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Paradise Lost by John Milton - Barron's Booknotes
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LINES 208-420. SENTENCE ON ADAM AND EVE

Adam's misgivings increase as he sees that the angel sent down is not Raphael, who is "sociably mild," but someone much sterner. He tells Eve to leave. She obeys at once.

From her hiding place she hears Michael tell Adam that they are to leave the garden. Her speech sounds like the reaction of any woman who is told she must leave a house where she has been happy. How can we even breathe the air anywhere else?

The archangel Michael tells Eve that she must adapt herself. She must follow her husband: "Where he abides, think there thy native soil."

Adam's sorrow comes from a different source, one more suitable to his direct connection with God. If he is no longer in Paradise, how will he be able to talk with God and his messengers, the angels? Michael assures him that God will be everywhere in the World. He gave all the earth, not merely Paradise, to man to rule, and if all had gone according to the original plan, eventually Adam's offspring would range out from Paradise, which would become a capital city.



In his love, God has sent Michael to show Adam how the world will develop. He makes Eve sleep while Adam sees images of the future-a reversal of the situation when Eve was made out of Adam's rib.

Michael and Adam go up Mount Niphates in order to look down on the earth. An epic comparison tells us that the hill is "not higher" or "wider looking round" than the hill from which Satan tempted Jesus Christ by showing him the whole World. The long string of names impresses with the sense that everything-even the Incas' cities in South America-can be seen from the hill. The comparison has a deeper significance: the temptation of Christ by Satan on the desert mountain is the subject of Paradise Regained, a much shorter poem. Milton was obviously thinking about it, because he refers to Christ in this passage as "our second Adam."

Michael treats Adam's eyes with herbs so that he may be better able to see what is in store. But Adam faints from the effects of three drops from the Well of Life and has to be revived.

NOTE: OLD AND NEW TESTAMENT HISTORY The events of the poem are now basically over, except for the unbearably sad departure from Paradise. If you have seen a tragedy or read one, you know that the final scenes usually bring you out of horror and despair by restoring the sense that life goes on. You are told what happens to the other characters after the main ones are dead. There is a sense of healing and hope for future calm.

The final part of Book XI and all of Book XII have this function in Paradise Lost. They constitute a flashforward to the events related in the Old and New Testaments of the Bible. The narrative takes us up to the Flood by the end of Book XI and continues through the life of Christ and a forecast of the Last Judgment in Book XII.

The Old Testament tells the history of the people in the countries surrounding the Red Sea and the Eastern Mediterranean, the countries we now call Israel, Egypt, Syria, Jordan, and Lebanon. It is a sacred text in three religions, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.

The New Testament is a sacred text in Christianity, which believes that Jesus Christ was the Messiah prophesied in the Old Testament. (Jesus is also a prophet in Islam, but he does not have the central status he has in Christianity. Judaism does not believe the Messiah has come yet.) The New Testament also gives us the history of the early Christian church, and it culminates in the Book of Revelation, a mystic vision from which Milton took much of his description of angels, heavenly ceremony, the War in Heaven, and the Last Judgment.

You will come away from a reading of Books XI and XII with a general overview of the main events in both testaments. But there's much more here than a simple summary; Milton gives his opinions on his political and religious enemies and explains Christian doctrine throughout.

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