“Of man’s first disobedience, and the fruit
Of that forbidden tree, whose mortal taste
Brought death into the world, and all our woe,
With loss of Eden, till one greater Man
Restore us, and regain the blissful seat,
Sing Heav’nly Muse, that on the secret top
Of Oreb, or of Sinai, didst inspire
That shepherd, who first taught the chosen seed,
In the beginning how the heav’ns and earth
Rose out of Chaos, or if Sion hill
Delight thee more, and Siloa’s brook that flowed
Fast by the oracle of God; I thence
Invoke thy aid to my advent’rous song,
That with no middle flight intends to soar
Above th’ Aonian mount, while it pursues
Things unattempted yet in prose or rhyme.”
So begins Paradise Lost. That up there? All one sentence. If you’re anything like me, you read it (or just skimmed it) and your response was a long, dejected, “oy vey.” That’s what I thought anyway when I was assigned to read this for an English class, and was glad that we only had to read about three books from the work total. But – I started sort of liking the story, and vowed to finish it one day, if just to say that I did. It took me a year to get around to it, but I finally did it.
So, in brief: Milton has a lot to say. Many parts of this book are drawn-out and requiring footnoted explanations every few sentences. But, BUT: the writing really is incredible, and even if I had no idea what was going on in some sections of the book, I could at least recognize that the poetry was beautiful. My favorite parts: the council in Hell between Satan and several other demons to debate how they should wage war against Heaven, and the seduction of Eve. Satan’s speeches are amazing, and Milton’s version of the fall of Eve is infinitely better than the Bible’s.
We will now give closing remarks to Professor Jennings of Faber College:
“Don’t write this down, but I find Milton probably as boring as you find Milton. Mrs. Milton found him boring too. He’s a little bit long-winded, he doesn’t translate very well into our generation, and his jokes are terrible. But that doesn’t relieve you of your responsibility for this material!”
Thank you, Professor.
Verdict: three out of five stars