John Milton – “Paradise Lost” Book 12

Book 12 is, like Book 8, the second part of a book which Milton decided to cut in two in the second edition of Paradise Lost in order to bring the total number of books to more epic twelve. Just like in the former case, he decided to make the split in the middle of an angel’s speech and added a few lines to work around it – Michael makes a pause to give Adam a chance to ask questions. But Adam has no questions and Michael continues, telling him that watching too much Divine TV is too straining for Adam’s eyes, so he is going to summarize the rest of the Bible for him. After the flood, people are going to live piously and in democracy, until one man (Nimrod) declares himself to be the king above all of them and persecute those who don’t submit to his rule, calling them rebels, while he himself is a rebel against God’s will, because only God is the king, and man is the king only over animals and plants, not his brethren. Nimrod and his crew (this is the word Milton actually uses) found “a black bituminous gorge” and decided to use the material spit out by it for building their city and the highest tower in the world. But God prevented it by mixing up their language and then had a good laugh looking at how they could not communicate anymore. Adam is suitably appalled at this and also points out that the plan to build the Tower of Babel was quite impractical from the start: who is going to carry food up there and how are its inhabitants are going to survive in the thin air up there?

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