Of Paradise and Light: Essays on Henry Vaughan and John Milton in Honor of Alan Rudrum

By Donald R. Dickson; Holly Faith Nelson | Go to book overview

Wilderness Exercises:
Adversity, Temptation, and Trial in
Paradise Regained

N. H. Keeble


I. “STEP BY STEP LED ON”

I who erstwhile the happy garden sung ... 1

THE FIRST LINE OF PARADISE REGAINED MAKES EXPLICIT THE IMplication of its title: this is Miltonic work. The poem begins in recollection of Paradise Lost, and in metonymic allusion to humanity's original innocence and bliss. Thereafter, Paradise Lost shadows its successor as the movement between Hell and Heaven of its first three books is reproduced in miniature in the opening two hundred lines of Paradise Regained. The demonic council summoned by Satan “in mid air, ” “Within thick clouds and dark tenfold involved, / A gloomy consistory” (l.39,41— 42), at which the infernal powers commit to “their great dictator” Satan the “main enterprise” of subverting the “attested Son of God” (1.112, 113, 122, 124), is succeeded by the rejoicing of the “full frequence bright / Of angels” in heaven upon hearing that the Father is to fulfill his “purposed counsel pre-ordained” by frustrating the “stratagems of hell” through “This perfect man, by merit called my Son” (1.127, 128—29, 166, 180). Heaven and Hell are once again preoccupied with distant and apparently inconsequential human beings, the “puny habitants” of earth, this time a man “obscure, / Unmarked, unknown” (1.24 —25), the Father's “new favourite.” 2 And it is with explicit reference to his previous “dismal expedition” that Satan sets out for this second stage of his “exploit” to “ruin Adam” (1.101, 102).

His destination, though, is this time very different. While the opening of Paradise Regained announces continuity with Paradise Lost, it also registers a stark contrast between the “happy garden” context of Adam and Eve's prelapsarian life and the

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