Peter J. A. Evans’s Class Notes for Frye’s Course in Milton, English 3j, 1953–54

Ordinarily English 3j was devoted to both Spenser and Milton, but for this year Frye lectured only on Milton.  The daily notes are undated (except in two instances), but there appear to have been twenty‑nine class sessions.  Whether the lectures on Paradise Lost that come at the end (27–29) are out of sequence is uncertain: I have followed Evans’s numbering of the pages of his lecture notes, the major topics of which are:

1          Nativity Ode

2          Civil War background and Cambridge years

3          Elegies

4–6      L’Allegro, Il Penseroso, Comus

7          Lycidas

8–16    Prose pamphlets

17–22 Paradise Lost

23–24              Paradise Regained

25–26  Samson Agonistes

27–29  Paradise Lost

Peter Evans sent me these notes in 1994.  He occasionally recorded a word in Greek, apparently practicing what he had learned in the language course he had taken as a Religious Knowledge option the previous year.  ––Robert Denham

[1] Revolutionary & analytical genius, entering the Renaissance conventions & bolstering them up from the inside.  Fills the old conventional forms with so much explosive material that it simply blows apart

Nativity Ode––a technical miracle.  Each stanza is a triumph of its own.  Milton’s early imagination is largely influenced by the calendar––conscious of the suggestion given by the passing of the seasons.  His early elegies contain the imagery of the passing of the seasons––death & resurrection (winter sleep just before spring begins to stir it).  This especially fascinates Milton’s early imagination.  This symbolism informs not only literature but religion.  Christ was a latecomer to Christmas.  No one knows when he was born, but Christmas placed at the winter solstice.  Christ’s birth is set at the winter solstice.  John the Baptist’s birth is arbitrarily set at the summer solstice on his remarks “Christ must increase, & I must decrease” [John 3:30].

Infant son of God––light shining in darkness––lengthening of days; shortening of periods of darkness.  Rebirth of the sun.

Milton cannot detach paganism’s beauty from its darker side.  He takes his own view of paganism on all levels.  Note passing of great Greek & Roman gods––a nostalgia.  Beauty in their passing.  But hideousness & terror of Moloch too cannot be separated from the beautiful side, so both pass together.

Nativity Ode is based on the passing of the god Pan, as told in Plutarch.  Christians seized on this story as a tribute of the pagans themselves to the coming of the true Word.

At opening of Nativity Ode an absolute antithesis between light & darkness set up.  We get the idea that God is wholly different from what we see in nature.  Antithesis between mystery & truth, between nature and true knowledge, between infant “sun” and darkness.

All things move toward the consummation––the marriage between the bride & the groom.  The final apocalypse, the burning or consummation of all darkness by full light.

Stanza 3 of “The Hymn”––a technical miracle.  The sense exactly fits the rhythm of the stanza.  Milton here draws out the tradition that at the birth of Christ the world had an instant of perfect peace.

Spirit brooding on the waters.  Picks up a bit of old legend & fits it into a great biblical context.  Tradition that all that occurs in Old Testament recurs in life of Christ.

A single intelligible structure of symbolism embodies this poem

The figure (XXV) of Christ absorbing all th4ese traditions.

A time of waiting watchfulness at end of poem––common to Milton

[2] Behind Milton––Civil War struggle.  1. Political  2. Economic  3. Religious

Economic struggle between what were later Tories & Whigs.  Tories––laded aristocracy since War of Roses.  In Milton’s day this class was being threatened by the merchant class––built in cities from overseas trade, etc.  Landed aristocracy strong in north & west.  Merchants strongest in south & east

Political background along much the same lines.  Two civil wars in regard to Milton’s background.  (1) war between king and Parliament (1642–5, when Charles surrendered)  (2) Second war between two classes in Parliament––two classes which had fought each other in first civil war joined in the second civil war.

Milton thought entirely opposite.  He though what was going on was an apocalyptic struggle between the forces of light & darkness.  In reality all that had occurred was that one class had gained enough power to overthrow the other.  He missed the real point, but discovered deeper & richer values.

Religious struggle.  In Tudor times both Anglicans and Puritans were in the same Church, although Puritans were the strong left­wing difference.   In 17th century they became embattled sects.  The real issue was largely political.  One side wanted bishops and the other side did not.  Theologically there was very little difference.  To enter Oxford or Cambridge they had to & could subscribe to the 39 Articles.

Milton decided against holy orders because of episcopacy.  He was opposed to England getting more and more high church.

Oxford––intellectually high church with strong leanings to old faith.  Essentially royalist.

Cambridge––centre of the Protestant intellectuals. (When things got too hot, they went to U.S.—Cambridge––Harvard University––in 1636.

Milton didn’t like university curriculum.  General structure (although reformed on Protestant lines) had not changed since the Middle Ages.

Seven liberal arts: trivuim––literary subjects: grammar, rhetoric, logic

quadrivium: arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, music

University students taught to write oral speeches on a certain theme.  Your audience was trained to watch your logic & grammar, etc. most carefully.  The idea was to present a thesis & defend it oratorically.  This training has been attacked, especially by Bacon.  He said university training ended where it ought to begin, i.e., it began with large general ideas and ended with specific concrete ideas.

A great trouble was that many major premises were silly.  The accent was too much on form, not on content.

Bacon says that the mind naturally moves from the concrete to the abstract.

Some of Milton’s early works were of the thesis‑defence type––filled with arguments and quotations in support of these arguments.  This training in rhetoric actually turned out into a great training in literature in many senses.  This training was to train you in ingenuity & wit (“wit” & intelligence).  The idea was that the more paradoxical the thesis you had to defend the better your wit.

Early writings: (1) Whether Day Is Better Than Night (2) On the Music of the Spheres.  Other theses are concerned with biology, etc.  The weakness of the subject was shown here.  This rhetoric is carried on independent of scientific study.

Even in these theses Milton shows some indication that he is bored & in disagreement to some extent with this method.

N.B. Influence of humanism & positivism

Philosophy––a special discipline with a technical vocabulary except between 1450–1750.  Then since Kant it has returned to the former.  From 1459 to 1750 we have amateur philosophers working outside the schools.  Non‑technical, speculative, no fixed philosophical vocabulary, no systemization.

Technical discipline––a product only of medieval philosophy & modern philosophy since Kant.

Protestant theology was less philosophical than Catholic.  N.B. Aquinas vs, Luther & Calvin.  Protestant theology is only a commentary on scripture.

There had been a great revolt against medieval philosophy––see what happened to the great Duns Scotus.

Philosophy was turned into (1) a dead language, or (2) amateur speculation.  Either you go through academic mill, or you speculate like Locke, Bacon, etc.

Milton––Protestant humanist––his philosophy largely literary.

Earlier poems––Nativity Ode––Later poems, etc.

[3] Milton’s favorite poem was the funeral elegy.  It sprang from the Renaissance convention.  A huge number of his early poems were elegies written in either English or Latin.  Lycidas is the last and perhaps greatest elegy which closes out this early period.  Personal feelings have no place in the elegies which follow this convention.  The earlier groups of these elegies are not great poetry, but they show him learning.

Milton is a poet of very deep reserve.  He believed he had a definite political & social function.  Must catch the beat, the metre of history.  “The keeper of the poetic utterance.”  Very rarely do we find any passages of personal revelation in Milton.  He never pours out his feelings or biography.

In his foreign language poems we learn more of Milton than we do in his English poetry.  He uses the language barrier to hide behind.

The classical elegy is a hexameter followed by a pentameter––very difficult skill to master––carrying over a beat from one line to the next.

His Latin poems divided into two groups––one of seven elegies, the other a miscellaneous group.

Of the seven elegies, the first and sixth were written to Diodati, his friend.  N.B.  Epitaphium Damonis––triumph of his Latin poetry.

A poet of London––loved the theatre & to walk the streets & see crowds.

Elegy VI to Diodati––written at the time of the Nativity Ode.  The Nativity Ode is in a class by itself in his early poetry.  The rest of the early stuff is more easily predictable.  It was good poetry, but he was no infant prodigy.  But the Nativity Ode burst right out of him––great poetry.

In Elegy VI he sees classes of poetry.  Convivial poets can drink, make love, etc., but the great poets have the responsibility to keep themselves in tune––the themes of epic & tragedy in the classics; of prophecy in religion.

The major poet must be a transparent being who cannot be muddied up.  Nature speaks through him.  Milton spends his life waiting & listening, building up & preparing to speak.  Finally the time came in Paradise Lost.

Speaks now of ceremonial purification of these “prophets” or seers.  Like the blindness of Tiresias.  “Now he can see” idea.  An eerie note here of things to come.

The figure of Orpheus.  L’Allegro and Il Penseroso are almost built around this magic pre‑Homeric poet of nature.

Elegy VII is one of his very rare love poems.  It is written almost mechanically in the courtly love convention.  It is plain in Milton’s poetry that he distrusts the convention.  Milton dislikes the centring of all attention on the lady.

Elegy IV is a formal epistle––a favorite form of Renaissance humanism.

Elegy V is poetically the most interesting of the seven.

Milton is not particularly a rhapsodic poet––not a poetry of enthusiasm.  This fifth elegy is the only real rhapsody in Milton’s poetry; but he manages to catch the rhythm very well.

The Miscellany.  On the 5th of November––bad because it gets out of hand.  Milton gets to deep into its gunpowder, sulphur smoke, hell.  Now he is launched into his favorite theme, which is much too vast for this dimension.  It is bad poetry but we can see something coming.

The rest of the poems in the Miscellany deal with academic subjects.

[4] Milton’s Cambridge Latin poems––a period of experiment in all directions.  Deciding which were his best types.  Abandons the stanzaic poem almost altogether.  His rhythms tended to extension and he tried (Elegy VII) courtly love as a convention, but dropped it too.  Has only a slight relation to the Elizabethans as a poet.  An admirer of Shakespeare & Ben Jonson but not interested in Elizabethan lyric, or in metaphysical poetry.  Too much of an architectonic mind for that.  Set feet solidly in English Protestant humanism.  Not technically at all like Spenser.  Neither in any strict sense of the word allegorical.  Yet Comus and Paradise Lost in their epic character are a descent from The Faerie Queene.  A few poetic exercises on academic subjects––a poem on whether or not the world was running down (battle of ancients and moderns).  Milton takes bright modern point of view.  Also a poem concerning Aristotle––we see Milton’s Platonic view showing through here.  More idealistic, less literal during the Cambridge period

L’Allegro & Il Penseroso latest of his Cambridge work.  Milton had the feeling (1) he was to be a major poet (2) he had to wait until his creative fulfillment––must wait until things came.  We see both will power (as a Christian) and driving (inspirational) power.  The latter cannot be forced.  He must wait.  We are not in his period of strained, disciplined writing.

His valedictory [At a Vacation Exercise] breaks his tradition as he gives part of it in English (“Hail native language”).  An ingenuousness––the assumption that everyone is interested in what he will be doing.

A sonnet on being 23––in response to a note from a friend who felt he now ought to start working for a living.  Milton had a private income, & this made it possible for him to live the way he did.

L’Allegro & Il Penseroso––etudes––studies in moods.  Not much to say about them––they speak for themselves

L’Allegro settles on & establishes the mood of pleasure, cheerfulness

Il Penseroso settles on and establishes pensiveness

Antithesis between the world of pleasure, nitwits of experience & literature.  Milton points out that literature is itself experience.  No antithesis between world of mind and world of body.  Poems filled with fresh and unspoiled natural imagery.

L’Allegro––fresh, cool, crisp day.  Bright English countryside.  All one with the total experience of a cultivated man.  Then after such a walk, a man goes home to read Jonson’s comedies, etc.—keep with material in much the same mood.

Il Penseroso––the moon, night, pensiveness now appreciated & reading of works appropriate to such an experience.  He shows us just about everything that can be done with the octosyllabic couplet in the English language.

In L’Allegro a great many “beheaded” lines––with only seven syllables.  Quickens the pace

Il Penseroso more eight‑beat lines––softer liquid consonants, slower, resonant vowels sounds

See p. 25 (Madrigals now hopelessly out of date in Milton’s time.  Poets liked the single melodic line with musical accompaniment so that their poetry was not lost in the elaborate counterpoint.  This 17th century development made opera possible later.)

L’Allegro––popular tales of local superstition

Il Penseroso––contains occult qualities.  Philosophy is studied in the occult tradition.

In both poems reference to mystic Orpheus.

[5] Two kinds of melancholy.  (1) Hamlet’s type––a disease (2) Introversion––a pleasing type of melancholy.  Solitary type of studies.  A somber aesthetic sensitivity.  The complete triumph of the life of contemplation.  It is this latter which appears in Il Penseroso.

While at Cambridge the last thing Milton did was to write a masque Arcades for a noble family.  It went over big & so he was asked to write another––Comus, which put an end to the masques popularity

Samuel Daniel & Ben Jonson had written masques.  Milton was a great admirer of Jonson and probably took the name Comus from him.  Masques were written for certain occasions and always had as a focal point the praising or welcoming of the person in whose honour the party was being given.  The masque was connected with the court, always indoors.  Relation between actors and audience very close.  Actors were members of the court themselves.  Much more elaborate in scenery and costumes than were drams.  Enormous amount of money squandered on these.

Usually a chorus, all dressed in one type of costume.  As compared with the ordinary play, there was a great emphasis on aspects of the play other than acting––i.e., the scenery and the music.  Stage devices of all kinds were employed.  The more elaborate the better.

The masque often took the form of a dance & ended with a dance.  The Tempest––a very masque‑like play.  A Midsummer Night’s Dream––extremely masque‑like, like a ballet.

Masques often played under very crowded, heated conditions.  Danger of fire.  Too much food & liquor.  Milton’s masque was meant for outdoors, in the cool of the evening.  Milton as a guest rather than a court employee could be freer too in his writing.

The structure under Ben Jonson made the main thee high—brow.  A great deal of classical reference.  A polite and cultivated form.  This was at the beginning & end.  The middle was the antimasque, which was entirely opposite to the rest.  Crowd often dressed as animals.  Atmosphere changes to the ribald, noisy.  Welford, The Court Masque traces the masque back to pagan ceremonies.

Milton incorporates this antimasque into an allegorical scheme.  In the play the people essentially acted their own parts in real life.  They moved through the centre of action in which all other characters were elemental spirits (earth, air, water, fire).  The whole action carried on by these spirits included a guardian angel, Comus and his demons (fire spirits), etc.

Comus begins with a long conventional presentation––a guardian angel.  Then the regular antimasque entry.  Noisy, unruly, like animals.  Comus = a reveler (in Greek)

For Milton this becomes a symbol of the upsetting of the order of things.  Comus is the son of an evil being.  A rebellion against the order of God’s nature is his revel.  A successful rebellion.  Now man is born into a kind of bacchanalia.

Comus tempts Chastity.  Nature is fertile, licentious, creative.  Chastity is a denial of Nature.  When the lady resists Comus’s temptations she is really fulfilling the Nature God intended––the Nature of order in which Comus has no place.  Action is paradoxical.  Comus gets our dramatic sympathy––stands for tolerance––a more relaxed and spontaneous morality.  Lady does nothing but say “no.”  Hence, we do not sympathize.  She appears a wet blanket.

But Comus is the blinder of man by passions: he really binds man to his passions.  The Lady is in reality captive to Comus.  In her lies real freedom.

Forest––symbol of lost direction, bewilderment.  A place of enchantment.  Her Comus and his retainers appear as fireflies.

Chastity––discipline which unites body & mind.  Thus, you can live in the world of Comus but still be untouched by it. (Chastity does not equal Virginity).  The chaste person has achieved what God wants in nature.  In tune with the spheres, structure of the universe.

She is still enough under Comus’s power to be frozen by him––but here the brothers rush in and overturn his glass.  Still, they have not broken his spell.  The Lady is still held in prison.

Guardian Spirit says that help will be needed from spirit of nearby river (in the case of this masque, the Severn).  Thus, Lady is released.

Setting of Comus is not a Christian setting––a kind of pagan atmosphere.  Greek gods are talked about.  Chastity here is the highest point of natural virtue.  But by itself a prison.  Still can’t move.

Comus––pagan and only implicitly ending with a sort of baptism.

Paradise Regained––Christian––begins with Christ’s baptism

[6] A lot of variety in Comus.  Plenty of songs, dances, and music to break it up.  Still, a very erudite piece of work.

Comus is the spirit of revelry––a fallen world, a world of darkness in which the pilgrims become separated.  In this fallen order of Nature Comus is able to plan his seducing of Chastity.

A great degree of occultism in Comus.  An enormous amount of classical mythology, all based on the idea that the Christian reader can see dimly in the myths Christian truths & symbolism (e.g., Circe––the temptress who converts men through their sensuality to a lower order of being).

N.B.  Woodhouse, University of Toronto Quarterly 1942 on Order of Nature in Comus.

The attendant spirit represents a higher world, a higher form of law.  He is equated by Milton with the Paradise Garden and the Garden of Adonis (Faerie Queene, Bk. III).

Versification––triumph of Milton’s early period.  A peak of harmonic performance.  Unrhymed iambic pentameter as a base, but this could be converted to just about anything.  (The general masque was more a spectacle than a great work of art.  Difficult to take in both oral & visual impressions).  In Comus scenery is reduced to a minimum, as in Shakespeare.  The beauty lies in the ears in Milton’s poem.  Mysterious rustlings & whisperings are hidden throughout the verse.  One must listen carefully.

Lycidas––one of the greatest poems of its length in English.

A pastoral elegy.  (Theocritus & Virgil began this).  In the pastoral convention.  All Mediterranean countries with any agricultural growth had gods of fertility––died in fall, rose again in spring (Adonis, Hyacynthus, Osiris, Balder).

Women every fall sang a lament for Adonis.  Spenser and Milton knew all about these sources.  See Frazer’s Golden Bough–fertility rites.

Ceremonial lament for dying god, with at same time a feeling for his eventual revival.

A pastoral conventional elegy on the death of Edward King.  Builds his imagery on the dying god.

[7] Lycidas––a pastoral poem informed with birth& death in spring & fall.

Takes the two figures about King’s life––poet & priest––and works them into the symbolism of the poem.

Lycidas is built on a rondo form (ABACA).  There is a main theme for Lycidas (an Adonis figure).  The two episodes deal with him as poet and as priest.  The main theme deals with the role which King has assimilated in the poem: the man cut off in early life (Adonis) who does not accomplish the supreme work of the poet.  Lycidas is lamented for he doesn’t live out his life.  In the “poet” section Milton uses Orpheus, and in the “priest” section he uses Peter.  Peter is a man who failed to accomplish his mission as priest (denies Christ could walk on water).  Milton sees that a man never fully completes his work––it is completed by God.

King was drowned in the Irish Sea.  When Orpheus was killed his head floated away, singing, to the Isle of Lesbos.  Peter was (1) a fisherman (2) could not walk on the water.

In poem (1) premature death as man (2) a section discussing premature death as a poet.  All poets die too soon.  But all poets as regards their long social influence do have a long life.  But a failure to complete is a theme here.  Dies too soon.

[8] Following this early period Milton took a trip to Italy.  A period of tying together some of his early experimental work.  Also his first and only real contact with Catholicism.  Milton in Italy found himself already well known due to his Latin poetry.  Scarcely anyone could read English poetry.  Around this 1640 period he wrote some of his best poems. Epitaphium Damonis, etc.  The period of the die‑hard humanists who felt that only in Latin could great poetry be written.  But still in the 17th century it was easy to gain a quick reputation by writing in Latin.

On Milton’s return to England he turned his back to baroque continental Europe.  He began work at once on his great epic.  First sketches of Paradise Lost found around 1640.

He accepts the Renaissance view that the epic & tragedy are the only great poetic forms.  But he makes a distinction between the diffuse epic––the long (12 or x12) epic (Homer & Virgil) and the brief epic (Book of Job, Paradise regained, Endymion).  His model of tragedy was Greek drama.

We can se Milton’s consistency of thought, for his three great works after 1640 were Paradise Lost, Paradise Regained, and Samson Agonistes.

Paradise Lost first appeared to him as a good subject for tragedy..  He even got so far as to write the first speech (now incorporated in Book IV).  He intended to write a diffuse epic about Prince of King Arthur.

His switch in subject matter was because of (1) his disappointment in the Revolution now plunging toward the Restoration, (2) a growing realization that romantic poetry should not be the footing for a great poet, (3) his desire to write true poetry rather than that based on legend.

Ceases to glorify the rise of the British nation, as he became politically disillusioned.  (Except where it gets out in Areopagitica, etc.)

Prose Pamphlets

Liberty, he said, was the guiding spirit of all these works


Religious––Church (of England)

Domestic––education, marriage & divorce, freedom of press

Civil––organization of country’s government

First thing Milton did between return from Italy until Civil War (1640–2) was to write five anti‑episcopal tracts

Domestic period 1643–5––Of Education, four divorce tracts, Areopagitca

Civil period 1649–60––four Regicide Pamphlets, three tracts issued on eve of Restoration (anti‑Restorations tracts)

1640––The early Stuarts had supported the Elizabethan settlement––the episcopacy.  The Puritans were originally a group within the Church who did not believe in such Church organization.  James I felt that the episcopacy was needed to safeguard the king & he was a devout believer in the divine right of kings.

He in a way set up a political & religious conflict.  He was opposed by Parliament representing the South & East mercantile interests & supported by the land‑owning lords of the North & West.  A tricky situation when he died which Charles was incapable of handling.  Within three years Parliament had passed the Petition of Right, so he dissolved Parliament & ruled without it.  He believed that Parliament should only vote money to him.  For eleven years he managed to run the country through his own revenues, using a few questionable practices.

At the same time Laud (& company) had been making the episcopacy more & more high church.  In Charles’s reign, then, the Puritans really broke away.  The English Puritans were Congregationalists & Scottish Puritans were Presbyterian.

But Charles had to call another Parliament––the Long Parliament, which lasted longer than he did.

Grand Remonstrance––Charles chief minister was impeached & Charles was powerless to save him.

In 1642 Parliament passed a law by which they had control of army & navy.  Charles tried to swoop on Parliament, but that failed.  He tested his own military strength.  When not permitted to enter Hull, he set up the royal standard at Nottingham on Aug. 6, 1642.  Charles has every psychological advantage.  Parliament was frightened over what it had done.  .  Insurrection against the king was unthought of since the time of the Old Testament.  Charles had a better army but failed to capture London, although the first year was one of Royalist success.  A year of extremely confused & divided loyalties.  The question over which army had the right to conscript..  Many of the Parliamentary leaders were killed––moderate men.  Then Cromwell arose, a real revolutionary with an Ironside Army.  Made it a real war.  Also the Scotch joined in to help the Puritans.  In 1645 war came to an end with the king as prisoner.  .  King now sent a message to the Scotch for help.  So in 1648 Civil War began.  Cromwell against the Royalists, the Scotch, the Irish, and later the Dutch.  Cromwell realized the only way to really end the war was to kill the king.  Cromwell purged the Parliament, leaving only the Rump, which supported the king’s death.  The king’s death started some anti‑Cromwellian rebellion which Cromwell [?]

When Cromwell died, Rump Parliament summoned but army surrendered to the king.  Army––a real political faction in England.

[9] Pope, cardinal, archbishop, bishop, priest, congregation.  Early church had congregation & priest, and one of the apostles had supervisory power.  Following the first generation, bishops (επίσκοποι) overran the Church, and gradually in cities one bishop overlooked a number of churches––hence archbishop.  Pope and cardinal were added later, & were not carried over into the Church of England.

But the left‑wing Puritans felt that bishops had been given no place in the New Testament hierarchy, & wanted to get back to Scripture.  Anglicans (Episcopalians) carried on the apostolic succession through their bishops.  The Scottish people adopted a Presbyterian system (priest in charge along with elders).  English Puritans were Congregationalists.

Episcopalian––Bishop––centre of authority

Presbyterian––Priest––centre of authority

Congregationalist––Congregation––centre of authority, which delegated this authority

Anglicans formed a united front against these two puritan systems.

Milton throws himself into the argument on the side of the Puritans.  He calls the bishop the first perversion of the Church, a corruption, putting temporal authority in a spiritual institution.  Anglicans felt you could not abolish tradition.  They accepted the authority of the Church tradition, as far as the point where the Bishop of Rome declared himself the head of the Church.

The principle of Milton’s argument is the separation of spiritual from temporal authority in the Church.  The first corruption of the Church was the putting of temporal authority into it, making it a department of state.

His design is to show that the Reformation led by Henry VIII was only half‑finished.  He did not adopt a clear‑cut reformed view of the Church.  During the persecutions under Queen Mary the bishops achieved much prestige, so in the Elizabethan succession the bishops saw to it that the constitution was drawn up in their favor.  The bishops held that the Puritans were politically subversive, as they implied that the bishops were parasites on the authority of the state. (Of the Reformation Concerning Church Discipline).

The Puritans held that the retaining of bishops was just a bastardized Catholicism.  This objection became quite violent.  “Bishops are not the pillars but the caterpillars of the Church.”  The main body of Puritans in this warfare were a group of pamphleteers who signed themselves Smectymmus (consisting of the initials of five of these pamphleteers.

Milton in On Prelatical Episcopacy puts forth his reasonable argument.—shows bishopry to be supported not by reason but emotion.  A clear break should be made with tradition and custom.

Milton says that the repetition of liturgy is not the religion of the Gospel, but of the law of Judaism.  He demands Christian liberty on this matter.  The Puritan view on this matter was that every church service should be a re‑creation of the Holy Spirit.  Against prepared sermons & prayers.  There should be a direct re‑descent of the Spirit of God into each service.  Against “vain repetition.”

For Catholics the centre of the service is the Eucharist.  The general tendency of Puritanism is to say that the centre of the service is the distribution of the Word of God, rather than the presentation of the body & blood.  The sermon replaces the Eucharist as the central act.  A shift of emphasis here also led to a change in the meaning of the Eucharist.  The Puritans said that the concept of the Eucharist as sacrifice is Jewish & pagan.  There should be no altar in a Christian Church as this is pagan, Jewish.  Therefore, centre in Puritan Church is the communion table.

The repudiation of the Mass was the repudiation of sacrificial pagan rite.

[10] Liberty is not what man does.  It does not start with man, but with God.  It consists of what God will do for man.  Man can do nothing to achieve liberty directly, but he can demonstrate willingness to be set free.  A negative preparation––stop obstructing the will of God.  Man does not want freedom because of its responsibilities.  Man naturally inclines toward servitude.  Man does not realize he is in bondage.  He likes to do what he wants, but what he wants to do is horrible.  He accepts slavery as liberty.  He wants a neurotic individualism––a sort of isolation (either in mastery or slavery).

Man’s approach to liberty is bound to be a fully negative one.  He can express a desire to be set free by knocking down the idols of his own servitude.  So the person who really desires liberty is one who is regenerated.  He is a prophet, a subversive, an iconoclast in our society.  Milton still sees the function of the prophet in biblical times in smashing idols––physical illusion rather that spiritual reality.  We have therefore the natural man standing for bondage, leading to idolatry, and the regenerate man standing for liberty, leading to God.  This latter is a mirror of the love of God; He is a reflection of spiritual reality.  Natural man is reality in physical terms, and idols turn out to be mirrors of his own fallen nature.  Thus the ultimate essential idol is the mirror which reflects back the life of bondage & servitude––custom, convention, tradition.  That is why it is said that the one is the world of revelation, the other of physical law (reflecting servitude).  God’s world is a world of love, the other a world of force.  The relation between these two worlds is one of antagonism, hatred––man naturally hates God (they killed Christ).  Since God is incapable of hatred, He feels wrath.

Man in regard to the Church is a Pharisee.  He wants to see all the law there––automatic repetitions of prescribed acts.  He wants to see the principles of physical force, compulsion.  Heaven for regenerate man is a cube, the celestial city, four squares.  In natural man we find a love for the pyramid––a hierarchy.

faith –– 0

nature –– r

To apply that to other spheres than church structure.  In the Bible we find the essential instrument to set man free.  Regenerate man sees there the manifesto of human freedom.  It is then that the Holy Spirit in him reads the Bible.  But if natural man reads the Bible it will be a manifesto of the law, of authority.  To love liberty is to have simultaneously all the other virtues.  These few are right.  The Bible must be read by the rule of αγάπη (charity)––faith in action.

The Bible must be read as the exposition of God’s will to make us free.  There are always two senses of “law.”  In one sense it is that which Christianity abolished.  In another sense the law is emancipated, fulfilled, redeemed.

Milton attacks the simple mind which opposes freedom to necessity.  Certainly it is opposed to outer necessity, but not to inner necessity.  The man in complete bondage & the man in complete freedom have striking similarities.  The latter is bound by inner necessity to act a certain way––almost unconsciously.

Conduct.  If you say that a man is free––free to choose between right & wr0ong––you are insulting him.  A man truly free acts in a certain way by inner necessity.  If we have to struggle between having or stealing we are not in as high a state as one into whose mind the thought of stealing would never enter.  Freedom does not equal external necessity.  Freedom equals inner necessity.

“X cannot steal”––all sense of choice between stealing and not stealing is abolished.  You are free, you have no choice, but you are bound by inner necessity.

He who says he is entirely free from all compulsion is the one who will be affected by whatever comes along––a stoic or existentialist.

The Gospel obliterates the law, and yet transcends or fulfills it.

[1] Essay for Nov. 17.  Milton’s Treatment of Religious, Domestic, or Civil Liberty in His Prose, Plus a General Treatment of Liberty

What would Milton as an individual add to the concept of Christian liberty?

––Wrote on education, divorce, Areopagitica (freedom of press)

Divorce Tracts––Christian law is of the internal kind.  The law as been fulfilled in the Gospels.  All heathens are bound by external law.  Freedom is bound up in the choice of means––once chosen you are bound to them.  The free man is disciplined internally by himself.  He is not free.  The free man is free because his reason is the unquestioned ruler––his will a strong thought‑police.  Plato’s Republic––the analogy between the perfect state constitution and the perfect individual constitution.  The state must be discarded, but as Socrates says (end of book IX) the wise man will take this constitution as a pattern laid up in heave.

There is no moral difference between wishing a person to die and actually murdering him.  If you tried to make the Sermon on the Mount into laws, things would be impossible––an awful police state.  All this must be interpreted as internal laws which give true freedom.

Milton feels Christian religion should not consist in ceremony.  Why replace circumcision & first fruit ceremonies with baptism and the Eucharist.  The Christian religion should be internal, not external show.

Christ’s attitude to divorce resulted in a very nasty situation.  In Milton’s day both church & state had adopted  a totally negative attitude to divorce.  Here we find one of our New Testament laws (internal––bound to make you free) has been made into an external law.  This is in conflict with Milton’s concept of the Bible.  Christ here appears more intolerant, bigoted  & stupid than Moses.

It has been said that Milton wrote on divorce trying to rationalize it from the point of view that he wanted a divorce––this is utter bunk.  He would have had to write on divorce anyway, regardless of domestic problems.

Milton says law in the Old Testament remains law on its own level––external, social, i.e., law of bondage & servitude, which is desired by all men who do not wish to be truly free.  Consequently, such a law remains in society because such a vast majority require external law rather than internal discipline.  What applies to murder & rape applies also to marriage & divorce.  Marriage in the social sense is a civil contract.  (In the Catholic Church marriage is a sacramental union; therefore, indissoluble.  But in the Protestant Church only two sacraments left––hence marriage no longer a sacrament but a civil contract blessed by the Church.)  In Cromwell’s reign, law passed that all marriages must take place before the Justice of the Peace.

According to Milton, two concepts of marriage:

(1) Social––a contract––idea of companionship, rearing of kids, etc.

(2) ––one of the attributes of a perfect life––union of two souls into one

When Jesus speaks of marriage he speaks of the latter “gospel” type.  Every time a ceremony is performed, it does not mean that two souls have been united, merely the social side of the contract is fulfilled.  No person, Justice of the Peace, or external law can decide whether such a contract is indissoluble or not.

Milton says that if a man divorces his wife he is not breaking the union that Jesus said was insoluble; he is only breaking the social contract.  They were never really married in the gospel sense.  Divorce should therefore be permitted for those who do not have the right partners.  It is Milton’s respect for marriage in the gospel sense that gives him the outlook on divorce.

[12] Milton attacks a certain application of censorship––censorship before publication.  Parliamentarily there was no legal basis for censorship until Parliament’s triumph, when it was made legal.  The method of licensing was to give all printing to the twenty printing houses in London.  This gave them the right to break into houses and find presses.  But it is virtually impossible to stop the flow of small pamphlets.

Areopagus––court of judges in Athens, elected.  To this court the great Athenian orators, such as Isocrates, often gave addresses (Logos Areopagitikos––a speech to the assembly)

The larger application of the Areopagitica is that in this revolution they are trying somehow to form the kingdom of God on earth.  All through this runs the theory that Britain is the second Israel. England is leading the way in striking down power, superstition, idolatry. England has consistently been the pioneer in the fight for Christian liberty.

In writing on censorship, Milton is not thinking of pornographia.  He is thinking that the things that will be suppressed are political & religious Jews.  He says that the idea of censorship rose out of the Council of Trent and the Counter Reformation.  He says that this is quite in keeping with the Catholics, but not in keeping with Protestant liberty.

The censor is going to be always the voice of society.  He will speak the voice of the majority, & the majority represents inertia, authority.  They don’t want liberty.  The crucial distinction for Milton is that the censor will not be able to tell what is above the norm & what below.

[13] Areopagitica

Paradise of freedom––unfallen world––Gospel––Tree of Life.

Wilderness of nature––fallen world––Law––Tree of Knowledge (good and evil)

God will feel that this world is not the world he made.  This is the fault of man, & God tries to give us back the good world.  Man attempts to rescue a moral good from his fall.  The characteristic of moral good is that it assumes the supremacy of evil. Good is what he rescues from it by contrast.  Man knows good only through his knowledge of evil.

We cannot handle pure good or pure liberty in this world.  There has never been a mass desire for liberty or peace that has stuck.  Therefore, moral good since the fall has been inseparably a part of evil.

In the Areopagitica Milton is attacking the view that you can get to be good by separating moral good from moral evil. Milton says you cannot run away from evil; you bring good or evil with you, inside you.  “To the pure all things are pure.”  The idea that good is something that retreats from evil is abolished.    “I cannot praise a good cloistered away from experience.”  Evil is already there in people.  You cannot get rid of it.  Moral good & evil are inseparably bound up.  The only distinctions made are those which society poses as a matter of convenience.  (Murder is wrong, war can be right, etc.)  This, no one can ever be saved by the law.  There is no such thing as a morally good act––it is a mixture of interpenetrating good & evil.  This moral goodness is achieved in negation––it is a series of don’ts––don’t drink, don’t smoke, don’t dance, etc. etc.  The end man gives for himself is death.  It is the only logical end for the negation of activity.

If we find any good in Christ, it must be extremely different from moral good.  He was an explosion of energy which works in this life.  This is real good.  It is generally consistent with a moral pattern of behaviour.  The good & liberty transcend man’s nature, but in the Civil War we have a great explosion of in the desire for liberty.  This is in a sense an offering to God.  Man cannot gain his own liberty––all he can do is clear away idols, clear the way, & then let the Word of God circulate.

Now this licensing of books is a movement back to law––like Pharisees. Milton says that we must permit bad books to circulate in order that the words of the prophets may circulate.  We are less likely to destroy bad books than the prophets––we are more likely to approve the law‑breaker to him who transcends the law.

Toleration follows as a necessary principle from this two‑level way of thinking.  Man must always doubt his own action for fear he has misinterpreted God, for a finite mind can never exhaust the revelation of an infinite mind.

Whenever we say that the revelation consists in such & such, we have stopped worshipping God & begun an adoration of our own faculty of mind for understanding.  This is heretical.

We can never be sure that anyone is totally wrong, so we must admit tolerance.  All certainties are boomerangs, for we are putting a period to the revelation.  The only certainty is that God’s revelation is a great source of growth.  We can never be sure if some new absurdity will arise as another growth from the Gospel.  There must always be a doubt of one’s own capacity for understanding.

[14] The sharp distinction between the Church & the world is in Milton blurred, much more difficult to find.  No longer an autonomous institution with Word of God at the centre.  For the Bible is outside the Church––outside & above.  A prophet can be literally outside the church.  Authority is spiritual & can come from outside the Church.  The real Church is the total body of religious opinion & worship in society.  Where there is a sincere desire to listen to the Word of God, there can be no heresy.  The Church cannot define heresy.  The real heresy is to believe what you have been told to believe without trying to understand your own belief.  The only heresy in the Bible is in not trying to believe & understand.  All quiet acceptance is hypocrisy, which Jesus condemns.  Trying to get general acceptance in all society for a certain doctrine is actually worship of self––trying to get everyone to come around to your viewpoint.  Such a man is Antichrist, for he feels all others are heretics.

With the second Civil War & the execution of Charles I, Milton found himself a politically important figure, for he was one of the few intellectuals on the Cromwellian side.

In the Old Testament the Jews are in constant rebellion against their lawful rulers, right from Pharaoh on.  This seems to be one of the chief characteristics of the people of God.  But in the New Testament we hear no word of rebellion against Rome.  Everything there counsels submission to temporal authority.  So Milton tried to overcome this problem––to reconcile this with his concept of New Testament thought.

There is no hierarchy in the Christian Church.  All is equal.  While society is triangular, the City of God is always a square.  When Caesar demanded that which is due to God (i.e., worship), this is where the Christians refused.  Caesar hence has somehow or other to come to terms with this society.  He must give up his claim to divine worship.  Is Caesar going to get along on these terms?  If not, he must be removed.  And this must be effected only by a revolution of the people of god, for this is the only kind which has any hope of success. Milton has no theoretical view of an ideal society.  He therefore has no objection to monarchy as such.  There is no pattern of state government laid down by God, so although he joined the Regicides he continued to write panegyrics praising the rule of the Queen of Sweden.  What he objected to was the use of the monarchy as a hideout for idolatry.  The obedience of the new Testament never talks about compromise with the principles of their religion. Milton’s social contract comes closer to Locke.  If the king breaks the contract & becomes a tyrant the people have the right to remove him. Milton is still a little leery of Locke’s contract theory; he talks rather of the contract between God and God’s people.  Caesar must in some way fit into this contract.  (The tyrant is a projection of innumerable acts of self‑worship.  A sort of Narcissus of the people.  The tyrant is the mirror of the populace.)  Cromwell’s dictatorship is excused by Milton as a Judge (from the Book of Judges)––a strong military leader to aid God’s people in their first bid for liberty.  But Milton accepts Cromwell with ill grace & never forgets his role as a prophet.  He tells Cromwell & Parliament that the enslaver is actually the first to be enslaved.  In such a society of master & slave no one is free.

Milton seeks constantly to drive a wedge between spiritual & temporal authority.  Spiritual authority rests with the people of God.

[15] In Paradise Lost––three levels of existence: (1) heaven––order, which makes the characteristic act of God creation, making order out of chaos.  (2) earth––disorder (3) hell––perverted order––everything there is a perverted counterpart of heaven.

In heaven God is king––king as unity; but those who serve God do so.  Satan’s freedom lies in his being attached to the body of god; once he is severed, he is no longer free.  He is impelled to set up his own state, which is based on perfect slavery.  Man on earth is torn between these two states––human societies are constructed on the demonic model.  The words that we apply to God have a demonic sense (e.g., God is king”––but the determined king as dictator, arbitrary ruler––never was there an earthly king whose passion it was to set all his people free).

Milton has to meet the notion of the divine right of kings.  In his civil liberty pamphlets, his opponents were in a panic, & Milton had to handle the most fatuous & silly arguments.  There is a strong tone of irritability in Milton, & his hatred of a popular democracy is influenced by this & the fluid times.  Talks of “golden yoke”––people like children fascinated by it.  The people want Charles because he is bright & attractive superficially.  They want their idol back.

Although Cromwell dies in 1658, the Rump Parliament was the legal power, but the real power was the army.  Army tried to carry on the succession by electing Richard Cromwell, but he resigned, so the army led by General Monk called on the king. Milton advises that the Rump Parliament reassert its power, & its rule of longevity.

Milton suggests a general council or senate.  Did not like elections––chaotic.  Also a local magistracy––the counties should be as autonomous as possible.

The English people had a desire to end the irksomeness of tyranny, but no great desire to enter the heritage of freedom.

In Christianity there should only be spiritual authority, no physical force.  A heretic should be corrected by the authority of truth against error, & that authority is powerful enough.

Milton asserts a Protestant position in total opposition to Catholicism.  Pope has temporal authority. Milton felt that evils in Christendom arise from temporal authority within the Church. Milton’s principle is the complete separation of spiritual & temporal authority.  The real bishop is one of only spiritual authority.  He must play only an apostolic role. Milton does not appear to be any more against bishops theoretically than against monarchy theoretically.

His Of Education theme runs through his Commonwealth.  He feels the only way to set people free is through education.






The higher type of society can be achieved only by the individual himself.  The free individual has set up an absolute dictatorship in himself.  We find this in Plato with the man of strong will who lets reason rule absolutely.  This dictatorship cannot be applied to society, or a terrible tyranny would result.  This is why education has such a vital role, & this is why the Republic is an educational & not a sociological treatise (See end of Book IX).

[16] Milton’s Of Education serves to put him in line with all Renaissance humanism––a new conception of education.  In every good theory of education you have a whole body of theory that people ought to know.  Cyclic, or encyclopedic education.  In Renaissance humanism it was believed that the ancients had written authoritatively on every important subject.  This idea of education was geared to the workings of society.  Prince educated first, etc. on down

Milton felt that the classics were authoritative, but the keystone lay in Scriptural revelation.  In Scripture you find what Plato & Aristotle, etc. were driving at.

In all proper education Milton feels that you cannot sever too much the education of the mind from that of the body.  (Platonic).  He feels it important that boys be educated both in peace & in war.  His concept of education had an end in public service.—potential magistrates.  He believed in an intellectual balance & proportion––not so much how much you read, but the balance in your writing. Milton stuffs his list of reading material with authors who wrote in the subject he mentioned but whose works had been lost. Milton is just trying to appear impressive.

Milton has the same beef against present‑day education as had Bacon.  The medieval process of knowledge was from large deductive intellectual propositions to the particular, ending where it ought to begin. Milton feels the process ought to be reversed & go from particulars (sensations) to universals (intellectual) following the contour of the young mind’s growth.

N.B. Importance of training students in practical techniques.  His potential young magistrates are to know how their country is run, the economic workings.

The real trouble with Milton’s curriculum is that it is typical of people who construct one after their own education has been finished.  He unconsciously eliminates the organic difficulties in learning, distinguishing a rhythm that overlies education & growth as a whole.  He assumes “grammar” is Latin grammar.  “They should have learned by this time at odd hours the Italian tongue”––unconsciously.  He forgets the difficulties of the learning process.

A great merit of his theme is that he is short on theory, long on the practice of it.  (Unlike today with a lot of half‑baked psychology in education.  Education today is a pseudo‑subject.)  The Renaissance did not have a theory of education.  They were practical.

All through, Milton was aware of the insufficiencies of the kind of mental training that is not absorbed into personality.  He does not make the mistake of saying that books do not tell us about life.  Concrete for him not only precedes the abstract, it is also the coping stone for the abstract.

The highest reaches of literary training are poetic rather than philosophical, for poetry is more concrete than philosophy.

Poetry, as compared with philosophy is more “simple,” sensuous,* & passionate: Milton’s closest definition of poetry

* sensuous––derived from sense experience.  Milton himself coined the word to get away from “sensual,” which had moral implications.  This is the second time it is used.

[17] Paradise Lost

Opening speech of Satan in Book IV was written about 1640 for a proposed tragedy. Milton’s political fortune from 1640 to 1660 made him turn this theme of the loss of liberty from a tragedy to a disuse epic––a notable form.

In his proposal to do Prince Arthur, Milton would only be copying Spenser, & he didn’t want to do that.

All the heroic epics up to then were classical––brave men.  So writing an English Christian epic was difficult.  In the Renaissance attempts to write a Christian epic were often made simply by substituting  a Christian hero for a classical one (e.g., Tasso’s Jerusalem Delivered––about the First Crusade.  The worldly counterpart of the battle of light and darkness––the new Jerusalem).

But what is a hero?  What is the significance of such a hero as Achilles as a Christian hero.  You can perhaps baptize him a bit. Milton was thoroughly sick of the traditional hero; in Christian terms the real hero is one who endures suffering, misunderstanding, etc. to bear witness to his God.  This is evident in the Gospels

What is an act?  How can the chopping of other people’s skulls be an act?  An act must be a conscious & directed action.  Constructive and purposeful.  Battles and wars are not.  They are only a manifestation of energy.

Three levels in Paradise Lost:

(1) divine––order––Act of Creation (redemption).  When this first world is spoiled, it must be recreated or redeemed

(2) human––chaos––Act of Disobedience.  Adam’s chance of keeping his freedom to act or throwing it away.  He throws it away

(3) demonic––perverted order––Act of Rebellion.  An attempt to rival God.  Still negative but has more of an appearance of activity about it.

This last is a paradox to many of Milton’s great poems.  By jumping over a cliff you lose your power of action.  By staying where you are you retain your power to act.  The Lady in Comus by remaining still at the centre of the action preserves her power to act.  Christ in Paradise regained preserves his power by remaining motionless at the devil’s temptations.

In Paradise Lost Christ is the hero by default.  He drives the devil out of heaven, creates the κόσμος, confronts the devil.  Reincarnation foretold in Book III

Abdiel––the faithful angel (Book VI)––sets the pattern of heroic action in human life.  Christ’s man will find himself in a fallen society.  As a result he will become prophetic & be reviled by those around him.  This is the true prototype of the human Christian hero.

What then becomes of the traditional theme of heroism?  This is transferred to Satan, who becomes a mock‑heroic character.  Satan is much like the brooding, ferocious Achilles.  Studies revenge, hate.

As Satan develops in the poem he gradually takes on the form of the dragon of the romance whom the knight was to go out & kill.  The drama rests on the attempt at rivalry with God.  Satan takes on the idea that God is only a god.  He thus becomes a fatalist, for the God between them becomes Luck or Chance.

Satan is the leader of the Achilles type.  He is a dictator.  He takes the qualities of God and applies them to the demonic world.  Everything in hell is a perversion, mockery, or parody of heaven.  Everything in hell has its counterpart in heaven.

The figure of Nimrod is the setting up in society as a demonic act.  Nimrod is the builder of the Tower of Babel.  This is the essence of a rebellious act against God.

There is in most works of fiction a complete action & the mode of telling.  Most writers begin at an interesting point & stop when you get all you need.  There is some conception of a total action, but no attempt in a good story to recount the whole action.  It was traditional in the epic to begin in the middle of the action with the total action well advanced.  In most stories we get a feeling of the total action as cyclic in nature (notably in the Odyssey).  The total action is from Ithaca back to Ithaca.  But the Odyssey begins in the middle of the total action.  When it begins Ulysses is at the farthest point from home.  The story goes forward & backward, as Ulysses begins to return home, but also tells a story of how he got to where he is.  The Iliad shows this too, except that it is less epic, more dramatic.

Total action which is cyclic.  And a narrative action beginning at the middle and working both forward and backward to the same point.  In the Aeneid total action begins in Troy and ends in a new Troy.  Aeneas’ action is more positive, creative––founds a city.  His fighting is secondary.  But the narrative action begins at the farthest point from his quest––at Carthage.  Recital of story up to this point takes us back to Troy, & the story moves ahead to a new Troy.

The narrative action of Paradise Lost begins with Satan already fallen & ready to attack the world.  Action now back to beginning (speech of Raphael in Books VI, VII, VII) and forward to end (Michael’s speech in Books XI, XII)––forecasts the return of God to all, which was the starting point of the total action.  The foreground story is in Books I–IV and IX.

[18] Sense of tremendous ease, yet mighty power in verse.  Therefore, readable.  Choice of metre: Milton took great care to get every detail right, as we can see from the manuscript.  You cannot jump in reading from chunk to chunk.  He made many tiny corrections, which show how acute his ear was––“admiral” to “ammiral” as he did not want the “d” sound so he changed the spelling to fit its origin in the Arabic.

“horrid” = bristling (about Satan’s army).  You must know the power of Latin to understand Milton perfectly.

“insinuating” = wriggling (about the snake)

“herub” is pronounced “kerūb” and is a gigantic angel

The English language has two sources of metre––native & imported.  Iambic pentameter is imported.  But the Old English four‑beat line lies at the basis of most of Milton’s poetry.  If you read the opening of Paradise Lost naturally you will note a four‑beat rhythm, although there are ten syllables.  This is to be found often in Shakespeare too.   This is a part of Milton’s genius.  Pope and Dryden have only iambic pentameter as the rhythmic beat as well as the formal beat––heavy & sonorous. Milton has the one beat influencing the other; this makes a twelve‑book poem much more interesting.

In Paradise Lost we have a sequence of verse‑paragraph unity.  Often this may begin in the middle of a line.  A rhythm of prose runs across the other two.

The function of the long word in English verse.  Most of English alone is monosyllabic or derived from monosyllables.  A monosyllabic word always demands an accent, however slight.  It slows & heavies the rhythm.  The long word lightens, brightens up the passage.

Onomatopoeia –English is unusually rich in onomatopoeic words (words that sound like the action––“rumble,” “hiss,” etc.  Also certain consonants or combination of consonants create certain effects.  For example, in the scene of the serpent tempting Eve, lots of “s” sounds.

Use of “w” gives feeling of fear, loneliness.  Watch for noises made in heaven (strings, woodwinds) & hell (heavy sonorous brass).  Read Milton like an orchestra score.

Two heavy beats in centre of line.  You get a sudden heavy somber sonority. Milton uses it rarely but with great effect.  (Raphael warning Milton [Adam?] off the tree).  “Hurled headlong flaming from the ethereal sky.”  The fall of Satan from heaven.  Satan rattles & bumps all the way down.

The use of proper names: A cheap way in a poor poet to get resonance.  Milton uses them rather to sum up a background atmosphere; he doesn’t need the former

Milton brings up names of heathen gods––dark gods, oracles, vague, shadowy, elusive names.  Satan associated with this.

Milton also surrounds Satan with names of chivalric romance & their associates in hell.  This too is vague, half‑forgotten, yet somehow ominous.

It is difficult to picture a fallen angel––in Dante the devils are evil & repulsive but not awe‑inspiring.  They are gargoyles, grinning monkeys.

But Milton brings in the concept of awe, attractiveness to evil.  Adam must fall to something attractive, not repulsive.  Adam was to fall to something splendid, powerful, for that was what Satan was––the awful majesty of evil.

The particular kind of detachment Milton preserves Shakespeare does not seem able to accomplish.  For example, in Macbeth, you often say “poor Macbeth,” but never in Paradise Lost do you say “poor Satan.”

[19] Atmosphere of first book is one of mysterious darkness with a few sinister lights.  very well done.

Threshold symbol at opening of Paradise Lost––action fairly well advanced, angels have already sunk into next world (like Alice in Wonderland).  A gloom here of depression and sadness, loneliness, isolation, terror; also a somber beauty.

The sea with its great mysterious monster is symbolic in the Bible of the underlying, mysterious, demonic power.  Feeling, first of all, of unmitigated blackness, but as angels rise, cloudy shadows group, until we get a segmented mass.  A sudden burst of light as Satan gives order & they draw their swords.  Pandemonium is built and the book ends in a glitter.

Book II––a logic or dialectic of evil that builds up as you go along.  The government of hell is a parody of that of heaven.  Satan is man’s idea of a leader––the commander or dictator.

Cosmology of Paradise Lost:

[here Evans reproduces a diagram that Frye put on the blackboard.  A cubic, four‑square box at the top, representing “Heaven (Empyrean).”  An arrow pointing from this to a semicircle of “Hell” at the bottom.  In between is a series of concentric circles, labeled “The World, the entire κόσμος (created after Satan fell).”  On each side of the circles is “Chaos.”  The concentric circles represent the orbits of the planets, the first of which is the moon, the others being “Mercury, Venus, Sun, etc.”  To the right of this diagram Frye wrote on the board: “4 elements / 7 planets / fixed stars / crystalline sphere / primum mobile.”  To the left of the diagram, with an arrow pointing to the center of the circular diagram: “Heavy element, earth at centre (water lies on top of earth.  Each element seeks its own sphere) (air lies above water)––Sphere of fire left out.”]

Milton’s universe is finite.  Milton had met Galileo in Florence, & certainly knew the real shape of the universe, but deliberately adopted the Ptolemaic system with man as the centre, for this was the only one of real poetic significance.  The Copernican universe would not be suited to the subject matter.  Milton puts heaven and hell outside the created universe; gives us the Ptolemaic system with man at centre, with Satan and God vying for him.  But he gets also the Copernican feeling of loneliness.

A baroque poem––light & shade, disproportion.  Milton uses as much disproportion as Dante emphasizes proportion.

Milton puts mystery into God’s ways.  What may appear reasonable to us may not be God’s reason.

Milton does not give too many details, but fits into the pattern of Genesis 1.

N.B. Two meanings of heaven: (10 The Empyrean (2) The Firmament, reaching from the Crystalline Sphere

Beelzebub’s plan––attack not heaven but the new suburb that is being planned.  They intend to frustrate God’s purpose.

How does Satan get through to Paradise?  There is only one break in the Primum Mobile & that is the entry through heaven.  Satan has to go through chaos to this entry.  He has two dangerous spots (on the border of hell & chaos as he passed the sun).  He fools Uriel by hypocrisy for an angel cannot understand hypocrisy.

[in left margin a small diagram showing Satan’s journey from Hell to the point where he is in the cosmos at the end of Book II]

Guardians of hell his wife & daughter (Sin) by whom he had in incest a son & grandson (Death).  A sort of unholy Trinity, or else unholy family (perversion of Holy Spirit, Mary & Jesus).

Book I––Satan, great Promethean rebel

Book II––Prompts Beelzebub to suggest his plan, & then volunteers to do the job.  He is brave but expedient.  He volunteers just a little too quickly, and we see the use of expedience.  Gets past Sin & Death by dissembling, gets past Uriel by hypocrisy as a Cherub, & then takes on more & more distasteful manifestations, wolf, etc. down to snake on earth.  Snake just fits him.  The great Promethean rebel becomes less & less great.  In Book IV he wants to take all the angels on at once but by Book IX he rejoices in having caused Eve alone.  Courage is now superfluous; evil looks for expediency.

A subtle but inexorable change in Satan’s character.  Satan once cut of (as a hand) from God, loses his vitality, is alone, lonely, self‑enclosed ego.  Pride––centre of reality in yourself & nowhere else.

Satan is the undying ego––the eternal “I”

Form of pride in Spenser––Dungeon of Pride (isolation) & Palace of pride (ostentation)

[20] In Book V Milton works out the dialectic of evil in the speeches from Moloch (sinister “king”––the idol who demands sacrifice of children) & Beelzebub.  Moloch wants to continue direct war against heaven; hence is evil as the active opposite of good

Belial (an abstract noun meaning worthlessness)––draws his arguments from the chain of being (the ladder of form or matter––God is form without matter.  Chaos, matter without form).  In the spiritual revolt the spirits have unnaturally fallen below chaos, so what they should do is sit tight & they will automatically rise like bubbles to their proper place.  Belial is evil as negation.  Christianity had to drive a middle course between two extremes: (1) Manichaeism, which is a duality––evil is a power equal to & coeternal with good.  Satan is a Manichean.  (2) Pantheistic view (Plotinus) that there is no evil––it is only a negation.  Christianity is in another paradox: morally, evil has an active role; metaphysically & philosophically it is that which is not, the hindrance or privation of good.

Mammon, then, gives us something closer to Milton’s treatment of good.  Mammon is evil as the parody of good.  Man is in the middle, drawn both ways, & both appear attractive.  Man is drawn spiritually to God & naturally through the physical world to the devil.  Mammon sets forth a doctrine of isolation/

Beelzebub––Since evil is perverted good, it cannot create but only destroy.  Since God cannot rest until he has made man, Satan cannot rest until he has destroyed God’s creation.  Therefore, Beelzebub is evil as the temptation of Good.

Sin and Death are the personification of the Manichean & Pantheist views.  Sin is evil as active, yet the heart of sin is utter negation, i.e., death.  The role of death is different in man than in the devil.  Satan cannot die because the devils cannot make the act of surrender––they go on in a living death.  They cannot let go of their lives since they are pure lust & pride, ego.  Even at their worst, they greatly fear annihilation.

In Satan’s journey through Chaos, Milton remains deliberately vague.  He tries to suggest a world in which there is neither life nor death.  In his doctrine of creation, Christianity had to steer a middle course again.  If god made the world out of matter which preceded creation, then matter would be co‑eternal with God.  This is impossible for Christianity.  The orthodox doctrine is of God making the world ex nihilo, but this is still out of something else.  God did not make the world out of anything.  Ex nihilo leads to the pantheistic view that God made the world out of God.  Milton’s solution is that God made the world de Deo, i.e., from God.  Then, what is the role of matter in Milton’s thought?  He conceives chaos negatively––it is that part of the world into which God naturally chooses not to extend Himself.  The chain of being is a part of backing‑up process as God retracts from his creation, leaving the being he has created, but which is no longer identical with Himself.

God is seen differently at different stages.  God wanted man to be free to choose.  His higher creations with a spiritual existence do not have a power of choice.

God, Spirits, Men: free will.

Animals, Plants, Minerals, Chaos: existence.

The workings of God’s mind appear differently at different levels.  Angels have direct vision of the mind of God.  Man looks up at the creation, so when he conceives of eternal will or purpose, he conceives of it as fate or fortune.  Animals or plants fulfill the law of their being in a way half between automatism & choice––instinct.  In the mineral world, automatism.  In chaos things are all mixed up––things happen by luck or chance.  See Milton’s journey through chaos––lucky bounce gets him to earth, but it’s still God’s will acting through matter that gets him there.

[21] Dec. 17

Raphael’s views on astronomy not necessarily those of Milton.  Must be read in character.  Adam has to resist idolatry––created rather than creation.

The speech of Michael balances Raphael’s speech.  Michael’s parable is a prophecy; Raphael’s, a warning.  Book XII is not a poetic success.  Transmits Old Testament history.  Milton does not feel himself as creator but as transmitter.  Rather perfunctory & pedantic at times.

{Recounting of some incidents in Old Testament interpretation.}

Paradise Lost––Nature of Christian hero.  In demonic society the military leader is a sign of Satanic heroism.

The traditional hero (Ulysses, Achilles) is Satan.  The Christian hero in the fallen world is Abdiel.  His life must be lived in opposition to this world’s demonic society

Model––Incarnation––life and death of Christ.

Political moral––seen in Milton’s concept of liberty.  How does man lose liberty & why does he fail in his attempts to restore it?  Both questions answered here.




Milton associates liberty & reason.  Adam––“Reason is but choosing.”  Man had this freedom & should have chosen choice, but he didn’t & so has lost this freedom.

The person who really wants to do as he pleases follows reason

Michael explains the loss of liberty on Adam’s terms in Book XII.  The tyrant is the source of authority, the projection of human inertia, love of bondage, passion.

Reason for Milton is not a logical process, but the power of choice.

[22] Dec. 18

In Milton’s conception of the Bible there are three stages of the vision of God which fallen man gets:

(1)  Moses.  Vision of the law––Israel as chosen people––allegory

After the flood, comes Nimrod, who sets up a demonic pattern.  A crisis arises & God decides to choose one people, to whom he gives the law so that they may rescue moral good through their knowledge in this world of evil.  Knowledge of moral good in this world is secondary, derived from the knowledge of evil.  The law in this world is absolutely powerless.  No law makes anyone better.  “Law can discover sin, but not remove” [Book 12, l. 290].  The law consequently is a kind of allegory of a redeeming power.

(2) Jesus.  Vision of the Gospel––Israel as God’s people––revelation

Brings a new conception of Israel.  Jesus’ coming cancels out most of what Michael says, for what Michael says in interpreted & seen through the law

(3)  Second Coming of Christ.  Vision of apocalypse––Israel is one with God––eternal life.  Here we have man’s unfallen state again.  The city & the garden––the tree of life & the water of life (the four‑fold stream of Eden) return.

In reading Paradise Lost we can hardly help but feel that Adam and Eve are a pair of naughty children who outgrew Eden.  We feel that it is almost necessary that they should fall as a natural part of their growth.

Milton tries to offset this idea in the poem, as it runs against the doctrine he is trying to put across.

What we get back in the apocalypse is a state of existence & a state of mind, not the physical Garden of Eden.  In Book X the Garden of Eden is washed out of the world by the flood; to teach, says Michael, that God knows no sanctity of place.  An attack against idolatry.  The new order will not be a garden, but something springing up in the mind.

The sexual act at the end of Book IX shows supreme irony.  The two are not together; their minds are apart; they are essentially alone and lonely

But in Book X we see them going out of the garden hand in hand & this is symbolic that the seed of man has already been planted.  A new society has sprung up between them.  An impressive tribute here to marriage.  Adam & Eve are not two solitudes but one.  They are now knot together as they never have been knot before

The argument shows how the demonic takes more & more of this life.  The gradual overthrow of the people of god & their absorption––Jerusalem in captivity, the Apocryphal Civil Wars, Christ born in obscurity.  Then the Incarnation.  Following this the world moves in & takes over the Church.  So no matter where the true follower of Christ is, he is isolated.

The rhythms of the whole of Paradise Lost are ranged around the poles of creation & destruction.

Book XI––The recession of the flood is a superb piece of writing

City of God (New Jerusalem) & Garden of Eden.

Earthly City

(A rhythm here)  [Evans reproduces Frye’s blackboard

diagram of an undulating, snake‑like series of U–shapes]

City of Destruction (Sodom, Egypt, Babylon) & Wilderness, Desert, or Sea

Captivity in Egypt in Exodus & the wilderness.  Flood of Noah is one of the down dips (Genesis).  All the people of life in a little box floating on the sea.  Another dip is all of Israel under Rome.  Little manger floating on a vast expanse of snow.

Christ as the epic dragon‑killing hero is the theme which lies in the background.  “From the loins of Eve will spring a hero who will kill the serpent” [“Virgin Mother, Haile, / High in the love of Heav’n, yet from my Loynes / Thou shalt proceed, and from thy Womb the Son / Of God most High; So God with man unites. / Needs must the Serpent now his capital bruise . . .” Book 12, 379–83] & also Adam’s speech to Michael which retains the visual image of Christ fighting the dragon in a spiritual context.

––This leads to Paradise Regained & the conflict of Christ & Satan.

[23] Paradise Regained

Temptation in the life of Christ is almost the only place which is filled with suspense, drama.  It is the one time he fulfills the role of the fighter, conqueror.  The temptation of Christ is an action which is a passion.  As with Comus the apparent situation is the exact opposite of the actual.  Christ holds all the power & retains his freedom by his inaction.  Satan gets all our sympathies.  This part of the poem is a parody of the epic form.  Satan has to form the dialect of evil, has to refine & subtilize his words; becomes more & more crafty.  We get the idea that the external world is unreal, evil.  In Paradise Regained he deals with temptation in much the same way he treats Eve’s temptation in Book IX of Paradise Lost, but with different results.  The main thing to watch in this poem is the order of the temptations (he chooses the order found in Luke rather than in Matthew).

In the Gospel the baptism, Christ’s first manifestation as the Son of God, immediately precedes his temptation.  In heaven in Paradise Lost, after Christ’s first manifestation, he has to fight the great battle.

Events in Christ’s life correspond to certain actions in the Old Testament.  Christ is taken into Egypt by Joseph, as the Israelites once were.  The slaughter of the innocents corresponds to the slaughter of Egypt’s first‑born.  Christ’s going into the wilderness corresponds to Israel’s wandering in the wilderness (forty days as compared to Israel’s forty years).  The choice of twelve disciples corresponds to the twelve tribes.  Joshua’s name = Jesus name = Saviour, Redeemer.  Moses is not to enter the promised land because he represents the law.  Jesus is given his peculiar name because he is like Joshua to lead an attack on the promised land.

The temptation presents Jesus in a phase of complete withdrawal from the world.  Flesh, world, devil seem all equally evil.  To pass this temptation he must spiritually withdraw himself from the world; a wholly dissimilar spirit from the world.

Jesus’ life proves that man hates God––absolute opposition of token enmity.  Through all this time man is under God’s wrath––the objective regarding of absolute evil by absolute good.

In Paradise Regained the son of God enter the state where he is under the wrath of God.  Satan tries to make him accept the heritage of the people since Adam.  Christ appears in an unfriendly light; he is here unattractive, but his abnegation of this world is necessary before redemption cam proceed.

The point at which you lose sympathy with Jesus is the point where you yourself would give in.  Christ rejects all of forbidden knowledge––moral good as well as moral evil.  There is a chilliness, iciness about the Christ character.  We almost feel he is bored.  A kind of aimless skirmishing in some of the opening scenes.  This corresponds to the aimless wanderings of the people in the wilderness.  Christ refuses to accept bread of the devil in contrast to the Jews acceptance of manna.  Christ refuses to fall into the rhythm of the Jewish law.  “Your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness and are dead; but I am the bread of life.  Satan knows he cannot make Christ do something foreign to his nature; all he can hope to do is to make him the Anti‑Christ––to make Christ seize the outward, physical types (shadows) of his inner spiritual realities; therefore, by rejecting the temptation Christ gets the real spiritual form of all the devil offers him in its perverted physical form.  Thus, Satan offers Christ kingship (a substantial job, with a real gold crown––kingship as it is understood by fallen man).  Christ knows this is the shadow of spiritual kingship.  In rejecting this he truly becomes king.  He rejects human wisdom, philosophy, the knowledge of the fallen human mind.  I doing this he becomes wisdom itself–– λόγος––the Word of God.  Christ rejects the illusion of Christ, which is man’s concept of him: this would be the Anti‑Christ

But Satan does not accept Belial’s suggestion that he be tempted with woman.  Christ takes his mission too seriously for that.  If he can be persuaded to take his Messiahship literally, physically this is Satan’s only chance.

Christ is for one instant in his life paradoxical.  Rather than the essentially active love, he for an instant holds this power forcibly within himself while he does a job no one else can do.  This is how all the paradoxical symbolism can be worked out.

In Christ’s wandering forty days in the wilderness, he imitates Moses’ forty years & Elisha’s forty days.

Satan’s use of banquet to tempt Christ is a difficult point in Paradise Regained.  It is the strategy, perhaps, of temptation to be beaten once.  He knows Jesus is very hungry, & willing to take the opening gambit.  After giving Jesus the temptation of stones as bread, & weakening Jesus in that fight, he immediately wheels around & gives him a real barrage of food..  Giving Christ stones as bread is appealing to Christ as Jew; the banquet corresponds to Peter’s many meats [Acts 10:11–13], which Milton refers to in Areopagitica; it is more specifically Christian––the abnegation of old Jewish law.

[24] The devil attempts to reduce Christ  by appealing to him to take time by its ears.  Anticipate God’s time for doing things by becoming a ruler immediately.  A particularly subtle temptation.  Satan wants to reverse the balance of power––ally Palestine with the Parthians to knock off the Romans.  The temptation of Rome is an even more subtle one than the temptation of Parthia.

The tempter talks of Glory, i.e., the physical illusion of a glory.  Christ keeps his eyes fixed on the spiritual reality & is not fooled.

But in the temptation of Rome Satan works in the concept of justice, a good emperor.  Wants Christ to become a world ruler, the same role that Julian the Apostate later took.  Satan could give all fallen knowledge.  Julian has been called by Cardinal Newman the Anti‑Christ, and we see the subtlety of the temptation here.  This time Satan has fallen or moral good on his side; & Christ’s rejection makes us lose some of our sympathy for him.

Book IV.  The next phase is subtler yet, for Satan sees his mistake.  He presents Christ with the pagan wisdom of Plato & Aristotle.  Again, Satan has moral good on his side & Christ in refusing will lose even more of our sympathy.  This is the temptation of Athens.  Christ is in the Hebrew tradition, which has to do with revelation.  It is not reasonable & discursive.

The revelation of God as the delivered of man has power behind it.  The Greek conception of God as First Cause, does not give God this power and attractiveness as deliverer.  The temptation of Christ is more or less “innocent.”  If he had fallen for this, he would conceivably had led a sinless life; although he would have never saved the world

After that temptation Christ spends the night in the middle of a storm raised by the devil––evil omens, dreams.  Shows the devil’s temptations to be physical as well as spiritual.  This storm shows Satan’s own power since his conquest of Adam.  The power of waste land, sea, meteors, etc.—the upsetting of nature’s balance.  The demonic in human affairs.  Christ is shown through this storm that if he insists on waiting for God’s time, he will have the whole order of nature against him

The end of the devil’s assault on Christ is to place him on the pinnacle of the temple in Jerusalem––asks him to jump, telling Christ that it says in Scripture that the angels will be given charge over him.  A remembrance that when man climbs to his pinnacle, he is smitten with a kind of dizziness, hubris.  Man’s life in tragedy & in the medieval conception is a parabola.

The devil feels that perhaps Christ may be dizzy, having had all these temptations thrown at him.  The devil hopes perhaps some of the illusion of glory has slipped past the guard of his consciousness.  If so, he will certainly be dizzy.

The temptation to fall is a subtle one––a fascination to throw ourselves over.  All a heritage of fallen man––a “death wish” about which psychologists tell us.  But Christ has no desire for death, either now or in the time of the Crucifixion.  He doesn’t go to his death with a will to die.  He has protested strongly to God in the garden.  He has no narcotic wish for martyrdom.

In falling Christ would be trusting to luck, i.e., Satan.  Hence he would have fallen into the arms of Satan.  A new centre of gravity would be established in the world.  Christ’s standing on the temple shows the subordination  of the old law to the new liberty.

The devil knows Christ is to be the Messiah.  He does not know that Christ was his conqueror (Book VI, Paradise Lost).  The final evidence of that fact is given on the pinnacle of the temple.  Here he finally realizes Christ to be that figure, & the devil’s defeat is complete.  It is he that falls.

[25] Christian hero––a sufferer, patient.  His heroism shown through suffering, obedience.  The defeat of the dragon in Paradise Regained has no physical heroics about it, has been just a quiet walk in which he changed the history of the world.

Isolation––he went out alone to do it.

Milton always uses decorum––the proper speech for the proper person. Clowns & satire usually use the low style (Tetrachordon).  High style is for leaders in Paradise Lost.  But in Paradise Regained the middle style is used––a quiet, natural, speaking style, & we get it in its perfection of tone.  A sort of string quartet rather than a full orchestra.  Direct positive style––immediate rather than obscure references to the Bible.  Talk of wood‑gods & wood‑nymphs in Comus would have been worked into the verse, but here they are not.  The style remains flat.

Milton’s conception of originality was to go back to the origins of literature––to steal as much as possible from the Bible.  His originality does not consist in what he adds to the theme, but in how well he can hand on to the reader the great story of the temptation in Paradise Regained.  He plays down his own role of creative poet in order to be a transmitter.

(Nietzsche)  The great tradition in literature is to copy as much as possible what is great.  Try to tell the same story again & tell it better.

Samson Agonistes (Samson the Wrestler or Struggler)

Samson in Hebrew tradition had tremendous physical strength; at one time he was considered a sun god.  The story, derived partly from Mesopotamia, is a primitive one; much more so that the others in Judges.  Samson Agonistes is an essay on drama which turns its back on the current theatre (Restoration tragedy and drama).  Hence, Milton says that Samson Agonistes was not meant for the stage.  But his drams are not closet dramas; it is a real play.  It was written in the Greek form based on an Old Testament story, which was unique at this time.  As essay in the Greek classical form––a religious ritual, surrounding a god.

Milton is a poet of the αγών, the struggle––we can see this is also the case in Paradise Regained.

In the original Greek the hero struggles & wins but dies; then he comes to life later.

In Samson Agonistes the form is followed––he struggles against temptations; then there is the pathos when he dies in victory; finally, the lost memory & glorification of deeds is made immortal.

The last line of the play shows a preoccupation with Aristotle’s κάθαρση.

Emotions of pity & fear are emotions directed towards & away from the characters.  Tragedy must pass beyond these emotions.  (In Othello Desdemona deflects our pity; Iago our fear, & we have mixed feelings about him.  The tragedy in no way depends on the moral worth of the hero.)

Tragedy itself must not be associated with pity or fear; it just happens.

This carries over to Samson––he is neither a good man or a bad man.

The full meaning of any Old Testament story for Milton is derived from the New.  Hence Milton finds the significance of Samson in the life of Christ.  Christian meanings are to be discovered here.  Samson goes through the same type of process as the Messiah.

Manoah, Dalila, & Harapha represent Samson’s fight for liberty & roughly correspond to religious, domestic, and civil liberty.  There are many analogies between Samson & Milton: both blind giants under the power of the Philistines.  Samson tried to free the Israelites before, but had been defeated because his countrymen deserted him (like Milton).

In Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained the action is foregrounded.  They are all puppets.  The only one who really acts is Christ & he is the expression of God’s will.  There is only one point of view of the action––the will of the Father produces the whole show.

In Samson Agonistes we again have the conception that the real source of power is working behind the scenes.

[26] Samson Agonistes

In tragedy there is always a contest between the hero and some other force.  It may be called God (as in Samson), or fate, etc. or undefined.  But it is a force on the other side of the stage to the audience.  It is unseen.  The tragic hero can be set against the force & be broken, or set against it and finally become reconciled to it after the contest.  Tragedies of passion & serenity.  The Oedipus Rex is a tragedy of passion; he is broken.  The Oedipus at Colonus is one of serenity.  Oedipus dies, but is reconciled to it.  Samson Agonistes is like Oedipus at Colonus.  There is a real serenity at the end.

First of all we find Samson as himself, as his own character––a situation comic to the Philistines, tragic to the Israelites––doing sport for the Philistines, but the bondage of the saviour of the Israelites.  Then suddenly it is all reversed.  The Israelites’ humiliation becomes their triumph.  And the Philistines end in tragedy.  The same situation occurs in the passion of Christ.  Christ is the subject of mockery, a buffoon.  Then suddenly it turns into a triumph for Christ & his followers.  For Samson we have a turning point with a very involved double meaning.

Use of messenger.  Greek tragic touch.  When he says he won’t go entertain the Philistines, he comes to the end of his own will.  Then suddenly he changes his mind––quite suddenly without apology.  Here another force has taken over Samson’s will.

The turning point is inscrutable, but we know that Samson is the sole mediator between the audience and that force on the other side of the stage.

In most tragedies the hero is not usually the legitimate hereditary ruler (βασιλιάς) but rather a chosen leader or a leader whose position is insecure (τύραννος, or imperator).

Samson is surrounded by a world of mocking voices.  People stare at him uncomprehendingly, & he is unable to stare back.  Almost total condemnation of him by those he loves.  Naked & elemental human relationship between Samson & Dalila.  After this scene we have the stock comic miles gloriosus scene.

Parts a bit wooden, but most of the versification is wonderful in English.  Radical & flexible free verse, which is truly great.  The χορός [chorus] passages are wonderfully free & yet hold together by a rhythm we cannot quite see.

Greek tragedy was still partly a religious ceremony & corresponds perhaps to the Christian Eucharist.  The tragic hero usually dies and hence a sacrifice.  Sort of a half‑human, half‑divine body of the hero (like Christ in the Mass).

Tragedy is impersonal.  Not a thought of morality.

[27] [Paradise Lost]

Three stages of Satan’s advance (1) Building the castle in hell (2) Opening the door into Chaos, making Hell and Chaos continuous (3) Making Adam & Eve fall, so that Chaos can flow into the κόσμος [cosmos] making all three continuous.  When χάος [Chaos] is made continuous with κόσμος the world swings 22 ½ degrees off the perpendicular, beasts of prey come on earth, etc.

Book III.  Praise of heaven’s great light at opening––contrast with Book I.

God the father is now turned into a gramophone record announcing the Creed.  Milton accepted the doctrine that the Father is unknowable except through the Son.  Therefore, he makes a mistake in terms of his own theology in letting God speak here.  He puts God’s argument concerning man’s place into the mouth of God.  He knew man was going to fall but did not compel him to do so.  Therefore, he is not responsible.  Sets a baited mousetrap in front of Adam––a wide open fallacy which would never stand up in a court of law.  God in his very creation of Adam creates him in the knowledge that he would fall.

If a man has been framed by God, irresistibly compelled, then you chuck out the principle of divine providence & intelligence & substitute a sort of mechanical causation.  Man’s fall is then the cause of God’s will.  But the poem has man falling by his own will, and God’s taken up with the problem of redemption.  So Milton separates God’s knowledge of man from God’s action on man, so that his will can express itself in redemption, not in making man fall.

Accepting this principle in Paradise Lost every crisis seems to be followed inevitably by the next step, but every step is actually not inevitable; at each step there was a possibility of freedom.  Therefore, through the chaos of the weak argument Milton is trying to show God’s great love for man––trying to make this love intelligible.

Book III sets the stage for the reverse movement.  Christ’s promise to step into the κόσμος & defeat Satan, driving him back.  Ingenious parallel between heavenly council & Satan’s council (in Book II)––hesitation before someone volunteers.  Becomes from there a heroic conflict between Satan & Christ.

Limbo of Vanities––Satan’s [position on the primum mobile.  This sick bit of humour degenerates into an attack on the Catholic Church––has no business here.  But the Limbo of Vanities does mark the extent of the power of people who try to make their own salvation without regeneration.  They try to achieve heaven alone & fall just short, as Satan does here.  Satan gets past the angel by using hypocrisy.  From here on Satan’s medium is sneaky––disguise.  Not like a true heroic character.

[28] The cosmology of the poem is part of its poetic shape.  The chain of being is intrinsic in Milton’s poem.  Each level has its primate, i.e., the most perfect form––e.g., rose dolphin, lion, eagle, gold, man (as opposed to woman).  The chain of being ranges from pure form to pure matter.  Where in this chain does the material pass into the spiritual in man?  The physiology in Milton’s time, besides the four humours, divides man into three groups of spirits or fluids which are on the border between material & spiritual.  These were (1) Digestive spirits (2) vital (cordial) spirits––bloodstream, emotion, heart (3) Animal spirits (animus = soul) = intellectual spirits.

The conflict of Christ & Satan has for Milton not only a moral but a physical reality.  Satan is the explosion of Chaos into the cosmos, the world of God’s creation.  Book X is a partial triumph for Satan––the world become half‑chaotic.

In Book III as Satan ends his journey to the world, he takes the forms of the fallen world..  Just as he must attack Paradise instead of heaven, Satan must attack Eve instead of Adam, for Eve is the link with the animal world.

He tries dreams––Milton feels dreams represent desires, which are churned up from Eve’s inferior spirits.  Literally, her lower self.  Chaos enters her.  She loses her balance and feels herself a self‑enclosed creature.  Pride enters.  In her dream she wishes the one thing she is not to have, and from this gets a feeling of exaltation, flying, rising on the chain of being.

The angel’s dropping in for lunch and talking for three books has a result that we do not realize how the dramatic results of Book IX follow so swiftly on the opening lines of Book V.  Eve already feels (1) Desire (2) Exaltation (3) Individual.  For the first time in her life, at the opening of Book IX she wants to be in insulation, luxury.  She is now defined as target for Satan’s attack.

Satan disguises himself as a royal serpent, who until the fall slides around on his rear.  Satan gives her flattery designed to appeal to her self‑enclosed feeling; but he doesn’t actually want her conscious self to hear him.  “Into her heart Satan’s words found their way” [“Into her heart too easie entrance won,” Book IX, l. 734].  He slips past the guard of her consciousness into her subconscious.

Eve stands agape, wondering how the serpent can talk.  He says from eating of a certain tree.  She doesn’t stop to think of what tree, so she is confronted with it in the physical sense before she realizes what she is doing.  She now repeats all that Satan has been slipping into her subconscious.  She eats, and the fallen world is now divided from the world of God & spirits.  Woman is the wedge that splits this.  Eve worships the tree––this is (1) an act of idolatry (2) the consummation of a contract with the fallen world.  She now is a temptress, a wedge, when she confronts Adam.

She no longer wants to be seen; she feels a remoteness between heaven & earth; she resents the thought of being watched..  She wants secrecy, self‑enclosure.  She is now in a state of pride,& everything she comes in contact with is subordinated to her; she desires to possess them.  Hence, for the first time she feels jealousy.

The fall of Adam is perfunctory.  He falls in full consciousness, without the flutter & dither that was in the mind of Eve.  Adam has the choice of sticking with his Creator or going over to the fairest of the created.  The act is essentially one of chivalry.  Adam does what we feel any other man would have done in his place.  If we could not feel this, we would not be involved in the fall of Adam.  It is essential to maintain this feeling.

The original story from which the story of Adam & Eve is derived is the threat of the Gods by man.  The Gods fear that Adam will reach for the tree of life after he eats of the forbidden tree.  The Gods feel that Adam might become a God.  In Milton we see something of this too.  Adam must not eat of the tree of life for he must not live forever in the fallen world.

Last part of Book IX is full of wonderful subtlety.  Adam becomes the first natural man––they feel naked, try to cover themselves, hide.  They are naked & resent being looked at.  This sense of deep melancholy which surrounds the noble savage is found in Adam.  Ironic sense of isolation––being cast out from a society.  Self‑enclosed yet under a curse.  The working out of a state of pride.

The comes the working of sexual lust.  Milton is careful in handling sex relations.  Before the fall, sex relations are a matter of love––Adam’s love for Eve.  After the fall, it is lust––a man desires a woman.  The desire for satisfaction of an urge––the feeling of possession of another’s body.

[29] Books I–IV, IX–X––continuous action, well planned.  Books V–VIII––Raphael’s speech, where we go back to the chronological beginning.  Adam is to be introduced by Raphael to Christ.

To create is to create in time.  The Son does not live in time; he is begotten from eternity.  The Son was begotten from eternity, but when God makes Christ manifest for the first time––“This day I have begotten my son”––he says this.  This is the first occasion of Christ’s being shown.

Parallels which link the Christ in the speech of Raphael with the speech of Michael about Christ:

Defeat of Satan                       Cleansing of temple

Creation out of chaos              Command of the sea to be still

(command of chaos

symbolized by the sea)

Creation of Adam                    Incarnation

Fall of Adam                           Temptation

Two of the four gospels are nativity gospels, & they deal with time.  Mark & John begin with the baptism––Christ’s first earthly manifestation (epiphany).  This corresponds to his relation to the angels as described at the beginning of Raphael’s speech about him.  (We have called epiphany the exhibition of Christ to the Magi, but such is not the case in the Eastern Church, which still calls epiphany the baptism.)

Abdiel is the Christian hero for Milton––remaining faithful among the revolting angels, just as a Christian must in the fallen world.  Satan makes the mistake of thinking Christ came later than the angels, rather than knowing him to be an eternal manifestation of God.

God––time as eternal present (no distinction of time as past, present, future.  Whole of time contained in the eternal presence)

Angels––Time as energy of eternal life (sense of presence).  Angels have day & night for enjoyment, alternation of moods: L’Allegro & Il Penseroso)

Unfallen Man––“a little lower than the angels”––not temporary.  More of necessity

Fallen man––time as temporary duration (we are blessed with death since Adam didn’t get to hold the tree of life)

Devils––time as unending duration (our sense of infinite time)

All action centres on a certain moment.  God’s moment is Incarnation, when the timeless enters the world of time.  Our moment is Adam’s choosing death instead of eternal life

The war in heaven anticipates not only the cleansing of the temple, but Christ’s death & resurrection.  The battle takes three days.  The second day, evil has some success––corresponds to Christ’s struggle with death & hell.  The third day the Son of God goes forth to war.  Sulphurous fumes.  Guy Fawkes gunpowder plot––the invention of gunpowder by the devils––all tie in in Milton’s mind.

Discussion in Book VIII of Copernican & Ptolemaic universe systems seems to detract from the poem.  Milton knew the score, having met Galileo, and he does not need here to try to justify his poetic choice of the Ptolemaic universe.

But in the context of Raphael’s character, the harangue does have some merit.  Raphael tells Adam the kind of knowledge he needs for his salvation.  The Ptolemaic universe, which makes us the centre.  Raphael centres Adam’s attention on his immediate situation.  Temptation comes from without.  Adam needs his inner strength.

At the end of Book VIII, when Adam says he adores Eve, Raphael bawls him out on the dangers of idolization.  This is exactly the cause of Adam’s fall.

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