A Brief Overview
“THus they in lowliest plight repentant stood
Praying, for from the Mercie-seat above
Prevenient Grace descending had remov’d
The stonie from thir hearts, & made new flesh
Regenerate grow instead,”
The eleventh book in Paradise Lost series by John Milton depicts the final departure of Adam and Eve from Heaven. Dealing with the terrible visions shown to Adam by the angel Michael, the poem informs its readers about the negative outcome of disobeying God’s orders and plans.
The book opens with the repentance of Adam and Eve who are forgiven by God but are not allowed to stay in Eden anymore as it is the place for pious and innocent. Ordering the angel Michael to take Adam and Eve out of Heaven, God soothes their ailing hearts by telling them of the glorious paradise reserved for those who lead a life of obedience and servitude on Earth. Michael reaches to Heaven to summon Adam and Eve out of it.
He puts Eve to sleep and takes Adam to the highest point in Eden to show him the visions of his future life on Earth. In the first vision, Adam sees his sons Cain and Abel fighting each other where Cain murders Abel. This vision deeply hurt Adam and he realizes his grave sin of disobeying God’s will. In the second vision, Adam sees the people of Earth making love to others and producing a number of offspring in the process.
The vision of love and birth makes Adam happy and he praises God for his blessings. In his third and last vision, Adam sees Noah fighting his enemies and remaining triumphant by surviving the drastic flood. This vision satisfies Adam’s grieving heart by strengthening his belief that the virtuous and righteous will always be helped by God on Earth until the day they meet Him again.
“O Sons, like one of us Man is become
To know both Good and Evil, since his taste
Of that defended Fruit; but let him boast
His knowledge of Good lost, and Evil got,
Happier, had suffic’d him to have known
Good by itself, and Evil not at all.
He sorrows now, repents, and prayes contrite,
My motions in him, longer then they move,
His heart I know, how variable and vain
Self-left. Least therefore his now bolder hand
Reach also of the Tree of Life, and eat,
And live for ever, dream at least to live
For ever, to remove him I decree,
And send him from the Garden forth to Till
The Ground whence he was taken, fitter soile.”
The poem revolves around the theme of Man’s harsh and troublesome life after leaving Eden due to his disobedience and sin. Milton tells his readers that the life of human beings on Earth is based on making love, giving birth and dying painfully. However, the believers should not worry as they will always remain in God’s favour and His blessings.
The Concept of Visions
Milton has introduced the new technique of visions or prophecies in this book when Michael shows Adam the glimpses of his future life on Earth. This literary technique is a step ahead of foreshadowing in which the characters foresee years ahead of their life as Adam sees in his visions. On the contrary, foreshadowing device only tells about the approaching future of the characters.
“Adam, now ope thine eyes, and first behold
Th’ effects which thy original crime hath wrought
In some to spring from thee, who never touch’d
Th’ excepted Tree, nor with the Snake conspir’d,
Nor sinn’d thy sin, yet from that sin derive
Corruption to bring forth more violent deeds.”
Revolving around the vivid visions, book 11 holds an eminent place in literature as it highlights the bitter penalties faced by humankind for disobeying God by following its selfish desires and the evil temptations of Satan.
“Over the Earth a Cloud, will therein set
His triple-colour’d Bow, whereon to look
And call to mind his Cov’nant: Day and Night,
Seed time and Harvest, Heat and hoary Frost
Shall hold thir course, till fire purge all things new,
Both Heav’n and Earth, wherein the just shall dwell.”