John Milton – “Paradise Lost” Book 10 (ctd.)

The Son of God now clads people’s nakedness both with the skins of slain animals and molted skins of snakes. I must admit this vision of Jesus as a deer slayer makes me a bit uneasy. But he also covers their “inward nakedness”, much worse, with his “robe of righteousness”, by which Milton probably means (although he does not spell out the connection) that after his return to Heaven he interceded on their behalf with the Father. Meanwhile at the gates of Hell Death says to her son Sin that if Satan doesn’t return for so long, it means he must be successful and they should follow him. Sin agrees, saying that he can already smell the potential prey. “So saying, with delight he snuffed the smell/of mortal change of air”‘; he is like bird of prey which fly to the battlefield even before the battle begins, expecting carnage which should follow soon. That’s really a powerful image, this idea that the world starts to rot spiritually the moment the first parents sinned. But in case Satan couldn’t return to Hell because of transit difficulties, Death says they should build a highway to Hell, which they do, flying through Chaos in different directions and driving before them anything solid or slimy, like winds in the northern seas drive icebergs. The aggregated materials are then stricken by Death with its mace which has the power to turn anything solid, like the head of Gorgon.

 

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