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Any excuse which may be needed for the existence of this new edition of the first two books of Paradise Lost will be found, not in the Notes so much as in the Introduction and Conclusion. The present volume aims to present, in form at once compact and continuous, and mainly in Milton's own words, the story of Paradise Lost, and especially the story of Satan.

It is expected that the quoted passages will not only set forth the narrative with some clearness, but will afford something more than a glimpse of the poet at his best. The editor recommends that the Introduction, the first two Books, and the Conclusion, be first read from beginning to end, with a view to getting the perspective of the story; after which the student may take up more profitably a detailed study of Books I. and II.

In the preparation of the Notes, constant use has been made of other editions. Special acknowledgment is due first, of course, to Masson; and in hardly less degree to the editions of Verity and Hale.

H. W. B. ANDOVER, April, 1897.


It is doubtless possible to study the first two books of Paradise Lost by themselves with some degree of profit. They have a unity of their own. The limited field of action, the strength and simplicity of the conception which we here get of Satan and his followers, the dramatic quality of the dialogue (which seldom lapses into mere declamation), - all these characteristics of this fragment give it an interest of its own. And yet, after all, it is only a fragment. We must go back of, and forward of, these events in order to grasp their full meaning. Here is pictured the noblest phase of Satan's nature, but it is a phase which is to be succeeded by other developments of no less interest. The episode of the interview with Sin and Death is mainly significant as a prophecy: these monsters become of importance only in the sequel. Hell is here the stage of action; but there was a former and more varied action on the greater stage of Heaven, and there is to be a later (and again more active) series of events on the lesser stage of Earth.

We shall attempt to trace from beginning to end the course of that great story of which the first two books constitute an intermediate episode. And we shall begin by quoting somewhat freely from Masson, the greatest of Milton's editors (Introduction to Paradise Lost, pp. 26-30): –

Paradise Lost is an epic. But it is not, like the Iliad or the Æneid, a national epic; nor is it an epic after any other of the known types. It is an epic of the whole human


species, an epic of our entire planet, or indeed of the entire astronomical universe. The title of the poem, though perhaps the best that could have been chosen, hardly indicates beforehand the full nature or extent of the theme; nor are the opening lines, by themselves, sufficiently descriptive of what is to follow. According to them, the story is to be

“Of Man's first disobedience, and the fruit
Of that forbidden tree whose mortal taste
Brought death into the world, and all our woe,

With loss of Eden.” This is a true enough description, because the whole story bears on this point. But it is the vast comprehension of the story, both in space and in time, as leading to this point, that makes it unique among epics, and entitles Milton to speak of it as involving

Things unattempted yet in prose or rhyme.” It is, in short, a poetical representation, on the authority of hints from the Book of Genesis, of the historical connection between Human Time and Aboriginal or Eternal Infinity, or between our created World and the immeasurable and inconceivable Universe of Pre-human Existence. So far as our World is concerned, the poem starts from that moment when our newly-created Earth, with all the newly-created starry depths about it, had as yet but two human beings upon it; and these consequently are, on this side of the presupposed Infinite Eternity, the main persons of the epic. But we are carried back into this pre-supposed Infinite Eternity, and the grand purpose of the poem is to connect, by a stupendous imagination, certain events or courses of the inconceivable history that had been unfolding itself there with the first fortunes of that new azure World which is familiar to us, and more particularly with the first fortunes of that favored ball at the centre whereon those two human creatures walked. Now the person of the epic

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through the narration of whose acts this connection is established is Satan. He, as all critics have perceived, and in a wider sense than most of them have perceived, is the real hero of the poem.

He and his actions are the link between that new World of Man the infancy of which we behold in the poem,

and that boundless antecedent Universe of Prehuman Existence which the poem assumes.

For he was a native of that Pre-human Universe, - one of its greatest and most conspicuous natives; and what we follow in the poem, when its story is taken chronologically, is the life of this great being, from the time of his yet unimpaired primacy or archangelship among the Celestials, on to that time when, in pursuit of a scheme of revenge, he flings himself into the new experimental World, tries the strength of the new race at its fountain-head, and, by success in his attempt, vitiates Man's portion of space to his own nature, and wins possession of it for a season.

* Aboriginally, or in primeval Eternity, before the creation of our Earth or the Starry Universe to which it belongs, universal space is to be considered, according to the requisites of the poem, not as containing stars or starry systems at all, but as, so to say, a sphere of infinite radius, divided equatorially into two hemispheres, thus:





The upper of these two hemispheres of primeval Infinity is HEAVEN, or THE EMPYREAN, - a boundless, unimaginable

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