Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Got Milton?


If you've ever wanted to be talked into taking up Paradise Lost or Milton generally, you could do worse than starting here:

The vastness of the spaces through which his aerial beings move; the brilliant ambivalences of the villain who is Satan, soliloquising dramatically; the enchanted perspectives of paradise with its two freshly formed residents who busy themselves pruning roses, heaping up vegetarian meals for the entertainment of archangel visitors, and setting out the ground rules for marriage - none of this has any parallel in English poetry. Milton makes you think, provokes you into arguments about power, good and evil, about responsibility, innocence and the right to knowledge. He shows God forbidding this right, but we remember that Milton had himself defended it furiously in his essay on the freedom of the press, "Areopagitica". The clash between Milton the Renaissance humanist and Milton the faithful servant of God makes things interesting.

2 comments:

George Junior said...

I love "Paradise Lost" though I think it needs to be read aloud (an awesome task, admitedly) in order to appreciate the power of Milton's verse.

His characterization of Satan is masterful. On coming upon Adam and Eve for the first time:

Aside the Devil turned
For envy; yet with jealous leer malign
Eyed them askance, and to himself thus plained:—
"Sight hateful, sight tormenting!"

Great stuff. But too long for modern tastes, I think.

Dale said...

You're right, George. It's a challenging text, and one to be read out loud -- it would be interesting to see an animation of it set to a dramatic reading (Patrick Stewart? Ian McKellen?). It could be really horrible or it could be great. Stoners would almost certainly like it. I'd buy it. It sounds like you might. That's a start?