Friday, November 26, 2010

High matter, warring spirits

The natural language and ordering of the world as found in Adam and Eve's morning orison, and in Raphael's description of the system of nature -- essentially a kind of heliotropism, all in keeping with the metaphorics of dawn in Book V -- seem to be jettisoned as the angel, in response to Adam's request, begins to tell the origin of the war in heaven.

High matter thou injoinst me, O prime of men,
Sad task and hard, for how shall I relate
To human sense th' invisible exploits [ 565 ]
Of warring Spirits;

It might be worth asking some straightforward questions about how Raphael/Milton choose to tell this story. For example, while it seems to narrate a tale with a clear beginning, a sharp conflict, and a definite ending (at the end of Book VI, which leads right into the opening scene of Book I), does it reflect the natural ordering of time, space, agency, etc. that belong to nature and science, or is this a different kind of telling? Does it obey what we normally think of as the dictates of Reason?

In the description of the angelic congregation (580 ff), much is made of hierarchies, degrees, flags, a kind of militant order, and geometry is invoked:
Thus when in Orbes
Of circuit inexpressible they stood, [ 595 ]
Orb within Orb
Any observations about this sort of mathematical ordering?

How does the angels' meal compare with that of Adam, Eve and Raphael?

Since all the angels were used to worshiping the Father, why does Satan begin to conceive malice when he hears the decree about the Son?

How odd is it to find God smiling, and the Son joining in his laughter at Satan?

How cogent is Satan's reasoning when he says:
rememberst thou
Thy making, while the Maker gave thee being?
We know no time when we were not as now;
How is Abdiel "seeing" when he says:
I see thy fall
How does he hear/know of these decrees:
other Decrees
Against thee are gon forth without recall;

Why does Abdiel leave the towers of Satan behind?

What other questions come to mind?

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