Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained (The Signet Classic Poetry Series)

by John Milton

Paper Book, 2001




Signet Classics (2001), 384 pages


Presents seventeenth-century British poet John Milton's classic epic poems "Paradise Lost" and "Paradise Regained," along with a scholarly introduction, a Milton chronology, and a selected bibliography.

Original publication date

1667 (Lost)
1671 (Regained)



0451527925 / 9780451527929




(224 ratings; 4)

User reviews

LibraryThing member atimco
John Milton's Paradise Lost is a monumental poem that crystallizes the basic Christian doctrines of Creation, Satan's rebellion, humanity's Fall, and the prophesied Savior who would redeem His people — and does it all with a gripping story told in powerful language. Because of its immense scope
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and imagination, Paradise Lost has served for centuries as a jumping-off place for other writers working through these doctrines and ideas to create art in the Western context. It's a work I have been meaning to read for some time, and it did not disappoint.

All I knew of Milton before coming to this poem was the oft-quoted "Better to reign in Hell, then serve in Heav'n," one of the most succinct descriptions of Satan that I've ever read. So on a purely stylistic level, Milton was very new to me. But as a Christian, I was very familiar with the poem's subject matter, and found it a rich experience to read. I think that my faith added an extra dimension to the poem; for me, the characters are fictionalized representations of real beings, the events described really did happen, and the ramifications affect me personally. Wow! I was again and again surprised by the utter believability with which Milton realizes his characters, working from the spare narrative laid out in Scripture. Paradise Lost is a Christian wandering through his vast doctrines, goggling at them, and turning his mind to make art of them. This "subcreation" is an act of worship.

And the implications have been profound for Christian thinkers and writers ever since. C. S. Lewis was a big fan of the poem, and I could see many places where it influenced him, even in little things. For instance, there is a flattering councillor in Lewis' Prince Caspian named "Glozelle" — and here "glozing" is a verb used in the poem for "flattering." Another character's name, Fledge, means "feathered," and this is perfect because the character is a winged horse. I love this stuff! The whole idea behind The Screwtape Letters and Our Father Below must have had its inspiration in the scenes of Satan and his followers taking counsel together how best to defeat God. And Milton's descriptions of Hell certainly turned Lewis' thoughts in the direction that led to The Great Divorce. I'm sure there are many more connections that escaped me on this my first read, but it was fun to find the ones I did.

Paradise Lost is a classic in that it continues to spark controversy among academics to this day, with multiple interpretations hotly debated. Much has been made of William Blake's view, that Milton is "of the Devil's party without knowing it," that he unconsciously admires Satan and portrays him as a sympathetic character. I think this is a valid reading, as the story begins with Satan and spends a lot of time with him. He is evil and heartless and depraved, but there is something grand in his tragic defiance, something oddly powerful. I felt that pull, too.

There is another school of thought that argues that Milton's seemingly heroic depiction of Satan is deliberate, as a mirror to the attraction Satan naturally has for sinful humans. This theory holds that when we are drawn to Milton's Satan, we are displaying our human tendency to be deceived. This is probably where I come down, because of my background. We filter everything through our presuppositions. Milton may very well have been an unconscious admirer of Satan's grand rebellion, but for me this confirms that part of us that always wants to rebel. Our art is not free of it — and Satan would not be nearly so effective if he wasn't wily and beautiful (and not just to Adam and Eve). Naturally the notion that Satan is deceptively attractive to us because we are easily deceived isn't popular among non-Christians. I can understand why many readers embrace the idea that Satan is the real hero of the poem; there's evidence for it, definitely. But I see textual support for the other view as well, and where you fall (ha) is dependent on your personal theology.

And then there is the problem of Eve. I found Milton unfair in his treatment of Eve, blaming her for Adam's fall and making Adam all noble in his sacrifice to eat the apple. Good grief, Adam wasn't tempted by a master deceiver as Eve was, and still he ate! There was nothing noble about it, and indeed in Scripture original sin is attributed to Adam, not Eve. I know there is the criticism that in Christian doctrine, woman is always inferior to man, the scapegoat and bearer of shame, the dark side of humanity. Maybe some of this comes from Milton, who later in the poem brings out his "Fair Atheists," the loose women who tempt godly men to sin. Because women are pure evil, of course. But as a Christian myself (yes, I know I'm totally biased, but so is everyone), I think the opposite is true: the Bible talks about sin entering the world through one man (Adam), with no mention of Eve at all as the principal scapegoat. This creates a parallel in Christ, the perfect Man who brought us righteousness. So Adam is noble and self-sacrificing in his sin? — yeah right. He gets off way too easily in the poem, if you ask me.

Milton gets his theology a bit skewed again in Paradise Regained. Satan gets an inordinate share of the limelight. Paradise is regained via the battle with Satan that Christ wins — instead of the ultimate test of Christ's obedience, the Cross. I understand that there is a parallel between Satan's temptations of Eve/Adam and Christ; indeed, this is a core doctrine of the Christian faith, that Christ should triumph where we failed. But it wasn't Satan that Christ died to save us from. Christ died to take our share of the Father's wrath. Satan is not God's executioner, partying down in Hell. And Christ's resistance to Satan's temptations did not save us, though it was necessary. Paradise was not truly regained until the Cross and Resurrection. I wish Milton had treated those subjects too!

I think what surprised me most about reading this poem was the utter fun of it. I loved the language — who wouldn't rejoice in a line like "Of all his flattering Prophets glibb'd with lies"? I loved the immense scope of the thing, the visualizations of Chaos and Hell and the Garden, of the war in Heaven and its final conclusion. How great, to listen in on imagined conversations between the Father and the Son taking counsel with one another — and of course Satan doing the same with his consorts in Hell. I was also surprised (though I shouldn't have been, I suppose) at the constant allusions to classical mythology, with all those mythical gods being referred to as real. I know a lot of secular readers will be laughing at me because to them, *all* the characters in the poem are mythological. But hear me out — it's fascinating because it demonstrates a fusion between the pagan and Christian. I personally love it because it is pagan ideas being used in service of the Christian God; fragments of truth in world legends redeemed, to paraphrase Lewis. But even without my bias, it's fascinating to see these disparate stories being woven together.

So should you read Paradise Lost? Absolutely! Sure, there is a lot of archaic language and the sentences can go on for pages and pages, but if you can get past that and into the alien feel of the poem, looking at the vastness of its landscape and the craziness of its characters, you can enjoy it. It isn't just a work for the academics to wrangle over. Non-Christians can get a lot out of it too, because Christianity is foundational to Western culture and so has affected the world. Paradise Lost is an important poem with far-reaching influence, but besides all that it is a rich reading experience in itself. I enjoyed it very much.
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LibraryThing member 06nwingert
Paradise Lost is an epic poem in the same tradition of Homer, Virgil, Dante and Shakespeare. Milton, like many of his time, wrote about (or against) religion, thus incurring the wrath of the church. It doesn't matter, though, for Milton's account of the fall of man is far better than Gensis.
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Although it may be hard to read, it should be read-- especially because it sparked Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy. I read Paradise Lost alongside His Dark Materials in order to get a clear picture of the main story and the deviations each author took.
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LibraryThing member MissWoodhouse1816
Truly inspiring. If you told me 10 years ago that I would love teaching these poems, I'd have laughed in your face. But Milton has a beautiful way of taking a few, sparse Bible verses and turning them into a human narrative that you can understand and relate to. Book Three of Paradise Lost is, in
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my opinion, nothing short of inspired genius.
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LibraryThing member Coach_of_Alva
Milton's poems describe, respectively, The Fall of Man and The Temptation of Christ. I first read them when I was a very young man and got little out of them. Re-reading and hearing them in my late middle age, I loved and revered them. I admired Milton's art both as a poet and a dramatist. His
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version of the The Fall is a tragedy as much as an epic, with scenes of high drama and psychological insight as well as of poetry and theology. I saw the personal as well as the spiritual damage that the heroes, Adam and Eve, sustained, and was glad that they and their kindred were given their hope of redemption. I did find Milton's Satan an excellent villain, nothing more, despite claims by those who apparently only read the first half of the story.

I was surprised that I was more than half convinced by Milton's justification of the works of God. I accepted, during the reading, at least, the Father's reasons for not doing more to protect his special creation. In the sequel, I agree with the Son's refusal to be impressed by what the Tempter had made of the world and his promise to reclaim it and rebuild it.

As for the narrator, Griffin has made a specialty of the classical and the epic, and his reading of this English epic is as good as anything he has done.
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LibraryThing member nx74defiant
struggle to try to read this. It is a hard style. It might be better to listen to, or read slowly out loud (which doesn't work while eating).
LibraryThing member NadineC.Keels
Thou Spirit who ledd'st this glorious Eremite
Into the Desert...
As thou art wont, my prompted Song else mute...
to tell of deeds
Above Heroic, though in secret done...

The Tempter who once deceived humankind in the Garden of Eden is back, generations later, to tempt the Son of God in the
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wilderness in Paradise Regained by John Milton.

I read the preceding epic poem, Paradise Lost, some years ago and finally read its coda here for the first time. That is, I initially didn't know it was more of a coda and was thus surprised to find it so much shorter than the first poem, which is, of course, the length of a novel.

I now have a better idea of why Paradise Lost so often stands alone. It involves more characters and does tell more of an epic story, sweeping between heaven and earth with terrestrial business and celestial war.

Still, the poetess in me was again absorbed in Milton's way with verse.

"Yet he who reigns within himself, and rules
Passions, Desires, and Fears, is more a King;
Which every wise and virtuous man attains:
And who attains not, ill aspires to rule
Cities of men...
Subject himself to Anarchy within..."

Though I'll admit I got more of a thrill watching the Son as the dominant warrior in the first poem, it was also great listening to him outwit his artful adversary here. Then, after his deeds Above Heroic done before none but an audience of praising angels, what else does the Son do but have a meal, leave the site of triumph, and privately head back to his mother's house?

Hm. What else indeed.

"...and now thou hast aveng'd
Supplanted Adam, and by vanquishing
Temptation, hast regain'd lost Paradise...
on thy glorious work
Now enter, and begin to save mankind."
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