself not matchless, and his pride
Humbled by such rebuke, so far beneath
His confidence to equal God in power.”

Michael & Satan
by Guido Reni (c. 1636)
source Wikipedia

Like all Spirits, he is soon healed and withdraws to make a huge machine (a cannon?) to enable them to gain “honour, dominion, glory and renown.”  Honestly, the next part I had a difficult time figuring out what was going on.  It sounded like Heaven’s angels were easy targets, so they retreated into the mountains, lifted up the very same mountains and hills, and flung them onto the rebel angels & their war weapon, burying them beneath the mountains’ flinty bases, and making their escape labourious and painful.  On the third day, God sends the Son into battle but Satan will not give over:

“Insensate, hope conceiving from despair.
In Heavenly Spirits could such perverseness dwell?
But to convince the proud what signs avail,
Or wonders move the obdurate to relent?
They, hardened more by what might most reclaim,
Grieving to see his glory, at the sight
Took envy, and, aspiring to his height,
Stood re-embattled fierce, by force or fraud
Weening to prosper, and at length prevail
Against God and Messiah, or to fall
In universal ruin last ………”

Satan prefers destruction; he will not comprise one iota!  Yet the Son of God routs the evil forces with little effort:

“Yet half his strength, he put not forth, but checked
His thunder in mid-volley, for he meant
Not to destroy but root them out of Heaven.”

Ejected from Heaven in disgrace, Satan and his angels fall nine days before being buried in the pit of Hell.  At the end of Raphael’s story, he once again cautions Adam against disobedience.

“Of those too high aspiring who rebelled
With Satan; he who envies now thy state,
Who now is plotting how he may seduce
Thee also from obedience, that, with him
Bereaved of happiness, thou may’st partake
His punishment, eternal misery,
But listen not to his temptations; warn
Thy weaker, let it profit thee to have heard,
By terrible example, the reward
Of disobedience; firm they might have stood,
Yet fell; remember, and fear to transgress.”

Michael casts out the rebel angels
by Gustave Doré
source Wikipedia


I really like Abdiel.  He was the only one to stand up to Satan and all his rebel angels, possibly endangering himself, yet confront them he did!  He also is the first to engage Satan during the battle and, speaking words of truth, certainly puts him in his place.

Milton gives us a beautiful image of Raphael, with his six wings almost singing a breeze, wafting a heavenly fragrance that must have been like pure spring.

Satan, as a character, is extremely interesting, yet not particularly complex.  Time after time he ignores the evidence in front of him and is certain of victory, or that his own wishes are impossible to deny.  Milton refers often to his “pride” but it is something much more nefarious and eternally damaged. Truth is simply inconceivable to him, he cannot even get close to it.  It is fascinating to watch in a rather unsettling way.

Paradise Lost Read-Along Books III and IV

Paradise Lost by John Milton – Books III & IV

Paradise Lost Read-Along Hosted by Carolyn at Rosemary and Reading Glasses

Book III

God gazes down on Adam and Eve from the Heaven, the Son at his right hand.  While demonstrating foreknowledge of their fall, he provides a defence that, for their behaviour, the blame cannot be shouldered by him; he created them as free souls and will not change the eternal:

“I formed them free, and free they must remain
Till they enthrall themselves; I else must change
Their nature, and revoke the high decree
Unchangeable, eternal, which ordained
Their freedom; they themselves ordained their fall.”

Paradise Lost
by Gustave Doré

There are a number of theological themes that could be explored here, one the concept of God in time, which Boethius in his Consolation of Philosophy explains and Anslem in his work Cur Deus Homo, delves into the Satisfaction Theory.  Both are interesting, but since I am neither a theologian, nor equipped to deal with these ideas in an intelligible manner, I’ll leave it for braver souls to investigate. 🙂

While one of aspect of free will, is freedom to choose ill as well as good, I, personally, would rather be free to make bad choices than forced or coerced to make good ones.  But the main emphasis in these passages is clearly grace and mercy:

“By the other first:  Man, therefore, shall find grace,
The other, none; in mercy and justice both,
Through Heaven and Earth, so shall my glory excel,
But mercy, first and last, shall shine brightest shine.”

While justice is necessary for teaching, God is more concerned with giving mercy to the “first parents”.

Yet a transgression will be made and atonement must follow.  God asks who will redeem man his crime, “The rigid satisfaction, death for death.  Say Heavenly Powers, where shall we find such love?”

And the Son answers, breathing “immortal love to mortal men”:

“Behold me, then:  me for him, life for life,
I offer; on me let thine anger fall;
Account me Man:  I for his sake will leave
Thy bosom, and this glory next to thee
Freely put off, and for him lastly die
Well pleased; on me let Death wreak all his rage.”

Meanwhile, Satan prepares to descend to earth.  He first makes himself of comely appearance and then approaches the Angel Uriel, one of the seven angels nearest to God’s throne.  Presenting himself as a good angel while weaving a web of gross lies, he explains how he desires to visit earth to admire God’s creation and to praise the Universal Maker. Surprisingly Uriel believes him and sends him on his way to Paradise.

Book IV

Satan comes closer to Eden but despair and remorse trouble his thoughts:

“And like a devilish engine back recoils
Upon himself; horror and doubt distract
His troubled thoughts, and from the bottom stir 
The Hell within him, for within him Hell
He brings, and round about him, nor from Hell
One step, no more than from himself, can fly
By change of place.  Now conscience wakes despair
That slumbered, wakes the bitter memory
Of what he was, what is, and what must be
Worse; of worse deeds worse sufferings must ensue.”

“Till pride and worse ambition threw me down,
Warring in Heaven against Heaven’s matchless King —-
Ah wherefore?  he deserved no such return
From me, whom he created what I was
In that bright eminence, and with his good
Upbraided none, nor was his service hard.
What could be less than to afford him praise,
The easiest recompense, and pay him thanks,
How due!  Yet all his good proved ill in me,
And wrought but malice …….”

Even though his existence in Heaven was easy, in his dark, rebellious, ambitious spirit there is no room for love or “praise” for his Creator.

“Be then his love accursed, since, love or hate,
To me alike it deals eternal woe.
Nay, cursed be thou, since aginst his thy will
Chose freely what it now so justly rues.
Me miserable!  which way shall I fly
Infinite wrath and infinite despair?
Which way I fly is Hell; myself am Hell;
And, in the lowest deep, a lower deep
Still threatening to devour me opens wide,
To which the Hell I suffer seems a Heaven.”

His self-hatred is like a blow and it is hard to catch your breath.  Hell is torment and Satan is a very tortured angel, filled with such conflicting emotions that you can almost hear a visceral tearing inside of him.

Leaping into the garden, he alights on the Tree of Life.  How effective; what creepy, nefarious images that fill the mind.  And another paradox:  Death and Life.  We get an amazing verbal painting of the garden of Eden, its lushness, richness and beauty alive to the senses ……. close your eyes and you are there.  Satan himself views the garden “with new wonder”.

Adam and Eve in the Garden
by Gustave Doré

Knowing Milton’s religious background, I did not take offense at his description of Eve’s “submission”, “subjection” and yielding to Adam.  The whole poem is saturated with hierarchy.  God, the Creator, over all; angels in submission to God;  Adam created by and subject to God; the fallen angels subject to Satan …… it is understandable and perhaps practical that Eve is in submission to Adam.  But it is not a negative submission when you read how Adam addresses her:

“Sole partner and sole part of all these joys,
Dearer thyself than all ……”

“To prune these growing plants, and tend these flowers;
Which, were it toilsome, yet with thee were sweet.”

However, while the lovers discuss Eve’s creation and God’s prohibition on them from eating from the Tree of Knowledge, Uriel has discovered Satan’s false disguise and flies down on a sunbeam to warn Gabriel, who is guarding the gate.  They send out guardian angels on patrol.  While Satan slingshots from remorse, despair, anger, and envy, his evil nature ever acts king and, he is found “squatting like a toad” by Adam and Eve as they sleep, whispering foul dreams into her ear.  When he is brought before Gabriel, he attempts deception to wiggle out of his predicament and another war between God’s angels and the fallen angels nearly ignites but, at a sign from God, Satan flees.


While I enjoyed these books somewhat less than the previous ones, Milton’s cadence and rhythm are still mesmerizing.  Satan’s character becomes even more intricate and fascinating. To get out of the realms of Hell and to find the Garden, Satan is guilty of fraud and treachery, interestingly the worst sins that are represented in Dante’s Inferno.  His internal conversations with himself remind me exactly of Gollum in The Lord of the Rings, although his duplicity and malice are even more dreadful to hear.  I loved the visions of Adam and Eve and their relationship towards each other …….. harmony is the word that comes to mind, in perfect synchronicity with the Garden.  The Son’s gentle sacrifice for these first humans is very moving.

Paradise Lost Read-Along – Books I and II

Paradise Lost by John Milton Books I & II

Lost, did someone say LOST?  Well, actually I’m not as lost as I thought I would be while reading this magnificent epic poem written by John Milton for my Paradise Lost Read-Along.

Wow, where do I begin?  I absolutely love this poem.  Why?  I love the compellingly beautiful and haunting imagery; how each word is not superfluous but enhances the story; the ideas that are both obvious and subtle; the development of the characters which Milton paints with a fine-pointed brush; the echoes of other great poets and great ages, Biblical images mixed with classical ones …….  I could go on and on.

To give a short summary for Books I & II, Milton calls upon his classical and spiritual Muse to introduce the poem, relating the disobedience of man, and then dives right into Satan’s fall from Heaven after a battle, the Consult in Pandemonium where Satan and his angels decide their next tactic and Satan’s journey to earth with the purpose of ascertaining whether they can exert their influence there to revenge themselves on God.

Interestingly, Milton creates a Satan that is both appealing and evil, a fascinating and unsavory character, so I’m going to concentrate my comments on his and his minions machinations!

Satan rising from the Burning Lake (1896)
by William Strang
(sourced NYPL)

If we listen to the words of Satan and his angels describing their plight, they sound compelling, at times even justifiable, and perhaps one could even feel a sympathy for them.

“What though the field be lost?
All is not lost; the unconquerable will,
And study of revenge, immortal hate,
And courage never to sumit or yield:
And what else is not to be overcome?
That glory never shall his wrath or might
Extort from me…”  (105-111)

Yet there is a delusional quality to their reasoning and, if we listen to the poet, we see that their hope is futile against the power of God.  Even Belial, the fallen angel, seems to confirm this premise.

“They dreaded worse than Hell, so much the fear
Of thunder and the sword of Michael
Wrought still within them, and no less desire
To found this nether empire …”   (293-296)


“What if the breath that kindled those grim fires,
Awaked, should blow them into sevenfold rage,
And plunge us in the flames ……”  (Belial: 170-172)

The poet also gives us consistent glimpses of Satan’s true persona and the fallen angels’ perception of their fate:

By falsities and lies, the greatest part
Of mankind they corrupted to forsake
God their Creator, and the invisible
Glory of him that made them to transform
Oft to the image of a brute, adorned
With gay religions full of pomp and gold,
And devils to adore for deities …..” (367-373)


“……. All our glory extinct, and happy state 
Here swallowed up in endless misery …”  (141-142)

Though they admit they have lost happiness and prestige, the hatred they harbour towards God is like a putrefying emination, and their diabolical desire for vengeance is at once powerful and terrifying.  There is a sense of a lack of humanity, a disconnect to any emotion other than overwhelming enmity towards the Creator.  Satan even exhibits a curious impersonal indifference to man, seeing him only as a vehicle to play out his revenge.  In spite of evidence to the contrary, Satan and his followers are certain of victory, and plan to work relentlessly towards that goal.

Sin and Death at the Gates of Hell (1896)
by William Strang
(sourced NYPL)

Milton does not make Satan an horrific, evil monstrosity; his Satan is articulate, calculating and, in the eyes of the other fallen angels, has admirable artifice.  While the Satan of Dante (The Divine Comedy) is gruesome, hideous and quite terrifying, our Satan in this poem has a more pleasing guise.  And so he should have.  Dante’s Satan was in Hell, evil personified, there to enlighten inmates as to the horrors of their fate.  On the other hand, it is important for Milton’s Satan to be appealing.  He travels to earth with the design to tempt men; his deviousness and evil require cloaking in order for him to succeed in his mission.  But for us as readers, it pays to be diligent in recognizing the true qualities of Satan and the fallen angels.  They value power, might, ill, revenge, war, strength, vice, hatred, death, and they despise weakness, goodness and virtue.  In fact, they don’t simply despise good; they seek to pervert it, and far from wishing to do ill to a specific person or for a specific wrong, they desire “ever to do ill.”  The trick is to see behind the facade.  To trust anything presented or said by Satan and his angels would be unwise.

Book I and II were ripe with an incongruous tension between the grandeur of Satan, and his evil scheme of vengeance, paired with the futility of his actions.  I cannot wait to see what transpires in Books III and IV!