Saturday, April 13, 2024

John Milton

 (For general readers)

John Milton (1608-74) is a great name in English Literature, perhaps, next only to Shakespeare. He was a man of strong opinions and an adventurous mind. He took interest in politics of the day. He was against Monarchy. He wrote a lot of propaganda prose against King Charles I. After the king was beheaded, Oliver Cromwell assumed power and Milton was his close associate. But after the death of Oliver Cromwell Milton lost support and when Charles II became the king his life was in danger. Then Milton realized that he lost precious time in politics and turned to poetry. He wanted to write an epic on a grand theme and found that no less than the fall of Adam and Eve would suit his exalted purpose. He desired to write “things unattempted yet in prose or rhyme”. But because of ‘burning a lot of midnight oil’ he was losing his eye sight. He questions God how he can write when light is taken away from his eyes. He made his daughter write as he dictated. It is ironic that he lost his first wife, a son, a daughter and his second wife when he was writing Paradise Lost and when he was happy with his third wife he wrote Paradise Regained. Paradise Lost is also considered an allegory identifying Satan with the monarch and Cromwell as the redeemer.

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Paradise Lost is an epic poem that made Milton an icon in English literature. His recreation of the biblical story in high flown poetic diction, suited to the grand theme, makes the work a classic. His long tailed similes add breathtaking beauty to his poetic charm. So many Classical and Biblical references enrich the thought content though they present some problem for those not familiar with such things. Paradise Lost is in the form of 12 books and Paradise Regained in four.

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Paradise Lost is the story of man’s fall because of the malicious arguments of Satan who rebelled against God and failed. As he could not win over God he tries to destroy God’s creation, man. The first man, Adam and a part of him, Eve were in the Garden of Eden leading a heavenly life. God made them enjoy their world on the condition that they should not eat the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge. As Adam was steadfast in his faith, Satan tries to influence Eve to eat the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge. Eve eats the forbidden fruit and becomes liable for punishment by God. Adam was sad and unable to bear his separation from her. He too eats the fruit. Both of them get knowledge and become conscious of good and evil. God drives them out of the Garden of Eden, their Paradise. That is Paradise Lost. Then man becomes mortal and evil also becomes a part of his life.

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(to be continued)

Rajendra Singh Baisthakur
Rajendra Singh Baisthakur
Rajendra Singh Baisthakur had been a Lecturer in English. He is a poet, critic and translator. His interests are Literature, Philosophy and social media.


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