Tuesday, March 13, 2012


Anna Beer's biography, Milton: Poet Pamphleteer, and Patriot, is available online as a Google book. In Beer's biography she comments on political and spiritual implications of Paradise Lost. She sees Satan's experience in establishing his alternate system as commentary on Cromwell's attempts to establish an alternate system.

"Paradise Lost explores, painfully and honestly, what went wrong from the moment that Charles I was executed. Milton shows, clinically, how systems of government descend into tyranny, how belief in God turns to idolatry, and he shows Adam's horror and his tears when he is allowed a glimpse of future humanity oppressed under a series of tyrannical rulers, worshipping false gods, forgetting to 'add love'." (Page 345)
Milton's interest was in creating political and religious liberty. The attempt to establish a republic in England had been short-lived but there were many lessons to be learned from it. Milton concluded that the people were not ready to govern themselves; that first they must be transformed internally. To prepare for establishing the outer paradise they must possess 'this paradise within' which the Archangel Michael revealed as the the potential of humanity.

"Milton's emphasis on private, internal transformation, the development of a 'paradise within', in itself suggests that there should be no established Church attempting to police that private belief.
This interlinking of the religious and political messages was precisely the factor that worried Milton's opponents." (Page 345)

"The readers involvement is critical, not just spiritually and emotionally, but politically. Milton believed that republicanism was the best mode of government for his country, but he also, by the time of writing Paradise Lost, knew that the English people would not, perhaps could not deliver it...Yet alongside this elitist view is a concern to create those leaders, to create a nation that can enjoy political and religious liberty." (Page 347)

"Paradise Lost therefore both demands and creates readers who will be alert to all its complexities, able to appreciate its ironies, able to share its anger and its compassion." (Page 348)

Blake's Illustrations to Paradise Lost
Linnell Set
Paradise Lost, Book XII [line 574]

  • To whom thus also the angel last replied.
  • This having learned, thou hast attained the sum
  • Of wisdom; hope no higher, though all the stars
  • Thou knewest by name, and all the ethereal powers,
  • All secrets of the deep, all Nature's works,
  • Or works of God in Heaven, air, earth, or sea,
  • And all the riches of this world enjoyedst,
  • And all the rule, one empire; only add
  • Deeds to thy knowledge answerable; add faith,
  • Add virtue, patience, temperance; add love,
  • By name to come called charity, the soul
  • Of all the rest: then wilt thou not be loath
  • To leave this Paradise, but shalt possess
  • A Paradise within thee, happier far.

  • The necessity as well as the difficulty of achieving this internal transformation is intimated in these words from Blake:
    Jerusalem, Plate 4, (E 146)
    "I am not a God afar off, I am a brother and friend;
    Within your bosoms I reside, and you reside in me:
    Lo! we are One; forgiving all Evil; Not seeking recompense!
    Ye are my members O ye sleepers of Beulah, land of shades!

    But the perturbed Man away turns down the valleys dark;"

    Blake's response to the prophetic poetry of Milton was to continue the work in which
    Milton was engaged; to direct his writing to producing in the reader the inner transformation which opens the mind to Eternity. Blake saw that each individual has the ability to cast off the shroud of death, exit the cavern of darkness and receive Life Eternal.

    Jerusalem, Plate 62, (E213)
    "I see the Maternal Line, I behold the Seed of the Woman!
    Cainah, & Ada & Zillah & Naamah Wife of Noah.
    Shuahs daughter & Tamar & Rahab the Canaanites:
    Ruth the Moabite & Bathsheba of the daughters of Heth
    Naamah the Ammonite, Zibeah the Philistine, & Mary
    These are the Daughters of Vala, Mother of the Body of death
    But I thy Magdalen behold thy Spiritual Risen Body
    Shall Albion arise? I know he shall arise at the Last Day!
    I know that in my flesh I shall see God: but Emanations
    Are weak. they know not whence they are, nor whither tend.

    Jesus replied. I am the Resurrection & the Life.
    I Die & pass the limits of possibility, as it appears
    To individual perception. Luvah must be Created
    And Vala; for I cannot leave them in the gnawing Grave.
    But will prepare a way for my banished-ones to return
    Come now with me into the villages. walk thro all the cities.
    Tho thou art taken to prison & judgment, starved in the streets
    I will command the cloud to give thee food & the hard rock
    To flow with milk & wine, tho thou seest me not a season
    Even a long season & a hard journey & a howling wilderness!
    Tho Valas cloud hide thee & Luvahs fires follow thee!
    Only believe & trust in me, Lo. I am always with thee!

    So spoke the Lamb of God while Luvahs Cloud reddening above
    Burst forth in streams of blood upon the heavens & dark night
    Involvd Jerusalem."

    John 10
    [9] I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.
    [28] And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.

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