Sunday, February 27, 2011

Book VI: Bum's Rush

As our reading of book 6 comes near to the end, a few things stood out in our discussion. To briefly summarize, Milton pulls out all the stops in bringing the first, cyclic half of his poem to a climax:

- the three-day structure of the book echoes the larger three-part structure of the poem, and of sacred history, which begins with a war in heaven, continues with a messianic triumph on Earth, and concludes with an apocalyptic final battle at the end of time.

- the hint that God and his creation are moving toward an ultimate convergence when God shall be "all in all."

- the diminished role of Satan, who is not directly presented or given a speech, yet ends up being mercilessly parodied.

- Milton's flawless use of Homer and the Bible, especially Exodus and Ezekiel, in portraying the action of the third day, when the Son in his Chariot singlehandedly triumphs over the rebel angels. The parallel with Achilles, whose rage dooms him, and the parody of Satan as a misguided Moses, leading his people to take a final stand before an onrushing King, only to find that instead of the Red Sea rolling back, the walls of heaven part to disclose a Promised Wasteland.

- The remarkable structure of the poem that presents a complete whole, or circle, narrating the doom of fallen Satan, then with Book VII opens a new book, a new world, and a new sense of what is at stake, of what can be lost, and where this might lead,
with wandering steps and slow.
Whatever the second half of Paradise Lost is, it is not a circle.

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