Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Paradise Lost

On Saturday I had a bit of a splurge on books at my local cheapo bookstore. For less than £20 I got 3 awesome collector's edition hardbacks, the stunning photo-bio U2 by U2 and a pair of stunningly illustrated classics, Dante's Divine Comedy and Milton's Paradise Lost. I've spend the last few days flicking through all three but it's Paradise Lost that's really got me hooked. The weaving together of fantasy and theology with unsurpassed mastery of the English language is just pure honey. Each of it's 12 books begins with a short burst of prose hinting at the poetry about to unfold. The ideas encapsulated in these little preludes ooze with spiritual significance, just check this out from the intro to Book III:
God, sitting on his throne, sees Satan flying towards this World, then newly created; shews him to the Son, who sat at his right hand; foretells the success of Satan in perverting mankind; clears his own Justice and Wisdom from all imputation, having created Man free, and able enough to have withstood his tempter; yet declares his purpose of grace towards him, in regard he fell not of his own malice, as did Satan, but by him seduced. The Son of God renders praises to his Father for the manifestation of his gracious purpose towards Man: but God again declares that Grace cannot be extended towards Man without the satisfaction of Divine Justice; Man hath offended the majesty of God by aspiring to Godhead, and therefore, with all his progeny, devoted to death, must die, unless some one can be found sufficient to answer for his offence, and undergo his punishment. The Son of God freely offers himself a ransom for Man: the Father accepts him, ordains his incarnation, pronounces his exaltation above all Names in Heaven and Earth; commands all the Angels to adore him. They obey, and, hymning to their harps in full quire, celebrate the Father and the Son...

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Mark said...

Milton is fantastic.

Here's a favorite excerpt from Paradise Lost I cited on my blog.

Paul Ede said...

Hi Matt,

Appreciate your choice of books! I've had a chance to read all three over the last few years, U2 by U2 being the last one to grip me. Esther and I couldn't it down. Blogged on it over on the UE site. But I have to say that Dante wipes the floor with Milton. But I can say that probably only cos I can enjoy it in the original Italian. The power and humour of his imagery (the schismatics get eternally sliced in half and then sewn up again - from chin to to "la dove si tranfulla" - "where one trumpets (farts!)") kick ass, and his placement of different people in both hell and paradise nothing short of scandalous. Some dodgy theology but intensely political, there's a reason the popes banned it - it was like the Satamic verses of its day. Different English translations are better than others but I'd encourage you to persevere. Milton is great as well - I remember imagining our students union as Pandemonium , before I became a Christian, and encouraging my girlfriend that I was getting closer to God!! I need to re-read Paradise Lost, though - its the one I remember least