Answerable Style: Essays on Paradise Lost

By Arnold Stein | Go to book overview

ANSWERABLE STYLE

WHEN the Creator viewed the six days' work and saw "all was entirely good," He returned to behold

how it shew'd In prospect from his Throne, how good, how faire, Answering his great Idea. (VII, 555ff)

The poet-creator, entirely human in "long choosing, and beginning late," has "this Subject for Heroic Song," and he has "the highth of this great Argument." On a humbler plane he may no doubt have his own "great Idea," to which the whole poem must be answerable. But even the divine Creator will want to view in prospect the answerability of work to Idea; and whether to poetcreator Idea is exactly knowable before being expressed by the work -- that is a problem the critic may wisely be busy not to engage. To Milton speculating in prose the poet is a virtuous man and true eloquence, like all noble creation, will return to the pure source which it then will express. One may well think that for a poet with Milton's metaphysical commitments creation would not be conceivable without an Idea, to which the completed poem refers, is potential, and is therefore in some sense subsequent. But having said this, one has not eliminated the fine problems of relationship that remain to trouble metaphysical systems, and for which theology like criticism tends to provide answers from a different order of reasoning. So Milton, in the third chapter of the

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Answerable Style: Essays on Paradise Lost
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface vii
  • Contents xi
  • Satan 3
  • The War in Heaven 17
  • A Note on Hell 38
  • The Garden 52
  • The Fall 75
  • Answerable Style 119
  • Notes 163
  • Index 165
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