Paradise Lost, epic poem in blank verse by English poet John Milton. Paradise Lost was first published in August 1667. A revised edition published in 1674 rearranged the original 10 books of the poem into 12. Milton first considered writing a great epic poem in 1639, but did not begin writing Paradise Lost until 1658. The poem was completed in 1663. Book I: In a long, sinuous opening sentence, the poet invokes the “Heav’nly Muse” and states his theme, the Fall of Man, and his aim, to “justifie the wayes of God to men”. The origins of Man’s disobedience are traced to Satan and his rebellion against God.
Satan, Beelzebub, and the other rebel angels are described as lying on a lake of fire, from where Satan delivers a rousing speech to his followers (“Better to reign in hell, than serve in heaven”), and organizes the building of a palace, Pandemonium. Book II: Satan and the rebel angels debate whether or not to wage another war on Heaven, and Beelzebub tells them of a new world being built, which is to be the home of Man. Satan decides to visit this new world, passes through the gates of Hell, past the sentries Sin and Death, and journeys through the realm of Chaos.
Book III: God observes Satan’s journey and foretells how Satan will bring about Man’s Fall. God emphasizes, however, that the Fall will come about as a result of Man’s own free will and excuses Himself of responsibility, for “if I foreknew/ Foreknowledge had no influence on their fault/ Which had no less proved certain unforeseen”. The Son of God offers himself as a ransom for Man’s disobedience, an offer which God accepts, ordaining the Son’s future incarnation and punishment. Satan arrives at the rim of the universe, disguises himself as a cherub, and is directed to Earth by Uriel, Guardian of the Sun.
Book IV: Satan journeys to the Garden of Eden, where he observes Adam and Eve discussing the forbidden Tree of Knowledge. Satan attempts to tempt Eve while she is sleeping, but is discovered by the angels Ithuriel and Zephon. The angel Gabriel expels Satan from the Garden. Book V: Eve awakes and relates her dream to Adam. God sends Raphael to warn and encourage Adam: they discuss free will and predestination and Raphael tells Adam the story of how Satan inspired his angels to revolt against God.