Guest Author - Sheena Esther Janakie
John Milton was an English poet and civil servant of the Commonwealth of England under Oliver Cromwell, Lord Protector of the Commonwealth. Milton was also known as a polemicist. A polemic is an argument that is used to establish the truth of a certain belief as well as to falsify the argument against the said belief. His most famous polemic work is Aeropagitica, which is a defense of free speech and a condemnation of pre-publication censorship.
Milton was a literary genius who wrote in not one but three languages – English, Latin and Italian. But these three were not the only three languages he knew, for he was also well-versed in many other languages including French, German, and Greek to name but a few.
Before the Commonwealth of England was formed, he was thought of as a dangerously radical person because of his political views. But all that changed after the establishment of the Commonwealth, where his political views earned him a position as a civil servant.
Milton's fortunes fluctuated once more after the restoration in 1660, for with the fall of the Cromwell government, he was stripped of his political office and was living in fear of his life. During this time, he also lost his eyesight. But this did not deter him one bit, for it is during this time that some of his greatest works were born. Although blind, he dictated his poems to his daughters and friends who helped write them down.
One of the best works Milton churned out during this time was his Paradise Lost. It can easily be termed his magnum opus. It is an epic poem. An epic poem is a long narrative poem that often deals with a very serious subject, and contains details of many heroic deeds and events. Examples of other epic poems are Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey, Valmiki’s Ramayana, Virgil’s Aeneid, and Ovid’s Metamorphoses.
Paradise Lost is considered to be one of the most important and one of the greatest literary works in all of English Literature. It deals with the “fall of man” as recorded in the Bile. It deals, more specifically, with the temptations of Adam and Eve and their eventual expulsion from the Garden of Eden. In his own words, Paradise Lost was written to “justify the ways of God to men”.
Here are some interesting facts about Paradise Lost:
The poem is divided into twelve books and the shortest one is 640 lines long.
The poem starts “in medias res” (in the midst of things”) in keeping with the epic tradition and the background is explained later.
Satan is the first major character introduced in the poem.
A companion poem is Milton’s own Paradise Regained, which deals with the subject of the temptation of Jesus Christ.