In this article, we will discuss Paradise Lost Book 2 by John Milton.
Introducing the Poem
High on a Throne of Royal State, which far
Outshon the wealth of Ormus and of Ind,
Or where the gorgeous East with richest hand
Showrs on her Kings Barbaric Pearl and Gold,
Satan exalted sat,
Revolving around the famous devils’ debate to wage war against God and His humankind, the book 2 of Paradise Lost by John Milton brings forth the issues of political corruption, democratic failure and pseudo sacrifice amongst the army of fallen angels.
Through his poem, Milton describes to his readers the deceitful and cunning nature of lord of the Hell, Satan, and his fallen angels who embody the traits of evil, fraud, deceit, and sin, hoping to win their fatal battle against humankind through these vicious attributes.
Beginning with the exuberant speech of Satan to overthrow God followed by a fiery debate among devils which leads to the ultimate triumph of Satan silencing the other angels when he heroically proclaims to sacrifice himself for the good of his fallen army, the poem throws light on the political struggle and political exploitation of Satan’s army where every fallen angel wants his suggestion regarding the impending war to be accepted regardless of its consequences.
Through this famous debate of devils in Paradise Lost Book 2, Milton shows that corruption, anarchy and power politics lie everywhere; even the steadfast and resolute army of fallen angels is not immune to it. The devils’ argument reaches its denouement with Satan’s show of power and strength over his army,
Through all the Coasts of dark destruction seek
Deliverance for us all: this enterprize
None shall partake with me. Thus saying rose
The Monarch, and prevented all reply,
Another important aspect of this poem is the chance meeting of Satan with his son Sin born as a result of Satan’s disobedience to God. The first child of Satan, Sin resides alone in tormenting hell representing the ultimate fate of sinners. The child also reveals the fact that the sins are born into this world and prosper due to the disobedience and ingratitude of individuals toward their God.
O Father, what intends thy hand, she cry'd,
Against thy only Son? What fury O Son,
Possesses thee to bend that mortal Dart
Against thy Fathers head?
The book 2 of Paradise Lost is based on the theme of exploitation via political power and influence. In the devils’ debate, first Beelzebub, the favourite angel and right hand of Satan, tries to exert his power and dominance over others by giving a long and fiery speech in hopes of winning reward from Satan and later Satan, being the lord of Hell, imposes his omnipotence over the fallen angels by silencing them with his potent speech. Through this argument among the fallen ones, Milton highlights the presence of political corruption rampant on Earth as well as on the Skies above.
The strongest and the fiercest spirit
That fought in heaven, now fiercer by despair.
Style and Tone
Milton has employed grandiose style in his poem by using bombastic diction and lofty narrative; thus, aptly highlighting the significance of the fatal war between Heaven and Hell. The tone of the poem is solemn and serious with subtleties of grand vocabulary and elevated accounts.
And Spirits of this nethermost Abyss,
Chaos and ancient Night, I come no Spy,
With purpose to explore or to disturb
The secrets of your Realm, but by constraint
Wandring this darksome Desart, as my way
Lies through your spacious Empire up to light,
Dealing with the grand devils’ debate and the meeting of Satan with Sin and Death, Milton’s Paradise Lost Book 2 brings to light the political evils of its times where the powerful people consider it their right to keep their subordinates under their thumb. The subject of modern political debate in an ancient setting makes Milton’s poem popular among the readers of all times.
Which, if not victory, is yet revenge…
Our torments also may in length of time
Become our elements.