John Milton – “Paradise Lost” Book 11 (ctd.)

Michael takes Adam to the top of a mountain, as big as that on which Jesus was later on put by Satan. We are treated to another of Milton’s interminable lists of “I learnt the whole atlas by heart” kind. It’s also quite improbable that either Adam or Jesus could see all the places listed, which include those in Asia, Africa and Europe (although Europe is dealt with very briefly), unless they were granted some kind of superpower. At least Milton recognizes they couldn’t see America, but it doesn’t stop him from listing the places they could see “in spirit”. Michael treats Adam’s eyes with some special drops, removing the film of sin, after which Adam temporarily sinks to the ground and closes his eyes, overcome by the sensory overload. But Michael tells him to open his eyes and the first scene he sees is that of Cain killing Abel, although of course he doesn’t know yet what that means. Milton adds some explanation to the Genesis account of this story: God didn’t accept Cain’s sacrifice because it was not sincere, not because he didn’t like vegetarian food.

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