John Milton – “Paradise Lost” Book 9

Book 9 starts with the poet’s forewarning that it’s the end of nice subjects such as angels conversing with people over dinner and time for sad subjects such as the Fall. But this subject is no less heroic than the subjects described in The Iliad, Odyssey or Aeneidl He expresses his hope that his muse is going to continue visiting him and that he is going to complete his poem, especially since it took him so long to choose a subject, but he disliked the traditional subjects of the epic (war) or romance (knights at tournaments and parties), while he found “the fortitude of patience and heroic martyrdom/unsung”. This being said, an awful lot of Paradise Lost reads like traditional epic, especially those battle scenes in Heaven. Milton also modestly says that but for his muse, he might not complete his poem because the literary fashion may not be conducive, the climate in England is too cold and he himself is old.

Satan again got out of Hell and now circles the Earth, making sure that he always stays in the shadow of the night so that Uriel’s watchful eye won’t notice him. Finally he finds his way in at the place where Tigris flows under earth and then flows up forming a fountain. Satan goes in there, hidden by the water mist and again starts roaming the earth, looking for the animal he could inhabit. He decides upon “the serpent subtlest beast of all field”, because, as he reasons, if this serpent acts unusually smart for an animal, it won’t attract as much unwanted attention. Let us not hold it against Milton that he didn’t have access to BBC’s nature documentaries – of course we know that if Satan was really looking for the smartest land animal, he should have gone for a parrot or an orangutan, but of course it would wreak havoc with all these paintings of Eve’s temptation – try substituting an orangutan for a snake in them.

Michelangelo temptation

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