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           John Milton
Paradise Lost

  Milton at sixty-two, engraving by William Faithorne from the frontispiece to Milton’s History of Britain (1670). (illustration credit fm1.1)

  2008 Modern Library Paperback Edition

  Introduction copyright © 2007 by Random House, Inc.

  Biographical note copyright © 2007 by Random House, Inc.

  All rights reserved.

  Published in the United States by Modern Library, an imprint of The Random House Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc., New York.

  MODERN LIBRARY and the TORCHBEARER Design are registered trademarks of Random House, Inc.

  Originally published in hardcover in the United States by Modern Library, an imprint of The Random House Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc., in 2007.

  Illustration credits can be found on this page.


  Milton, John, 1608–1674.

  Paradise lost/by John Milton; edited by William Kerrigan, John Rumrich, and Stephen M. Fallon.

  p. cm.

  Taken from The complete poetry and essential prose of John Milton. 2007.

  eISBN: 978-0-307-75789-0

  1. Bible. O.T. Genesis—History of Biblical events—Poetry.

  2. Adam (Biblical figure)—Poetry. 3. Eve (Biblical figure)—Poetry.

  4. Fall of man—Poetry. I. Kerrigan, William, II. Rumrich, John Peter III. Fallon, Stephen M. IV. Complete poetry and essential prose of John Milton. V. Title.

  PR3560 2008

  821′.4—dc22 2008009709




  Title Page









  Introduction to Prefatory Poems

  Book I • Book II • Book III • Book IV

  Book V • Book VI • Book VII • Book VIII

  Book IX • Book X • Book XI • Book XII



  About the Editors

  Other Books by This Author


  All illustrations are used with permission.

  fm1.1 Frontispiece portrait of John Milton, by William Faithorne. The History of Britain, 1670. Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center.

  itr.1 Fall of the Angels. The Caedmon Poems … and Facsimiles of the Illustrations in the Junius Manuscript. E. P. Dutton & Co., 1916.

  fm3.1 Portrait of Milton at age ten, by Cornelius Janssen. The Pierpont Morgan Library/Art Resource, N.Y.

  fm4.1 Paradise Lost 4.257–90. Paradise Lost. A Poem in Twelve Books, 1674. Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center.

  fm5.1 Paradise Lost, title page. Paradise Lost. A Poem in Twelve Books, 1674. Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center.

  2.1 Satan on His Throne, by John Martin. The Paradise Lost of John Milton. C. Whittingham, 1846. Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center.

  5.1 Raphael Visits Adam and Eve, by Gustave Doré. Milton’s Paradise Lost. Illustrated by Gustave Doré. Cassell, Petter, Galpin & Co., 1882. Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center.

  6.1 Expulsion of the Rebel Angels, by Francis Hayman. Paradise Lost. A Poem in Twelve Books. J. and R. Tonson and S. Draper, 1749. Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center.

  9.1 The Serpent Stands Before Eve, by Edward Burney. Milton’s Paradise Lost. C. Whittingham, 1800. Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center.


  Milton became entirely blind in 1652, just a short while before the death of his first wife, Mary Powell Milton, followed six weeks later by the death of their infant son, John. He married again in 1656. In 1658 Katharine Woodcock Milton died of complications arising from childbirth, again followed about six weeks later by the death of their infant daughter, Katharine. The political cause to which Milton had devoted two decades of his life suffered a resounding defeat with Charles II’s ascent to the throne in 1660. Through this time of loss and reversal, Milton kept busy on various prose projects, including his theological treatise Christian Doctrine, a Latin thesaurus, and his History of Britain. He translated a group of Psalms in 1653. He wrote the occasional sonnet. Then, probably before the Restoration, he shook off potential depression, concentrated his powers, and began composing the greatest long poem in the English language. “His great works,” Samuel Johnson declared, “were performed under discountenance, and in blindness, but difficulties vanished at his touch; he was born for whatever is arduous” (Thorpe 88).

  Though Edward Phillips did not mention these dates in his life of Milton, he told John Aubrey that the poem was begun “about 2 years before the king came in, and finished about three years after the king’s restoration” (lxvi). Although Milton associated literary creativity with the temperate Mediterranean climate that had nurtured Homer and Vergil, he himself composed Paradise Lost only during the winter, from the autumnal to the vernal equinox. Various secretaries copied it down. Milton’s habit was to rise early in the morning with “ten, twenty, or thirty verses” (Darbishire 73) ready for dictation. If his amanuensis happened to be late, he had a little joke ready, and “would complain, saying he wanted to be milked” (Darbishire 33).

  A major poem had long been his chief ambition. As early as At a Vacation Exercise in 1628, the nineteen-year-old undergraduate had magically suspended the expectations of a humorous ritual occasion to evoke the highest raptures of epic, “where the deep transported mind may soar/Above the wheeling poles, and at Heav’n’s door/Look in,” and “sing of secret things that came to pass/When beldam Nature in her cradle was.” For a time, as references in Manso and Epitaph for Damon reveal, he considered a specifically British poem shaped from Arthurian materials. Such a work would be “doctrinal and exemplary to a nation” (RCG in MLM 841). We do not know precisely why Milton abandoned this plan. He might have come to feel that a patriotic epic was simply too provincial, or that the choice of an early British king for a hero would commit the work to some degree of monarchism; then, too, he might have realized as maturity settled on him that he could admire Spenser without trying to duplicate his achievement.

  The first plans for a work on the Fall of man in the Garden of Eden appear in four outlines for a tragic drama in the Trinity College manuscript (CMS), probably drafted in the early 1640s. The third of these is called “Paradise Lost.” Adam and Eve do not take the stage until after the Fall, presumably because their “first naked glory” (PL 9.1115) could not be accommodated in a fallen theater. In the fourth and final version, which shifts from the outline format to narrative prose, Milton roughs in some features of Paradise Lost. Satan has a new prominence. The work will end with the expelling angel showing Adam a pageant about the fallen world he is soon to enter.


  Paradise Lost was published in 1667 by the bookseller Samuel Simmons, whose London shop was near Aldersgate. The Pierpont Morgan Library in New York possesses a manuscript of Book 1 of the poem in the hand of a copyist, and corrected by as many as five other hands, that was used to set the type for this edition (see Darbishire 1931 for a photographic facsimile). The contract stipulated that Milton was to be paid five pounds for the manuscript, another five pounds upon the sale of a first edition of thirteen hundred copies, and yet another five pounds upon the sale of a second edition of the same size. The earliest title page of the 1667 quarto identifies Paradise Lost as “A POEM Written in TEN BOOKS By JOHN MILTON.” Sales were apparently sluggish. Through 1668 and 1669, the edition was issued with four mo
re title pages, as Simmons added Milton’s note on unrhyming verse and his prose arguments summarizing the action of the poem book by book. When the first printing finally sold out in April 1669, Milton was paid a second five pounds.

  It was perhaps Dryden’s announcement in April 1674 that he would transform Paradise Lost into a heroic opera (this “never acted” opera was published as The State of Innocence in 1677) that led Simmons to print a second and octavo edition of the epic in July 1674. This book contained prefatory poems by Samuel Barrow (in Latin) and Andrew Marvell (in English). The epic was “amended, enlarged, and differently disposed as to the number of books, by his own hand, that is by his own appointment [by someone acting as his agent]” (Edward Phillips in Darbishire, 1932, 75). The shift from ten to twelve books meant dividing the original Book 7 into the new Books 7 and 8, with the addition of four new lines at the beginning of Book 8; the long Book 10 of the first edition was divided into Books 11 and 12, with five new lines at the beginning of Book 12. There were four other major revisions (the reworking of 1.5104–5, the expansion at 5.636–41, the addition of 11.485–87, the alteration of 11.551). The authority of the second edition cannot be doubted in these matters. An unwell Milton made an oral will on or about July 20, 1674, two weeks after the second publication of Paradise Lost, and died on November 9, 1674. The second edition of Paradise Lost was the last printing over which he exerted control.

  There are thirty-seven substantive differences between the two editions. In thirteen of these, the quarto text supplies the superior reading; in only eight is the octavo text superior; editors differ over the remaining sixteen (Moyles 22–26). It would seem from this evidence that editors should not, as many have claimed to do, adopt the 1674 octavo as a copy text and automatically follow it with regard to the accidentals of spelling and punctuation (Moyles 28). There are over eight hundred variants of this kind between the two editions. We have treated each as a separate case rather than defer to the rule of the copy text.

  Simmons published a third edition in 1678. A printer named Brabazon Aylmer purchased the poem from Simmons in 1680, then sold half of it to a young entrepreneur named Jacob Tonson. He was Dryden’s chief publisher and would become known for his beautiful editions of Shakespeare and Spenser. But Milton was his great love and, happily enough for a businessman, his great moneymaker too. He and Aylmer printed a folio-size fourth edition of the epic in 1688, adding illustrations, a frontispiece portrait of Milton, and an epigram by Dryden in which Milton is said to be the union of Homer and Vergil. Tonson purchased Aylmer’s half of the poem in 1691. He also obtained from Aylmer the manuscript of Book 1 now owned by the Pierpont Morgan Library. For the sixth edition, of 1695, Tonson added 321 pages of explanatory notes by Patrick Hume; no other English poem had ever been so lavishly annotated. Tonson and his family would print Paradise Lost, and other works by Milton, in various configurations again and again throughout the eighteenth century. When asked which poet had brought him the greatest financial profit, Tonson without hesitation replied “Milton” (Lynch 126). He had his portrait painted holding a copy of Paradise Lost.

  In 1732 a cantankerous, seventy-year-old academic named Richard Bentley, then England’s foremost classicist and a specialist in textual emendation, published a notorious edition of Paradise Lost. Believing that he had purified textual corruption in classical authors such as Manilius, Bentley brought the same methods to Milton’s modern epic. Blind, Milton was unable to correct wayward copyists. But Bentley, suspecting a more deliberate and insidious errancy, posited the existence of a “phantom” editor. Befuddled by Milton’s learning and linguistic precision, this unknown person rewrote the text to suit his own imbecility. Today the Bentley edition seems a work of glaring subjectivity. Truths about the epic, such as the immense thoughtfulness manifest in its details, do not break into the editor’s awareness because his attention is devoted wholly to his own theory and method. It was hardly a compliment to Milton to suppose that Paradise Lost as readers knew it was a work of genius systematically effaced by the work of a moron. But modern critics such as William Empson, Christopher Ricks, and John Leonard have been inspired by Bentley’s scrutiny of the minutiae of Milton’s style. Textual emendation became the rage in Shakespeare studies in the eighteenth century and is still widely practiced today. The aberration of Bentley’s Paradise Lost aside, it never caught on among Milton’s editors.

  The next notable edition was Thomas Newton’s beautiful two-volume variorum of 1749. Its copious and often unequaled annotations were mostly reprinted, with the addition of many new ones, in the 1826 variorum of Milton’s entire poetic works assembled by Reverend Henry Todd. Anyone who becomes seriously curious about the meaning of a particular word or passage in Milton will want to go back to Todd and Newton, and behind them to the first of Milton’s annotators, Patrick Hume. They will also want to explore works such as Jonathan Richardson’s Explanatory Notes and Remarks on Milton’s Paradise Lost (1734) and James Paterson’s A Complete Commentary with Etymological, Explanatory, Critical and Classical Notes on Milton’s “Paradise Lost” (1744). There are many subtleties, exactitudes, and points of information in these notes for which we, like other modern editors, have simply found no room.

  Among the editions of the last century or so, we were most surprised to discover the sustained elucidation of A. W. Verity, who is largely forgotten today; besides the excellence of their commentary, his notes teem with examples of Romantic and Victorian imitation of Milton and will prove useful in future studies of that subject. In working on this edition, we came to think of Verity as the unknown god of Milton annotation. We also paid especially close attention to the thoughtful notes of Alastair Fowler and John Leonard, and consulted Merritt Hughes, Douglas Bush, Scott Elledge, and Roy Flannagan, among others.


  Heaven sits atop Milton’s cosmos. Beneath it lies Chaos. We sense that both of these realms have, so to speak, been around forever. It would be a nice point in Milton’s theology to ask whether Chaos precedes Heaven or vice versa, since the very existence of God seems to require an abode, and therefore a Heaven of some sort, while on the other hand Chaos appears to be the precondition of all creations, including those of the Son, the angels, and Heaven. As the poem begins, these two established cosmic areas have been joined by two new spaces. At the bottom of Chaos stands Hell, the elder of the new realms. Between Heaven and Chaos, suspended on a golden chain affixed to Heaven (2.1004–6), lies the most recent of God’s creations: our Earth, including the planets and stars surrounding it.

  Readers of the poem are usually familiar with dualistic visions of Heaven, in which the realm of the divine is carefully separated from such imperfect earthly things as body and alteration. But Milton’s universe is monistic. Everything stems from “one first matter” (5.472). Instead of excluding materiality, pleasure, pain, appetite, sexuality, and time from Heaven, Milton welcomes them in. As on Earth, day and night alternate in Heaven; Heaven’s night is not the darkness of Earth’s but rather comparable to earthly twilight (5.627–29, 645–46, 685–86). Beneath the very Mount of God is a cave “Where light and darkness in perpetual round/Lodge and dislodge by turns, which makes through Heav’n/Grateful vicissitude, like day and night” (6.6–8). Milton’s God, satisfying an appetite for vicissitude, resides on time.

  Angels live large in a Heaven that is vast but not infinite. When Satan leaves the military camp near the deity, he and his followers retreat to the “palace of great Lucifer” in north Heaven (5.760). Apparently, on the model of the court and the country, angels live in estates various distances from the mountainous throne of God. Buildings designed by angelic architects, radiant with gems and precious metals, grace the realm. The orders of angels (Seraphim, Cherubim, Thrones, Dominations, Virtues, Powers, Principalities, Archangels, Angels) were strictly hierarchical in traditional Christian thought. At times in Milton, the terms carry their old hierarchical force, but often they are used interchangeably, as a pool of synonyms for
the generic angel. Milton is rather insistent on the point that while likenesses between Heaven and Earth may be necessary fictions, they could also be ontologically sound (5.571–76). “O Earth, how like to Heav’n!” Satan exclaims (9.99). Heaven has vales, streams, breezes, trees, flowers, and vines. The vegetation produces ambrosial food, “the growth of Heaven” (5.635). Heaven and Earth, like spirit and matter or men and angels, differ “but in degree, of kind the same” (5.490).

  Although Chaos can be studied in terms of antecedents in classical literature and philosophy (Chambers 1963), its appearance in the epic owes its problematic character to Milton’s theology. Chaos is infinite, and filled by a ubiquitous God who has nonetheless withdrawn his creative will from chaotic matter (7.168–73). None of the categorical binaries established during the creation of Genesis inhere in Chaos. It is neither this nor that, “neither sea, nor shore, nor air, nor fire,/But all these in their pregnant causes mixed/Confus’dly” (2.912–14); therefore Satan, as he traverses this indeterminate space, confusedly mixes locomotions, “And swims or sinks, or wades, or creeps, or flies” (2.950). The “embryon atoms” (2.900) of Chaos are “the womb of Nature” (2.911), the pure potential that the Son first circumscribes with golden compasses when creating our universe (7.225–31) and will doubtless use again in creating new worlds (2.915–16). Chaos cannot be good until God has infused it with creative order. It is at least morally neutral, at best thoroughly praiseworthy, as a part of the process by which God makes and sustains all things.

  But alongside the language of atomism, Milton gives us a mythic Chaos, personified as the ruler of his realm, or rather its “Anarch” (2.988), since Chaos is by definition without rule. This Chaos, speaking for his consort, Night, and for a shadowy pack of Hesiodic creatures and personifications (2.963–67), expresses his resentment over recent losses (the creations of Hell and our universe) and supports Satan’s mission on the assumption that “Havoc and spoil and ruin are my gain” (2.1009). We thus arrive at paradox. Theologically, Chaos is neutral or better. Mythically, in terms of the epic narrative, Chaos is the ally of Satan.

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