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"A cold and noble epic.” – TAINE.
ARADISE REGAINED was written by Milton, judg
ing from a passage in the Autobiography of Thomas Ellwood, in the winter of 1665-6, but was not published until 1671. It was printed at Milton's expense in a small volume together with Samson Agonistes.
Paradise Regained tells the story of Christ's temptation in the Wilderness, and the material was taken from the accounts of Matthew and Luke, which the poet, with great skill, expanded without essentially deviating from them.
The title has been criticised on the ground that the poem should have extended over the whole of Christ's life on earth. But Paradise Regained was written as a sequel to Paradise Lost, and, as in the first poem the poet showed that Paradise was lost by the yielding of Adam and Eve to Satan, so in the second, he wished to show that Paradise was regained by the resistance of Christ to temptation, Satan's defeat signifying the regaining of Paradise for men by giving them the hope of Christ's second coming. Therefore the poem naturally ends with Satan's rebuff and his final abandonment of the attempt on the pinnacle of the Temple.
The poem has been criticised for its shortness, some scholars even affecting to believe it unfinished ; its lack of variety, in that it has but two characters, its lack of action, and the absence of figurative language.
But with all these faults, it has a charm of its own, entirely different from that of Paradise Lost. Satan has degenerated during his years of “roaming up and down the earth;" he is no longer the fallen angel of Paradise Lost, who struggled with himself before making evil his good. He is openly
given over to evil practices, and makes little effort to play the hypocrite. His temptations are worked up from that of hunger to that of the vision of the kingdoms of the earth with a wonderful power of description which makes up for the lack of action and the few actors. The pathless, rockbound desert, the old man, poorly clad, who accosts the Christ, the mountain-top from which all the earth was visible, the night of horror in the desert, and the sublime figure of the Savior, are all enduring pictures which compensate for any rigidity of treatment. If figurative language is omitted it is because the theme does not need it, and does not show that the poem is less carefully finished than Paradise Lost. Its lack of action and similarity of subject to the longer poem sufficiently account for its not meeting with popular favor. Johnson was correct when he said, " had this poem been written not by Milton, but by some imitator, it would have claimed and received universal praise."
BIBLIOGRAPHY AND Criticism, PARADISE REGAINED. H. C. Beeching, On the Prosody of Paradise Regained and Samson Agonistes, 1889; Charles Dexter Cleveland's Complete Concordance to Milton's Poetical Works, 1867 ; William T. Dobson's The Classic Poets, their Lives and Times etc., 1879; George Gilfillan's Second Gallery of Literary Portraits, 1852, pp. 15-16; Samuel Johnson's Milton (see his Lives of the Poets; ed. by Mrs. Alexander Napier, 1890, vol. i.); Thomas Babington Macaulay's Milton (see his Critical and Historical Essays, ed. 10, 1860, vol. i.); David Masson's Introduction to Paradise Regained (see his ed. of Milton's Poetical works, 1893, vol. iii., pp. 1-14; David Masson's Life of Milton, 1880, vol. vi., 651-661; Richard Meadowcourt's Critique on Milton's Paradise Regained, 1732 ; A Critical Dissertation on Paradise Regained with Notes, 2d ed. 1748 ; John Robert Seeley's Milton (see his Roman Imperialism and other Lectures and Essays, 1871, pp. 152-157); Mark Pattison's John Milton (English Men of Letters Series), n. d.; H. A. Taine's History of English Literature, Tr. by H. Van Laun, 1877, vol. ii.
THE STORY OF PARADISE REGAINED.
AFTER the expulsion from Paradise of Adam and Eve, Satan and his followers did not return to Hell, but remained on earth, the fallen angels becoming the evil gods of various idolatrous nations and Satan engaging in every kind of evildoing which he knew would vex the Powers of Heaven. All the time he was troubled by the thought of the heavenly foe who he had been told would one day appear on earth to crush him and his rebel angels.
Now John had come out of the wilderness, proclaiming his mission, and among those who came to him to be baptized was one who was deemed the son of Joseph of Nazareth. John recognized in the obscure carpenter's son the one “mightier than he " whose coming he was to proclaim, and this fact was further made clear to the multitude and the observant Satan by the opening of the Heavens and the descent therefrom on Christ's head of the Dove, while a voice was heard declaring, “This is my beloved Son."
Satan, enraged, fled to the council of the fiends to announce to them the presence on earjh of their long-dreaded enemy. He was empowered by them to attempt his overthrow, and they were the more confident because of his success with Adam and Eve.
Satan's purpose was known to the Eternal Father, who smiled to see him unwittingly fulfilling the plan so long foreordained for his destruction.
After his baptism, the Father had sent his Son into the wilderness to gain strength for his struggle with Sin and Death, and there Satan, in the guise of an old, poorly clad rustic, found him. Although the Son of God had wandered through the rock-bound, pathless desert, among wild beasts, without food for forty days, he had no fear, believing that some impulse from above had guided him thither before he should go out among men to do his divinely appointed task.
Then, when hunger came upon him as he wandered, thinking of past events and those to come, he met the aged man and was addressed by him.
“Sir, how came you hither, where none who ventures alone escapes alive? I ask because you look not unlike the man I lately saw baptized by John and declared the Son of God.”
“I need no guide,” replied the Son. “The Power who brought me here will bring me forth.”
“ Not otherwise than by miracle. Here we subsist only upon dry roots and must often endure parching thirst. If thou art indeed the Son of God, save thyself and relieve us wretched people by changing these stones to bread."
“Men live not by bread alone,” replied the Son, “but by the word of God. Moses in the Mount was without food and drink for forty days. Elijah also wandered fasting in the wilderness. Thou knowest who I am as I know who thou art; why shouldest thou suggest distrust to me?"
“ 'T is true that I am that unfortunate spirit who fell from Heaven, but I have been permitted to roam around the earth and have not been altogether excluded from Heaven. God allowed me to test Job and prove his worth and to draw Ahab into fraud. Though I have lost much of my original brightness I can still admire all that is illustrious and
I good. The sons of men should not regard me as an enemy, for I have oft given them aid by oracles, dreams, and portents. My loss was not through them, so their restoration does not grieve me ; only that fallen man will be restored and not I.”
“Thou deservest to grieve, tissue of lies that thou art !” exclaimed our Savior. “Thou boastest of being released from Hell and permitted to come into Heaven. No joy hast thou there! Thy own malice moved thee to torture Job. Brag not of thy lies, thy oracles for men. Henceforth oracles are dumb, since God has sent his living oracle into the world to teach the truth."
Satan, though angry, still dissembled.
“Accuse me, reprove me, if thou wilt. Fallen as I am, I still love to hear the truth fall from thy lips."
Unmoved by his false words the Savior of men declared that he neither forbade nor invited his presence, and Satan, bowing low, disappeared as night fell over the desert.
In the mean time, those at Bethabara who had rejoiced at the declaration of John and had talked with the Messiah, were deeply grieved to find him gone and with him their hope of deliverance. His mother, too, was troubled at his absence, but comforted herself with the thought of his former absences, afterwards explained.
Satan, hastening from the desert, sought his troop of evil spirits to warn them that his undertaking was no easy one, and to summon them to his assistance.
Night fell on the Son of God, still fasting, wondering what would be the end. In sleep he was visited by dreams of Elijah, raven-fed, and of the same prophet fed by the angel in the desert, and as he dreamed that he ate with them, the lark's song awoke him and he wandered into a pleasant grove. As he viewed it, charmed by its beauty, a man appeared before him, no rustic this time, but one attired in the apparel of city or court.
“I have returned, wondering that thou still remainest here, hungering. Hagar once wandered here ; the children of Israel, and the Prophet, but all these were fed by the hand of Heaven. Thou alone art forgotten and goest tormented by hunger."
Though the Son of God declared that he had no need to eat, Satan invited his attention to a table, set under a spreading tree. Upon it was heaped every known delicacy; by it waited youths handsome as Ganymede, and among the trees tripped naiads and nymphs of Diana, with fruits and flowers. Exquisite music was heard, and the perfumes of Araby filled the air.
“Why not sit and eat?” continued Satan. “These foods are not forbidden, and all these gentle ministers are ready to do thee homage."
“What hast thou to do with my hunger?” demanded Jesus. “Should I receive as a gift from thee what I myself could command if I so desired? I too could bring a table