As per our last outing, I’m going to let Milton himself give the summary of these two books, in which Raphael relates to Adam the story of creation, and Adam tells Raphael what he remembers of his first days in Paradise.
Raphael at the request of Adam relates how and wherefore this world was first created; that God, after the expelling of Satan and his Angels out of Heaven, declar’d his pleasure to create another World and other Creatures to dwell therein; sends his Son with Glory and attendance of Angels to perform the work of Creation in six days: the Angels celebrate with Hymns the performance thereof, and his reascention into Heaven.
Adam inquires concerning celestial Motions, is doubtfully answer’d, and exhorted to search rather things more worthy of knowledge: Adam assents, and still desirous to detain Raphael, relates to him what he remember’d since his own Creation, his placing in Paradise, his talk with God concerning solitude and fit society, his first meeting and Nuptials with Eve, his discourse with the Angel thereupon; who after admonitions repeated departs.
Though not as action-packed as Book VI, Books VII and VIII offer perks of their own: Book VII features some of Milton’s loveliest nature poetry (and his sometimes funny tendency to explain absolutely everything), and in Book VIII, we get Milton’s views on aliens and angelic sex. Really — read it and see!
I’m in the midst of a rather horrid cold, dear readers, so I’m going to be correspondingly rather brief.
Milton’s catalog of the beauties of Eden (reminiscent of the evocation of the lush garden in Book IV) is all part of the consistent foreshadowing in these two books: all is beautiful and perfect, and it’s not going to stay that way. Similarly, Adam’s focus on Eve’s beauty and her enthralling charms presages the Fall that’s about to happen.
One of the most interesting discrepancies in the poem is revealed with Adam’s interpretation of Eve’s turning away from him at their first meeting. Adam attributes Eve’s initial relcutance to natural modesty and maiden bashfulness, but Eve tells a different tale in Book IV. Having seen her own reflection, Adam seems “less fair / Less winning soft, less amiably mild” and she wishes to return to the other figure she saw. Interesting, huh?
Here’s a passage I like that seems pretty darn important (Raphael is speaking to Adam):
Consider first that great
Or bright infers not excellence: the earth
Though in comparison of heav’n so small,
Nor glistering, may of solid good contain
More plenty that the sun that barren shines
Whose virtue on itself works to no effect
But in the fruitful earth. (8.90-96)
Something wicked this way comes — on February 20 we’ll be talking about Books IX and X, and the return of everyone’s favorite fallen angel.