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Milton’s Paradise Lost

Yesterday was John Milton’s 400th birthday. He wrote the epic poem, Paradise Lost, presenting a panoramic vision of the fall of man.


Contrast this view of John Milton from yesterday’s Writer’s Almanac:

It’s the birthday of the poet John Milton, (books by this author) born in London (1608). He was well-known in his own time for his political essays. He wrote a pamphlet arguing for the right to get a divorce on the grounds of incompatibility. He had married a woman named Mary Powell, and she left him almost immediately after their honeymoon. And he wrote the tract Areopagitica (1644), an argument in favor of freedom of the press. But he’s most famous for his epic poem Paradise Lost (1667). Many readers come away from it feeling that Satan is the most interesting and sympathetic character.

With this perspective from Leland Ryken, a professor of English at Wheaton College (H/T: Justin Taylor):

What are some of the misconceptions readers have about Paradise Lost?


The most frivolous misconception is also the most widespread, namely, that Satan is a heroic and sympathetic character in Milton’s story. Such a verdict is actually self-revealing on the part of a reader who accepts it.


Christian readers should begin by reminding themselves that they live not only by a Christian world view but also by a Christian world picture. In addition to the great doctrines of the Christian faith, we live by the great images of the faith. Milton’s poem puts us in touch with the images of the Christian faith—images of Satan and hell, of God and heaven, of Paradise and original perfection, of temptation and fall, of sin and salvation.

Anyone ever read it?




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