On his way to Paradise, Satan has second thoughts (lines 1–31). He remembers what he was, reflects on what he has become, and fears a worse fate. These doubts leads to a speech by Satan (lines 32–113), an interesting speech, in which Satan sounds downright sorry for his rebellion in heaven against a God who created him and loved him and demanded only the easy service of praise. Whereas in earlier speeches Satan sounded bitter against God, here he upbraids himself, and wonders why he continues to dig his own hell deeper. He thinks about repentance, and then talks himself out of it.
O then at last relent: is there no placelines 79–86
Left for repentance, none for pardon left?
None left but by submission; and that word
Disdain forbids me, and my dread of shame
Among the spirits beneath, whom I seduced
With other promises and other vaunts
Than to submit, boasting I could subdue
He says that even if he did repent and attain his former station, pride would just eat at him again and he’d rebel again (lines 93–97). This speech by Satan is the Rubicon, which he now crosses.
So farewell hope, and with hope farewell fear,lines 108–13
Farewell remorse: all good to me is lost;
Evil be thou my good; by thee at least
Divided empire with heaven’s king I hold
By thee, and more than half perhaps will reign;
As man ere long, and this new world shall know.
Unfortunately for Satan, he made this speech with gestures unbecoming of a good angel, and Uriel spotted him, recognizing him as an intruder (lines 114–30).
Satan arrives in Eden, which is described as having a “thicket overgrown” (line 136) around it to bar entry. Eden is further described (lines 131–71). Satan can’t get in (lines 172–).
One gate there only was, and that looked eastlines 178–79
On the other side.
Satan jumped over the hedge (lines 181–93), and flew up to the tree of life (line 194), “the middle tree and highest there that grew” (line 195), and sat there disguised as a cormorant (line 196).
Satan did not make use of the tree for gaining life, but only as a prospect for bringing death, to spy out Paradise (lines 196–204). The poet describes Paradise (lines 205–357), a garden in the eastern part of Eden (lines 208–10).
Eden stretched her linelines 211–15
From Auran eastward to the royal towers
Of great Seleucia, built by Grecian kings,
Or where the sons of Eden longer before
Dwelt in Telassar: in this pleasant soil
His far more pleasant garden God ordained.
Auran = Haran; and Seleucia = Tell Umar, a little south of Baghdad. Telessar is identified in the Bible (by the Assyrian Rabshakeh) as located in Eden (2 Kings 19:12 // Isaiah 37:12).
Milton goes on to describe Eden generally, the wonderful plants, “Flowers of all hue, and without thorn the rose” (line 256). Satan also sees Adam and Eve (line 288).
Godlike erect, with native honour cladlines 289–99
In naked majesty seemed lords of all
And worthy seemed, for in their looks divine
The image of their glorious maker shone
Truth, wisdom, sanctitude severe and pure,
Severe but in true filial freedom placed;
Whence true authority in men; though both
Not equal, as their sex not equal seemed;
For contemplation he and valour formed,
For softness she and sweet attractive grace,
He for God only, she for God in him.
Milton continues describing the pair, especially their hair and their nudity. They relax after a hard day’s work.
About them frisking playedlines 340–41
All beasts of the earth, since wild.
Milton names a few of these animals playing close by, including “the serpent sly” (line 347), who “of his fatal guile / Gave proof unheeded” (lines 349–50).
Satan speaks to himself (lines 358–92), almost pitying Adam and Eve, who are so happy but about to lose it all. He describes Adam and Eve:
Creatures of other mould, earth-born perhaps,lines 360–62
Not spirits, yet to heavenly spirits bright
He turns into another creature and moves closer to get a better look; first he’s a lion, then a tiger (lines 393–410).
Adam speaks to Eve (lines 411–39), about how wonderful their lives are.
Eve speaks to Adam (lines 440–91), agreeing with his assessment of their happy lot, and recalls her creation. They embraced (lines 492–504).
Satan speaks to himself (lines 504–35), noting that he has now learned about the forbidden true (lines 512–15).
On fatal tree there stands of knowledge called,lines 514–22
Forbidden them to taste: knowledge forbidden?
Suspicious, reasonless. Why should their Lord
Envy them that? can it be sin to know,
Can it be death? and do they only stand
By ignorance, is that their happy state,
The proof of their obedience and their faith?
O fair foundation laid whereon to build
He plans to excite the longing for knowledge so that “They taste and die” (line 527).
Satan leaves to look around the garden some more, while Gabriel sits as guardian and Uriel comes to him to speak (lines 536–60).
Uriel speaks to Gabriel (lines 561–75), warning of of the spirit that asked directions and whom he saw in passion earlier (cf. lines 114–30).
Gabriel replies (lines 576–88), saying no one has come through the gate, but maybe a spirit leaped over the barrier. If he’s here, I’ll find him.
Uriel departs and night comes on (lines 589–609).
Adam speaks to Eve (lines 610–33), saying it’s time for bed, and describing the abundant growth in the garden that will require their attention tomorrow.
Eve replies (lines 634–58), sounding a little bit like a man’s fantasy version of a woman.
God is thy law, thou mine: to know no morelines 637–38
Is woman’s happiest knowledge and her praise.
She loves being with Adam. She asks why the stars shine so when everyone’s sleep and no one admires them.
Adam replies (lines 659–88), explaining about the stars.
They go home (lines 689–719).
They pray (lines 720–35), then have sex (lines 736–75).
The cherubim take watch (lines 776–81).
Gabriel speaks to Uzziel, “his next in power” (lines 782–84), then to Ithuriel and Zephon (lines 788–96), telling them to look out for an evil demon. They find Satan in Adam & Eve’s home:
him there they foundlines 799–800
Squat like a toad, close at the ear of Eve.
Ithuriel touches Satan with his spear and the demon returns to his true form (lines 797–822).
Ithuriel and Zephon speak (lines 823–26), interrogating Satan, asking his identity.
Satan responds (lines 827–33), incredulous that they don’t recognize him.
Zephon responds (lines 834–43), saying that his form has changed so much from when he lived in heaven that they don’t recognize him.
Satan responds (lines 851–54), then Zephon (lines 854–56).
They hold him (lines 857–65).
Gabriel calls (lines 866–73), recognizing the three angels coming to him.
Gabriel asks Satan why he has come (lines 877–84).
Satan responds (lines 885–91), saying Gabriel asks a stupid question. Wouldn’t you escape hell if you had the chance? I thought this garden looked comfortable. I wasn’t doing any harm.
Gabriel responds (lines 892–923), mocking Satan’s wisdom, asking why he has come alone. If you just wanted to escape pain, didn’t the other rebel angels, or do they like pain?
Satan responds (lines 924–45), saying that he’s the guinea pig.
Gabriel responds (lines 946–67), calling Satan a liar and telling him to flee. Here is Gabriel’s mistake.
But mark what I aread thee now, avaunt;lines 962–67
Fly thither when thou fled’st: if from this hour
Within these hallowed limits thou appear,
Back to the infernal pit I drag thee chained,
And seal thee so, as henceforth not to scorn
The facile gates of hell too slightly barred.
Gabriel should have taken Satan back himself now, instead of threatening to do it next time. By the way, as for that last part, Satan had earlier said that if God doesn’t want us escaping hell he should lock the gates better (lines 897–99).
Satan responds (lines 970–76): “Oh yeah?!”
They almost get into a fight (lines 977–1005), when God reveals in heaven the constellation Libra, which in this instance measures the result of fight or flight, and finds fight wanting. Gabriel tells Satan to go, and Satan goes (lines 1006–15). I do appreciate Gabriel’s assertion to Satan:
Satan, I know thy strength, and thou know’st mine,lines 1006–9)
Neither our own but given; what folly then
To boast what arms can do, since thine no more
than heaven permits, nor mine.