Sunday, July 3, 2016

Paradise Lost

For the last few weeks, I've been re-reading some of Paradise Lost, and feeling amazed, again, by the lyrical beauty of the lines. Milton's vocabulary is strange and sometimes awkward, and many lines go right over my head (at least on the first reading), but somehow he manages to create lovely rhythms and melodies, line after line, page after page. Somewhere I read the Milton once said that he simply listened for the musical lines, and somehow they always came to him. He seemed to be implying that he didn't actually write the lines, but that they were somehow "given" to him, perhaps the way tunes are given to us when we whistle. Here is just one example of the music in Paradise Lost. Satan is standing on the lower step to heaven, and looking down at the newly created earth:

Satan from hence now on the lower stair 
That scaled by steps of gold to Heaven gate 
Looks down with wonder at the sudden view 
Of all this world at once. As when a scout
Through dark and desert ways with peril gone 
All night; at last by break of cheerful dawn 
Obtains the brow of some high-climbing hill, 
Which to his eye discovers unaware 
The goodly prospect of some foreign land 
First seen, or some renowned metropolis 
With glistering spires and pinnacles adorned, 
Which now the rising sun gilds with his beams.

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