Genesis and Paradise Lost Essay

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The words God speaks at the Creation are the ultimate and original speech act; as narrated in Genesis and Paradise Lost, God only has to speak and the words come into effect:
And God said, 'Let there be light'; and there was light... (Genesis, 1:3)
Let there be light, said God, and forthwith light Ethereal, first of things, quintessence pure Sprung from the deep... (VII.243)
Milton inverts the arrangement of the identification of the voice and the spoken words themselves, thus absorbing God's voice entirely into the poetic lines.s

Satan is an inveterate liar who abuses language for his own evil purposes. Satan's language is 'Ambiguous and with double sense deluding' (Paradise Regained, I.435), whereas the Son's language (and by extension God's) enforces a kind of linguistic harmony where 'Thy actions to thy words accord' (Paradise Regained, III.9). In Paradise Lost, Satan's 'ambiguous words' (V.703, VI.568) act as 'persuasive' traps, 'replete with guile' (IX.737, 733). He utters 'high words, that bore | Semblance of worth not substance' (I.528), and it is worth bearing this in mind should you be tempted to succumb to his enticing rhetoric, as Eve or, more recently the poets Shelley and Blake have been known to do! God's words are necessarily congruent with their meaning (God is unable to lie). But while Satan lacks the power of speech acts, he has the sophistical ability to dissemble.

In the beginning of Book I of Paradise Lost, true to epic convention, John Milton invokes the muse, but his muse is no less than the Holy Spirit:
And chiefly Thou O Spirit, that dost prefer
Before all Temples th’ upright heart and pure,
Instruct me, for Thou know’st; Thou from the first
Wast present, and with mighty wings outspread

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...a child whose only reply from parental authority was an unsatisfying “Because I said so!” But then such children grow up and search for their own answers.
Blake’s point begins to make sense if Paradise Lost is evaluated on its poetic success and its theological failure. Milton “was a true Poet, and of the Devil’s party without knowing it” in that his poetry unwittingly brought Satan to life while trying to destroy him. Satan, warts and all, is probably the most memorable presence in the poem and likely all readers retain of it. Similarly Milton’s theology is so weak and flawed that it opens the door to a devastating philosophical counterattack. In trying to justify God, Milton actually accomplishes the opposite as demonstrated by the failure of Book III. For Blake, Milton the Epic Poet ultimately trumps Milton the Christian Apologist who surely desired otherwise.

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