A Brief Overview
“O For that warning voice, which he who saw
Th’ Apocalyps, heard cry in Heaven aloud,
Then when the Dragon, put to second rout,
Came furious down to be reveng’d on men,
Wo to the inhabitants on Earth! that now,
While time was, our first-Parents had bin warnd
The coming of thir secret foe,”
The fourth book of Paradise Lost by Milton describes the beginning of the unprecedented historical incident of Man’s Fall from Eden that changed the course of human life and its existence forever.
This book holds great significance among other books of Paradise Lost as it brings forth to its readers the deceitful and sinful attempts of Satan to tempt Adam and Eve to disobey God; thus, bringing His wrath upon humankind.
Beginning with Satan’s decent to Eden to corrupt the souls of innocent creatures of God, the poem describes Satan as a powerless figure envying the beauty of Paradise and the piousness of its dwellers. Feeling out of place, Satan considers for a moment to repent of his sins to once again win the favor of God; however, his conviction to destroy mankind prevents him from acting upon this thought.
Resolute in his plan to tempt Adam and Eve, Satan disguises himself as a large bird to keep an eye on his prey. There Satan sees the Forbidden Tree and begins contemplating and concocting his evil plan to demean the crown of creation.
“As when a prowling Wolfe,
Whom hunger drives to seek new haunt for prey,
Watching where Shepherds pen
thirFlocks at eeve
hurdl’dCotes amid the field secure,
o’rethe fence with ease into the Fould : Oras a Thief bent to unhoordthe cash
Of some rich Burgher, whose substantial
barrdand bolted fast, fear no assault,”
The poem also highlights the characters of Adam and Eve who enjoy their time in Eden in the company of each other. They are devoid of any sin or evil and pass their days happily in God’s Paradise. Both Adam and Eve embody the innocence, piousness, and goodness with which God created the human beings.
The last part of the poem deals with the incident where Uriel informs Gabriel about the strange cherub he met and they both decide to find him. The poem comes to its denouement when Uriel and Gabriel find Satan disguised as a toad in Heaven and confronts him for whispering in Eve’s ears resulting in the flight of Satan back to Hell. Satan’s defeat in the poem reveals that evil can never win the war against good because virtue always triumphs over vice.
“The Fiend lookt up and knew
His mounted scale aloft: nor more; but fled
Murmuring, and with him fled the shades of night.”
Paradise Lost Book 3 highlights the theme of war against virtue and vice where the innocence of Adam and Eve and the courage of God’s angels defeat the vile Satan in the first battle proving that evil cannot stand for long in front of virtue.
“To trample thee as mire: for proof look up,
And read thy Lot in yon celestial Sign
Where thou art weigh’d, and shown how light, how weak,
If thou resist.”
Mode of Address
Milton has composed his poem for the readers of all ages and times as it deals with the universal issues of virtue against vice, Man’s Fall and his redemption and Satan’s rebellion. However, the poet has specifically addressed the religious, philosophical and intellectual strata of his society so that they can make their lives better after reflecting upon the historical events of virtuous deeds and vicious desires.
Milton’s Paradise Lost Book 4, revolving around the futile attempt of Satan to tempt Eve, is famous among the earlier and modern readers owing to its stylistic diction, lofty claims and sombre tone.
“Sight hateful, sight tormenting! thus these two
Imparadis’t in one anothers arms
The happier Eden, shall enjoy thir fill
Of bliss on bliss, while I to Hell am thrust,
Where neither joy nor love, but fierce desire,
Among our other torments not the least,”