John Milton – “Paradise Lost” Book 3 (the end)

Satan as a young cherub addresses Uriel, telling him that he is curious about this new creation of God he has heard so much about and he would like to see it: the earth but especially the man. Uriel answers him kindly, and Milton addresses the question that probably has arisen in the minds of many readers (certainly mine): he can’t see past Satan’s disguise: “neither man nor angel can discern/Hypocrisey, the only evil that walks/Invisible, except to God alone.” So Uriel says that it’s not an offense to wish to see the wonders of God’s creation, especially since others are just content to rely on the reports they hear in heaven. All God’s works are wonderful, he says, and this give him (and Milton) a pretext to give us a flashback to the first days of the creation. Then he points the way to the Earth. Satan thanks him politely, bowing low “as to superior Spirits is wont in Heav’n, Where honour due and reverence none neglects”. I wonder if it’s a jab towards some more radical new religious movements such as the Quakers who famously refused to take off their hats or to address anyone by any other form than the familiar “thou”. Then Satan takes off and lands on the top of mount Niphates (the Helpful Footnote says it’s in Assyria, but Wiki, which is never wrong, says it’s in Armenia. I don’t really care.)

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