Paradise Regained - John Milton - ebook

Paradise Regained is a poem by English poet John Milton, first published in 1671 by John Milton. The volume in which it appeared also contained the poet's closet drama Samson Agonistes. Paradise Regained is connected by name to his earlier and more famous epic poem Paradise Lost, with which it shares similar theological themes; indeed, its title, its use of blank verse, and its progression through Christian history recall the earlier work. However, this effort deals primarily with the temptation of Christ as recounted in the Gospel of Luke. An interesting anecdote recounted by a Quaker named Thomas Ellwood provides some insight into Paradise Regained's development. After studying Latin with Milton and reading the poet's epic Paradise Lost, Ellwood remarked, "Thou hast said much here of Paradise lost, but what hast thou to say of Paradise found?" Hearing this, Milton at first "sat some time in a muse" before changing the subject; however, sometime thereafter he showed to Ellwood a new manuscript entitled Paradise Regained. Some maintain that although he seemed to express gratitude to Ellwood in a letter, Milton in truth "passed on a friendly if impish fabrication" that made Ellwood feel like the inspiration for the poem. Milton composed Paradise Regained at his cottage in Chalfont St Giles in Buckinghamshire. The poem is four books long, in contrast with Paradise Lost's twelve; 2,065 lines long, while Paradise Lost comprises 10,565. As such, Barbara K. Lewalski has labelled the work a "brief epic". Whereas Paradise Lost is ornate in style and decorative in its verse, Paradise Regained is carried out in a fairly plain style. Specifically, Milton reduces his use of simile and deploys a simpler syntax in Paradise Regained than he does in Paradise Lost, and this is consistent with Jesus's sublime plainness in his life and teachings (in the epic, he prefers Hebrew psalms to Greek poetry). Modern editors believe the stylistics of Paradise Regained evince Milton's poetic maturity. No longer is the poet out to dazzle his readers with bombastic verse and lengthy epic similes. This is not to say that the poem bears no affinities with Milton's earlier work, but scholars continue to agree with Northrop Frye's suggestion that Paradise Regained is "practically sui generis" in its poetic execution.

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The Project Gutenberg EBook of Paradise Regained, by John Milton

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Title: Paradise Regained

Author: John Milton

Release Date: June 20, 2008 [EBook #58]

Language: English




John Milton


  I, WHO erewhile the happy Garden sung   By one man's disobedience lost, now sing   Recovered Paradise to all mankind,   By one man's firm obedience fully tried   Through all temptation, and the Tempter foiled   In all his wiles, defeated and repulsed,   And Eden raised in the waste Wilderness.     Thou Spirit, who led'st this glorious Eremite   Into the desert, his victorious field   Against the spiritual foe, and brought'st him thence 10   By proof the undoubted Son of God, inspire,   As thou art wont, my prompted song, else mute,   And bear through highth or depth of Nature's bounds,   With prosperous wing full summed, to tell of deeds   Above heroic, though in secret done,   And unrecorded left through many an age:   Worthy to have not remained so long unsung.     Now had the great Proclaimer, with a voice   More awful than the sound of trumpet, cried   Repentance, and Heaven's kingdom nigh at hand 20   To all baptized. To his great baptism flocked   With awe the regions round, and with them came   From Nazareth the son of Joseph deemed   To the flood Jordan—came as then obscure,   Unmarked, unknown. But him the Baptist soon   Descried, divinely warned, and witness bore   As to his worthier, and would have resigned   To him his heavenly office. Nor was long   His witness unconfirmed: on him baptized   Heaven opened, and in likeness of a Dove 30   The Spirit descended, while the Father's voice   From Heaven pronounced him his beloved Son.   That heard the Adversary, who, roving still   About the world, at that assembly famed   Would not be last, and, with the voice divine   Nigh thunder-struck, the exalted man to whom   Such high attest was given a while surveyed   With wonder; then, with envy fraught and rage,   Flies to his place, nor rests, but in mid air   To council summons all his mighty Peers, 40   Within thick clouds and dark tenfold involved,   A gloomy consistory; and them amidst,   With looks aghast and sad, he thus bespake:—     "O ancient Powers of Air and this wide World   (For much more willingly I mention Air,   This our old conquest, than remember Hell,   Our hated habitation), well ye know   How many ages, as the years of men,   This Universe we have possessed, and ruled   In manner at our will the affairs of Earth, 50   Since Adam and his facile consort Eve   Lost Paradise, deceived by me, though since   With dread attending when that fatal wound   Shall be inflicted by the seed of Eve   Upon my head. Long the decrees of Heaven   Delay, for longest time to Him is short;   And now, too soon for us, the circling hours   This dreaded time have compassed, wherein we   Must bide the stroke of that long-threatened wound   (At least, if so we can, and by the head 60   Broken be not intended all our power   To be infringed, our freedom and our being   In this fair empire won of Earth and Air)—   For this ill news I bring: The Woman's Seed,   Destined to this, is late of woman born.   His birth to our just fear gave no small cause;   But his growth now to youth's full flower, displaying   All virtue, grace and wisdom to achieve   Things highest, greatest, multiplies my fear.   Before him a great Prophet, to proclaim 70   His coming, is sent harbinger, who all   Invites, and in the consecrated stream   Pretends to wash off sin, and fit them so   Purified to receive him pure, or rather   To do him honour as their King. All come,   And he himself among them was baptized—   Not thence to be more pure, but to receive   The testimony of Heaven, that who he is   Thenceforth the nations may not doubt. I saw   The Prophet do him reverence; on him, rising 80   Out of the water, Heaven above the clouds   Unfold her crystal doors; thence on his head   A perfet Dove descend (whate'er it meant);   And out of Heaven the sovraign voice I heard,   'This is my Son beloved,—in him am pleased.'   His mother, than, is mortal, but his Sire   He who obtains the monarchy of Heaven;   And what will He not do to advance his Son?   His first-begot we know, and sore have felt,   When his fierce thunder drove us to the Deep; 90   Who this is we must learn, for Man he seems   In all his lineaments, though in his face   The glimpses of his Father's glory shine.   Ye see our danger on the utmost edge   Of hazard, which admits no long debate,   But must with something sudden be opposed   (Not force, but well-couched fraud, well-woven snares),   Ere in the head of nations he appear,   Their king, their leader, and supreme on Earth.   I, when no other durst, sole undertook 100   The dismal expedition to find out   And ruin Adam, and the exploit performed   Successfully: a calmer voyage now   Will waft me; and the way found prosperous once   Induces best to hope of like success."     He ended, and his words impression left   Of much amazement to the infernal crew,   Distracted and surprised with deep dismay   At these sad tidings. But no time was then   For long indulgence to their fears or grief: 110   Unanimous they all commit the care   And management of this man enterprise   To him, their great Dictator, whose attempt   At first against mankind so well had thrived   In Adam's overthrow, and led their march   From Hell's deep-vaulted den to dwell in light,   Regents, and potentates, and kings, yea gods,   Of many a pleasant realm and province wide.   So to the coast of Jordan he directs   His easy steps, girded with snaky wiles, 120   Where he might likeliest find this new-declared,   This man of men, attested Son of God,   Temptation and all guile on him to try—   So to subvert whom he suspected raised   To end his reign on Earth so long enjoyed:   But, contrary, unweeting he fulfilled   The purposed counsel, pre-ordained and fixed,   Of the Most High, who, in full frequence bright   Of Angels, thus to Gabriel smiling spake:—     "Gabriel, this day, by proof, thou shalt behold, 130   Thou and all Angels conversant on Earth   With Man or men's affairs, how I begin   To verify that solemn message late,   On which I sent thee to the Virgin pure   In Galilee, that she should bear a son,   Great in renown, and called the Son of God.   Then told'st her, doubting how these things could be   To her a virgin, that on her should come   The Holy Ghost, and the power of the Highest   O'ershadow her. This Man, born and now upgrown, 140   To shew him worthy of his birth divine   And high prediction, henceforth I expose   To Satan; let him tempt, and now assay   His utmost subtlety, because he boasts   And vaunts of his great cunning to the throng   Of his Apostasy. He might have learnt   Less overweening, since he failed in Job,   Whose constant perseverance overcame   Whate'er his cruel malice could invent.   He now shall know I can produce a man, 150   Of female seed, far abler to resist   All his solicitations, and at length   All his vast force, and drive him back to Hell—   Winning by conquest what the first man lost   By fallacy surprised. But first I mean   To exercise him in the Wilderness;   There he shall first lay down the rudiments   Of his great warfare, ere I send him forth   To conquer Sin and Death, the two grand foes.   By humiliation and strong sufferance 160   His weakness shall o'ercome Satanic strength,   And all the world, and mass of sinful flesh;   That all the Angels and aethereal Powers—   They now, and men hereafter—may discern   From what consummate virtue I have chose   This perfet man, by merit called my Son,   To earn salvation for the sons of men."     So spake the Eternal Father, and all Heaven   Admiring stood a space; then into hymns   Burst forth, and in celestial measures moved, 170   Circling the throne and singing, while the hand   Sung with the voice, and this the argument:—     "Victory and triumph to the Son of God,   Now entering his great duel, not of arms,   But to vanquish by wisdom hellish wiles!   The Father knows the Son; therefore secure   Ventures his filial virtue, though untried,   Against whate'er may tempt, whate'er seduce,   Allure, or terrify, or undermine.   Be frustrate, all ye stratagems of Hell, 180   And, devilish machinations, come to nought!"     So they in Heaven their odes and vigils tuned.   Meanwhile the Son of God, who yet some days   Lodged in Bethabara, where John baptized,   Musing and much revolving in his breast   How best the mighty work he might begin   Of Saviour to mankind, and which way first   Publish his godlike office now mature,   One day forth walked alone, the Spirit leading   And his deep thoughts, the better to converse 190   With solitude, till, far from track of men,   Thought following thought, and step by step led on,   He entered now the bordering Desert wild,   And, with dark shades and rocks environed round,   His holy meditations thus pursued:—     "O what a multitude of thoughts at once   Awakened in me swarm, while I consider   What from within I feel myself, and hear   What from without comes often to my ears,   Ill sorting with my present state compared! 200   When I was yet a child, no childish play   To me was pleasing; all my mind was set   Serious to learn and know, and thence to do,   What might be public good; myself I thought   Born to that end, born to promote all truth,   All righteous things. Therefore, above my years,   The Law of God I read, and found it sweet;   Made it my whole delight, and in it grew   To such perfection that, ere yet my age   Had measured twice six years, at our great Feast 210   I went into the Temple, there to hear   The teachers of our Law, and to propose   What might improve my knowledge or their own,   And was admired by all. Yet this not all   To which my spirit aspired. Victorious deeds   Flamed in my heart, heroic acts—one while   To rescue Israel from the Roman yoke;   Then to subdue and quell, o'er all the earth,   Brute violence and proud tyrannic power,   Till truth were freed, and equity restored: 220   Yet held it more humane, more heavenly, first   By winning words to conquer willing hearts,   And make persuasion do the work of fear;   At least to try, and teach the erring soul,   Not wilfully misdoing, but unware   Misled; the stubborn only to subdue.   These growing thoughts my mother soon perceiving,   By words at times cast forth, inly rejoiced,   And said to me apart, 'High are thy thoughts,   O Son! but nourish them, and let them soar 230   To what highth sacred virtue and true worth   Can raise them, though above example high;   By matchless deeds express thy matchless Sire.   For know, thou art no son of mortal man;   Though men esteem thee low of parentage,