ABSTRACT

Realizing that the desire to achieve “Things unattempted yet in Prose or Rhyme” offers a potential for sin, Milton employs parallels between the narrator of Paradise Lost and Satan to indicate his awareness that great endeavors, even his own, may be pridefully motivated. But he defines carefully the difference between his “advent'rous” singing and satanic overreaching. The sharp contrast between the narrator's dependence on divine guidance and Satan's claims of self-sufficiency is repeatedly asserted within the context of striking similarities: both poet and Devil undertake great adventures; both, dwelling in hostile darkness, soar toward light; both, in need of direction, seek guidance from light (holy Light, Uriel) and primal sources of hexaemeral knowledge (Urania, Uriel). Milton supports such general parallels by the repetition of specific details and by numerous verbal echoes. But Satan lies to Uriel, curses the sun, and, inverting the poet's creative impulse, invokes his proper muse in Chaos. The devils can sing; they pursue the philosophical issues with which Paradise Lost is concerned; they build “Monument [s] / Of merit high.” These satanic perversions of good mean more than that the devils are bad; they mean that man may be beguiled by some “fair appearing good.” A Solomon may fall “To Idols foul.” A poet exploring “things invisible to mortal sight” must humbly hope that he is not deluded, that all is “Hers who brings it nightly to [his] Ear.”

The text of this article is only available as a PDF.
You do not currently have access to this content.