Friday, January 29, 2010

Paradise Lost 3: Milton and Blake

Blake said (see the previous post) that Milton, being a true poet, was of the devil's party without knowing it; this is a brilliant insight even it if it is wrong in one respect, as I believe it is: Milton knew what he was doing when he made Satan's poetry more dramatic, more interesting, more human than God's. We are all sinners; had we been in Satan's position, we too would have rebelled; in Eve's and Adam's position, we too would have "fallen." Now, reading this poem, we admire the speed and energy of the poem, which may be Satanic, and ask impertinent questions about divine entrapment. God, of course can explain all that and does, in extraordinarily lucid and acute philosophical-theological detail, but you have to be a Believer to follow the poetry of his explanation and accept it as poetry. And that's the point: this is a poem that only Believers can read and be properly moved by, in its entirety, as a poem. The same is true, I suppose, of Dante's Divine Comedy: we can appreciate the Inferno and, to some extent, the Purgatorio, because we can understand even if we cannot quite accept the theological definition of 'sin' as an offense against a God that few educated readers of these poems now believe in. I, of course, am one of the multitude of sinners who are now constitutionally incapable of properly appreciating either Paradise Lost or the Paradisio.

I don't think one has to believe in the Greek gods in order to read the Iliad or Odyssey . . .


  1. Did Blake understand that the poet who wrote Psalm 115 (and maybe all the psalms) was of the Devil's party? In Psalm 115:17 we read "The dead praise not the Lord."

  2. thank you. this is a nice post.try to improve quicker. we read "the dead praise not the lord."