Thursday, October 18, 2012

Paradise Lost Book III

William Blake (1757-1845)
Christ Intercedes on Behalf of Man : 'Father, thy word is past, man shall find grace' (Milton, Paradise Lost III.227)
The Victoria and Albert Museum, London

William Blake (1757‑1827) 
The Agony in the Garden 
Tempera on iron 
 270 x 380 mm 
Tate Britain, London

William Blake (1757‑1827) 
The Crucifixion: 'Behold Thy Mother' 
Pen and ink and watercolour on paper 
413 x 300 mm 
Tate Britain, London

William Blake (1757‑1827) 
The Angels hovering over the body of Christ in the Sepulchre; Christ in the sepulchre, guarded by angels
ca. 1805 (painted)
Watercolour, pen and ink
42.2 cm x  31.4 cm
The Victoria and Albert Museum, London

William Blake  regarded John Milton with reverence and had done so since his youth. Blake said  that ‘Milton lov’d me in childhood & shew’d me his face’. (Letter to John Flaxman 12 September 1800)

 He considered Milton the greatest of all the poets, greater than Dante, Shakespeare or Chaucer. 

In Book 3 of John Milton`s Paradise Lost, after the defeat of Satan, God the Father sees that Satan will in the future cause the downfall of mankind. Man will succumb to temptation and disobey God`s command. Adam and Eve will eat the fruit of the Tree

There then follows a dialogue between God the Father and God the Son, the First and Second Persons of the Holy Trinity

God the Father requires punishment as divine justice. The Son intercedes and offers himself as Ransom for Man and all mankind

The Father the accepts the offer and pronounces the Son as the highest above all Names in Heaven. 

Blake and Shelley thought that in Books 1 and 2, Milton`s descriptions of Satan and his activities are more absorbing that Book 3 which describes God and the Angels

Blake thought that 'The reason Milton wrote in fetters when he wrote of Angels and God, and at liberty when of Devils and Hell, is because he was a true Poet and of the Devil's party without knowing it'. 

Shelley thought that God's cold and certain execution of the preordained plan of the devils' (and Man's) destruction made 'Milton's Devil as a moral being ...'far superior to his God'

The same can be said of Dante`s Inferno which is of more interest and much more read than his Paradiso

Below is the dialogue between the Father and the Son in Book 3 It is the interaction of that Mystery we call the Holy Trinity. That God is all and perfect Love outside of Time and Space but also immanent and transcendent in His creation.

We only know God through the Incarnation and as the Father says to the Son it is 
"in thee / Love hath abounded more then Glory abounds"
And it is the Son who acknowledges that from and through  the Father, Grace 
"to all / Comes unprevented, unimplor'd, unsought"
The poetry is truly epic and illustrates why we use the term "Miltonic" to describe his poetry

Some insist on viewing  Paradise Lost  simply as a discourse on the political questions at stake in the English Revolution (1640–1660) and Restoration, 

But, as in the final Cantos of the Paradiso,  in this imagined dialogue between The Father and the Son we read, hear and imagine the Sublime

It is an attempt to explain the Fall and the Redemption. A profound mystery similar to the other questions posed by Milton in Paradise Lost. Who can forget the plaintive question of Adam to Raphael in Book 7:
"what cause / Mov’d the Creator in his holy Rest / Through all Eternitie so late to build /In Chaos" (Paradise Lost, 7.90-3)

Let us ignore the politics and forget the militant Calvinism and reflect simply on the words and the Milton`s religious vision:

Father, thy word is past, man shall find grace;
And shall grace not find means, that finds her way,
The speediest of thy winged messengers,
To visit all thy creatures, and to all [ 230 ]
Comes unprevented, unimplor'd, unsought,
Happie for man, so coming; he her aide
Can never seek, once dead in sins and lost;
Attonement for himself or offering meet,
Indebted and undon, hath none to bring: [ 235 ]
Behold mee then, mee for him, life for life
I offer, on mee let thine anger fall;
Account mee man; I for his sake will leave
Thy bosom, and this glorie next to thee
Freely put off, and for him lastly dye [ 240 ]
Well pleas'd, on me let Death wreck all his rage;
Under his gloomie power I shall not long
Lie vanquisht; thou hast givn me to possess
Life in my self for ever, by thee I live,
Though now to Death I yield, and am his due [ 245 ]
All that of me can die, yet that debt paid,
Thou wilt not leave me in the loathsom grave
His prey, nor suffer my unspotted Soule
For ever with corruption there to dwell;
But I shall rise Victorious, and subdue [ 250 ]
My Vanquisher, spoild of his vanted spoile;
Death his deaths wound shall then receive, and stoop
Inglorious, of his mortal sting disarm'd.
I through the ample Air in Triumph high
Shall lead Hell Captive maugre Hell, and show [ 255 ]
The powers of darkness bound. Thou at the sight
Pleas'd, out of Heaven shalt look down and smile,
While by thee rais'd I ruin all my Foes,
Death last, and with his Carcass glut the Grave:
Then with the multitude of my redeemd [ 260 ]
Shall enter Heaven long absent, and returne,
Father, to see thy face, wherein no cloud
Of anger shall remain, but peace assur'd,
And reconcilement; wrauth shall be no more
Thenceforth, but in thy presence Joy entire. [ 265 ]

His words here ended, but his meek aspect
Silent yet spake, and breath'd immortal love
To mortal men, above which only shon
Filial obedience: as a sacrifice
Glad to be offer'd, he attends the will [ 270 ]
Of his great Father. Admiration seis'd
All Heav'n, what this might mean, and whither tend
Wondring; but soon th' Almighty thus reply'd:

O thou in Heav'n and Earth the only peace
Found out for mankind under wrauth, O thou [ 275 ]
My sole complacence! well thou know'st how dear,
To me are all my works, nor Man the least
Though last created, that for him I spare
Thee from my bosom and right hand, to save,
By loosing thee a while, the whole Race lost. [ 280 ]
Thou therefore whom thou only canst redeem,
Thir Nature also to thy Nature joyn;
And be thy self Man among men on Earth,
Made flesh, when time shall be, of Virgin seed,
By wondrous birth: Be thou in Adams room [ 285 ]
The Head of all mankind, though Adams Son.
As in him perish all men, so in thee
As from a second root shall be restor'd,
As many as are restor'd, without thee none.
His crime makes guiltie all his Sons, thy merit [ 290 ]
Imputed shall absolve them who renounce
Thir own both righteous and unrighteous deeds,
And live in thee transplanted, and from thee
Receive new life. So Man, as is most just,
Shall satisfie for Man, be judg'd and die, [ 295 ]
And dying rise, and rising with him raise
His Brethren, ransomd with his own dear life.
So Heav'nly love shall outdoo Hellish hate,
Giving to death, and dying to redeeme,
So dearly to redeem what Hellish hate [ 300 ]
So easily destroy'd, and still destroyes
In those who, when they may, accept not grace.
Nor shalt thou by descending to assume
Mans Nature, less'n or degrade thine owne.
Because thou hast, though Thron'd in highest bliss [ 305 ]
Equal to God, and equally enjoying
God-like fruition, quitted all to save
A World from utter loss, and hast been found
By Merit more then Birthright Son of God,
Found worthiest to be so by being Good, [ 310 ]
Farr more then Great or High; because in thee
Love hath abounded more then Glory abounds,
Therefore thy Humiliation shall exalt
With thee thy Manhood also to this Throne;
Here shalt thou sit incarnate, here shalt Reign [ 315 ]
Both God and Man, Son both of God and Man,
Anointed universal King, all Power
I give thee, reign for ever, and assume
Thy Merits; under thee as Head Supream 
Thrones, Princedoms, Powers, Dominions I reduce: [ 320 ]
All knees to thee shall bow, of them that bide
In Heaven, or Earth, or under Earth in Hell;
When thou attended gloriously from Heav'n
Shalt in the Sky appeer, and from thee send
The summoning Arch-Angels to proclaime [ 325 ]
Thy dread Tribunal: forthwith from all Windes
The living, and forthwith the cited dead
Of all past Ages to the general Doom
Shall hast'n, such a peal shall rouse thir sleep.
Then all thy Saints assembl'd, thou shalt judge [ 330 ]
Bad men and Angels, they arraignd shall sink
Beneath thy Sentence; Hell her numbers full,
Thenceforth shall be for ever shut. Mean while
The World shall burn, and from her ashes spring
New Heav'n and Earth, wherein the just shall dwell [ 335 ]
And after all thir tribulations long
See golden days, fruitful of golden deeds,
With Joy and Love triumphing, and fair Truth.
Then thou thy regal Scepter shalt lay by,
For regal Scepter then no more shall need, [ 340 ]
God shall be All in All. But all ye Gods,
Adore him, who to compass all this dies,
Adore the Son, and honour him as mee.