907 lines. Here we begin a narrative of the war in heaven that took place before Book 1. The setting of the entire book is Paradise, with Adam and Eve. We meet Satan in this book only in flashback, as his prior history is narrated. The angel Raphael, sent by God, comes for a visit to Paradise. Questioned by Adam, he tells of Satan’s rebellion in heaven, spurred by the Father’s general command that all creatures should worship the Son.
The couple wakes up (lines 1–25).
Eve speaks (lines 28–93), relating a dream she had. Hear we learn what toad-like Satan was whispering in her ear when he was caught by Ithuriel and Zephon (4.799–800; summary). Satan’s voice led her to the forbidden tree, where she found a cherub wondering why knowledge should be forbidden, and why the tree exists if none can enjoy its fruit. He reached and ate, and felt wonderful. He offers to Eve, held the fruit to her lips, she smelled the wonderful odor, ate, and flew up to heaven with the cherub, and then awoke.
Adam replies (lines 95–128), wary of such a dream, but ultimately deciding that her “fancy” has just done some weird things with the conversation they were having the night before. He tells her not to worry about it.
Adam wipes the tears from Eve’s cheeks (lines 129–35).
They pray before work (lines 136–208). Then they work (lines 209–19).
God speaks to the angel Raphael (lines 219–45), telling him to go talk to Adam, warning him of his enemy so that he be without excuse.
Raphael travels (lines 246–307). Milton describes Raphael’s six wings (lines 277–85; see Isa 6).
Adam speaks to Eve (lines 308–20), alerting her to the presence of a glorious angel and instructing her to prepare a good meal.
Eve speaks (lines 321–30).
Eve prepares the meal (lines 331–49). Adam greets Raphael (lines 350–60).
Adam speaks (lines 361–70), inviting him for a bite to eat.
Raphael speaks (lines 371–77), saying “lead on.”
Raphael greets Eve (lines 388–91).
Adam speaks (lines 397–403): “Eat, please.”
Raphael speaks (lines 404–33), saying, yes, he does eat.
Then they eat (lines 433–50). Milton insists that Raphael really ate, not just apparently. Also, since Eve is nude and serving the angel, Milton thinks about Genesis 6, or at least the story about angels arising from Genesis 6 (think 1 Enoch).
if ever, then,lines 446–50
Then had the sons of God excuse to have been
Enamoured at that sight; but in those hearts
Love unlibidinous reigned, nor jealousy
Was understood, the injured lover’s hell.
Adam wants to take this opportunity to pepper an angel with questions (lines 451–60).
Adam speaks to Raphael (lines 461–67). How did you like the food?
Raphael replies (lines 468–505), explaining how food works for angels. He throws in a caveat to Adam, “if ye be found obedient” (line 501).
Adam speaks (lines 506–18), asking about that caveat. Why would we disobey?
Raphael replies (lines 519–43), explaining free will.
Adam replies (lines 544–60), admitting that he had never considered that he might disobey, but he is intrigued that Raphael has said that some heavenly creatures have in fact disobeyed. Please tell more.
Raphael replies (lines 563–), giving a long speech that goes to the end of the current book and encompasses the entirety of the next book (book 6) as well. Throughout the speech, Raphael quotes various characters (God the Father, Satan, the Son, various angels), so for the rest of these notes, I’ll just treat Raphael as the poet and describe not his speech but the speeches of the characters as he describes them.
Raphael begins by saying that he is narrating a story from before the creation of “this world” (lines 577–99). The Father called all his angels to a meeting. They came and saw “the Father infinite, / By whom in bliss embosomed sat the Son” (lines 596–97).
The Father speaks (lines 600–15).
Hear my decree, which unrevoked shall stand.lines 602–6
This day I have begot whom I declare
My only son, and on this holy hill
Him have anointed, whom ye now behold
At my right hand; your head I him appoint.
Everyone must bow to the Son and obey him. Is this an instance of unorthodoxy in Milton, or is the perceived unorthodoxy just a device for the story? The Father declares “This day I have begot whom I declare / My only son.” What day? As Raphael says, “On such day / As heaven’s great year brings forth, the empyreal host / Of angels by imperial summons called” (lines 582–84). It seems like we should understand that the Son was begotten at some point after the angels were created. On the other hand, Milton has gone out of his way to indicate that “day” is used in a loose sense here, because we are talking about a “day” “in eternity” (line 580), presumably meaning outside of time. Later, Abiel says that the Father made all things, “even thee” (= Satan), through the Son (lines 835–37). But Satan disagrees (see below). At any rate, back to the story…
All the angels—though, Raphael warns “all seemed, but were not all” (line 617)—were happy, dancing, eating (lines 616–41). Here we get more about angelic food.
Tables are set, and on a sudden piledlines 632–35
With angels’ food, and rubied nectar flows
In pearl, in diamond, and massy gold,
Fruit of delicious vines, the growth of heaven.
Then trouble arises (lines 642–72). Satan is not happy. That’s not actually his name at this time.
Satan, so call him now, his former namelines 658–65
Is heard no more in heaven; he of the first,
If not the first archangel, great in power,
In favour and pre-eminence, yet fraught
With envy against the Son of God, that day
Honoured by his great father, and proclaimed
Messiah king anointed, could not bear
Through pride that sight, and thought himself impaired.
Satan is later described: “for great indeed / His name, and high was his degree in heaven; / His countenance, as the morning star that guides / The starry flock” (lines 706–9).
Satan speaks to “his next subordinate” (line 671), i.e., Beelzebub, but not named here (lines 673–93). He instructs Beelzebub to gather all the boys and go to the northern region (Isa 14:13!) where they will prepare entertainments for this new Messiah.
Beelzebub obeys, gathers a third of the angels (lines 694–718). But God sees the whole thing.
The Father speaks to the Son (lines 719–32). “Let’s get ready to rumble.”
The Son speaks (lines 733–42), says he’s looking forward to it.
Satan travels north and arrives at his place (lines 743–71). Raphael calls it “The palace of great Lucifer” (line 760).
Satan speaks (lines 772–803), asserting his refusal to bend the knee to anyone, certainly not this new Son, and no longer even the Father.
Abdiel speaks (lines 809–48), rebuking Satan. But no one joined Abdiel (lines 849–52).
Satan replies (lines 853–71). Abdiel had pointed out that the Son had created the angels. Satan disagrees. (Satan will return to this point, briefly, at 9.146.)
That we were formed then say’st thou? and the work Of secondary hands, by task transferredlines 853–63
From Father to his son? strange point and new!
Doctrine which we would know whence learned: who saw
When this creation was? rememb’rest thou
Thy making, while the maker gave thee being?
We know no time when we were not as now;
Know none before us, self-begot, self-raised
By our own quickening power, when fatal course
Had circled his full orb, the birth mature
Of this our native heaven, ethereal sons.
Satan tells Abdiel to take this news to the Son.
Abdiel speaks (lines 877–95), telling Satan he’s about to get it. Here’s the best line:
Then who created thee lamenting learn,lines 894–95
When who can uncreate thee thou shalt know.
Abdiel departs (lines 896–907).