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Illustrations to Milton's Paradise Lost
 And Adam called his wife's name Eve; because she was the mother of all living.
 Unto Adam also and to his wife did the LORD God make coats of skins, and clothed them.
 And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever:
 Therefore the LORD God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken.
 So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life.
Blake's twelfth illustration to Milton's Paradise Lost shows the exit of Adam and Eve from Eden escorted by the angel Michael. There could be no turning back because the gate was closed behind and guarded by the flaming swords of the Cherubims.
As we consider the exit of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden, we confront the question of the entrance they made into the world of generation. The next stage of psychic development must have required that they learn to make choices between good and evil. The protected environment of the garden without challenges in the outer world would have forced them to remain inept at evolving inwardly. Man was created in the image of God. To be fully human he needed to become adept at choosing the good when tempted. The missteps and errors which were implicit in living on earth contributed to developing a psyche which was capable of discerning a path of obedience which was voluntary and chosen from strength not weakness.
The first lines of Paradise Lost reveal both the plot and the ending:
" Of man’s first disobedience, and the fruit
Of that forbidden tree, whose mortal taste
Brought death into the world, and all our woe,
With loss of Eden, till one greater man
Restore us, and regain the blissful seat,"
Milton was using this well known story to reveal the possibilities for mankind to correct the errors that chained him to moral failure, bodily suffering and spiritual poverty. He was relating from experience, and was writing to inform both individuals and the nation. He intended to do more that show the spiritual consequences for Adam and Eve of failing to observe the rules which were implicit in their society; Paradise Lost was meant to show political consequences as well. Throughout his career the two aims of Milton's thought and writing were to set men free from the bondage of tyranny and from imposed religion. He was not an anarchist. He believed that the Providence of God would lead man to the same liberty of mind and spirit that Blake promoted. If man were to cultivate a 'paradise within' resulting from his deeds of faith, virtue, patience, temperance, and love his happiness was assured.
Anna Beer in her biography, Milton: Poet, Pamphleteer, and Patriot made the following statement about the reader's responsibility as he pursued Paradise Lost:
"Milton is attempting to rouse the political nation...
The reader's 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 what 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. Paradise Lost seeks to create 'fit readers', not just to preach to them. The hope is that those who pick it up will, through reading it, be able, for example to see how tyrants gain their power and, perhaps, next time, stand firm against tyranny. Paradise Lost therefore demands and creates readers who will be able to be alert to all its complexities, able to appreciate its ironies, able to share its anger and its compassion." (Page 347)
[Adam heard the promise of salvation]
"So spake the archangel Michael; then paused,
As at the world's great period; and our sire,
Replete with joy and wonder, thus replied.
Oh goodness infinite, goodness immense!
That all this good of evil shall produce,
And evil turn to good; more wonderful
Than that which by creation first brought forth
Light out of darkness! Full of doubt I stand,
Whether I should repent me now of sin
By me done, and occasioned; or rejoice
Much more, that much more good thereof shall spring;
To God more glory, more good-will to men
From God, and over wrath grace shall abound.
But say, if our Deliverer up to Heaven
Must re-ascend, what will betide the few
His faithful, left among the unfaithful herd,
The enemies of truth? Who then shall guide
His people, who defend? Will they not deal
Worse with his followers than with him they dealt?
Be sure they will, said the angel; but from Heaven
He to his own a comforter will send,
The promise of the Father, who shall dwell
His Spirit within them; and the law of faith,
Working through love, upon their hearts shall write,
To guide them in all truth; and also arm
With spiritual armor, able to resist
Satan's assaults, and quench his fiery darts;"
"Whence thou returnest, and whither wentest, I know;
For God is also in sleep; and dreams advise,
Which he hath sent propitious, some great good
Presaging, since with sorrow and heart's distress
Wearied I fell asleep: But now lead on;
In me is no delay; with thee to go,
Is to stay here; without thee here to stay,
Is to go hence unwilling; thou to me
Art all things under Heaven, all places thou,
Who for my willful crime art banished hence.
This further consolation yet secure
I carry hence; though all by me is lost,
Such favor I unworthy am vouchsafed,
By me the Promised Seed shall all restore.
So spake our mother Eve; and Adam heard
Well pleased, but answered not: For now, too nigh
The archangel stood; and, from the other hill
To their fixed station, all in bright array
The Cherubim descended; on the ground
Gliding meteorous, as evening-mist
Risen from a river o'er the marsh glides,
And gathers ground fast at the laborer’s heel
Homeward returning. High in front advanced,
The brandished sword of God before them blazed,
Fierce as a comet; which with torrid heat,
And vapor as the Libyan air adust,
Began to parch that temperate clime; whereat
In either hand the hastening angel caught
Our lingering parents, and to the eastern gate
Led them direct, and down the cliff as fast
To the subjected plain; then disappeared.
They, looking back, all the eastern side beheld
Of Paradise, so late their happy seat,
Waved over by that flaming brand; the gate
With dreadful faces thronged, and fiery arms:
Some natural tears they dropt, but wiped them soon;
The world was all before them, where to choose
Their place of rest, and Providence their guide:
They, hand in hand, with wandering steps and slow,
Through Eden took their solitary way."
Jerusalem, Plate 13, (E 156) "And that toward Eden, four, form'd of gold, silver, brass, & iron. The South, a golden Gate, has four Lions terrible, living! That toward Generation, four, of iron carv'd wondrous: That toward Ulro, four, clay bak'd, laborious workmanship That toward Eden, four; immortal gold, silver, brass & iron. The Western Gate fourfold, is closd: having four Cherubim Its guards, living, the work of elemental hands, laborious task! Like Men, hermaphroditic, each winged with eight wings That towards Generation, iron; that toward Beulah, stone; That toward Ulro, clay: that toward Eden, metals. But all clos'd up till the last day, when the graves shall yield their dead" Marriage of Heaven & Hell, Plate 14, (E 39) "The ancient tradition that the world will be consumed in fire at the end of six thousand years is true. as I have heard from Hell. For the cherub with his flaming sword is hereby commanded to leave his guard at the tree of life, and when he does, the whole creation will be consumed, and appear infinite and holy whereas it now appears finite & corrupt. This will come to pass by an improvement of sensual enjoyment. But first the notion that man has a body distinct from his soul, is to be expunged; this I shall do, by printing in the infernal method, by corrosives, which in Hell are salutary and medicinal, melting apparent surfaces away, and displaying the infinite which was hid. If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is: infinite. For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things thro' narrow chinks of his cavern."