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School of Humanities

Milton on the Radio

 

Milton on the Radio

 

“On the University Carrier” 

John Milton is often thought of as a dour Puritan, but in this early poem about the death of Thomas Hobson, a well-known local figure in Cambridge, he shows both tenderness and humor.  Hobson, who gives us the expression “Hobson’s choice,” ran a regular transportation service between Cambridge and London and finally died at the age of 86.  A reading by Robert J. Lares.

Here lies old Hobson, Death hath broke his girt,
And here alas, hath laid him in the dirt,
Or else the ways being foul, twenty to one,
He’s here stuck in a slough,* and overthrown.
‘Twas such a shifter, that if truth were known,
Death was half glad when he had got him down;
For he had any time this ten years full,
Dodged with him, betwixt Cambridge and the Bull.
And surely, Death could never have prevailed,
Had not his weekly course of carriage failed;
But lately finding him so long at home,
And thinking now his journey’s end was come,
And that he had tane up his latest inn,
In the kind office of a chamberlain
Showed him his room where he must lodge that night,
Pulled off his boots, and took away the light:
If any ask for him, it shall be said,
Hobson has supped, and ’s newly gone to bed.

*In the Oxford English Dictionary, this word rhymes with bow.

 

L’Allegro 69-76, 91-98

John Milton wrote two contrasting poems that debate lifestyle choices.  In the first, L’Allegro, Italian for “the happy man,” he describes the activities of a person who loves company.  In this portion of the poem, his descriptions of travels in the countryside are particularly delightful.  A reading by Tanja Nathanael.

Straight mine eye hath caught new pleasures
Whilst the lantskip* round it measures,
Russet lawns, and fallows gray,
Where the nibbling flocks do stray,
Mountains on whose barren breast
The laboring clouds do often rest:
Meadows trim with daisies pied,**
Shallow brooks, and rivers wide.
. . . .

Sometimes with secure delight
The up-land Hamlets will invite,
When the merry Bells ring round,
And the jocond rebecs sound
To many a youth, and many a maid,
Dancing in the checkered shade;
And young and old come forth to play
On a sunshine holiday.

_____

* I.e., landscape, but read as written.

** Pronounced as in “Pied Piper.”

 

Il Penseroso 31-48

John Milton wrote two contrasting poems that debate lifestyle choices.  In the second, Il Penseroso, Italian for “the thoughtful man,” he demonstrates a preference for quiet activities away from the press of human company.  Here, he imaginatively calls on the spirit of this contemplative life. A reading by Craig Plunges. 

Come pensive nun, devout and pure,
Sober, steadfast, and demure,
All in a robe of darkest grain,
Flowing with majestic train,
And sable stole of cypress lawn,
Over thy decent shoulders drawn.
Come, but keep thy wonted state,
With even step, and musing gate,
And looks commercing with the skies,
Thy rapt soul sitting in thine eyes
There held in holy passion still,
Forget thy self to marble, till
With a sad leaden downward cast,
Thou fix them on the earth as fast.
And join with thee calm Peace, and Quiet,
Spare fast, that oft with gods doth diet,
And hears the muses in a ring,
Ay round about Jove’s altar sing.

 



Aereopagitica 

In his tract Areopagitica, John Milton argues for the freedom of the press, and particularly for ideas to be published and also considered before they are condemned. A reading by Karlie Herndon.

It was from out the rind of one apple tasted, that the knowledge of good and evil as two twins cleaving together leapt forth into the World. . . . And perhaps this is that doom which Adam fell into of knowing good and evil, that is to say of knowing good by evil. He that can apprehend and consider vice with all her baits and seeming pleasures, and yet abstain, and yet distinguish, and yet prefer that which is truly better, he is the true warfaring Christian. I cannot praise a fugitive and cloistered virtue, unexercised and unbreathed, that never sallies out and sees her adversary, but slinks out of the race, where that immortal garland is to be run for, not without dust and heat.

 



Areopagitica 

In his tract Areopagitica, John Milton argues for the freedom of the press, and particularly for ideas to be published before they are condemned.  A reading by Bryana Fern. 

Books are not absolutely dead things, but do contain a potency of life in them to be as active as that soul was whose progeny they are; nay they do preserve as in a vial the purest efficacy and extraction of that living intellect that bred them. I know they are as lively, and as vigorously productive, as those fabulous Dragons teeth; and being sown up and down, may chance to spring up armed men. . . . As good almost kill a Man as kill a good Book; who kills a Man kills a reasonable creature, God’s Image; but he who destroys a good Book, kills reason itself, kills the Image of God, as it were in the eye. . . . [A] good book is the precious life-blood of a master spirit, embalmed and treasured up on purpose to a life beyond life.

 

Lycidas 154-164                

John Milton wrote the poem Lycidas when he was still a young man.  The poem mourns the death by drowning of a young college friend, but it also mourns Milton’s own sense of mortality.  He did not know whether God would permit him to live long enough to write the poetry he felt called to write. His poem is full of powerful images.  A reading by Aaron Brasher. 

Ay me! whilst thee the shores and sounding seas
Wash far away, where’er thy bones are hurled;
Whether beyond the stormy Hebrides,       
Where thou perhaps under the whelming tide
Visit’st the bottom of the monstrous world;   
Or whether thou, to our moist vows denied,  
Sleep’st by the fable of Bellerus old,
Where the great Vision of the guarded mount
Looks toward Namancos and Bayona’s hold.
Look homeward, Angel now, and melt with ruth:    
And, O ye dolphins, waft the hapless youth.

 

Lycidas 165-173, 176-181

John Milton wrote the poem Lycidas when he was still a young man.  The poem mourns the death by drowning of a young college friend, but it also mourns Milton’s own sense of mortality.  He did not know whether God would permit him to live long enough to write the poetry he felt called to write. But at the close of the poem, he celebrates God’s consolation.  A reading by Olivia Clare.

Weep no more, woeful shepherds, weep no more,
For Lycidas, your sorrow, is not dead,          
Sunk though he be beneath the watery floor.
So sinks the day-star in the ocean bed,          
And yet anon repairs his drooping head,       
And tricks his beams, and with new-spangled ore
Flames in the forehead of the morning sky:  
So Lycidas sunk low, but mounted high,      
Through the dear might of Him that walked the waves,       

. . . . 

[He] hears the unexpressive nuptial song,     
In the blest kingdoms meek of joy and love. 
There entertain him all the Saints above,      
In solemn troops, and sweet societies,     
That sing, and singing in their glory move,
And wipe the tears for ever from his eyes.    

 



Masque Performed at Ludlow Castle (“Comus”)—244-264

When John Milton was still a young man, he wrote a dramatic entertainment often known as Comus. This text is more often read than produced, but it still speaks to Milton’s belief that only those people who loved goodness could produce beautiful poetry.  Here the evil tempter Comus himself is nevertheless overcome by a pure song.  A reading by Jennifer Bruton.

Can any mortal mixture of Earth’s mold
Breathe such divine enchanting ravishment?
Sure something holy lodges in that breast,
And with these raptures moves the vocal air
To testify his hidden residence;
How sweetly did they float upon the wings
Of silence, through the empty-vaulted night
At every fall smoothing the raven down
Of darkness ‘til it smiled: I have oft heard
My mother Circe with the Sirens three
Amidst the flowery-kirtled Naiades
Culling their potent herbs, and baleful drugs,
Who as they sung, would take the prisoned soul
And lap it in Elysium, Scylla wept
And chid her barking waves into attention,
And fell Charybdis murmur’d soft applause:
Yet they in pleasing slumber lull’d the sense,
And in sweet madness robbed it of itself,
But such a sacred, and home-felt delight,
Such sober certainty of waking bliss
I never heard till now.

 



Masque Performed at Ludlow Castle (“Comus”)—760-774 

When John Milton was still a young man, he wrote a dramatic entertainment often known as Comus. This text is more often read than produced, but its poetry is still fresh in its powerful arguments for a temperate life-style.  Here one of the central characters, the Lady, argues against her tempter.  A reading by Sherita Johnson.

I hate when vice can bolt her arguments
And virtue has no tongue to check her pride.
Impostor, do not charge most innocent nature,
As if she would her children should be riotous
With her abundance. She good cateress
Means her provision only to the good
That live according to her sober laws,
And holy dictate of spare Temperance.
If every just man that now pines with want
Had but a moderate and beseeming share
Of that which lewdly-pampered Luxury
Now heaps upon some few with vast excess,
Nature’s full blessings would be well dispensed
In un-superfluous even proportion,
And she no whit encumbered with her store.

 



Nativity Ode, XIII-IV 

John Milton wrote his Nativity Ode when he was only twenty-one, but it would probably still be anthologized in poetry collections even if he had never written anything else.  Here in two stanzas read by Lorena Cohea, the speaker voices his doomed wish that the world could be saved by beauty alone. 

On the Morning of Christ’s Nativity

Ring out ye crystal spheres,
Once bless our human ears,
(If ye have power to touch our senses so)
And let your silver chime
Move in melodious time;
And let the base of Heaven’s deep organ blow,
And with your nine-fold harmony
Make up full consort to the angelic symphony.
For if such holy song
Enwrap our fancy long,
Time will run back, and fetch the age of gold,
And speckled vanity
Will sicken soon and die,
And leprous sin will melt from earthly mould,
And Hell itself will pass away,
And leave her dolorous mansions to the peering day. 

 



Paradise Lost 1.1-13

Paradise Lost, John Milton’s great epic poem, begins with a 26-line invocation that both describes his project and asks for God’s help in completing it. Here, in a reading by Kevin Thomason, are the first thirteen lines.

 

Of man’s first disobedience, and the fruit      
Of that forbidden tree whose mortal taste       
Brought death into the world, and all our woe,          
With loss of Eden, till one greater Man          
Restore us, and regain the blissful Seat,
Sing, Heavenly Muse, that, on the secret top 
Of Oreb, or of Sinai, didst inspire      
That Shepherd who first taught the chosen seed        
In the beginning how the heavens and earth   
Rose out of Chaos: or, if Sion hill
Delight thee more, and Siloa’s brook that flowed      
Fast by the oracle of God, I thence     
Invoke thy aid to my adventurous song.

 

 



Paradise Lost 1.14-26  

Paradise Lost, John Milton’s great epic poem, begins with 26 lines that both describe his project and ask for God’s help in completing it. Here, in a reading by Logan McCarthy, is part of that invocation.

[That] with no middle flight intends to soar
Above the Aonian mount, while it pursues
Things unattempted yet in prose or rhyme.    
And chiefly Thou, O Spirit, that dost prefer   
Before all temples the upright heart and pure,
Instruct me, for Thou know’st; Thou from the first   
Wast present, and, with mighty wings outspread,
Dove-like sat’st brooding on the vast abyss,  
And mad’st it pregnant.  What in me is dark  
Illumine, what is low raise and support;         
That, to the height of this great argument,      
I may assert eternal providence,
And justify the ways of God to men.

 



 Paradise Lost 1:40-53

At the beginning of John Milton’s great epic Paradise Lost, he provides a vivid overview of Satan’s rebellion and fall from Heaven.  The very cadence of the lines themselves parallel Satan’s descent and punishment.  A reading by Gavin Wallace

He trusted to have equaled the Most High
If he opposed, and, with ambitious aim
Against the throne and monarchy of God,
Raised impious war in Heaven and battle proud,
With vain attempt.  Him the Almighty Power
Hurled headlong flaming from the ethereal sky,
With hideous ruin and combustion, down
To bottomless perdition, there to dwell
In adamantine chains and penal fire,
Who durst defy the Omnipotent to arms.
Nine times the space that measures day and night
To mortal men, he, with his horrid crew,
Lay vanquished, rolling in the fiery gulf.
Confounded, though immortal.

 

Paradise Lost 1:192-208

In his great epic Paradise Lost, John Milton often makes use of epic similes, or extended comparisons between one action and another.  In his first epic simile, he compares the fallen Satan on the lake of fire to a whale at night, in which a seaman might put his anchor with disastrous consequences.  A reading by Joseph Sigurdson.

Thus Satan talking to his nearest mate
With head up-lift above the wave, and eyes
That sparkling blazed, his other parts besides
Prone on the flood, extended long and large
Lay floating many a rood, in bulk as huge
As whom the fables name of monstrous size,
Titanian, or Earth-born that warred on Jove,
Briareos or Typhon, whom the den
By ancient Tarsus held, or that sea-beast
Leviathan, which God of all his works
Created hugest that swim the ocean stream
Him haply slumbering on the Norway foam
The pilot of some small night-foundered skiff,
Deeming some island, oft, as seamen tell,
With fixed anchor in his scaly rind
Moors by his side under the lee, while night
Invests the sea, and wished morn delays.

 

Paradise Lost 1:670-675, 678-692

One of the first actions of the fallen angels in John Milton’s great epic poem Paradise Lost is to build in hell their capital city of Pandemonium, a word that Milton coined and that means “all demons.”  In this passage, we see this city associated with the love of money, the root of all evil.  A reading by Alex Leis.

There stood a Hill not far whose grisly top
Belched fire and rolling smoke; the rest entire
Shone with a glossy scurf, undoubted sign
That in his womb was hid metallic ore,
The work of sulphur. Thither winged with speed,
A numerous brigade hastened.

                                      Mammon led them on,
Mammon, the least erected spirit that fell
From Heaven, for even in Heaven his looks and thoughts
Were always downward bent, admiring more
The riches of Heaven’s pavement, trodden gold,
Then aught divine or holy else enjoyed
In vision beatific: by him first
Men also, and by his suggestion taught,
Ransacked the center, and with impious hands
Rifled the bowels of their mother Earth
For treasures better hid. Soon had his crew
Opened into the hill a spacious wound
And digged out ribs of gold. Let none admire
That riches grow in Hell; that soil may best
Deserve the precious bane.

 



Paradise Lost 1:713-730 

John Milton actually coined the word Pandemonium as the name for the capital city Satan builds in hell.  The word means “all demons.” Here in this reading by Tanja Nathanael we see how luxurious the building is, but also how wrong-headed. It is copying earth rather than heaven.  

Built like a temple, where pilasters round
Were set, and Doric pillars overlaid
With golden architrave; nor did there want
Cornice or frieze, with bossy sculptures graven,
The roof was fretted gold. Not Babylon,
Nor great Alcairo such magnificence
Equaled in all their glories, to enshrine
Belus or Serapis their gods or seat
Their Kings, when Egypt with Assyria strove
In wealth and luxury. The ascending pile
Stood fixed her stately height, and strait the doors,
Opening their brazen folds, discover wide
Within, her ample spaces o’er the smooth
And level pavement; from the archèd roof
Pendant by subtle magic many a row
Of starry lamps and blazing cressets fed
With naphtha and asphaltus yielded light
As from a sky. 

 

Paradise Lost 2:142-154

One memorable episode in John Milton’s great epic poem Paradise Lost is a council of fallen angels held in hell, in the capital of Pandemonium.  In this one, the false but attractive god Belial argues against a second attack against heaven, especially one that could lead to utter annihilation.  A reading by Leah Holmes.

Thus repulsed, our final hope
Is flat despair; we must exasperate
The Almighty victor to spend all his rage,
And that must end us, that must be our cure,
To be no more.  Sad cure! for who would lose,
Though full of pain, this intellectual being,
Those thoughts that wander through eternity,
To perish rather, swallowed up and lost
In the wide womb of uncreated night,
Devoid of sense and motion?  And who knows,
Let this be good, whether our angry Foe
Can give it, or will ever?  How he can
Is doubtful; that he never will is sure.

 

Paradise Lost 3:1-12

John Milton dictated his great epic Paradise Lost when he himself was blind.  In this passage read by Emily Prehn, he calls on light itself.

Hail holy light, offspring of Heaven first-born,
Or of the eternal coeternal beam
May I express thee unblamed? Since God is light,
And never but in unapproached light
Dwelt from eternity—dwelt then in thee,
Bright effluence of bright essence increate!
Or hear’st thou rather pure ethereal stream,
Whose Fountain who shall tell? Before the sun,
Before the heavens, thou wert, and at the voice
Of God, as with a mantle didst invest
The rising world of waters dark and deep,
Won from the void and formless infinite.

 

Paradise Lost, 4.1-12 

In John Milton’s great epic poem Paradise Lost, the fallen Satan visits the unfallen Eden. Adam and Eve are richly warned about Satan in the epic, but so great is their loss that book 4 begins with the wish that even more warnings had been uttered, a reading by Katie Coxwell.

O for that warning voice, which he who saw 
The Apocalypse heard cry in Heaven aloud,  
Then when the Dragon, put to second rout,   
Came furious down to be revenged on men,  
Woe to the inhabitants on Earth! that now,
While time was, our first parents had been warned    
The coming of their secret Foe, and ‘scaped, 
Haply so ‘scaped, his mortal snare! For now 
Satan, now first inflamed with rage, came down,       
The tempter, ere the accuser, of mankind,
To wreak on innocent frail Man his loss        
Of that first battle, and his flight to Hell.

 

Paradise Lost 4:192-204

Introduction: In John Milton’s great epic poem, Paradise Lost, the fallen Satan visits the unfallen Eden. His entry into the garden is vividly described with biblical images. In this reading by Tanja Nathanael.

So climbed this first grand thief into God’s fold:       
So since into his Church lewd hirelings climb.   
Thence up he flew, and on the Tree of Life,   
The middle tree and highest there that grew,
Sat like a cormorant; yet not true life  
Thereby regained, but sat devising death        
To them who lived; nor on the virtue thought
Of that life-giving plant, but only used           
For prospect what, well used, had been the pledge
Of immortality. So little knows          
Any, but God alone, to value right     
The good before him, but perverts best things
To worst abuse, or to their meanest use.

 

Paradise Lost 4:358-373

We are introduced to the unfallen Adam and Eve in John Milton’s great epic Paradise Lost through the envious eyes of Satan, who admires them even as he plots their overthrow.  A reading by Matthew Casey

O Hell! what do mine eyes with grief behold,
Into our room of bliss thus high advanced
Creatures of other mold, earth-born perhaps,
Not spirits, yet to heavenly spirits bright
Little inferior; whom my thoughts pursue
With wonder, and could love, so lively shines
In them divine resemblance, and such grace
The hand that formed them on their shape hath poured.
Ah gentle pair, ye little think how nigh
Your change approaches, when all these delights
Will vanish and deliver ye to woe,
More woe, the more your taste is now of joy;
Happy, but for so happy ill secured
Long to continue, and this high seat your heaven
Ill fenced for Heaven to keep out such a foe
As now is entered. . . .

 

Paradise Lost 4:449-468

Often in John Milton’s great epic poem Paradise Lost we see classical myths being held up as inferior to the surer message of the Bible.  In this reading by Jennifer Bruton, Eve tells how she was saved by God’s intervention from the same fate as Narcissus, who pined away longing for his own image.

That day I oft remember, when from sleep
I first awaked, and found myself reposed
Under a shade of flowers, much wondering where
And what I was, whence thither brought, and how.
Not distant far from thence a murmuring sound
Of waters issued from a cave and spread
Into a liquid plain, then stood unmoved,
Pure as the expanse of Heaven; I thither went
With unexperienced thought, and laid me down
On the green bank, to look into the clear
Smooth lake, that to me seemed another sky.
As I bent down to look, just opposite,
A shape within the watery gleam appeared
Bending to look on me, I started back,
It started back, but pleased I soon returned,
Pleased it returned as soon with answering looks
Of sympathy and love.  There I had fixed
Mine eyes ‘til now, and pined with vain desire,
Had not a voice thus warned me: ‘What thou seest,
What there thou seest, fair creature, is thyself.’

 

Paradise Lost 4:830-840, 844-849 

In one episode of John Milton’s great epic poem Paradise Lost, Satan has invaded the garden of Eden to tempt the human pair only to be apprehended by the angelic guard, who demand to know his name.  He proudly hints who he is but is then abashed to learn that his fall has meant the loss of glory.  A reading by Matthew Casey.

Not to know me argues yourselves unknown,
The lowest of your throng; or if ye know,
Why ask ye, and superfluous begin
Your message, like to end as much in vain?
To whom thus Zephon, answering scorn with scorn.
Think not, revolted Spirit, thy shape the same,
Or undiminished brightness, to be known
As when thou stood’st in Heav’n upright and pure;
That glory then, when thou no more wast good,
Departed from thee, and thou resemblest now
Thy sin and place of doom obscure and foul.
. . . .
So spake the Cherub, and his grave rebuke
Severe in youthful beauty, added grace
Invincible.  Abashed the Devil stood,
And felt how awful goodness is, and saw
Virtue in her shape how lovely, saw, and pined
His loss.

 

Paradise Lost 5:153-165 

John Milton’s great epic Paradise Lost is full of passages of great beauty.  In this one, the yet unfallen Adam and Eve sing a morning hymn.  A reading by Joyce Inman

These are thy glorious works, parent of good,
Almighty, thine this universal frame,
Thus wondrous fair; thy self how wondrous then!
Unspeakable, who sit’st above these heavens
To us invisible or dimly seen
In these thy lowest works, yet these declare
Thy goodness beyond thought, and power divine.
Speak ye who best can tell, ye sons of light,
Angels, for ye behold him, and with songs
And choral symphonies, day without night,
Circle his throne rejoicing, ye in Heaven,
On earth join all ye creatures to extol
Him first, him last, him midst, and without end.

 

Paradise Lost 6:801-816 (The pre-incarnate Son signals that he will end the war in heaven) 

John Milton’s great epic poem Paradise Lost includes not only thrilling narration but also wonderful speeches by various characters.  Here the preincarnate Son of God tells the unfallen angels of heaven that he is entering the battle and alone can defeat all their adversaries.  A reading by Bryana Fern

Stand still in bright array, ye saints; here stand
Ye Angels armed, this day from battle rest.
Faithful hath been your warfare and of God
Accepted, fearless in his righteous cause,
And as ye have received, so have ye done
Invincibly; but of this cursèd crew
The punishment to other hand belongs;
Vengeance is his or whose he sole appoints.
Number to this day’s work is not ordained
Nor multitude; stand only and behold
God’s indignation on these Godless poured
By me, not you but me they have despised,
Yet envied; against me is all their rage,
Because the Father, to whom in Heaven supreme
Kingdom and Power and Glory appertains,
Hath honored me according to his will.

 

Paradise Lost 7:225-242  

In John Milton’s great epic poem Paradise Lost, the archangel Raphael describes the beginning of creation in terms of light and darkness, height and depth, and vast distances.  A reading by Wilbur Martin

He took the golden Compasses, prepared
In God’s eternal store, to circumscribe
This universe and all created things.
One foot he centered and the other turned
Round through the vast profundity obscure
And said, ‘thus far extend, thus far thy bounds,
This be thy just circumference, O world.’
Thus God the heaven created, thus the earth,
Matter unformed and void. Darkness profound
Covered the abyss: but on the watery calm
His brooding wings the Spirit of God outspread
And vital virtue infused and vital warmth
Throughout the fluid Mass, but downward purged
The black tartareous cold Infernal dregs
Adverse to life: then founded, then conglobed
Like things to like, the rest to several place
Disparted, and between spun out the Air,
And earth self-balanced on her center hung.

 

Paradise Lost 7:243-260 

Book 7 of John Milton’s great epic poem Paradise Lost celebrates the creation account from Genesis.  Here, Milton repeats some of the language from the King James Bible as he describes the first day’s work.  A reading by Jessica Ramer.

‘Let there be light,’ said God, and forthwith light
Ethereal, first of things, quintessence pure
Sprung from the deep, and from her native east
To journey through the airy gloom began,
Sphered in a radiant cloud, for yet the Sun
Was not; she in a cloudy tabernacle
Sojourned the while. God saw the light was good
And light from darkness by the hemisphere
Divided: light, “the day,” and darkness, “night”
He named. Thus was the first day, ev’n, and morn.
Nor passed uncelebrated nor unsung
By the celestial choirs when orient light
Exhaling first from darkness they beheld;
Birthday of heaven and earth; with joy and shout
The hollow universal orb they filled,
And touched their golden harps, and hymning praised
God and his works, creator him they sung,
Both when first evening was, and when first morn. 

 




Paradise Lost, 9.455-466 

One argument that John Milton makes in his great epic Paradise Lost is that good is not only superior to evil, but even more beautiful and awe-inspiring.  In this scene, Satan has entered the garden to tempt Eve, but at first he is struck by the beauty of her unfallen innocence.  A reading by Kullen Burnet.

Such pleasure took the serpent to behold
This flowery plat, the sweet recess of Eve
Thus early, thus alone; her heavenly form
Angelic, but more soft, and feminine,
Her graceful innocence, her every air
Of gesture or least action overawed
His malice, and with rapine sweet bereaved
His fierceness of the fierce intent it brought.
That space the evil one abstracted stood
From his own evil, and for the time remained
Stupidly good, of enmity disarmed,
Of guile, of hate, of envy, of revenge.

 

Paradise Lost 9:532-542 

One of the remarkable features of John Milton’s great epic poem Paradise Lost is how well he joins the sound of his poetry to the sense of what he is expressing.  Here, in a reading by Douglas Chambers, we literally hear hissing in Satan’s flattering temptation to Eve in the garden.  

Wonder not, sovereign mistress, if perhaps
Thou canst, who art sole wonder, much less arm
Thy looks, the heaven of mildness, with disdain,
Displeased that I approach thee thus, and gaze
Insatiate, I thus single, nor have feared
Thy awful brow, more awful thus retired.
Fairest resemblance of thy Maker faire,
Thee all things living gaze on, all things thine
By gift, and thy celestial beauty adore
With ravishment beheld, there best beheld
Where universally admired. 

Paradise Lost 9:776-792 (The moment of Eve’s trespass and her introductory words) 

In one of the saddest moments of John Milton’s great epic poem Paradise Lost, Eve yields to temptation and eats the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil, with disastrous results.  A reading by Anna Carson Tyner.

Here grows the cure of all, this fruit divine,
Fair to the eye, inviting to the taste,
Of virtue to make wise: what hinders then
To reach, and feed at once both body and mind?
So saying, her rash hand in evil hour
Forth reaching to the fruit, she plucked, she ate*:
Earth felt the wound, and nature from her seat
Sighing through all her works gave signs of woe,
That all was lost. Back to the thicket slunk
The guilty serpent, and well might, for Eve
Intent now wholly on her taste, naught else
Regarded, such delight till then, as seemed,
In fruit she never tasted, whether true
Or fancied so, through expectation high
Of knowledge, nor was Godhead from her thought.
Greedily she engorged without restraint,
And knew not eating Death. . . .

*pronounced ett

 

Paradise Lost 11:366-383

Toward the end of John Milton’s great epic poem Paradise Lost, the archangel Michael shows the fallen Adam what will now happen future generations.  In this passage, Michael invites Adam to climb up a high hill to see the future.  A reading by Leah Holmes.

                                               Ascend
This Hill; let Eve (for I have drenched her eyes)
Here sleep below while thou to foresight wak’st,
As once thou slepst, while she to life was formed.

To whom thus Adam gratefully replied:—
Ascend, I follow thee, safe guide, the path
Thou lead’st me, and to the hand of Heav’n submit,
However chastening—to the evil turn
My obvious breast, arming to overcome
By suffering, and earn rest from labor won,
If so I may attain. So both ascend
In the visions of God: It was a hill
Of Paradise the highest, from whose top
The hemisphere of Earth in clearest ken
Stretched out to amplest reach of prospect lay.
Not higher that hill nor wider looking round,
Whereon for different cause the Tempter set
Our second Adam in the wilderness,
To show him all Earths kingdoms and their glory.

 

Paradise Lost 12:451-469

Toward the end of John Milton’s great epic poem Paradise Lost, the archangel Michael shows the fallen Adam what will happen in future generations.  Here he describes the ascension of Christ after his resurrection, with the promise of future glory to his followers.  A reading by Leah Holmes.

         Then to the Heaven of Heavens he shall ascend
With victory, triumphing through the air
Over his foes and thine; there shall surprise
The Serpent, Prince of air, and drag in chains
Through all his realm, and there confounded leave;
Then enter into glory, and resume
His seat at God’s right hand, exalted high
Above all names in Heaven; and thence shall come,
When this World’s dissolution shall be ripe,
With glory and power to judge both quick and dead
To judge th’unfaithful dead, but to reward
His faithful, and receive them into bliss,
Whether in Heav’n or earth, for then the earth
Shall all be paradise, far happier place
Then this of Eden, and far happier days.

So spake th’ Archangel Michael, then paused,
As at the world’s great period; and our sire
Replete with joy and wonder thus replied:—

O goodness infinite, goodness immense!

 

Paradise Lost 12:535-551

Toward the end of John Milton’s great epic poem Paradise Lost, the archangel Michael shows the fallen Adam what will now happen in future generations, and especially how the promise of redemption that God makes in the garden will play out at the end of time.  A reading by Christopher Foley.

                                          Truth shall retire
Bestuck with slanderous darts, and works of Faith
Rarely be found.  So shall the World go on,
To good malignant, to bad men benign,
Under her own weight groaning, till the day
Appear of respiration to the just
And vengeance to the wicked, at return
Of him so lately promised to thy aid,
The Woman’s Seed—obscurely then foretold,
Now amplier known thy Savior and thy Lord,
Last in the Clouds from Heaven to be revealed
In glory of the Father, to dissolve
Satan with his perverted World; then raise
From the conflagrant mass, purged and refined,
New Heavens, new earth, ages of endless date
Founded in righteousness and peace and love
To bring forth fruits joy and eternal bliss.

 

Paradise Lost 12.561-573 

Toward the end of John Milton’s great epic poem, Paradise Lost, Adam is comforted about the future and taught to endure it. In the following speech read by Jessica Ramer, Adam summarizes his lesson. 

Henceforth I learn that to obey is best,
And love with fear the only God, to walk     
As in his presence, ever to observe    
His providence, and on him sole depend,       
Merciful over all his works, with good
Still overcoming evil, and by small    
Accomplishing great things, by things deemed weak 
Subverting worldly-strong, and worldly-wise
By simply meek; that suffering for truth’s sake     
Is fortitude to highest victory,
And to the faithful death the gate of life:
Taught this by his example whom I now       
Acknowledge my redeemer ever blest.

 

 

Paradise Lost 12.626-640

Paradise Lost, John Milton’s great epic poem, ends with a 26-line conclusion that pictures the expulsion of Adam and Eve from Paradise, though not without hope.  Here are the first fifteen lines of that conclusion, read by Catie Naylor:

The Archangel stood, and from the other hill  
To their fixed station, all in bright array,     
The cherubim descended, on the ground        
Gliding meteorous, as evening mist   
Risen from a river o’er the marish glides,
And gathers ground fast at the laborer’s heel 
Homeward returning.  High in front advanced,      
The brandished sword of God before them blazed,  Fierce as a comet; which with torrid heat,      
And vapor at the Libyan air adust,
Began to parch that temperate clime; whereat 
In either hand the hastening angel caught
Our lingering parents, and to the eastern gate 
Led them direct, and down the cliff as fast     
To the subjected plain—then disappeared.

 

Paradise Lost 12:637-649

John Milton’s great epic poem Paradise Lost ends on a sober but hopeful note.  Although Adam and Eve must leave paradise, now guarded by flaming cherubim, they leave with God’s promise.  A reading by Christopher Foley.

In either hand the hastening Angel caught
Our lingering parents, and to the Eastern Gate
Led them direct, and down the cliff as fast
To the subjected plain; then disappeared.
They looking back, all the Eastern side beheld
Of Paradise, so late their happy seat,
Waved over by that flaming Brand, the Gate
With dreadful faces thronged and fiery arms:
Some natural tears they dropped, but wiped them soon;
The world was all before them, where to choose
Their place of rest, and Providence their guide:
They hand in hand with wandering steps and slow,
Through Eden took their solitary way.

 

 
Sonnet 19, “On His Blindness” 

John Milton went blind sometime in the early 1650s, and he was blind when he wrote his great epic, Paradise Lost.  Some of his frustration with his blindness can be heard in the following sonnet read by Amanda Boé.

When I consider how my light is spent          
Ere half my days, in this dark world and wide,     
And that one Talent which is death to hide,    
Lodged with me useless, though my Soul more bent 
To serve therewith my Maker, and present
My true account, least he returning chide,      
Doth God exact day-labor, light denied,         
I fondly ask; But patience to prevent  
That murmur, soon replies, God doth not need          
Either man’s work or his own gifts, who best
Bear his mild yoke, they serve him best, his State      
Is Kingly. Thousands at his bidding speed    
And post o’er Land and Ocean without rest:  
They also serve who only stand and wait.

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