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For instance, in Book I, Satan exclaims: ‘hail, horrors, hail / Infernal world…’ whilst Book III opens with Milton’s similarly alliterative interjection, ‘Hail holy Light.’ We might also see this contrast in the epic poem’s contrasting elements of creation and destruction in the poem.Whilst God (the representative of ‘good’ in the poem) is the force of creation in Milton’s cosmos, Satan is the force of destruction – having already ‘sought / Evil to others’, he is now pictured ‘In meditated fraud and malice, bent / On man’s destruction.’ This opposition between creation and destruction is made particularly potent in Milton’s beautiful description of God’s creative acts, with all aspects of this new world revelling in fresh life.Who has ever read the aphoristic line ‘Awake, arise, or be forever fall’n’ without feeling an overwhelming sense of admiration for Satan’s heroic ambition and ‘fierce passion’?
They are described ‘As with new wine intoxicated both,’ the fruit inflaming in them ‘Carnal desire’.
Adam casts ‘lascivious eyes’ on Eve, and ‘in lust they burn’. These repeated references to heat and fire highlight not only the sensuous and wanton nature of these desires, they also recall the burning fires of Pandemonium, and thus implicitly link this sexual depravity to the evil of Satan.
And yet, it’s hard to deny that, at some points, that good/evil division becomes blurred.
Indeed, though in the first book Milton’s vocal interruptions colour our view of Satan as evil, Satan is still one of the most charismatic and apparently heroic figures in the poem, if not in the entirety of English literature.
For example, the mountains heave their ‘broad bare backs’ into the clouds and the rivers hasten ‘with glad precipitance’.
Paradise Lost Essay Man
When we first see Eden, it is described (through Satan’s eyes) thus: ‘In narrow room Nature’s whole wealth, yea more, / A Heav’n on earth, for blissful Paradise / Of God the garden was, by him in the east / Of Eden planted…’ Here, Milton is drawing on the teleological argument to highlight God’s goodness as it manifests itself in the beauty and harmony of the natural world.
Likewise, with the hints at sinfulness and wantonness in Eve and in Eden before the Fall, and conversely, with the sense of man’s retained goodness after the Fall, Milton stresses the elusiveness of sinlessness and sinfulness, whilst also preparing us for the inevitable – first, the Fall of Man, and second, Man’s salvation through the death of Christ.
In this way, Milton plays on these oppositions and conflicts in the poem and uses ambiguity to increase our anticipation and thrill as readers.
The epic poem begins with Milton declaring his intentions, to ‘assert Eternal Providence, / And justify the ways of God to men.’ Less than ten lines later, we are introduced to Satan, first referred to as ‘Th’infernal Serpent…
whose guile’ is ‘Stirred up with envy and revenge.’ Thus, the poem begins with the aforementioned opposition of good and evil, the just ways of God as Milton perceives them, contrasted with the envious deceptions of his foe, the fallen angel Lucifer.