Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Paradise Lost - Day 19

More Paradise Lost in one month. Today I reached Book 8, Line 452.

Adam continues to press Raphael for information about the universe. He has doubts over the theory of a motionless earth that the rest of the universe spins around. The speed necessary for its orbit every 24 hours seem impossible. Raphael replies that many enquiries are pointless, and that Adam’s amazement at the stars may be misplaced (L 90-97):

consider first, that great
Or bright infers not excellence: the earth
Though, in comparison of heaven, so small,
Nor glistering, may of solid good contain
More plenty then the sun that barren shines,
Whose virtue on it self works no effect,
But in the fruitful earth; there first received
His beams, unactive else, their vigour find.

Raphael talks for a while about how the universe works. His ideas reflect current theories of his time and many will seem odd to us now, but Milton demonstrates incredible breadth of knowledge in Paradise Lost – contemporary scientific theory, theology, classical myth, literature etc. He knew it all. He often avoids coming down in favour of one scientific theory or another but incorporates many of them into his cosmological system, so that God isn’t tied into any human theories.

Adam is content when Raphael urges him not to over-indulge in imagination or speculative theory and turns to matters nearer at hand. He tells Raphael his own account of life since his creation, particularly the time when God led him to Paradise in what at first seemed a dream, a place where each tree (L 307-09):

Loaden with fairest fruit, that hung to the eye
Tempting, stirred in me sudden appetite
To pluck and eat

God reveals himself to Adam as the creator of all. Adam feels alone and says that the world, even Eden, isn’t enough. He has no equal to interact with. God says that he, himself, also has no equal. Does Adam consider him to be lonely? Adam replies that God can raise creatures to a divine level if he wants. God is pleased with Adam and says that he’s always planned to give him a companion.

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