(for General Reader)
Paradise Lost: Book I
Paradise Lost Book I starts with wonderful lines that give us a blueprint of the matter that will follow. (This has been a standard practice in all ancient literature irrespective of language.)
“Of man’s first disobedience, and the fruit
Of that forbidden tree whose mortal taste
Brought death into this world, and all our woe”
Also read: “Corruption”
God created heaven and earth out of Chaos. He was the king of heaven and so many angels attended on him. But Satan, next only to God, organised a rebellion with his supporters to grab power. There was a war of gigantic proportions as it was a war between angels. Satan did not know that God is Omnipotent and had weapons like thunder which he never used before. So he got defeated and God threw him and his followers out of heaven. The fall took a very long time and they fell to a place without bottom, “bottomless perdition”. The place was full of sulphurous fire which did not give any light.
“A dungeon horrible, on all sides round,
As one great furnace flamed; yet from those flames
No light; but darkness visible”
‘Darkness visible’ is a wonderful figure of speech, Oxymoron, in which two words with opposite meaning are put together.
Satan, the leader of the fallen angels recovers first and feels miserable for losing happiness of heaven and be now in ‘lasting pain’. As he starts speaking, Beelzebub, his lieutenant wakes up. Then listening to his words all the others regain consciousness and feel ashamed like a servant caught sleeping on his duty. Satan goes on to mention the names of his great warriors one by one who are worshipped in different forms in different places. He reminded them that they were gods and great heroes though now defeated.
Also read: Are We Equal?
“………. What thought the field be lost?
All is not lost – the unconquerable will
And study of revenge, immortal hate
And courage never to submit or yield”
Those are Satan’s magic with words. He fills confidence in the hearts of his frightened soldiers.
“Fallen Cherub, to be weak is miserable,
Doing or suffering: but this be sure
To do aught good never will be our task,
But ever to do ill our sole delight,”
Revealing his nature thus, Satan goes on to say
A mind not to be changed by place or time
The mind is its own place, and in itself,
Can make a Heaven of Hell, a Hell of Heaven”
He feels ‘Better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven’. He extols them saying ‘Arise, awake or be forever fallen’. (Remembering Swami Vivekananda’s words!) He wants them to fight ‘by fraud or guile’. Satan’s words were electrifying and all his followers took out their swords and hit them on their shields to show their faithfulness to him. Inspired by the speech of Satan they all moved to a place away from the liquid fire they were in. At that ‘Pandemonium’ they held a meeting to decide their future course of action.
Also read: John Milton