The Arguments in

Paradise Lost
by Jon L Jensen T HE G IST OF I T .T HIS E SSAY PROPOSES FIRST IN BRIEF THE WHOLE TOPIC ,M ILTON ’ S ARGUMENTS AS ADDED TO HIS E PIC J USTIFICATION OF THE WAYS OF G OD TO MEN ; THEN TOUCHES ON THE HISTORY OF THESE ARGUMENTS , OR RATHER SUMMARIES CALLED BY THE BLIND P OET ARGUMENTS , WHICH ADDED ONLY AFTER THE FIRST PRINTING OF THE POEM SEEK TO CLARIFY TO READERS WHAT MIGHT OTHERWISE BE HARD TO GET AT , NAMELY WHAT THIS LONGPOEM IS ALL ABOUT , AND IF NOT ENCOURAGE ITS READING , ENCOURAGE THE R EADER MERELY TO PERUSE SAID ARGUMENTS AND THEN PRETEND TO HAVE READ THE THING .W

NAMELY .H OW THE ARGUMENTS STAND THEMSELVES AS A KIND OF POEM . LANGUAGE ANDTHEME . IN SHORT . PRESENT AN ANALYSIS OF CONVENTION . THE E SSAY WILLATTEMPT IN ITS BRIEF PAGE LENGTH TO FULFILL THE ASSIGNMENT .T O ASCERTAIN AS BEST A PROCRASTINATING W RITER OR RATHER W RITER IN SHAPE OF GRADUATE STUDENT .H OW THIS SHALL BE ACCOMPLISHED WITHOUT DEFINITE P LAN OR T HESIS IS YET TO BE KNOWN . DISTINCT IN THEIR STYLE . WHAT MOST SUMMARIES MUST . THAT IS . CAN WITHOUT WAXING INTO RESEARCH PAPER . BUT CONFOUNDINGIN THEIR INABILITY TO ACHIEVE . CONCISION . REFLECTIVE OF MOST OF THE MAJOR THEMES OF THE VERSE . ACHIEVE .HICH HISTORY AND JUSTIFICATIONS PASSED QUICKLY OVER . A FORM DESPISED BY STUDENT AND TEACHER ALIKE .

thanks. it is hard to imagine wading throughthe work without them.T HE S ERPENT — THAT IS — THE P OET /G RADUATE S TUDENT PROCEEDS . Even though 343 years later Paradise Lost is in nodanger of being forgotten. and forgets to take up again.: SOME EXAMPLES SHALL BE GIVEN . and seek for companions” (Johnson). Dr. Before the poem’s opening an argument wasadded. We read Milton for instruction. interspersed through the text before eachbook. retire harassed andoverburdened. Samuel Johnson famouslysaid of Milton’s masterpiece: “None ever wished it longer thanit is. “The want of human interest is always felt. Although Milton may not have intendedthem for the poem initially. Yet most . Its perusal is a duty rather than apleasure." His complaint feels even more justified with morecontext. He writes. in Fowler 37).Paradise Lost is one of the books which the reader admiresand lays down. in the18 th Century when the reading public was far moreaccustomed to poems of length. I am certain it would not be too presumptuous of me tosay that anyone who has read Paradise Lost owes Simmonsthe printer.This kind overburdening was clearly on SamuelSimmons’ mind when for the fourth issue of the first edition hefinally convinced Milton to explain himself. MOST IGNORED . In the issue Simmons attached a note explaining thatwhile “there was no argument at first intended to the book” hehad “procured it” for “the satisfaction of many that havedesired it” (qtd. A few decades after its publication. Simmonsadded new opening pages including Milton’s inestimablyimportant explanation to the world of why English must not beforced to rhyme. Two problemsapparently presented themselves to the earliest readers of theepic: the lack of rhyme and a need for a summary. The man who agreed to print the thing didn’t think itwould sell.The arguments would appear as they do now only inthe second edition. and look elsewhere for recreation. we desertour master. None ever wished it longer than it is. it’s not hard to understand theprinter’s concerns.

ut qui plurimum. “Lycidas. et rem ita esse comperto. especially to contemporaryspeakers. Infact.And by occasion foretels the ruine of our corrupted Clergy thenin their height. Thyrsis learns of the the death of Damon. Argumentum ’s primary definition is “subject. matter. the prosehere is straightforward. A short description of Lydidas was. had studied together and were friends fromchildhood.” (Milton 422) One year later with the publicationof the Latin Epitaphium Damonis . Distinct in their voice and character. se suamquesolitudinem hoc carmine deplorat… (Milton 522). like PL . (the languagewhich arguably taught Milton his convoluted syntax). he deplores himself and his solitude with this poem.representation.” Though in Latin.Seeing this simple summary. theme. THYRSIS. shepherdneighbors. statement.organization and language.eadem studia sequuti. story. tale. contents.drama. itwasn’t the first time that he had seen fit to explain his work tohis readers by way of summary preface. unfortunatelydrown'd in his Passage from Chester on the Irish Seas. added to the text after an initial printing. its sentences remarkably simple: Argumentum.critics pass over thearguments as if they were not written by Milton at all and weresuperfluous to the text. plot. Doraum posteareversus. ejusdem viciniae pastores. Milton explains that Thyrsis and Damon. one is reminded that theLatin argumentum has a range of meanings far greater than itsEnglish equivalent implies. a pueritia amici erant. theysubvert a reader intent on having things made plain. While traveling to improve himself. Jensen 2 When Milton added the arguments to Paradise Lost . 1637.THYRSIS et DAMON.So important was the summary. that the table of contents for “The English Poems” listed it as a part of the title. peregrede obitu DAMONIS nuncium accepit. Miltonincludes an “Argumentum. Inthis Monody the Author bewails a learned Friend. 44). the arguments to Paradise Lost are not only integral to an understanding of the poem. a poem that calls on the lifeof Virgil in memory of Milton’s friend Charles Diodati. When he returns and finds that it wastrue.” only in the secondary definition do the closer connections we have with the word occur (Handford. auimi causa profectus. In it. looking at “Epitaphium Damonis” without .

Milton employs “theSerpent.” God’s . Milton’s mind game with the reader continues by theargument establishing (well prior to Satan’s first speech on line84) the Prince of Darkness as the poem’s Achilles/Aeneas. Evenwithin the realm of rhetoric. A sitting God observes Satan’s flight. “Man’s transgression known. “Satan havingcompast…”(IX). the arguments follow a very similar format. argumentum is translated as“appeal” as in argumentum ad hominem. relying on extremely long“ cola” and “ semicola ” especially in the opening sentences. even asa victor.“Raphael continues…” (VI). the GuardianAngels forsake…”(X). Satan’s Achillean presence. by a heel.often seemingly for complication’s sake alone.”After Book I. in this case the heel of man. “TheAngel Michael continues…(XII).” a pretty direct translation of inmedia res (Milton 1). “Morning approach’t. “Satan now inprospect…” (IV).” No one but the Son of God ispresent to impute God’s justice. predicts thesuccess that Satan will have and then begins to answer arguments against His character by “clear[ing] his own justiceand Wisdom from all imputation. Milton’s word choiceand the associations it implies in an English speaker’s mindcannot be accidental. not specificterms that might refer to Adam. but even in the summary thereader is reminded that God needs defending.knowledge of Milton’s later use of the English word “argument. or rather Satan in the Serpent. “God sitting onhis Throne sees Satan Flying…” (III). “Adam inquires…”(VIII). Stanley Fish claims that “Milton’sprogramme of reader harassment begins in the opening lines”(Fish 4) but I would argue that it begins with the arguments. Instead of simply stating Satan or the Serpent. within the Homeric tradition by claiming that the action“hasts into the midst of things. By establishing the epic nature of thework.Where we might expect succinctness. Eve relates…” (V). Satan’s predominance over the epic is apparent even at first glance through the openingwords of each argument.Satan is the “prime cause. It also establishes the poem asEpic. plot or contents. “The Son of God presents…”(XI).Which leads us to the convention that Milton invents for these summaries. but only in the general. (I’d bet theGRE English Subject Exam has done exactly that). “Raphael at the request of Adam Jensen 3relates…” (VII).Probably the most distinctive feature of the argumentsis the length of their sentences.undone like Achilles. we have complication. Book I’sargument is the most distinctive. They are distinct enough that one couldeasily identify them from one sentence or phrase. Satan is thelead.” one wouldeasily translate the word as summary. A chief player or speaker is identified in connectionwith a primary action. It begins with a statement of the whole poem’s purpose. continues until late in the argument to Book 10. “…Satan Debates” (II). as well with a miniature descriptionof the plot of the entire epic. inhis very selection of the word. Whenupon his return to his palace his full transformation to snake.“Man” is mentioned first. Man is not the chief player.Even in the argument beginning with God.

Then again short argumentswould not be true to the poem itself. If we didn’t get this the first time. 16 The punishment of mankind. asks how he attain’d to human speech andsuch understanding not till now. 6 Man's shameful fall. Most of the arguments end with comments on these specifics of place.Although Raphael reprimands Adam when he “inquiresconcerning celestial Motions. Longer sentences will rely on one stated subject and the compoundedphrases relying on one subject give us the illusion that thewriter is being brief.” This amount of detail. flies out of Paradise. (It’s as though Milton in aspirit of “Prophesie” thought. While fullspeeches are eliminated.” and told to “search rather thingsmore worthy of knowledge” (A8). 9 Godarraigneth them.later he reminds us of the “Prophesie or Tradition in HeavenConcerning another world…”(II). 14 The serpent is cursed. But much of these are extremelyminor details. such as who guards Hell’s gates. the arguments take a greatdeal of time describing Milton’s distinctive cosmology.” That’s it. as in Book IX: “Eve wondring to hear theSerpent speak. Milton uses question words “how. he scornfullyanswers. but hinder’d by a Sign fromHeaven. 22 Their casting out of paradise. prepares resistance.plan for theworld’s creation is “an ancient Prophesie or report in Heaven.” “what”and “who” especially to refer to information that the reader willhave to find within the book. 21 Their firstclothing.Concision in the arguments is illusory. the main features of certainutterances remain. 15 The promisedseed..Shorter statements of action that a reader might expectthrough each summary occur most often only at the end of each as with Book IV.certainly not yet accurst” (I). that bytasting of a certain Tree in the Garden he attain’d both toSpeech and Reason.”Milton chose complicated language over the possibilityof the direct. “by whom question’d. thoughimportant to the logic of Satan’s temptation of Eve in the poemproper seems excessive for a summarizing passage. One need only compare thearguments to the précis added to the 1611 King JamesVersion of the Bible to realize just how complicated they are..In KJV Genesis 3. he fashioned instead an elaborationin miniature of his subjects. Theycouldn’t be more unlike Milton’s. if they’re just going to read the . the Serpent answers. the chapter concerning the Fall. When he could have written simply about themain events of each book. we read: “1The serpent deceiveth Eve.”“for Heaven and Earth may be supposed as yet not made.

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