John Milton – “Paradise Lost” Book 2 (ctd.)

After a fairly intense two days at work I am returning to Paradise Lost, where things are also intense, as you could expect in the place of eternal condemnation. Everybody votes in favour of Beelzebub’s proposal. He praises their decision and says it can even in the long run get them back into Heaven, or at least in some proximity of it, closer to the light. But when he asks who is going to undertake the risky journey to the Earth, there are no volunteers. Finally Satan get up and says that since he is the one who is first in rank, he also should be the first to accept the hazard. He depicts the dangers awaiting him in a very sophisticated way: first he has to get over the nine walls of Hell, and then plunge into “unessential Night” (without essence) and “abortive gulf”, because Chaos is like an antithesis of the womb, which does not integrate but disintegrate. If he manages to get through this black hole, who knows what dangers await him next? But he is willing to accept it. He ends his speech by advising all his lords to get to thinking how best to improve their present condition and he is going to leave Hell alone – “this enterprise/None shall partake with me”, he adds, rising and indicating that this is final. This is a canny move on Satan’s part, Milton observes, because he prevents other devils from offering their company, safe in the certainty that he is going to refuse them, only in order to win “cheaply the high repute” and become his potential rivals, saying “oh, , I meant to go as well but he stopped me”. I have to admire the economical way in which Milton expresses this within eight lines and also his political acumen. All devils rise together with Satan, producing the noise as great as a distant thunderstorm, and bow down to him, admiring his valour, because even the damned Spirits do not lose all their virtue, which should be borne in mind, Milton adds, when bad men here on earth boast of their great deeds, which were inspired only by a desire for glory or secret ambition.

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