Paradise Lost Arguments and Summaries

John Milton’s Book-by-Book Arguments (Synopses) and A. J. Drake’s Summaries for the 1674 12-Book Edition of Paradise Lost


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Milton’s Argument for Book One

(I’ve checked Milton’s arguments as given below against a digital copy of the 1674 12-book printing. Attribution: John Milton, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons). Like Hughes, I’ve retained the archaic spelling and the punctuation.

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

My Summary of Book 1

001-049.  Narrator’s first invocation, epic question and answer.     

050-083.  Narrator’s brief description of Satan’s nine-day fall along with his crew; Satan’s first reaction to his new surroundings, and act of composing himself to address Beëlzebub.

084-127.  Satan addresses Beëlzebub, and the narrator briefly describes Satan’s inner torment.

128-156.  Beëlzebub responds to Satan, and the narrator cues up the counter-response.

157-191.  Satan counters Beëlzebub’s perspective.

192-210.  The narrator employs similes (chiefly that of a Norway boat pilot latching on to Leviathan in the murky night) to characterize Satan’s huge bulk and his — and our own — difficulty in coming to grips with it.

211-241.  The narrator condemns Satan’s scheming and evildoing, and recounts Satan’s rise from the Stygian Pool and alighting upon sulphurous dry land, Beëlzebub along with him.

242-270.  Satan, talking as much to himself as to Beëlzebub, declares that “the mind is its own place” and that it’s “Better to reign in Hell, than serve in Heav’n” and resolves to rally the fallen angels.

271-282.  Beëlzebub agrees with Satan that the rebel angels must be roused from the fiery lake.

283-313.  The narrator again generates similes to help us process the appearance of Satan and his fallen host as the leader makes his way towards them.

314-330.  Satan calls his troops, still prone on the flood, to order: “Awake, arise, or be for ever fall’n.”

331-375.  The narrator describes he fallen host rising in terms of similes – locusts besetting Egypt, barbarian hordes overwhelming the Roman Empire.  He flashes forward to the time when they will take up names and pass themselves off as “Devils to adore for Deities.”

376-522.  The narrator solicits the aid of his muse to compile an extensive epic catalog of pagan gods.

522-589.  The narrator describes the massive, martial response of the rebel angels to Satan’s call to arise.

589-621.  The narrator offers us insight into Satan’s still grand appearance and never-quite-eradicable feelings of remorse for his evil rebellion that has brought so many angels down with him.

622-662.  Satan gives a fine classical-style harangue to his assembled host, counseling “War / Open or understood,” and slyly mentions the rumor that God has created a new world replete with inhabitants.

663-751.  The narrator notes the rebel angels’ newfound defiance, and describes the building of the magnificent infernal city, Pandemonium, engineered by Mammon.

752-798.  The narrator relates the infernal Heralds’ announcement of a Council to take place in newly built Pandemonium, then describes the host on the move as being like bees, “smallest Dwarfs,” Pygmies, Elves as seen by a peasant (observer simile again), and finally as “great Seraphic Lords and Cherubim” and “Demi-Gods on golden seats.”


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Milton’s Argument for Book Two:

The Consultation begun, Satan debates whether another Battel be to be hazarded for the recovery of Heaven: some advise it, others dissuade: A third proposal is prefer’d, mention’d before by Satan, to search the truth of that Prophesie or Tradition in Heaven concerning another world, and another kind of creature equal or not much inferiour to themselves, about this time to be created: Thir doubt who shall be sent on this difficult search: Satan thir chief undertakes alone the voyage, is honourd and applauded. The Councel thus ended, the rest betake them several wayes and to several imployments, as thir inclinations lead them, to entertain the time till Satan return. He passes on his journey to Hell Gates, finds them shut, and who sat there to guard them, by whom at length they are op’nd, and discover to him the great Gulf between Hell and Heaven; with what difficulty he passes through, directed by Chaos, the Power of that place, to the sight of this new World which he sought.

My Summary of Book Two:

001-010.  Narrator pictures Satan on his Infernal throne, puffed up with thoughts of war.

011-042.  Satan addresses the Council, and deceptively characterizes Hell as egalitarian, united.

043-105.  The narrator sums up Moloch’s nature, and true to that nature, this devil recklessly advises war.

106-225.  Belial speaks next, describe by the narrator as a graceful, suave presence and a consummate liar, counsels the fallen angels to accept their lot: perhaps God will “Not mind us not offending.”

226-283.  After Belial comes Mammon, whom the narrator described in the previous book.  He advises that a new state of magnificence can be raised up in Hell.  War is unnecessary.

284-298.  The narrator informs us that Mammon’s predilection for peace has struck a chord with the weary, fearful rank and file.

299-416.  Beëlzebub rises to promote Satan’s plan, which is either to destroy earth or at least corrupt its new inhabitants.  The rebel host votes “aye,” and Beëlzebub praises their wisdom, and asks pointedly who shall undertake the heroic mission of seeking out the earth.

417-466.  Satan promptly accepts the challenge, as he must to keep his bad preeminence.

466-520.  The narrator describes the ending of the Council: an exalted Satan’s epic-hero boldness affirmed by all; the narrator laments that while devils find unity, fallen men find none; trumpets and heralds blare out the Council’s message.

521-628.  The rebel host disband to await the results of Satan’s mission; they follow their several inclinations: athletic games, war exercises and earnest, raging violence, epic song, theology, philosophy, voyages of discovery in Hell’s “Universe of death.”

629-680.  Satan makes his way towards the Gates of Hell, and encounters a female figure of serpent form beneath the waist and a monstrous blob, whom the narrator describes in Spenserian detail.

681-726.  Satan confronts the blob (Death, as Satan soon will find out), who menaces him and claims supremacy, and the two are at a standstill.

727-814.  Sin intercedes, hails Satan as “Father,” and recounts the story of her birth during Satan’s campaign to enlist angels in his rebellion: she sprang from the left side of Satan’s head, as Athena sprang from Zeus’ head.  The host proclaimed her Sin and were won over by her charms; Satan slept with her and begot Death.  At the fall of the bad angels, Sin was given the key to Hell’s Gates, and was then raped by her son Death, begetting the yelping monsters that now seek to gnaw her entrails.  Sin warns Satan not to assault voracious Death.

815-844.  Satan now acknowledges his relation to Sin and Death, explains his present mission and promises it will be a great benefit to them.

845-870.  Sin and Death are pleased.  Sin promptly declares Satan her sole author, rejoices at the prospects of liberty, exaltation and prey, and promises to open the Gates of Hell in spite of God’s stern command.

871-927.  The narrator describes Sin’s opening (but not closing!) of the Gates of Hell.  Sin, Death, and Satan behold “a dark / Illimitable Ocean without bound,” a region of Night, Chaos and Chance. Satan ponders the sight before him as he prepares to enter it.

927-950.  The narrator relates Satan’s bold, if at times awkward, trip through regions where discord and din are the only constants: Satan “swims or sinks, or wades or creeps, or flyes” as the occasion demands.

951-987.  At last Satan espies the Throne of Chaos and his consort Night, along with associates Demogorgon, Chance, Tumult, Confusion, and Discord.  Satan asks directions either to the boundaries of Heaven or to the new place (earth) that God has wrested from Chaos’ realm.  He promises that destroying this realm will benefit Chaos, while he himself seeks only revenge.

988-1009.  Chaos obliges Satan, lamenting his recent losses thanks to God’s latest creation of a new region.

1010-1055.  The narrator describes how Satan, armed with directions and an unquenchable desire for revenge, continues on through the discord.  There’s a flash forward to the time right after the Fall of Mankind, when Sin and Death will pave an easy way from Hell to earth.  Satan beholds from afar the Empyreal Heaven and the “pendant world” (the created universe below Heaven proper) linked to it by a golden chain.  (Note that the phrase “in bigness as a Star …” is apparently meant as a perspectival simile since Satan is looking at this huge scene from a distance.)


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Milton’s Argument for Book Three:

God sitting on his Throne sees Satan flying towards this world, then newly created; shews him to the Son who sat at his right hand; foretells the success of Satan in perverting mankind; clears his own justice and Wisdom from all imputation, having created Man free and able enough to have withstood his Tempter; yet declares his purpose of grace towards him, in regard he fell not of his own malice, as did Satan, but by him seduc’t. The Son of God renders praises to his Father for the manifestation of his gracious purpose towards Man; but God again declares, that Grace cannot be extended towards Man without the satisfaction of divine justice; Man hath offended the majesty of God by aspiring to God-head, and therefore with all his Progeny devoted to death must dye, unless some one can be found sufficient to answer for his offence, and undergo his Punishment. The Son of God freely offers himself a Ransome for Man: the Father accepts him, ordains his incarnation, pronounces his exaltation above all Names in Heaven and Earth; commands all the Angels to adore him; they obey, and hymning to their Harps in full Quire, celebrate the Father and the Son. Mean while Satan alights upon the bare convex of this Worlds outermost Orb; where wandring he first finds a place since call’d The Lymbo of Vanity; what persons and things fly up thither; thence comes to the Gate of Heaven, describ’d ascending by stairs, and the waters above the Firmament that flow about it: His passage thence to the Orb of the Sun; he finds there Uriel the Regient of that Orb, but first changes himself into the shape of a meaner Angel; and pretending a zealous desire to behold the new Creation and Man whom God had plac’t here, inquires of him the place of his habitation, and is directed; alights first on Mount Niphates.

My Summary of Book Three:

001-055.  The narrator makes his second of four invocations, this time a moving prayer to “holy light,” that even in his blindness he may “see and tell / Of things invisible to mortal sight.”

056-143.  God beholds all before him, including Adam and Eve.  He espies Satan “Coasting the wall of Heav’n” and, addressing the Son, unfolds Satan’s perverse mission to earth: man will indeed fall, even though – God remarks pointedly – he was made “Sufficient to have stood, though free to fall” (3.99). Invoking God’s “foreknowledge” is no excuse, says the Almighty, but because Adam and Eve were deceived by another, they (unlike Satan) will “find grace,” and mercy will outshine even justice.  Heaven shines with joy, and the Father’s glory is “substantially express’d” in the Son’s face as he prepares to speak.

144-166.  The Son addresses the Father, praising his decision to show mankind grace, i.e. mercy, but asks what will be his next move: is all humankind to be corrupted?  Must earth be destroyed, essentially handing Satan a de-creative victory?

167-226.  God the Father praises the Son as “my word, my wisdom, and effectual might” (170), and offers a theology lesson: grace means that man will be renewed and assisted to fight the Devil and realize all he owes to none but God.  Though some are elected to salvation, all are given a chance; the faculty of Conscience helps keep the way there open, and only those who refuse its aid will fail.  Still, strict justice requires that all mankind be subject to death – will no heavenly being, asks God, step up and spare humanity this fate?  At first, no voice is heard; the Son, however, is just about to speak.

227-273.  The Son offers to meet the demand and take on the burden of all humanity’s sins: “on mee let thine anger fall” (3.237).  The Son predicts his resurrection, triumph over Death and Hell, and his return to Heaven with the redeemed coming along with him.  All the angels are struck with admiration.

274-343.  God the Father exalts the Son, explaining the particulars of the burden he has taken on and what will follow successful completion of his redemptive mission: he will judge the good and the wicked, Hell will be shut forever, and the world will burn; a new Heaven and Earth will arise from the ashes, and after a time the blessed will “See golden days,” and “God shall be All in All.”  God commands all the angels to adore the Son.

344-417.  The heavenly choir celebrate this Exaltation of the Son with Hosannas and casting down of their crowns of amaranth and gold, and then they praise the Father in song as “Omnipotent, / Immutable, Immortal, Infinite, / Eternal King” (3.372-74) and the Son, in terms, we are to understand, not dissimilar to those set forth by the narrator as he imagines himself amongst the Choir and praises the “Divine Similitude” in His capacities as creative force and victor over the Satanic host, and promises, “never shall my Harp thy praise / Forget, nor from thy Fathers praise disjoine” (3.414-15).

418-590.  Meanwhile, Satan lands on the outer shell of the created universe (above the planets and stars, but below the Empyrean or Heavenly realm – see The Ptolemaic System and Ankle Soup’s Diagram), where he “walks at large in spacious field” (3.430) and is described as being like a vulture that roams vast distances in search of carrion.  What Satan beholds is the territory that will in future be a fully stocked Limbo or Paradise of Fools, where all sorts of monstrosities are buffeted about with Friars, erring pilgrims, and all those who pursued earthly vanities, foolish dreams, and praise.  Satan next espies the environs of Heaven and the golden ladder (like Jacob’s in Genesis 28) ascending to its gates, near which a passage down to earth is open.  Looking down from the ladder’s base, Satan, scout-like, beholds with both wonder and envy a panoramic view of the created universe below.  Down he plunges through the multitude of stars, making his way towards the sun, where he lands at 3.588-90. 

591-680.  The narrator tries to image or at least describe for us the fabulous, alchemy-like powers of the sun, but Satan’s goal is to find his way down to the new earthly paradise.  On the sun, he encounters the radiant angel Uriel, and promptly shifts his form to that of an innocent “stripling Cherube” (3.636) and, pretending to be an angelic tourist, asks where he might travel to admire and glorify God’s latest happy creation, man.

681-735.  Uriel, who is too noble to recognize Satan’s “Cherube” fraud, at once serves up exactly the verbal road map he needs, along with an account of the Creator’s master strokes: the Word brought together the materials of Creation, Confusion (i.e. Chaos, it seems) was tamed, and Light chased away Darkness, order vanquishing disorder (see also Book 7.205ff).  The elements (“Earth, Flood, Aire, Fire” 3.715) took their proper places, and the “Ethereal quintessence” flew heavenwards, and turned into the stars of the Starry Sphere and the matter that walls the universe.  Uriel points to earth’s globe, and the precise location of its Paradise, Eden.

736-742.  No doubt delighted, Satan as the “Cherube” bows in thanks to Uriel, and the two part.  Satan makes his way to earth and at alights on the summit of Mount Niphates, in the Taurus range of modern-day Armenia (Milton says it’s in Assyria at Book 4.126, and it’s the locus of Satan’s temptation of Christ in Paradise Regained. (Click on the Mt. Niphates Hyperlinked Note in The Milton Reading Room website’s copy of Paradise Lost, Book 3.)


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Milton’s Argument for Book Four:

Satan now in prospect of Eden, and nigh the place where he must now attempt the bold enterprize which he undertook alone against God and Man, falls into many doubts with himself, and many passions, fear, envy, and despare; but at length confirms himself in evil, journeys on to Paradise, whose outward prospect and scituation is discribed, overleaps the bounds, sits in the shape of a Cormorant on the Tree of life, as highest in the Garden to look about him. The Garden describ’d; Satans first sight of Adam and Eve; his wonder at thir excellent form and happy state, but with resolution to work thir fall; overhears thir discourse, thence gathers that the Tree of knowledge was forbidden them to eat of, under penalty of death; and thereon intends to found his temptation, by seducing them to transgress: then leaves them a while, to know further of thir state by some other means. Mean while Uriel descending on a Sun-beam warns Gabriel, who had in charge the Gate of Paradise, that some evil spirit had escap’d the Deep, and past at Noon by his Sphere in the shape of a good Angel down to Paradise, discovered after by his furious gestures in the Mount. Gabriel promises to find him ere morning. Night coming on, Adam and Eve, discourse of going to thir rest: thir Bower describ’d; thir Evening worship. Gabriel drawing forth his Bands of Night-watch to walk the round of Paradise, appoints two strong Angels to Adams Bower, least the evil spirit should be there doing some harm to Adam or Eve sleeping; there they find him at the ear of Eve, tempting her in a dream, and bring him, though unwilling, to Gabriel; by whom question’d, he scornfully answers, prepares resistance, but hinder’d by a Sign from Heaven, flies out of Paradise.

My Summary of Book Four:

001-031.  The narrator sets the stage for Satan’s confession with regard to Eden and the sun whose beams he now hates.

032-113.  Satan admits to himself what he can’t admit to others: all his plans serve pointless illusions since, he says, “myself am Hell” (4.75).  His stage-villan resolution is, “Evil be thou my Good” (4.110) and the goal from now on will be to maintain at least “Divided Empire” against God.

114-130.  As Satan broods on Mount Niphates, sun-guardian Uriel catches sight of the dark emotions that betray themselves in the bad angel’s countenance, and knows him for the rebel that he is.

131-193.  Satan reaches Eden’s border, which the narrator describes in detail: a spacious, perfumed “Silvan Scene” that pleases even the ill spirit who has come to destroy it.  Disdaining the gate God has placed at the east entry to Eden, Satan jumps the wall of Paradise and lands within its bounds.

194-287.  Taking the form of a cormorant, Satan perches on the Tree of Life, and surveys the Garden of Eden planted in the eastern section of Paradise.  The narrator describes the Garden, replete with its Tree of Life and Tree of Knowledge.  A strange river flows southwards and runs under a mountain, emerging into a fountain that waters Eden itself, and then splits into four streams.  (See Genesis 2:10-14, which says that a single river splits into four rivers or branches: Pison, Gihon, Hiddekel or Tigris, and Euphrates.) Hesiodic classical allusions adorn the narrator’s description: Flora, Universal Pan, the Graces and the Hours.

288-324.  Satan views Adam and Eve, and the narrator images them with an unfallen chivalric portrait: “for contemplation hee and valor form’d” is Adam’s handle, and as for Eve, “for softness shee and sweet attractive Grace” (4.297-98).  As yet, says the narrator pointedly, there is no “guilty shame” (4.313) coming between this lovely couple, unlike modern times in which “honor dishonorable” (4.314) has become the norm.

325-355.  The vignette of Adam and Eve broadens to embrace more of the Garden: it is dinner-time, and then dalliance holds sway, along with some entertainment offered up by Eden’s still-friendly animals: harmony reigns between Adam and Eve, and between them and all creation.

356-392.  Satan recovers from the shock of such a beautiful sight as Adam and Eve in Paradise, and in a soliloquy he resolves on a plan: he will seek “League” (4.375) with the happy couple, and draw their progeny along with him to Hell.  His stated rationale is that “public reason just, / Honor and Empire” (4.389-90) compel him to act even though he’s stricken at the thought of what he’s about to do.

393-410.  The narrator, in a Miltonic aside, glosses Satan’s reasoning as “necessity, / The Tyrant’s plea” (4.393-94).  Satan takes on the form of a lion, then a tiger, and listens to Adam addressing Eve.

411-439.  Adam reminds Eve that they both owe a generous God only one form of obedience: not to eat the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge, for that is “death.”  The only other things to do are to praise God and tend the Garden.

440-491.  Eve responds to Adam, praising his advice as wise.  She then recounts her first memories, from the moment of her awakening.  She gazed into a pool of water, and like Narcissus in the classical Ovidian myth, would have pined away over her own image, had “a voice” (4.467, seemingly the Son in his capacity as God’s creative power) not gently guided her towards the twin promise awaiting her: Adam for a husband and the joy of becoming “Mother of human Race” (4.475).

492-538.  Adam and Eve embrace, sparking Satan’s joyless lust.  But he has the essential information he needs: incredulous at the “interdicted tree” scheme God has set up in Eden, Satan decides that the Tree of Knowledge will be his “fair foundation” for the innocent couple’s destruction: why, indeed, shouldn’t they know what God knows?  Resolved, Satan goes off to do some more reconnoitering in Paradise.

539-609.  Gabriel is guarding the Gates of Paradise in anticipation of night’s coming on, while the angels around him play heroic games.  Uriel arrives and warns Gabriel that they have had a curious visitor who is clearly one of the bad sort: Uriel saw the “passions foul” () on the visitor’s face when Satan landed on Mount Niphates to the north of Eden.  Gabriel says they’ll search and find him by the morning.  Uriel returns to the sun, and night comes on: all but the nightingale rest, and the stars glimmer.

610-633.  Adam’s early-bourgeois industriousness shows here, as he enjoins Eve to rest since they must rise first thing in the morning: there’s work to be done, lest the garden grow too wanton and unruly.

634-658.  Eve utters an aubade-like poem in praise of morning, evening, and Adam, whose company is more pleasurable than any delight the seasons may bring.  She asks Adam why the stars shine at night.

659-688.  Adam informs Eve that the stars are useful for giving light and warmth to nature, thereby preparing its flora and fauna to benefit for the sun’s “more potent Ray” (4.673).  But the stars are also an aesthetic delight; they’re for show, that is, to the “Millions of spiritual creatures” (4.677) that walk the earth and sing all through the night.

689-735.  Adam and Eve enter their Bower.  They say their evening prayers (their vespers) in natural unison, praising the night, the daytime, the Bower itself, and their own love for each other.  The promise of “a Race / To fill the Earth” (4.732-33) pleases the first couple.

736-775.  Adam and Eve go to their rest for the evening, which will obviously include lovemaking.  The narrator condemns priggish anti-pleasure “shame culture,” as we might call it.  He hails “wedded Love” (4.750) and laments the sinful kinds of connection so prevalent in the modern world.  Would that Adam and Eve could remain as innocent as they now are!

776-796.  Gabriel orders his next-in-command Uzziel to conduct a search and haul in the “infernal Spirit” (4.793) who has dared to invade Paradise.

797-819.  The angelic search party encounters Satan in the Bower: in the form of a toad, he is filling the sleeping Eve’s ear with all sorts of bad things.  Startled at being caught, Satan resumes his former shape.

820-877.  The angels demand that Satan identify himself, which he does scornfully.  Zephon rebukes Satan, casting his foul physical transformation in his teeth.  Satan is ready to rumble with Gabriel, if he dares show his face, but he is again rebuked.  Gabriel communicates with his search party, and they bring Satan to him. 

878-976.  Gabriel questions Satan about his plans, dismisses his attempt to describe himself as a bold leader who has admirably defied the limits placed upon him, and threatens to drag him back to Hell.  Satan isn’t impressed, and a standoff ensues. 

977-1010.  God ends the standoff by sending down golden scales from Heaven that favor parting rather than a resumption of war.  Satan, recognizing that the sign is intended for him, realizes his situation is untenable and departs.


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Milton’s Argument for Book Five:

Morning approach’t, Eve relates to Adam her troublesome dream; he likes it not, yet comforts her: They come forth to thir day labours: Thir Morning Hymn at the Door of thir Bower. God to render Man inexcusable sends Raphael to admonish him of his obedience, of his free estate, of his enemy near at hand; who he is, and why his enemy, and whatever else may avail Adam to know. Raphael comes down to Paradise, his appearance describ’d, his coming discern’d by Adam afar off sitting at the door of his Bower; he goes out to meet him, brings him to his lodge, entertains him with the choycest fruits of Paradise got together by Eve; thir discourse at Table: Raphael performs his message, minds Adam of his state and of his enemy; relates at Adams request who that enemy is, and how he came to be so, beginning from his first revolt in Heaven, and the occasion thereof; how he drew his Legions after him to the parts of the North, and there incited them to rebel with him, perswading all but only Abdiel a Seraph, who in Argument diswades and opposes him, then forsakes him.

My Summary of Book Five:

001-025.  Adam awakens and Finds Eve still sleeping, but not peacefully.  He addresses her tenderly and calls her to work, which wakes her up.

026-094.  Eve tells Adam about her disturbing dream, in which Satan mimics Adam’s voice, at first praising nature and night but soon turning to less wholesome praise for Eve herself.  In this dream, she makes her way to the Tree of Knowledge and is tempted there by an angel who eats the Tree’s fruit and coaxes Eve to do the same.  She does so, and flies up with the angel until he disappears, and she sinks back to sleep in the dream.

095-135.  Adam explains the power of the Fancy, a faculty that serves waking Reason but tends in sleep to assert its power independently.  The occasional bad thought, Adam reassures Eve, is quite harmless.

136-208.  Adam and Eve, says the narrator, go to the fields to begin their day.  They say their morning prayers in unison, bidding all the natural world to praise God in its own way, and asking that the morning light disperse any ill effects of the night.

209-244.  Adam and Eve work in the Garden.  God calls on Raphael to visit for half a day with Adam and explain to him that a deceitful adversary is lurking and planning to destroy man’s happiness.

245-307.  The narrator describes Raphael’s flight (cf. Isaiah 6:2, as Hughes points out) and his landing in the likeness of a Phoenix on the eastern cliff of Paradise, whereupon he returns to his usual shape.  The angels guarding Paradise recognize Raphael, and Adam sees him as well.

308-330.  Adam informs Eve that they have a VIP (or should that be VIA for “very important angel”?) guest.  Eve tells Adam that there is no need to worry about the accommodations, but she promises to go and choose Eden’s very best for their strange guest.

331-360.  Eve piles up delicious fruits on the table and crushes some berries for juice.  Stately Adam goes forth to greet Raphael.

361-450.  Adam invites the angelic guest to share a meal.  Raphael says he has until evening to spend with them, and when he beholds Eve before him lovelier than any classical goddess, he hails her as “Mother of Mankind” (5.388).  They dine, and yes, Raphael says, angels require food, too, “pure / Intelligential substances” though they be (5.407-08).

451-505.  With the classical guest-host opening requirements out of the way (i.e. you don’t ask your guest anything until you’ve offered something to eat), Adam is politely determined to learn something about “things above his world” (5.455).  He at once gets a talk from Raphael about the great Tree of Being: all below the Almighty require nourishment suiting their respective natures, and it’s understood that upward movement from the physical to the spiritual planes is possible in due course.  In its own way, this segment makes the usual Renaissance case about “the great chain of being” and “man the microcosm” who contains the potential of all other creatures within himself.

506-560.  Adam doesn’t quite understand Raphael’s warning about obedience in the previous lines, so the archangel explains further: the angels, like man, hold their place by free will, and unfortunately, some of the angels have fallen.  Adam wants to know more about this rebellion in Heaven.

561-672.  Raphael is worried that he may reveal something forbidden, but agrees to accommodate the story to Adam’s understanding, “lik’ning spiritual to corporeal forms” (5.573).  Before the creation of the universe, says Raphael, events went as follows: God summons the angels and declares that he has “begotten” a son who will rule the angelic host.  (“Begotten” here apparently means what it meant at Emperor Constantine’s Council of Nicaea in 325 CE, in which it was established against the followers of Bishop Arius that the Son was not created like other creatures ex nihilo, but was rather begotten out of the Father’s divine substance, so that he should indeed be considered equal to the Father.)  The angelic host must obey the Son, or be cast from Heaven.  Most of the angels are happy with that arrangement, but not Satan (at that time called Lucifer), who resolves to withdraw from God all the legions under his personal command.

673-710.  Lucifer, says Raphael, next awakens Beëlzebub and tells him to announce to his legions to go north, with the alleged design of preparing “fit entertainment” (5.690) for the Son upon his arrival there.  We are told that Lucifer soon manages to induce one-third of the angels to go along on this trip north, where, at his sumptuous palace, he intends to seduce them to his cause.

711-742.  Raphael continues his narration as follows: God informs the Son that a rebellion is brewing.  It’s time to draw up battle plans! declares the Father, presumably with a derisive smile, and the Son responds that the bad angels will get what’s coming to them when he, at the Father’s behest, goes forth to defeat them all.

743-802.  Next, Raphael recounts, Lucifer makes for his sumptuous palace and addresses the angels under his command to stir up their envy and insecurity over God’s exaltation of the Son.  They must all be thought equals in freedom since all else is tyranny.

803-848.  The angel Abdiel, says Raphael, has been listening to Lucifer’s foolishness, and promptly administers a contemptuous rebuke to such “Blasphémous, false and proud” words (5.809).  God is author of all, so why should he not be freely acknowledged king of all?  Satan has misunderstood the nature of God and the Son, and Abdiel is under no such confusion.

849-871.  Raphael continues that Satan is not at all impressed with Abdiel’s scorn: since the angels have no memory of their creation, how do they know they were even created?  asks Satan.  Why not consider themselves self-authored and therefore free of any obligation to God?

872-895.  Abdiel counters, says Raphael, pointing out that Satan will soon learn by painful experience what he has refused to understand as doctrine.

896-905.  Raphael praises Abdiel’s “Love” and “Zeal” (5.900) as he recounts how this faithful servant of God turned his back on the rebellious third and took his leave of them forever.

896-905.  Raphael praises Abdiel’s “Love” and “Zeal” (5.900) as he recounts how this faithful servant of God turned his back on the rebellious third and took his leave of them forever.


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Milton’s Argument for Book Six:

Raphael continues to relate how Michael and Gabriel were sent forth to Battel against Satan and his Angels. The first Fight describ’d: Satan and his Powers retire under Night: He calls a Councel, invents devilish Engines, which in the second dayes Fight put Michael and his Angels to some disorder; but they at length pulling up Mountains overwhelm’d both the force and Machins of Satan: Yet the Tumult not so ending, God on the third day sends Messiah his Son, for whom he had reserv’d the glory of that Victory: Hee in the Power of his Father coming to the place, and causing all his Legions to stand still on either side, with his Chariot and Thunder driving into the midst of his Enemies, pursues them unable to resist towards the wall of Heaven; which opening, they leap down with horrour and confusion into the place of punishment prepar’d for them in the Deep: Messiah returns with triumph to his Father.

My Summary of Book Six:

001-055.  Raphael continues the military narration that will last to nearly the end of this book: Abdiel returns to heaven just at daybreak, and see that preparations for war are already under way.  He receives a princely welcome for his brave act of standing firm in the truth.  God tells Michael and Gabriel to lead the angelic troops against Satan’s legions.

056-113.  The battle comes on.  God’s warriors march out to meet the rebel angels, foiling their attempt to get the jump on God from the north.  Satan steps out of his “gorgeous” chariot, and strides forth armed in “Adamant and Gold” (6.110).  Abdiel is inwardly incensed at this epic military dandy’s advance.

114-188.  Abdiel silently laments Satan’s remaining epic-style grandeur, in the absence virtue.  He steps forth and rebukes him.  Satan counters with a taunt that Abdiel is both ambitious and slothful, preferring servitude over true liberty.  Abdiel tells Satan to reign in Hell, and raises his arm to strike.

189-261.  Abdiel levels a mighty blow on Satan’s helmet, and back he recoils ten huge paces.  The war begins in earnest, with the sound of a trumpet and the shock of colliding armies.  Heroic feats of arms abound.  Satan at last sees Michael destroying massive numbers of bad angels, and goes forth to challenge him.

262-353.  Michael and Satan trade barbs, and fight in single combat.  Michael’s superior sword (which comes straight from God’s armory), slices through Satan’s right side, causing him agony even though healing begins at once.  Humiliated, Satan is borne back to his chariot on the shields of his troops, like a fallen classical hero.  Raphael stops the story for a moment to explain to Adam how angelic physiology works.

354-405.  The battle continues: Gabriel clashes with Moloch and wounds him, while Uriel and Raphael overpower Adramelech and Asmadai, and Abdiel whips Ariel, Arioch, and Ramiel.  Many more such battles take place, though Raphael doesn’t mention the names of those involved: the good angels, he says, require no fame, and the bad don’t deserve it.  The Satanic host withdraws and the “inviolable Saints” (6.398) hold the field on this first day of battle.

406-468.  Night brings cessation of battle.  Satan tells his army that they have proven their immortality; now they need better weapons, or whatever else may level the field.  Nisroch rises and says this new phenomenon, pain, is intolerable.  So yes, the rebels either need better weapons or some new way of defending themselves.

469-523.  Satan points out that he has just such a new device in mind: artillery.  The materials of heaven will furnish the necessaries.  Raphael warns Adam that one day, should a fall from grace occur, humans, too, may arrive at a similarly devilish invention.  The rebels seek and find the ingredients they need for their new secret weapon.

524-634.  The loyal host arises with the morning light and scouts around for the enemy.  Zophiel issues a call to arms: the satanic legions are coming on again.  And Satan arrives on the scene, hiding his new invention with troops as cover, and deviously advancing what sounds like a call for a truce.  Suddenly, an artillery blast rocks God’s legions and sows confusion in their ranks.  For a moment, Satan has them in derision, and he and Belial mock the loyal army of God for the delectation of their own wicked troops.

635-679.  Enraged, the good angels cast down their weapons and uproot huge hills, including trees, rocks, and all.  Armed with these like the giants Zeus used to fight the Titans in Greek myth, they do great damage to Satan’s armies.  Even so, the latter soon catch on to this new way of making war, and begin to give as good as they get.  All is confusion, so God, seeing all that happens, begins an address to the Son.

680-718.  God tells the Son that two heavenly days of this violence have been quite enough, and that the third belongs to the Son, who will have the glory and honor of ending the battle successfully.  To do this, he will have and exercise the Father’s full power for all to see and wonder at.

719-745.  The Son glorifies the Father back, and takes on the “Sceptre and Power” (6.730) that the Father has just offered him.  He will resign them only when, as he says, God shall be “All in All (6.732).  The Son declares that he will drive the wicked rabble out of heaven down to hell, an action to be followed by angelic halleluiahs on the sacred Mount.

746-800.  The Son rises from his place at the right hand of the Father, and the third day dawns.  The Son goes forth in the Father’s magnificent Chariot, which Raphael describes in detail.  Michael places the entire army under the Son’s command.  The uprooted hills now return to their proper places in heaven.  The bad army is filled with despair at the sight of these signs of the Son’s terrible power, but they proceed with a bravery born of reckless desperation.

801-892.  The Son tells his army that he will fight the rebels alone on this third day of battle.  His face transforms to express unutterably, unbearably great wrath.  The Chariot’s “Cherubic shapes” (6.753) spread their wings, the strangely ocular-endowed wheels as in Ezekiel 1:4-28 roll and shake heaven, except God’s throne.  The Son seizes “ten thousand Thunders” (6.836) and casts them at Satan’s hapless armies.  Raphael says the Son isn’t even using half his power, but that’s more than enough to drive the rebels right through the gates of heaven, which have opened for that very purpose, and out into Chaos.  The bad angels fall nine straight days down to hell, and we know from Book One that when they finally get there, they will lie “rolling in the fiery gulf” (1.52) for yet another nine days (measured in earth-time).  Now heaven’s gates close, and all the angels rejoice in the Son’s great exploit.  The victor turns the Chariot back through the middle parts of heaven and returns in triumph to Court, resuming his place there at the right hand of the Father.

893-912.  Raphael reinforces the lesson of his now-completed narration about the War in Heaven: Adam should of course warn Eve, and he himself should “remember, and fear to transgress” (6.912).


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Milton’s Argument for Book Seven:

Raphael at the request of Adam relates how and wherefore this world was first created; that God, after the expelling of Satan and his Angels out of Heaven, declar’d his pleasure to create another World and other Creatures to dwell therein; sends his Son with Glory and attendance of Angels to perform the work of Creation in six dayes: the Angels celebrate with Hymns the performance thereof, and his reascention into Heaven.

My Summary of Book Seven:

001-039.  In his third of four invocations (Books 1, 3, 7, 9), the narrator calls upon Urania to help him with what remains: first an account of the creation of the universe, and then events that transpire in a more domestic, intimate setting: Eden.  Part of the invocation is taken up with defining the Muse herself away from the classical, pagan context and towards angelic-quality Understanding, or the Holy Spirit, or perhaps the Dantean primo amore, an emanation of God’s love in the form of pure light.  The narrator himself, as he explains, has “fallen on evil days” (7.25) – a clear allusion to Milton’s own situation after the Restoration.

040-108.  The narrator tells us that now that Adam has heard the warning he needed to hear (Eve seems to have been absent for the warning itself (as 6.908-09’s “warn thy weaker” clause implies; later, at 7.50-51, we are told that Eve was very attentive to Raphael’s relations about the War in Heaven; see also 8.39-45, where she takes her leave to do some gardening, and 9.276, where she lets Adam know that in fact she overheard Raphael’s admonition), he decides to ask Raphael about the creation of the universe from chaos.  How did God do it, and why has he waited until almost now?

 109-130.  Raphael generously agrees to explain what Adam has asked about, to the extent possible; the angel also makes it clear that it would be inadvisable to ask further questions after he has finished: he will relate what it is appropriate for Adam and Eve to hear.

131-173.  In Raphael’s recounting, God the Father addresses the Son, explaining that he will foil Satan’s rebellion all the more with an act of creation: a new race of beings, humankind, will be created, and they will have a chance to raise themselves towards heaven in due time, whereupon earth and heaven will be “One Kingdom, Joy and Union without end” (7.161).  Declaring that constraints such as Necessity and Chance have no power over an Almighty God, the Father sends the Son to perform this act of creation as his Word.

174-217.  Raphael explains that while God’s acts are instantaneous, they “Cannot without process of speech be told” (7.178) to suit human sensibilities.  Glories are sung to both the Father and the Son, and the latter, coming forth in his Chariot, prepares to carry out the creation that the Father has entrusted to him: he drives up to the edge of Chaos, and with his angelic retinue views the “vast immeasurable Abyss” (7.211).  The Son then commands the waves and winds of Chaos to be still.

218-242.  The Son rides his Chariot far into Chaos, and takes a pair of “golden Compasses” (7.225) with which he circumscribes the entire created Universe to set its boundaries.  The elements are properly separated as the Spirit (presumably still the Son) “broods” on the Abyss and infuses it with “vital warmth” (7.236); Earth now stands “self-balanc’t on her Centre hung” (7.242).

243-275.  “Let there be Light,” goes forth the command, and, as Genesis says, there is light.  This is the first alternation of night with day, duly celebrated by the angelic choirs.  On the second day of creation, God generates the Firmament, an “expanse of liquid, pure, / Transparent, Elemental Air” (7.264-65) that serves as a buffer zone between the waters above it (the Crystalline Ocean) and the waters below it, the “Womb … of Waters” (7.276-77) where Earth waits in embryonic form.

276-338.  On the third day of creation, the waters below congregate into oceans, and the dry land appears on the new Earth.  The Creator then commands that plants spring up to green the barren land and provide vines, shrubs and bushes of all kinds, with stately trees and their fruits coming into being last to crown this phase.  Earth now begins to look like a very Heaven, says Raphael, and a “dewy Mist” (7.333) waters the ground and plants.

339-386.  On the fourth day, the stars are made to appear in the Firmament: they will serve “for Signs, / For Seasons, and for Days, and circling Years” (7.341-42) as well as for the provision of light at night (the moon and stars) and during day (the sun).  The great star Venus, the “Morning Planet” (7.366), is also described in relation to the Sun.

387-448.  On the fifth day, the Creator orders the Waters to generate reptiles; the birds populate the air, and the whales and fish fill the seas.  Earth now teems with these forms of life, all of it enjoying the suitable elements and surroundings.

449-504.  On the sixth and last day of work, the Creator bids the completion of the animal order: herd beasts like cattle, small creatures that creep across the land, the great cats, hippopotami, and others all spring forth fully formed.  Raphael describes the new planet’s joy: “Earth in her rich attire / Consummate lovely smil’d” (7.501-02).  As yet, however, one last being must be created to complete the cycle and crown Earth’s wonderful diversity: a being that will be “self-knowing” (7.509) and even able to “correspond with Heav’n” (7.510), one able to worship God.

505-550.  Still on the sixth day, the Creator makes mankind: first Adam comes into being, and God gives him (and his future kind) dominion over all other creatures on Earth, with an injunction to “Be fruitful, multiply, and fill the Earth” (7.531).  The Creator brings Adam to the Garden of Eden and, as Raphael reminds him, forbids him only the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge.  Eve is also mentioned in this account as Adam’s “consort” (7.529), but here Milton is obviously following the condensed description given in Genesis; we must wait until Adam treats Raphael to his earliest recollections from 8.250-520 to hear a fuller account of Eve’s creation, which apparently occurs after Adam is brought into Eden and has his first conversation with God.

551-632.  On the seventh morning, the Creator returns to Heaven to have a look at what he has accomplished.  Celestial music from the angels and the Earth, stars and planets resounds with praise for God’s future commitment to the universe he has created: he and his angels will visit the just and commune with them.  When the seventh evening arrives, the Son sits next to the Father to the accompaniment of further music, the singing of “Creation and the Six days’ acts” (7.601), along with the observation that Satan and the fallen angels are justly served since God used their evil acts to bring forth still more good.  Finally, the angelic singers praise mankind, who will be “thrice happy if they know / Thir happiness, and persevere upright” (7.631-32).

633-640.  Raphael says the abovementioned hymning constituted the first Sabbath observance, and points out to Adam that his request to hear about such high things has now been fulfilled.  But perhaps Adam would like to hear still more, thinks Raphael, so he asks if that is the case.


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Milton’s Argument for Book Eight:

Adam inquires concerning celestial Motions, is doubtfully answer’d, and exhorted to search rather things more worthy of knowledg: Adam assents, and still desirous to detain Raphael, relates to him what he remember’d since his own Creation, his placing in Paradise, his talk with God concerning solitude and fit society, his first meeting and Nuptials with Eve, his discourse with the Angel thereupon; who after admonitions repeated departs.

My Summary of Book Eight:

001-038.  Adam asks Raphael why the vast array of stars, themselves so much greater in size than Earth, seem to travel such great spaces just for such a tiny planet.

039-063.  Hearing this talk about matters astronomical, Eve decides to go tend the garden.  It isn’t that she can’t follow the concepts, explains the narrator, it’s that she prefers to hear such stuff from Adam later on.

064-178.  Raphael approves of Adam’s question, saying that the “Book of God” (8.67) is always open for reading.  Still, the best thing is not to worry about which heavenly bodies move around which, but instead to study the seasons, days, and hours: “be lowly wise” (8.173), the angel tells his host.  How can a man really know what’s going on in Heaven’s immensity, or what the ultimate purpose of the stars may be?

179-216.  Adam agrees with Raphael’s advice about the proper orientation of human beings towards higher knowledge, and as a means of prolonging the angel’s stay, he offers to tell his guest as much as he can about something close to home: his own first remembrances.

217-248.  Raphael praises Adam, and says that since he was quite busy on the Sixth Day of Creation (God had tasked him with making sure no bad angel interfered with the work at hand), he would indeed like to hear about Adam’s first moments

249-282.  Adam begins his story.  As he tells it, he awoke in a sort of warm dew and at once looked upward to the sky, and then stood up to take a look around, including himself as an object of perception.  It occurred to him that he must have a maker; how, then, to contact that maker?

283-348.  Adam continues his story: he fell asleep, and a divine Shape guided him to Eden, declaring itself Creator, warning Adam about the need to refrain from tasting the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge, and then summoning the creatures to receive their names from the first man.

349-397.  Adam goes on to say that he easily named the animals that paraded past him, but did not find the one thing he really missed: a true companion.  That admission, says Adam, made the Creator smile and launch into a bit of teasing dialogue: isn’t everything I’ve given you enough? asked the Creator.  Not quite, Adam rather boldly responded: man and the animals just aren’t on the same level, and after all, “Among unequals what society / Can sort …?” (8.383-84). He needed a rational mate, a companion as capable as himself to talk to and spend his days with.

398-451.  The Creator, Adam implies, must have found this reasoning amusing since he again teased Adam with another seemingly disapproving question: if God doesn’t need company, why should Adam insist on it?  The response wasn’t hard to come by: God is perfect in Himself, but a human being isn’t, and so requires a mate for conversation and for reproductive purposes.  Pleased, the Creator promised Adam the “other self” (8.450) that would alone make his happiness complete.

452-520.  Adam recounts that his Creator then put him into a trance-like state, and, taking a rib out of his left side, formed a woman from it.  Upon awaking, Adam at first thought he had lost the woman, but then saw her not far off thanks to the Creator’s gentle guidance of her in her first moments.  Adam thanked the Creator eloquently, saying that as with him now, the men of the future would unite with their beloved mates as “one Flesh, one Heart, one Soul” (8.499).  A gentle chase scene of sorts then followed, with Adam winning Eve over just as she related to us back in Book 4.449-91.  The happy couple then celebrated their wedding night in the Bower.  With that relation, Adam’s account is done.

521-559.  Although Adam has finished his tale, he can’t help adding a few thoughts about the strange power Eve has over him, in spite of what the Miltonic scheme of things posits as her somewhat lower standing in the Created Order.  As Adam describes his fascination with this impossibly beautiful female, when he is in her presence, it seems as if “Authority and Reason on her wait” (8.554).

560-594.  For once, Raphael is not pleased with what Adam has said.  “Accuse not Nature” (8.561), Raphael warns his host.  Adam must respect his commitment to superior wisdom, not allow himself to be overwhelmed or overruled by even the fairest countenance or the strongest physical passion.  Reason, and not sexual excitement, must be love’s ground, says Raphael, for we share such capacity for arousal with beasts.

595-617.  Adam revises his remarks, saying that it’s Eve’s graceful ways, her daily charms, that have such a great effect on him; such charms don’t actually subdue his reason.  He is moved to ask Raphael a rather delicate question, though: do the angels themselves experience something like sexual love?

618-643.  Raphael blushes a little, and answers in the affirmative, adding that it’s even better since with angels, there’s really no physical barrier to keep the amorous spirits apart.  But now evening is coming on, and it’s time for Raphael to wing his way back to Heaven.  One last admonition to Adam to respect his own free will and refrain from transgressing, and then Raphael is ready to depart.

644-653.  Adam bids Raphael a fond goodbye for the time being, invites him to visit as often as he likes, and at last retires to his Bower.


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Milton’s Argument for Book Nine:

Satan having compast the Earth, with meditated guile returns as a mist by Night into Paradise, enters into the Serpent sleeping. Adam and Eve in the Morning go forth to thir labours, which Eve proposes to divide in several places, each labouring apart: Adam consents not, alledging the danger, lest that Enemy, of whom they were forewarn’d, should attempt her found alone: Eve loath to be thought not circumspect or firm enough, urges her going apart, the rather desirous to make tryal of her strength; Adam at last yields: The Serpent finds her alone; his subtle approach, first gazing, then speaking, with much flattery extolling Eve above all other Creatures. Eve wondring to hear the Serpent speak, asks how he attain’d to human speech and such understanding not till now; the Serpent answers, that by tasting of a certain Tree in the Garden he attain’d both to Speech and Reason, till then void of both: Eve requires him to bring her to that Tree, and finds it to be the Tree of Knowledge forbidden: The Serpent now grown bolder, with many wiles and arguments induces her at length to eat; she pleas’d with the taste deliberates awhile whether to impart thereof to Adam or not, at last brings him of the Fruit, relates what persuaded her to eat thereof: Adam at first amaz’d, but perceiving her lost, resolves through vehemence of love to perish with her; and extenuating the trespass eats also of the Fruit: The effects thereof in them both; they seek to cover thir nakedness; then fall to variance and accusation of one another.

My Summary of Book Nine:

001-047.  The Narrator makes his fourth and final invocation.  Now it’s on from celestial events to material more domestic and tragic: the story of “man’s first disobedience” we were promised at the epic’s beginning.  Still, rightly understood, this story is more genuinely heroic than pagan epic or Arthurian finery.  The Narrator calls on Urania to inspire him a little longer, to take him beyond his aging, saddened self and help his do justice to this most vital portion of his argument.

048-096.  Satan, tossed out of Eden by Gabriel, circles Earth in anguish for seven nights, and on the eight he finds a way back into Eden.  Rising as a mist from the Tigris-derived fountain that wells up next to the Tree of Life, the bad angel makes a search of the available shapes he might adopt for his purpose, and settles on the wily serpent, “fittest Imp of fraud” (9.89).

097-178.  Satan soliloquizes on the “hateful siege / Of contraries” (9.121-22) that wracks his being: Earth’s beauty only intensifies his misery, and destruction is now his only remaining path to glory as the rebel who will have “marr’d” what God made good.  He repeats his usual twisted canards about God being a tyrannical monarch who has lost nearly half his empire to beings supposedly inferior to himself.  Satan also laments that he must inhabit the lowly form of a serpent, and admits that ambition and revenge are ultimately self-destructive.  Spite will be the watchword going forward.

179-204.  As the ninth morning after his ejection from Eden approaches, Satan finds the necessary serpent and enters into that yet-innocent form.  With the dawn, Adam and Eve worship God along with their fellow creatures, enjoy the morning, and plan the day’s gardening tasks.

205-225.  Eve suggests to Adam that they really ought to go about their tasks separately today; he can work wherever he likes, but she means to head for the rose bushes, which need tending.  It seems that there’s more than a touch of what we would call the Protestant Work Ethic in this creature of “sweet reluctant amorous delay” (4.311).  Eve is full of surprises!

226-269.  Adam hesitates a little at Eve’s suggestion: there’s no need, he says, to be so insistently industrious.  Reason and delight can and do go together.  Besides, Adam argues mildly, they have been warned about their foe.  Might it not be better to stick together as they work?  Adam also can’t help admitting that he considers it his duty to protect Eve.

270-289.  Adam’s remarks have evidently hurt Eve’s feelings; she infers from them that Adam doesn’t quite trust her to hold her own ground against their fiendish enemy.  Eve informs Adam that she knows very well what they’re up against: she even “over-heard” (9.276) Raphael’s warning in addition to pondering what Adam has told her.  So where, she wants to know, did Adam’s doubts come from?

290-317.  Adam fine-tunes his case, saying that he only meant that either the tempter would forbear to assault them together, or that if he did, they would stand stronger as a couple, bringing out each other’s virtues.  Besides, he suggests, Satan’s foul presence would dishonor them no matter how badly he failed.

318-341.  Eve still isn’t satisfied with Adam’s argument; they would suffer no real dishonor, she insists, and on top of it all, what good is “freedom” if you always have to look over your shoulder and travel with a companion?  To use God’s language from Book 3, either they are both “sufficient” (3.99) to stand up for themselves as individuals, or they are defective, weak creatures, and their liberty is “Frail” (9.340) indeed.

342-375.  Adam admits that Eve’s case has merit: the Will must be considered free to obey Reason.  The faculty of Reason may meet with deception and be led to misinform the Will, but that’s a risk free people must be allowed to run.  In truth, Eve has not shaken his opinion: he believes they should work together.  Nonetheless, Adam recognizes that Eve’s heart is set on following her own plan, so he gives his assent, saying, “God towards thee hath done his part, do thine” (9.375).

376-384.  Eve prepares to set out on her own, capping off her more or less successful persuasion of Adam with the thought that most likely their enemy’s pride will keep him from attacking her, the supposedly weaker vessel and that even if he does tempt her first, his defeat will be so much the greater humiliation for him.  Tragically, unfallen Eve can’t understand that there is nothing chivalric or honorable about Satan’s pride: without batting a presently serpentine eyelash, he will make straight for her.

385-411.  Eve lets go of Adam’s hand, and makes her way towards the garden plot she means to tend.  The Narrator describes her as more beautiful than a wood nymph, or the goddess Diana, or Pales, or Pomona, or Ceres in her youth.  Adam repeats his call for her to return soon, and she promises to be back before noontime.  The Narrator breaks this tender scene with his own lament that this happy return will never take place, though return there will be.  Satan lies in wait for Eve, “with hellish rancor” in his breast (9.409).

412-472.  Satan in the form of a serpent makes his way through Eden in search of Eve particularly, and soon finds his mark innocently tending her flower-beds (“fairest unsupported Flow’r,” the narrator calls her at 9.432).  Satan is much taken by the sight of Eve and by her paradisal surroundings, and stands a while “abstracted … / From his own evil” (9.463-64).  But not for long, as he quickly recovers his hellish intent.

473-493.  Satan soliloquizes his determination not to indulge in pleasure but to carry out his mission to destroy it altogether.  He feels lucky to have found Eve alone since Adam seems like a formidable foe to this ruined angel.  He will mask his hate with shows of love and admiration: that’s the way to corrupt Eve.

494-531.  The Satanized serpent wends his way (upright, incidentally) towards Eve, and the narrator remarks upon his beauty with characteristic classical allusions.  He cavorts around to attract her attention, and soon has it, whereupon he prepares to do the oddest thing for a snake: he will begin to speak!

532-548.  Satan begins his temptation with a prodigious helping of flattery: Eve, he proclaims, is “A Goddess among Gods” (9.547; the form of address is Homeric, as in theá).  And only Adam, only one man, is there to adore her?  Eve, says Satan, should have a full retinue of Angels to serve and adore her!

549-566.  The narrator suggests that Satan’s opening gambit was very effective, and then reports Eve’s response to her serpentine admirer: she is amazed that a serpent can speak, and wants to know how he came by that astonishing capacity.

567-612.  Eve’s curiosity gives Satan his opening, and he takes full advantage, serving up the first “testimonial” to the virtues of a product.  He was just an ordinary reptile, Satan says, until he chanced upon “A goodly Tree” (9.576) and its attractive fruit.  Hunger impelled him, and, winding up the tree-trunk to get the fruit, he satisfied his appetite fully and then realized that he had undergone a “Strange alteration” (9.599): he now possessed reason and speech, though he hadn’t changed a bit outwardly.  Thus equipped, he turned his attention to what might be most “fair and good” (9.605) and quickly settled on Eve as “Sovran of Creatures, universal Dame” (6.612).  And so here he is, admiring the great Lady.

613-646.  Where exactly is this amazing Tree? Eve asks, and the serpent informs her that it isn’t far off: he will lead her straight to it.  “Lead then” (9.631), says Eve, and the serpent obliges, positively glowing with the prospect of success.  On they go, says the Narrator, towards the Tree that will soon become “root of all our woe” (9.645).

647-663.  Eve is disappointed upon seeing the Tree since it’s the very one, she informs Satan, that God has made “Sole Daughter of his voice” (9.653), i.e. the one Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil that she and Adam are forbidden to touch.  The serpent replies with a duplicitous question indicating his surprise that these “Lords … of all the Earth or Air” (9.658) should be denied anything at all.  Eve pointedly repeats the interdiction, adding the sentence for disobedience: death.

664-732.  Upon Eve’s mention of death, Satan works himself up in the manner of a classical orator to make his grand attempt, showing all the signs of one filled with “Zeal and Love / To Man” (9.665-66).  Apostrophizing the Tree and its fruit as “Mother of Science” (9.680; the term “science” implies its Latin meaning; i.e. scientia in part means “wisdom”), and counsels Eve not to believe any of the Creator’s threats of “death.”  After all, he ate the fruit and has experienced only great benefits, not death, whatever that may be.  Why should mankind be denied what has so wondrously transformed a mere serpent?  As for Evil, asks the serpent, why not come to know it, the better to fend it off?  No, says Satan, this God of yours is a jealous, stingy tyrant: just eat the fruit, and “ye shall be as Gods” (9.708)

733-779.  The Narrator says that the argument has struck home and that Eve’s appetite has been whetted to taste the fruit of the forbidden Tree.  But first she reflects on the fruit’s “Virtues” (9.745), and goes through the logical process for which Satan has primed her, the sum of which is that God’s interdiction is a piece of jealous mystification preventing her from enjoying all that she should be enjoying here in Eden.  Why, indeed, remain ignorant?  Why not know both Good and Evil?

780-833.  Eve’s own reflections give way to the fateful act: she plucks and eats the forbidden fruit, and, the narrator tells us, “Earth felt the wound” (9.782).  The serpent slinks away, leaving Eve by herself.  Intoxicated with her bold gorging on the fruit, Eve apostrophizes the Tree in much the same way Satan had in tempting her, adding something of her own: it may take some time, she says, but soon enough she will “grow mature / In knowledge, as the Gods who all things know” (9.803-04).  Perhaps, she thinks, God and his angelic “Spies” weren’t even watching, and her disobedience is a secret she can keep (9.811-16).  But how to break the news to Adam?  Or (Satanic thought!) would it be better to get the advantage on him by withholding knowledge of her transformation and denying him the benefit of the fruit?  No, she reflects, that can’t be: if God has indeed seen, Adam may end up with a new Eve, while she herself becomes “extinct” (9.829).  It’s better to tell him what she has done, Eve resolves, and make him co-partner in her fate.

834-855.  Actually bowing down to reverence the Tree (idolatry!), Eve takes her leave of it.  Meanwhile, says the Narrator, Adam has made a garland for Eve, whom he awaits with loving impatience and considerable misgiving.  He goes forth to meet her, and finds her still near the Tree of Knowledge, holding a bough of the forbidden fruit, with a look of “excuse” (9.853) on her face.

856-885.  Eve, says the Narrator, comes at Adam proclaiming herself already a goddess.  She has eaten the fruit on the advice of the serpent, but really for the sake of her beloved Adam.  She must now offer Adam a taste of the fruit lest they two be separated by their “different degree” (9.833).  After all,  a “Deity” (9.885) can’t keep a mere human being for her partner.

886-959.  Adam is horrified at the news of Eve’s transgression, and drops the homecoming garland he had made for her.  Recovering a little, he says inwardly, though not yet to Eve, that he is resolved to suffer the same fate as his beloved consort: he simply cannot face the thought of losing her, come what may.  Then, turning to Eve, he describes her act as inappropriately “bold” (9.921), yet hopes (no doubt rationalizing the emotional decision he has already made) that things may not come to the worst: the serpent is still alive, and perhaps he and Eve will ascend to deity, not “die.”  God has too much invested in his creation, Adam professes to believe, to allow them to be utterly destroyed.  Wouldn’t that mean Satan has won?  So he declares to Eve that he intends to share her fate, whatever it may be.

960-989.  Eve answers Adam in what seems a blatantly dishonest manner, disclaiming any such intent as the desire to make him share her possibly very sad fate.  Instead, she testifies to her own experience with the fruit, advising Adam, “fear of Death deliver to the Winds” (9.989).

990-1016.  Eve embraces Adam, moved that he is poised to share her lot, and offers him some of the forbidden fruit.  Adam, says the Narrator, tastes that fruit “not deceiv’d, / But fondly overcome with Female charm” (9.998-99).  Nature feels this second wound as strongly as the first, and the now-sinful couple begin to feel a false, earth-scorning “Divinity” (9.1010) working within them.  Instead of deity, however, their only gift is keen sexual desire, but not the innocent desire they knew before: “in Lust they burn” (9.1015).

1017-1033.  Adam praises Eve’s “taste” (9.1017) for leading him to this moment; he has never, he says, found her so beautiful, and now nothing could be more appropriate than to engage in sexual dalliance (9.1027-30).

1034-1066.  The fallen couple make fallen love, “of thir mutual guilt the Seal” (9.1043), as the Narrator calls it.  They fall asleep afterwards, and, upon awaking, discover that their minds are now “dark’n’d” (9.1054).  Adam, says the Narrator, is like Samson with his locks shorn – his strength and righteousness gone, in this case thanks to his loss of original innocence, poorly covered only by the first article of clothing ever worn.  “Shame” (9.1058) has now come into the world.  Adam and Eve sit in stricken silence for a long time.

1067-1098.  Adam addresses Eve, lamenting the hour in which she succumbed to the serpent’s wiles.  All they’ve done is sacrifice Good to gain themselves some Evil.  How is he to behold the face of God and the angels now?  He prays for Nature to serve as his shield; he would as well hide forever and “In solitude live savage” (9.1085) rather than face the consequences of sin.  But now, he says, he and Eve should first make themselves some real clothing to hide their shameful loins.

1067-1098.  Adam laments the hour in which Eve succumbed to the serpent’s wiles.  All they’ve done, he says, is sacrifice Good to gain themselves some Evil.  How is he to behold the face of God and the angels now?  He prays for Nature to serve as his shield, that he might hid forever and “In solitude live savage” (9.1085).  But now, he says, he and Eve should first make themselves some real clothing to hide their newly shameful “middle parts” (9.1097).

1099-1133.  Adam and Eve use the leaves of the Indian fig tree to make the clothing they sorely need, and sit down to weep.  The Will, no longer listening mainly to Reason, is now subject to mere Appetite, explains the Narrator, so foul thoughts begin to work within the miserable pair, setting them at odds with each other.

1134-1189.  Adam bitterly reproaches Eve for going off on her own in the first place, and Eve accuses him right back, suggesting that a) Adam has no way of knowing whether the temptation might not have succeeded even if they had been together, b) there’s no point in living if you have to be glued to somebody else’s side, and c) he should have been strong and ordered her not to go it alone.  Adam responds with outright anger: has he given up immortality for himself just so Eve can blame him for her own transgression?  Was he to play the tyrant with her, then, and disregard her free will?  Adam utters the very first, “I told you so!” and back and forth they go with their squawking and bickering.  As the Narrator says, “of thir vain contest appear’d no end” (9.1189).


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Milton’s Argument for Book Ten:

Mans transgression known, the Guardian Angels forsake Paradise, and return up to Heaven to approve thir vigilance, and are approvd, God declaring that The entrance of Satan could not be by them prevented. He sends his Son to judge the Transgressors, who descends and gives Sentence accordingly; then in pity cloaths them both, and reascends. Sin and Death sitting till then at the Gates of Hell, by wondrous sympathie feeling the success of Satan in this new World, and the sin by Man there committed, resolve to sit no longer confin’d in Hell, but to follow Satan thir Sire up to the place of Man: To make the way easier from Hell to this World to and fro, they pave a broad Highway or Bridge over Chaos, according to the Track that Satan first made; then preparing for Earth, they meet him proud of his success returning to Hell; thir mutual gratulation. Satan arrives at Pandemonium, in full of assembly relates with boasting his success against Man; instead of applause is entertained with a general hiss by all his audience, transform’d with himself also suddenly into Serpents, according to his doom giv’n in Paradise; then deluded with a shew of the forbidden Tree springing up before them, they greedily reaching to take of the Fruit, chew dust and bitter ashes. The proceedings of Sin and Death; God foretels the final Victory of his Son over them, and the renewing of all things; but for the present commands his Angels to make several alterations in the Heavens and Elements. Adam more and more perceiving his fall’n condition heavily bewailes, rejects the condolement of Eve; she persists and at length appeases him: then to evade the Curse likely to fall on thir Ofspring, proposes to Adam violent wayes which he approves not, but conceiving better hope, puts her in mind of the late Promise made them, that her Seed should be reveng’d on the Serpent, and exhorts her with him to seek Peace of the offended Deity, by repentance and supplication.

My Summary of Book Ten:

001-033.  The Narrator declares that Adam and Eve deserved to fall.  The good angels find out what has happened, and make their way in sadness to God’s throne.

034-062.  God declares that Adam and Eve can’t be let off lightly for their disobedience: “Justice shall not return as bounty scorn’d” (10.54).  But He also reminds the angels that the Son, as a voluntary man judging mankind, will temper strict justice with mercy.

063-103.  The Son announces that he is ready to carry out his task as “Judge and Intercessor both” (10.96).  Adam and Eve hear his voice in the Garden of Eden and hide.

104-156.  The Son calls Adam, asking why he doesn’t come as usual.  Miserable, Adam and Eve at last show themselves, and Adam admits that he hid because he was afraid.  The Son asks pointedly how Adam has come to recognize his own nakedness.  Adam wants to protect Eve, but realizes there’s no point lying to the Almighty.  He claims that Eve’s every action “seem’d to justify the deed” (10.142), so he fell along with her.  The Son rebukes him as an uxorious idolater, i.e. as one who has failed to respect his own superior status over Eve, instead going so far as to place her above himself, even at the cost of disobeying God.

157-208.  The Son demands an account from Eve of what she has done, and she answers simply, “the Serpent me beguil’d and I did eat” (10.162).  He then judges the snake whose form Satan has perverted to such bad ends, and declares that from now on, womankind and serpents will be at odds; her offspring will bruise the serpent’s head, and he will bruise the human heel.  Symbolically, it’s none other than the Son, as Christ (the offspring of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary), who will render the ultimate injury to the Serpent, i.e. to Satan.  The Son says that in future, childbirth will be painful for all women, and husbands will rule over their wives.  As for Adam, he will have to labor painfully for his bread, and one day he will return to the dust from which he was created.

209-228.  Sentence pronounced, the Son turns mild and, servant-like, shields Adam and Eve from the elements with clothing, and from the Father’s ire with his person.  Then he ascends back to Heaven.

229-281.  Even before the events of Books 9-10, Sin and her son Death sit watching opposite the wide-open gates of Hell.  Sin begins to “feel new strength within” (10.243), she tells her son, and is drawn instinctively by the prospect of greater dominion.  Death must follow her as an inseparable companion, and the plan is to build a bridge over Chaos for Satan and his host so that as they carry out future missions of destruction, they may easily travel from Hell to Earth and back.  Already scenting the “mortal change” (10.273) that is to come on Earth, Death eagerly ratifies Sin’s blueprint.

282-324.  Sin and Death build the proposed bridge out of the materials available to them in Chaos, and its path covers the tracks Satan made after he broke free from Hell’s gates.

325-353.  Sin and Death espy Satan in a bright angel’s form.  After the Fall, Satan slipped away in fear of the Son’s immediate wrath, and then returned at night, only to hear sentence pronounced on him symbolically.  On his way back to Hell, he chances to meet Sin and Death, and beholds with wonder the bridge they have built.

354-409.  Sin addresses her father Satan, telling him that the bridge he sees is in fact his own doing.  She casts him as triumphant in his successful despoiling of Eden, an act that supposedly has cemented his position as the possessor of an empire to rival God’s Heaven.  In turn, Satan praises the triumphant work of Sin and Death, inviting them to take possession of Earth while he returns to his angels in Hell to inform them of his success.

410-459.  Chaos is indignant at being subjected to a bridge, while Satan passes easily through Hell’s Gate, which no-one now guards.  He passes through the lower order of angels around Pandemonium, disguised as one of them, only to make a dramatic appearance on his throne, where the most impressive bad angels have been holding council in anxious expectation of his return.  With a wave of his hand, Satan silences everyone and prepares to speak.      

460-503.  Satan informs the rebel host that his expedition has succeeded wildly and that they will now be able to possess a new, magnificent empire beyond the confines of Hell.  He offers a very partial, deceptive account of his exploits, characterizing God and his new creatures – so easily duped with a piece of fruit! – as laughable, and describing the punishment meted out to him as being of little account: indeed, only the serpent was judged, he insists, and the penalty comes down to a mere “bruise.”

504-584.  Expecting thunderous acclamation, Satan hears only a strange hissing sound from his audience.  Suddenly, he feels a transformation taking place in his looks: he has metamorphosed into a huge, prone reptile (seemingly a gigantic python), and can do no more than hiss back at the hissing crowd of angels translated for the moment into “complicated monsters” (10.523).  Those yet unchanged among Satan’s host follow him into an open field, where they are stunned first by the sight of their leader transformed and then by the strange alteration to which they themselves are now subjected.  A Grove stands nearby loaded with trees bearing beautiful fruit.  The rebels seem to realize that this multiplicity of Forbidden Trees is there to aggravate their shame, but ravenous appetite drives them on: they repeatedly chew and spit out not fruit but “bitter Ashes” (10.566).  At last God permits them to resume their former shape, but the Narrator suggests that perhaps they undergo the same humiliating, irresistible surrender to illusion every year as an emblem of their hateful attempt to destroy mankind.  He also suggests that this weird event was spread as fable in pagan legends such as that of the Titans Ophion and Eurynome.

585-609.  Sin asks her son Death what he thinks of their new kingdom, and he replies that it’s all the same to him, so long as there’s sufficient fodder for his ravenous appetite.  She says that she needs a little time to corrupt mankind further and prepare them for Death’s plate, so to speak; for now he is welcome to sate himself on everything else in the newly created world.

610-640.  God explains to the Son that while the bad angels think they’re acting under their own power, their alleged freedom is only granted them so that they may work his will.  In the grand scheme, Earth and Heaven will be renewed and purified forever, though until then the curse provoked by Adam and Eve will remain in force.

641-706.  God’s listeners sing a halleluiah, and the Creator himself orders first that the Sun be re-adjusted in its movements so as to render Earth’s climate less hospitable.  The Moon and planets are also shifted for the same reason, and it’s done.  There will be no perpetual spring for planet Earth, but discord and suffering will henceforth threaten from the heavens.

706-844.  Adam sees the awful transformation in everything around him, as the once-friendly creatures now prey upon one another and flee from or menace him.  He tries at length to reason out the shape of his doom, and laments his mistakes: everything is cursed because of him, and everything will, he is certain, curse him as the author of that bane.  Did he ask to be born? he whines, questioning God’s plan.  But Adam knows his logic is childish: he accepted the bounty of life, and cannot now blame God for what has gone wrong.  He embraces the prospect of a speedy death, wondering why he’s still alive in the shadow of God’s dread sentence.  But what if the delay should prove all but infinite, or if he cannot in fact entirely die?  What if that fate applies to all his descendants?  The future seems to offer no comfort, and Adam now considers his plight no less terrifying than that of Satan.

845-908.  Adam continues to lament, and turns on Eve when she comes forward and tries to comfort him.  He calls her “Serpent” in all but outward form, and shames her for her “pride / And wand’ring vanity” (10.874-75). Why did God create this “fair defect / Of Nature” (10.891-92)? asks Adam churlishly.  He is in no doubt that in future times, no man will be able to find a proper mate; something will always go wrong, causing no small amount of suffering and consternation.

909-936.  Eve apologizes without reserve, taking all the blame upon herself and underlining her present plight: what will she, a double sinner in that she has offended both her husband and God, do without Adam?  In essence, she appeals to Adam contritely in the name of the togetherness and complementarity that, desirous of striking out on her own, she had undervalued before.

937-965.  Adam relents and shows compassion for Eve.  It’s time to stop the blame game, he says, and instead to consider how they might aid each other until the penalty of “death” is finally visited upon them, whenever that may come.

966-1006.  Eve boldly proposes that she and Adam should either live chastely and not produce offspring to sate Death or, if that seems impossible, to go and seek Death at once, by committing suicide if he is otherwise not to be found.

1007-1096.  Adam counsels a despairing Eve against any such plan, arguing that self-destruction is unworthy of them and that besides, they can’t cheat God out of his penalty.  Instead, he says, they must beg pardon and hope that God will pity them and guide them through an existence that is now bound to be harsh and confusing for them both.

1097-1104.  The Narrator relates that Adam and Eve, kneeling at the place where the Son delivered sentence against them, offer God their sincerest apologies; this is what we might call the first “confession.”  Formal, sacramental confession to a priestly intermediary isn’t something that Protestants such as Milton ratify, but the direct gesture of contrition Adam and Eve make is basic spiritual discipline.


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Milton’s Argument for Book Eleven:

The Son of God presents to his Father the Prayers of our first Parents now repenting, and intercedes for them: God accepts them, but declares that they must no longer abide in Paradise; sends Michael with a Band of Cherubim to dispossess them; but first to reveal to Adam future things: Michaels coming down. Adam shews to Eve certain ominous signs; he discerns Michaels approach, goes out to meet him: the Angel denounces thir departure. Eve’s Lamentation. Adam pleads, but submits: The Angel leads him up to a high Hill, sets before him in vision what shall happ’n till the Flood.

My Summary of Book Eleven:

001-021.  Adam and Eve’s prayers ascend to Heaven, where the Father and the Son take them to heart.  The Narrator compares the first couple to the post-Adamic legend of Deucalion and Pyrrha as recounted by Ovid in The Metamorphoses, Book 1.

022-044.  The Son intercedes for Adam and Eve, calling their sighs and prayers the effects of God’s grace.  He reaffirms his commitment to take upon himself mankind’s sins, and thereby mitigate the sentence passed against them.

045-071.  The Father accepts the Son’s view of Adam and Eve’s prospects, but declares that nonetheless, Paradise is no longer any place for those two; they have thrown away “Happiness / And Immortality” (11.58-59) says God, so now death, when it comes, is a sad necessity to put an end to the corruption and decay to which they are now subject.  The hope lies in the next life; this world will eventually burn (cf 2 Peter 3:9-13, and there will come a time when Heaven and Earth are renewed.  God also says that he will call the good angels together to hear the plan for mankind’s future.

072-125.  All the loyal angels gather at the sound of the trumpet summoning them to God’s Throne, and the Almighty lays out the current situation and what he has in mind to do about it.  Adam and Eve, if left in Paradise, might well reach for the Tree of Life and become like gods.  That can’t happen, so the Archangel Michael (not the genial Raphael anymore) must take his pick of warrior-Cherubim down to Earth and drive the unhappy pair from their home.  The angels should conduct themselves in a manner that does not terrify Adam and Eve, but brings them hope of better things.  To that end, God will grant Michael the necessary material for a revelation to be given Adam, and the covenant with the progeny of Eve must also be reinforced.  Lastly, Michael is ordered to set up a guard in the East of Eden so that no angel or man may gain access to the Tree of Life.

126-180.  Michael and the Cherubim prepare to travel to Earth, while Adam and Eve finish their morning prayers (“Orisons”), emerging from them with newfound hope instilled from above.  Adam tells Eve that while praying, he had a vision of God listening to their prayers and showing favor; he is also prompted to recall the promise made to Eve: “thy Seed shall bruise our Foe” (11.155), and hails his wife as “Mother of all Mankind” (11.159), just as Raphael had done back in Book 5.388.  Eve responds that she hardly deserves the title, except for God’s and her husband’s generosity.  But it’s time to set out for work in the Garden now, and this time and forever after they will do so together, not separately.  At least, that’s what Eve thinks: she has no idea that she and Adam are about to be ejected from Eden.

181-192.  Nature answers Eve’s vision of Eden-based contentment in its own symbolically charged way: an eagle (Zeus’ bird in classical mythology) drives two colorful peacocks (Hera’s favorites) away, and a newly predatory lion drives gentle deer towards the East of Eden.

193-207.  Adam informs Eve that the above and other changes in their surroundings presage something other than perpetual residence in Eden: the East has gone prematurely dark, and a radiant cloud in the West seems to bear “something heav’nly fraught” (11.207). 

208-237.  Adam, explains the Narrator, can’t see Michael’s glorious band of Cherubim alighting on a high hill in Paradise: physical fear dims his perception too starkly for that.  Still, he says, Adam sees well enough that a great angel is coming down singly to Eden to address him, so he informs Eve that this angel is not “sociably mild” (11.234) like their old friend Raphael, but majestic and imposing.  She must retire from view, therefore, and let Adam greet this potentate alone.

238-262.  Michael appears to Adam transformed into the likeness of a man so as not to terrify him.  Adam bows low, but Michael does not return the gesture, intent on explaining why he has come.  He has, he informs Adam, come down to tell him that he and Eve must vacate the Garden of Eden.  There will be plenty of time for repentance and good works, says Michael, but Adam must now live as a farmer, laboring in the fields beyond Paradise.

263-285.  Adam is grief-stricken at the news Michael has brought, and Eve, who has overheard it, suddenly comes out of hiding.  She laments movingly the wonderful places and things in Eden that she must soon abandon: the shady paths, the flowers, and the “nuptial Bower” (11.280) she has loved so well.

286-292.  Michael comforts Eve, counseling patience and telling her that at least she and Adam will be together: wherever they are is their home.

293-333.  Adam revives at this answer, compliments Michael on his gentle way of breaking such terrible news, and lets him know that he means to submit to God’s will: there’s no point in trying to pray away the impending repulse from Eden.  What Adam most regrets, it seems, is that he is being ejected from all the places where he once was blessed with such pleasant, face-to-face conversations with God.  Where in the harsh new world beyond Paradise will he be able to see and talk with the Creator?

334-369.  Michael’s reply to Adam’s aggrieved question is that God is everywhere, not just in Eden.  That place might have become Adam’s great capital, says Michael, the seat where his descendants would have trekked to pay him homage, but now he will have to take his place in human history as one man amongst many others.  Still, he is about to be accorded a great privilege: a vision bestowing upon him knowledge of that very history that so many others will experience as chaotic and incomprehensible.  The story will be one that entails both good and evil, and grace vying with the sinfulness of men: a long stretch of clashing opposites.  But this knowledge will teach Adam patience and moderation, says Michael; it will prepare him to live his life in good times and bad, and to accept the eventual coming on of death.  The angel has put Eve to sleep for the time being.  This strong vision is for Adam, and it’s time to ascend the Hill where that vision is to be granted.

370-422.  Adam confidently says he’s ready to ascend the Hill, and he and Michael do so.  The Hill, says the Narrator, is as towering as the one whereon Satan set Christ to tempt him in the wilderness with visions of all Earth’s great kingdoms, a characteristically Miltonic catalog of which is duly offered to readers of Paradise Lost.  Michael removes the obscuring film that covered Adam’s eyes once he had eaten the fruit, then purges his optic nerve with “Euphrasy and Rue” (11.414), adding also “from the Well of Life three drops” (11.416) to this already potent treatment.  (See Psalm 36.)  Adam briefly sinks into a trance, but Michael raises him up and brings him round to full awareness.

423-460.  Michael bids Adam open his eyes, for he is now ready to receive the vision promised him.  The first event he sees flows from the corruption introduced by Adam and Eve themselves: the story of Abel and Cain, as told in Genesis 4.  The story much grieves Adam, and he asks Michael how it can be that Abel’s meekness and piety are repaid only with violence.  Michael responds that it isn’t so: Abel’s goodness will be rewarded.  (Cf Hebrews 11:4).

461-546.  Beholding Abel’s violent demise, Adam intuits that he has just seen Death.  Is that the way it ends for everyone from now on? he asks.  Well, no, says Michael, there are many ways to die, and all of them unpleasant.  In particular, he wants Adam to see a bevy of dreadful diseases brought on by intemperate living, including (at least in Milton’s view) everything from epilepsy to madness.  Adam can’t refrain from weeping at the sight of so much misery, and then he asks Michael why anyone would even want to enter this world if he or she knew so much suffering and disfigurement lay in wait.  When Michael responds that such people have disfigured themselves by their own bad choices, Adam says he finds that a just pronouncement, but still, he wants to know, isn’t there any better way than some wretched disease to die?  There is, Michael explains, if one is willing to live temperately and accept the burdens that come with old age.

547-555.  Adam now says he will neither run from death nor seek to prolong his life: the main thing is to die without too much trouble.  Michael advises Adam not to worry about length of life but rather to live well while he is here.  It’s time for the next segment of the vision he has been accorded.

556-637.  Adam now beholds a plain dotted with tents of various colors, and he sees different sorts of human activity going on or implied: herding, music, blacksmithing.  Higher up, a group of seemingly just men seems descends from neighboring hills and is met by “fair Women” gaily dressed (11.582), who snare them into marriages that are celebrated with great merriment.  Adam is charmed by all this, and exclaims as much to Michael.  But Michael informs him that those pleasure-tents belong to the sons of Cain, and that they and their women have forgotten God; the Sons of God who have descended from the hills will lose their virtue in mingling with such wanton people, causing much sorrow.  For the story, see (see Genesis 6).  Adam traces the trouble back to women, but is rebuked by Michael, who says the problem starts rather with “Man’s effeminate slackness” (11.634).

638-711.  Adam now views a martial scene amidst cities and towers, with giant men stealing one another’s cattle and goods, fierce battles erupting, and sieges laid in.  Enoch, Methuselah’s father and seen by Milton as a prefiguration or type of Christ, rises in protest at such proceedings, and only God’s “translation” of him to Heaven saves the man from a gruesome death at the hands of his angry fellow citizens.  (See Genesis 5:24 and Hebrews 11:5).  Such violence drives Adam to tears: the children of Cain have multiplied his sin a thousand-fold, he laments.  But who was that just man rescued by God?  Michael explains that all the carnage is being caused by the offspring of the unfortunate marriages already mentioned; they will usher in a period in human history during which only the rights of war matter, and military glory is the only thing worth pursuing.  The story of Enoch should instruct Adam in the rewards awaiting the just, says Michael, and now it’s time for another vision.

712-839.  Adam now beholds not war, but a people given up to “luxury and riot, feast and dance” (11.715).  An estimable elder (Noah) denounces the goings-on, in vain preaching “Conversion and Repentance” (11.725) to the wicked.  Noah retires to the mountains and builds an ark, wherein he leads two animals of every kind, along with his sons and their wives, and shuts the door.  Rain inundates the earth, and drowns the godless hordes that Noah had tried to convert.  Adam weeps anew at the sight of the destruction of nearly all of his descendants.  If even peace leads to disaster, Adam questions Michael, what hope is there for the human race?  The angel responds by explaining the cycle Adam has witnessed: empty martial valor gave way to even emptier pursuit of wanton pleasure and all manner of lazy wickedness and gluttony.  Against this depravity, says Michael, we see “One Man” (11.808) arise and speak out fearlessly, to no immediate avail  The angel tells the story of Noah and his Ark, as in Genesis 6-9.

840-867.  Michael opens up to Adam a vision of the outcome of the Noah’s Ark story: the rains stop and the waters recede, leaving the Ark stranded on a mountain-top.  A raven and then a dove are sent out, and the dove returns bearing an olive-leaf.  Dry ground appears, and Noah and his cargo descend from the Ark, whereupon they see a beautiful rainbow in the sky.

868-901.  Adam rejoices at this joyous conclusion to a story that seemed to be going very badly. God will not destroy mankind or the animal kingdoms after all.  For the sake of one righteous man, Adam realizes, God has decided to “raise another World” (11.877) and leave his wrath behind.  But what exactly is that rainbow about?  Michael explains that the rainbow is the sign of God’s Covenant with mankind.  When the rains come, they will not destroy humanity, but instead God will set his sign in the heavens as a reminder that the pact with mankind will last until the End Times; that is, until “fire purge all things new, / Both Heav’n and Earth, wherein the just shall dwell” (11.900-01).


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Milton’s Argument for Book Twelve:

The Angel Michael continues from the Flood to relate what shall succeed; then, in the mention of Abraham, comes by degrees to explain, who that Seed of the Woman shall be, which was promised Adam and Eve in the Fall; his Incarnation, Death, Resurrection, and Ascention; the state of the Church till his second Coming. Adam greatly satisfied and recomforted by these Relations and Promises descends the Hill with Michael; wakens Eve, who all this while had slept, but with gentle dreams compos’d to quietness of mind and submission. Michael in either hand leads them out of Paradise, the fiery Sword waving behind them, and the Cherubim taking thir Stations to guard the Place.

My Summary of Book Twelve:

001-062.  Michael pauses “Betwixt the world destroy’d and world restor’d” (12.3), and says he realizes that Adam has received as much as a mortal can by direct vision.  From now on, Michael will simply narrate for him.  The new stock of men live properly for a long time, until a man “Of proud ambitious heart” (12.25) arises among them: Nimrod the mighty warrior and seeker of dominion.  Milton makes Michael cast him as the proud ruler who ordered the building of the Tower of Babel, only to see the construction foiled and the builders reduced to a confused babbling of tongues.  (See Genesis 11:1-9).

063-078.  Adam disdains Nimrod’s reaching for absolute rule: “Man over men / He {God} made not Lord” (12.69-70).  Adam also sees that it was really God himself that Nimrod and his builders were trying to rival.

079-151.  Michael says Adam is right to be disgusted with the tyrant Nimrod; but then, that’s what happens when men (beginning with Adam) surrender their right reason as individuals: political absolutism reigns instead of “true liberty” (12.83).  God subjects men to tyranny when they give in to base desires and derogate from the capacity of reason that should guide them.  Michael mentions Ham, the son of Noah who glimpsed his drunken father in the buff and ended up suffering his curse; namely, Ham’s offspring (Canaan) would become the servant of servants.  (See Genesis 9:21-27.)  So the pattern of history goes, running from “bad to worse” (12.106), says Michael, until God decides to choose a special man and make him the father of a new nation.  The angel is referencing Abram of Ur in Chaldea (God later renames him Abraham), who is called from there to Canaan and is gifted with the Holy Land for his futurity.

152-269.  Michael continues the story of Abraham’s line: his son Isaac and grandson Jacob, the latter of whom eventually departs from Canaan at the invitation of his young son Joseph and comes to Egypt (Abram had gone there too in a time of famine), where Joseph is second in power only to Pharaoh, who honors him greatly.  Jacob passes away in Egypt (at the end of Genesis), and as the nation he left behind grows, a later Egyptian ruler enslaves them, until the brothers Moses and Aaron lead their people out of captivity and back towards the Promised Land, as told in Exodus. Moses leads the Israelites across the miraculously parted Red Sea, confounding the Pharaoh who dared to pursue them.  (See Exodus 14.)  The Israelites, says Michael, don’t go straight back to Canaan but instead take a forty-year detour through the Sinai and in the land east of the Dead Sea, where God strengthens them into a full nation grounded in law and political institutions, delivering the Commandments to Moses high up on Mount Sinai.  Moses becomes the mediator between God and his people now, a prophet of the Lord.  As a sign of God’s favor, a tabernacle is built to hold the tablet containing the Commandments.  (See Exodus 24-27.)  Michael tells Adam the rest is too long to relate – Joshua (not Moses) will one day lead the Israelites across the Jordan River and into the Promised Land, where they will defeat the Canaanites.  (See Numbers 33.50ff.)

270-284.  Adam follows up with Michael regarding the above narrative, exclaiming that he takes comfort from the story of Abraham and his seed and that he can even catch from it the coming of “His Day in whom all nations shall be blest” (12.277), meaning the Last Judgment.  But Adam also wants to know why God will have seen fit to send so many laws to govern men: they must be incredibly sinful to need all those laws, he supposes.

285-371.  Michael explains that the Law won’t make anyone righteous.  It will only convince them how sinful they are, show them that ultimately, sacrificing bulls and goats on an altar can’t absolve them, and drive them towards the necessity of Christ’s self-sacrificing Atonement for all sins: this is “blood more precious” (12.293) to God.  Law and Moses will give way to Christ and faith, with Joshua (Yeshua, “Jesus”) as a precursor to Him.  As we can see, Milton makes Michael read the Hebrew Scriptures in accordance with Christian typology.  The archangel looks forward to a period of prosperity for Israel, but also to collective national sinfulness that will lead God to give them judges and kings (Saul and David in particular) until the greatest and last legitimate king, Jesus Christ, arrives and reigns forever.  There’s much suffering and tribulation to bear, much tiresome human wrongdoing, implies Michael: prosperity will give way to a heedlessness that leads to a long Babylonian Captivity under Nebuchadnezzar, and long after that to the Roman occupation of the Holy Land under which Jesus will come into the world.  Michael ends this stretch of his narration with a description heralding the birth of Jesus, as told in Matthew 1-2 and Luke 2.

372-385.  Adam is overjoyed since he now realizes why there’s been so much talk about “the Seed of woman” (12.379): this woman Mary will, after all, be a descendant of his, and the Holy Spirit will unite with her, thereby rejoining God and man and repairing the damage Adam and Eve did to humanity’s connection with the divine.  Adam now asks about the mechanics of the coming fight with Satan, when that great Serpent’s head shall be bruised once and for all, as foretold.  And in what manner will that same Serpent do the Savior an injury, bruising his heel?

386-465.  Michael explains that the wound Christ will inflict isn’t simply physical; rather, he will destroy the works of Satan in mankind.  That will be done, says Michael, by both love and obedience to God’s strict Law: death is the penalty decreed, so the Savior must pay that penalty, buying a second chance for all those “who shall believe / In his redemption” (12.407-08).  Michael points to the Cross upon which the Savior must suffer, which of course is the central icon of Christian belief.  Then he mentions the Resurrection of Christ on the third day after his crucifixion, his subsequent appearance to his disciples, who will be enjoined to preach the good news to everyone they can reach.  Finally, he will ascend to Heaven in triumph over Satan, entering at last his place at the right hand of the Father, and then separating the wicked and the good at the Last Judgment.  The faithful will be called to bliss, either on a recreated Earth better even than the original Paradise, or in Heaven.

466-484.  Adam rejoices that so much good will come of the evil he and Eve initiated, and he all but shouts out the notion of the felix culpa, or in English the Fortunate Fall.  But when the Savior departs, Adam wants to know, who will then protect and guide the faithful?           

485-551.  Michael explains that the guardian or Comforter will be the Holy Spirit dwelling in mankind, and the “Law of Faith” (12.488) that will be written upon the hearts of men.  The Apostles will first receive this Spirit and then evangelize everyone they can reach, performing miracles along the way like those of Christ.  But later on, the Church will become infested with “grievous Wolves” (12.508), says Michael, who will selfishly corrupt it and turn it into a worldly power that uses God’s name and spirit as tools to enhance its own status and authority.  The truly pious will be persecuted, while mere time-servers and hollow formalists in religion will be rewarded.  “So shall the World go on” (12.537), Michael says, until the coming of mankind’s Savior, at which time Satan will be defeated, the world will burn, and the issue will be “New Heav’ns, new Earth, Ages of endless date / Founded in righteousness and peace and love…” (12.549-50).

552-573.  Adam takes Michael’s lesson to heart: “to obey is best, / And love and fear the only God” (12.561-62).  Knowing his Redeemer, Adam can now see that death isn’t the pointless horror he feared it was, but “the Gate of life” (12.571).

574-605.  Michael tells Adam that he now possesses “the sum / Of wisdom” (12.575-76) appropriate to him.  Add good deeds and “Faith, / … Virtue, Patience, Temperance … / {and} Charity” (12.582-84), says Michael, and Adam will contain “A paradise within” (12.586), better than any physical Garden of Eden.  But the guardians await, and it is time for Adam and Eve to depart.  The latter will go contentedly enough, thanks to the dream that Michael has bestowed upon her, and Adam has been instructed to fill her in on the most important things he has heard, particularly the mention of her “Seed” (Christ) who will pay the Serpent Satan back.

606-623.  Adam and Michael descend the Hill and Adam finds Eve already awake.  She is well disposed to depart from Eden, full of hope already because Michael instilled in her some knowledge about the illustrious descendent who will defeat Satan once and for all. 624-649.  Adam has no time to respond to Eve because the Cherubim are already on the advance, with the flaming sword of God before them parching Eden’s formerly perfect climate.  Michael takes Adam and Eve by the hand and leads them to the Eastern Gate of Paradise, then down the cliff and into the plain beyond.  Adam and Eve look back to the eastern end of Paradise, weeping somewhat but still composed and dignified.  The Narrator sums up their situation with the excellent phrase, “The World was all before them”: their exit from Eden’s boundaries marks the beginning of human history as we know it.  Providence will guide the as-yet solitary pair Adam and Eve, says the Narrator, to a place where they may best settle and begin their new life.

Edition: Milton, John. Complete Poems and Major Prose. Ed. Merritt Y. Hughes. Hackett: 2003. ISBN-13: 978-0872206786.

Copyright © 2013 Alfred J. Drake. All rights reserved.