John Milton: The Temptation and Fall of Eve

Today is the anniversary of John Milton’s death. What’s there to say about Milton? An incredible mind–after he became blind he composed his verse in his head and dictated it later to his amanuensis. I also recall hearing or reading somewhere that there is good evidence that he had learned all of the accumulated human knowledge up to his time (at least knowledge in the Western tradition). The following is an excerpt from his most famous work, Paradise Lost. The illustration is from William Blake, whose thoughts on Milton are most interesting.

. . . her rash hand in evil hour
Forth reaching to the fruit, she plucked, she eat.
Earth felt the wound, and Nature from her seat
Sighing through all her works gave signs of woe,
That all was lost. 

           –John Milton, Paradise Lost, IX.780-784

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Milton and Blake–Expulsion from Paradise

(image by the incomparable William Blake)

In either hand the hastening Angel caught
Our lingering parents, and to the eastern gate
Led them direct, and down the cliff as fast
To the subjected plain; then disappeared.
They, looking back, all the eastern side beheld
Of Paradise, so late their happy seat,
Waved over by that flaming brand, the gate
With dreadful faces thronged and fiery arms.
Some natural tears they dropped, but wiped them soon;
The world was all before them, where to choose
Their place of rest, and Providence their guide.
They hand in hand with wandering steps and slow,
Through Eden took their solitary way.

–John Milton, from Paradise Lost (12.641-649)