Thursday, August 2, 2012

Paradise Lost Book Two


Paradise Lost Book Two

THE ARGUMENT
The Consultation begun, Satan debates whether another Battel be to be hazarded for the recovery of Heaven: some advise it, others dissuade: A third proposal is prefer'd, mention'd before by Satan, to search the truth of that Prophesie or Tradition in Heaven concerning another world, and another kind of creature equal or not much inferiour to themselves, about this time to be created: Thir doubt who shall be sent on this
difficult search: Satan thir chief undertakes alone the voyage, is honourd and applauded. The Councel thus ended, the rest betake them several wayes and to several imployments, as thir inclinations lead them, to entertain the time till Satan return. He passes on his journey to Hell Gates, finds them shut, and who sat there to guard them, by whom at length they are op'nd, and discover to him the great Gulf between Hell and Heaven; with what difficulty he passes through, directed by Chaos, the Power of that place, to the sight of this new World which he sought.

HIgh on a Throne of Royal State, which far
Outshon the wealth of Ormus and of Ind,
Or where the gorgeous East with richest hand
Showrs on her Kings Barbaric Pearl and Gold,
Satan exalted sat, by merit rais'd [ 5 ]
To that bad eminence; and from despair
Thus high uplifted beyond hope, aspires
Beyond thus high, insatiate to pursue
Vain Warr with Heav'n, and by success untaught
His proud imaginations thus displaid. [ 10 ]
Powers and Dominions, Deities of Heav'n,
For since no deep within her gulf can hold
Immortal vigor, though opprest and fall'n,
I give not Heav'n for lost. From this descent
Celestial vertues rising, will appear [ 15 ]
More glorious and more dread then from no fall,
And trust themselves to fear no second fate:
Mee though just right, and the fixt Laws of Heav'n
Did first create your Leader, next free choice,
With what besides, in Counsel or in Fight, [ 20 ]
Hath bin achievd of merit, yet this loss
Thus farr at least recover'd, hath much more
Establisht in a safe unenvied Throne
Yielded with full consent. The happier state
In Heav'n, which follows dignity, might draw [ 25 ]
Envy from each inferior; but who here
Will envy whom the highest place exposes
Formost to stand against the Thunderers aim
Your bulwark, and condemns to greatest share
Of endless pain? where there is then no good [ 30 ]
For which to strive, no strife can grow up there
From Faction; for none sure will claim in Hell
Precedence, none, whose portion is so small
Of present pain, that with ambitious mind
Will covet more. With this advantage then [ 35 ]
To union, and firm Faith, and firm accord,
More then can be in Heav'n, we now return
To claim our just inheritance of old,
Surer to prosper then prosperity
Could have assur'd us; and by what best way, [ 40 ]
Whether of open Warr or covert guile,
We now debate; who can advise, may speak.
He ceas'd, and next him Moloc, Scepter'd King
Stood up, the strongest and the fiercest Spirit
That fought in Heav'n; now fiercer by despair: [ 45 ]
His trust was with th' Eternal to be deem'd
Equal in strength, and rather then be less
Care'd not to be at all; with that care lost
Went all his fear: of God, or Hell, or worse
He reck'd not, and these words thereafter spake. [ 50 ]
My sentence is for open Warr: Of Wiles,
More unexpert, I boast not: them let those
Contrive who need, or when they need, not now.
For while they sit contriving, shall the rest,
Millions that stand in Arms, and longing wait [ 55 ]
The Signal to ascend, sit lingring here
Heav'ns fugitives, and for thir dwelling place
Accept this dark opprobrious Den of shame,
The Prison of his Tyranny who Reigns
By our delay? no, let us rather choose [ 60 ]
Arm'd with Hell flames and fury all at once
O're Heav'ns high Towrs to force resistless way,
Turning our Tortures into horrid Arms
Against the Torturer; when to meet the noise
Of his Almighty Engin he shall hear [ 65 ]
Infernal Thunder, and for Lightning see
Black fire and horror shot with equal rage
Among his Angels; and his Throne it self
Mixt with Tartarean Sulphur, and strange fire,
His own invented Torments. But perhaps [ 70 ]
The way seems difficult and steep to scale
With upright wing against a higher foe.
Let such bethink them, if the sleepy drench
Of that forgetful Lake benumm not still,
That in our proper motion we ascend [ 75 ]
Up to our native seat: descent and fall
To us is adverse. Who but felt of late
When the fierce Foe hung on our brok'n Rear
Insulting, and pursu'd us through the Deep,
With what compulsion and laborious flight [ 80 ]
We sunk thus low? Th' ascent is easie then;
Th' event is fear'd; should we again provoke
Our stronger, some worse way his wrath may find
To our destruction: if there be in Hell
Fear to be worse destroy'd: what can be worse [ 85 ]
Then to dwell here, driv'n out from bliss, condemn'd
In this abhorred deep to utter woe;
Where pain of unextinguishable fire
Must exercise us without hope of end
The Vassals of his anger, when the Scourge [ 90 ]
Inexorably, and the torturing hour
Calls us to Penance? More destroy'd then thus
We should be quite abolisht and expire.
What fear we then? what doubt we to incense
His utmost ire? which to the highth enrag'd, [ 95 ]
Will either quite consume us, and reduce
To nothing this essential, happier farr
Then miserable to have eternal being:
Or if our substance be indeed Divine,
And cannot cease to be, we are at worst [ 100 ]
On this side nothing; and by proof we feel
Our power sufficient to disturb his Heav'n,
And with perpetual inrodes to Allarme,
Though inaccessible, his fatal Throne:
Which if not Victory is yet Revenge. [ 105 ]
He ended frowning, and his look denounc'd
Desperate revenge, and Battel dangerous
To less then Gods. On th' other side up rose
Belial, in act more graceful and humane;
A fairer person lost not Heav'n; he seemd [ 110 ]
For dignity compos'd and high exploit:
But all was false and hollow; though his Tongue
Dropt Manna, and could make the worse appear
The better reason, to perplex and dash
Maturest Counsels: for his thoughts were low; [ 115 ]
To vice industrious, but to Nobler deeds
Timorous and slothful: yet he pleas'd the ear,
And with perswasive accent thus began.
I should be much for open Warr, O Peers,
As not behind in hate; if what was urg'd [ 120 ]
Main reason to persuade immediate Warr,
Did not disswade me most, and seem to cast
Ominous conjecture on the whole success:
When he who most excels in fact of Arms,
In what he counsels and in what excels [ 125 ]
Mistrustful, grounds his courage on despair
And utter dissolution, as the scope
Of all his aim, after some dire revenge.
First, what Revenge? the Towrs of Heav'n are fill'd
With Armed watch, that render all access [ 130 ]
Impregnable; oft on the bordering Deep
Encamp thir Legions, or with obscure wing
Scout farr and wide into the Realm of night,
Scorning surprize. Or could we break our way
By force, and at our heels all Hell should rise [ 135 ]
With blackest Insurrection, to confound
Heav'ns purest Light, yet our great Enemy
All incorruptible would on his Throne
Sit unpolluted, and th' Ethereal mould
Incapable of stain would soon expel [ 140 ]
Her mischief, and purge off the baser fire
Victorious. Thus repuls'd, our final hope
Is flat despair; we must exasperate
Th' Almighty Victor to spend all his rage,
And that must end us, that must be our cure, [ 145 ]
To be no more; sad cure; for who would loose,
Though full of pain, this intellectual being,
Those thoughts that wander through Eternity,
To perish rather, swallowd up and lost
In the wide womb of uncreated night, [ 150 ]
Devoid of sense and motion? and who knows,
Let this be good, whether our angry Foe
Can give it, or will ever? how he can
Is doubtful; that he never will is sure.
Will he, so wise, let loose at once his ire, [ 155 ]
Belike through impotence, or unaware,
To give his Enemies thir wish, and end
Them in his anger, whom his anger saves
To punish endless? wherefore cease we then?
Say they who counsel Warr, we are decreed, [ 160 ]
Reserv'd and destin'd to Eternal woe;
Whatever doing, what can we suffer more,
What can we suffer worse? is this then worst,
Thus sitting, thus consulting, thus in Arms?
What when we fled amain, pursu'd and strook [ 165 ]
With Heav'ns afflicting Thunder, and besought
The Deep to shelter us? this Hell then seem'd
A refuge from those wounds: or when we lay
Chain'd on the burning Lake? that sure was worse.
What if the breath that kindl'd those grim fires [ 170 ]
Awak'd should blow them into sevenfold rage
And plunge us in the flames? or from above
Should intermitted vengeance arm again
His red right hand to plague us? what if all
Her stores were open'd, and this Firmament [ 175 ]
Of Hell should spout her Cataracts of Fire,
Impendent horrors, threatning hideous fall
One day upon our heads; while we perhaps
Designing or exhorting glorious warr,
Caught in a fierie Tempest shall be hurl'd [ 180 ]
Each on his rock transfixt, the sport and prey
Of racking whirlwinds, or for ever sunk
Under yon boyling Ocean, wrapt in Chains;
There to converse with everlasting groans,
Unrespited, unpitied, unrepreevd, [ 185 ]
Ages of hopeless end; this would be worse.
Warr therefore, open or conceal'd, alike
My voice disswades; for what can force or guile
With him, or who deceive his mind, whose eye
Views all things at one view? he from heav'ns highth [ 190 ]
All these our motions vain, sees and derides;
Not more Almighty to resist our might
Then wise to frustrate all our plots and wiles.
Shall we then live thus vile, the race of Heav'n
Thus trampl'd, thus expell'd to suffer here [ 195 ]
Chains and these Torments? better these then worse
By my advice; since fate inevitable
Subdues us, and Omnipotent Decree
The Victors will. To suffer, as to doe,
Our strength is equal, nor the Law unjust [ 200 ]
That so ordains: this was at first resolv'd,
If we were wise, against so great a foe
Contending, and so doubtful what might fall.
I laugh, when those who at the Spear are bold
And vent'rous, if that fail them, shrink and fear [ 205 ]
What yet they know must follow, to endure
Exile, or ignominy, or bonds, or pain,
The sentence of thir Conquerour: This is now
Our doom; which if we can sustain and bear,
Our Supream Foe in time may much remit [ 210 ]
His anger, and perhaps thus farr remov'd
Not mind us not offending, satisfi'd
With what is punish't; whence these raging fires
Will slack'n, if his breath stir not thir flames.
Our purer essence then will overcome [ 215 ]
Thir noxious vapour, or enur'd not feel,
Or chang'd at length, and to the place conformd
In temper and in nature, will receive
Familiar the fierce heat, and void of pain;
This horror will grow milde, this darkness light, [ 220 ]
Besides what hope the never-ending flight
Of future dayes may bring, what chance, what change
Worth waiting, since our present lot appeers
For happy though but ill, for ill not worst,
If we procure not to our selves more woe. [ 225 ]
Thus Belial with words cloath'd in reasons garb
Counsell'd ignoble ease, and peaceful sloath,
Not peace: and after him thus Mammon spake.
Either to disinthrone the King of Heav'n
We warr, if Warr be best, or to regain [ 230 ]
Our own right lost: him to unthrone we then
May hope when everlasting Fate shall yeild
To fickle Chance, and Chaos judge the strife:
The former vain to hope argues as vain
The latter: for what place can be for us [ 235 ]
Within Heav'ns bound, unless Heav'ns Lord supream
We overpower? Suppose he should relent
And publish Grace to all, on promise made
Of new Subjection; with what eyes could we
Stand in his presence humble, and receive [ 240 ]
Strict Laws impos'd, to celebrate his Throne
With warbl'd Hymns, and to his Godhead sing
Forc't Halleluiah's; while he Lordly sits
Our envied Sovran, and his Altar breathes
Ambrosial Odours and Ambrosial Flowers, [ 245 ]
Our servile offerings. This must be our task
In Heav'n, this our delight; how wearisom
Eternity so spent in worship paid
To whom we hate. Let us not then pursue
By force impossible, by leave obtain'd [ 250 ]
Unacceptable, though in Heav'n, our state
Of splendid vassalage, but rather seek
Our own good from our selves, and from our own
Live to our selves, though in this vast recess,
Free, and to none accountable, preferring [ 255 ]
Hard liberty before the easie yoke
Of servile Pomp. Our greatness will appeer
Then most conspicuous, when great things of small,
Useful of hurtful, prosperous of adverse
We can create, and in what place so e're [ 260 ]
Thrive under evil, and work ease out of pain
Through labour and indurance. This deep world
Of darkness do we dread? How oft amidst
Thick clouds and dark doth Heav'ns all-ruling Sire
Choose to reside, his Glory unobscur'd, [ 265 ]
And with the Majesty of darkness round
Covers his Throne; from whence deep thunders roar
Must'ring thir rage, and Heav'n resembles Hell?
As he our darkness, cannot we his Light
Imitate when we please? This Desart soile [ 270 ]
Wants not her hidden lustre, Gemms and Gold;
Nor want we skill or Art, from whence to raise
Magnificence; and what can Heav'n shew more?
Our torments also may in length of time
Become our Elements, these piercing Fires [ 275 ]
As soft as now severe, our temper chang'd
Into their temper; which must needs remove
The sensible of pain. All things invite
To peaceful Counsels, and the settl'd State
Of order, how in safety best we may [ 280 ]
Compose our present evils, with regard
Of what we are and were, dismissing quite
All thoughts of warr: ye have what I advise.
He scarce had finisht, when such murmur filld
Th' Assembly, as when hollow Rocks retain [ 285 ]
The sound of blustring winds, which all night long
Had rous'd the Sea, now with hoarse cadence lull
Sea-faring men orewatcht, whose Bark by chance
Or Pinnace anchors in a craggy Bay
After the Tempest: Such applause was heard [ 290 ]
As Mammon ended, and his Sentence pleas'd,
Advising peace: for such another Field
They dreaded worse then Hell: so much the fear
Of Thunder and the Sword of Michael
Wrought still within them; and no less desire [ 295 ]
To found this nether Empire, which might rise
By pollicy, and long process of time,
In emulation opposite to Heav'n.
Which when Beelzebub perceiv'd, then whom,
Satan except, none higher sat, with grave [ 300 ]
Aspect he rose, and in his rising seem'd
A Pillar of State; deep on his Front engraven
Deliberation sat and public care;
And Princely counsel in his face yet shon,
Majestic though in ruin: sage he stood [ 305 ]
With Atlantean shoulders fit to bear
The weight of mightiest Monarchies; his look
Drew audience and attention still as Night
Or Summers Noon-tide air, while thus he spake.
Thrones and Imperial Powers, off-spring of heav'n [ 310 ]
Ethereal Vertues; or these Titles now
Must we renounce, and changing stile be call'd
Princes of Hell? for so the popular vote
Inclines, here to continue, and build up here
A growing Empire; doubtless; while we dream, [ 315 ]
And know not that the King of Heav'n hath doom'd
This place our dungeon, not our safe retreat
Beyond his Potent arm, to live exempt
From Heav'ns high jurisdiction, in new League
Banded against his Throne, but to remaine [ 320 ]
In strictest bondage, though thus far remov'd,
Under th' inevitable curb, reserv'd
His captive multitude: For he, be sure
In heighth or depth, still first and last will Reign
Sole King, and of his Kingdom loose no part [ 325 ]
By our revolt, but over Hell extend
His Empire, and with Iron Scepter rule
Us here, as with his Golden those in Heav'n.
What sit we then projecting peace and Warr?
Warr hath determin'd us, and foild with loss [ 330 ]
Irreparable; tearms of peace yet none
Voutsaf't or sought; for what peace will be giv'n
To us enslav'd, but custody severe,
And stripes, and arbitrary punishment
Inflicted? and what peace can we return, [ 335 ]
But to our power hostility and hate,
Untam'd reluctance, and revenge though slow,
Yet ever plotting how the Conqueror least
May reap his conquest, and may least rejoyce
In doing what we most in suffering feel? [ 340 ]
Nor will occasion want, nor shall we need
With dangerous expedition to invade
Heav'n, whose high walls fear no assault or Siege,
Or ambush from the Deep. What if we find
Some easier enterprize? There is a place [ 345 ]
(If ancient and prophetic fame in Heav'n
Err not) another World, the happy seat
Of some new Race call'd Man, about this time
To be created like to us, though less
In power and excellence, but favour'd more [ 350 ]
Of him who rules above; so was his will
Pronounc'd among the Gods, and by an Oath,
That shook Heav'ns whol circumference, confirm'd.
Thither let us bend all our thoughts, to learn
What creatures there inhabit, of what mould, [ 355 ]
Or substance, how endu'd, and what thir Power,
And where thir weakness, how attempted best,
By force or suttlety: Though Heav'n be shut,
And Heav'ns high Arbitrator sit secure
In his own strength, this place may lye expos'd [ 360 ]
The utmost border of his Kingdom, left
To their defence who hold it: here perhaps
Som advantagious act may be achiev'd
By sudden onset, either with Hell fire
To waste his whole Creation, or possess [ 365 ]
All as our own, and drive as we were driven,
The punie habitants, or if not drive,
Seduce them to our Party, that thir God
May prove thir foe, and with repenting hand
Abolish his own works. This would surpass [ 370 ]
Common revenge, and interrupt his joy
In our Confusion, and our Joy upraise
In his disturbance; when his darling Sons
Hurl'd headlong to partake with us, shall curse
Thir frail Original, and faded bliss, [ 375 ]
Faded so soon. Advise if this be worth
Attempting, or to sit in darkness here
Hatching vain Empires. Thus Beelzebub
Pleaded his devilish Counsel, first devis'd
By Satan, and in part propos'd: for whence, [ 380 ]
But from the Author of all ill could Spring
So deep a malice, to confound the race
Of mankind in one root, and Earth with Hell
To mingle and involve, done all to spite
The great Creatour? But thir spite still serves [ 385 ]
His glory to augment. The bold design
Pleas'd highly those infernal States, and joy
Sparkl'd in all thir eyes; with full assent
They vote: whereat his speech he thus renews.
Well have ye judg'd, well ended long debate, [ 390 ]

Paradise Lost Book 2 Summary

  • Book 2 opens with Satan sitting on his throne; he addresses his legions, saying that he still hopes to regain Heaven.
  • He says that now they must debate about the most effective way to fight God; he asks whether all out war or something more subtle is better.
  • Moloch speaks first; he's in favor of open war with God. They should just batter God's throne with all they've got because things can't be possibly get any worse.
  • Belial – a really clever speaker – is up next. He's not in favor of open war because Heaven is too well-fortified and will easily expel the foreign invaders.
  • And besides, being an angel, even in Hell, is better than death; things could be worse. They could be burned alive by the fires of Hell, chained to the burning lake, etc.
  • Actually, Belial is against any form of war because God will figure out their plans and defeat them. Who knows? Maybe God will relax his punishment if they just put up with it for a while.
  • Mammon is up next; he says it is impossible to defeat God and, even if He forgives everybody, they'll have to be slaves and pay tribute to Him. Not worth it.
  • They should just do what they want in Hell, because they're free there. With a little hard work, they can make the best of their situation.
  • There is applause after this speech; the fallen angels are afraid of another war, and would rather build an empire in Hell to rival Heaven's.
  • Beelzebub rises up; he says it's a joke to think they can have their own empire in Hell. God will eventually exert his dominion over it too.
  • There will be no peace, but they don't necessarily have to assault Heaven. Rumor has it that God is building a new world. They should check it out.
  • Maybe they can destroy mankind, or "Seduce them to our [the devil's] party" (2.368).
  • The fallen angels vote in favor of Beelzebub's plan…supposedly. It sounds rigged.
  • He resumes his speech and asks who is bold enough to try and find this new world?
  • Nobody volunteers, and all the angels are afraid; this is a bold, important, and dangerous task.
  • Satan stands up and addresses the council. He says Hell is a really strong prison and it's hard to get out; if one gets out, then one has to deal with a dark place that has no being ("unessential Night"). It's like stepping off the planet into something unknown.
  • He says he wouldn't be a good sovereign, though, if he were afraid of doing something. He's the leader and should brave more dangers. He'll look for the new world.
  • He tells the angels to make Hell cozier while he's away.
  • The fallen angels greatly respect their leader; they treat him like a "God…equal to the highest in Heav'n" (2.479). He's risking his own life for their sake after all.
  • They shouldn't get too excited; this prospect is kind of like a gleam of sunshine when it's clearly going to rain.
  • The highest-ranking angels emerge from Pandemonium with Satan, who is surrounded by a group of heavily-armed soldiers.
  • Trumpets made of fake gold proclaim the result of the council; Hell resounds with cheering.
  • The leaders each go their own way, to relax or chill out – to find "truce for [their] restless thoughts'' – while they wait for Satan to return.
  • Some angels tear up rocks and create a huge ruckus; some of them go off and sing songs. Still others go off in the hills to meditate on philosophical subjects. Some even have races!
  • One group assembles into platoons and goes in search of an "easier habitation" – i.e., a nicer place to live. Each group travels along the banks of one of the four rivers of Hell (Styx, Acheron, Cocytus, Phlegeton).
  • Beyond these is the river of forgetfulness, Lethe. And beyond that, the platoons discover that Hell is a frozen wasteland. Huh?
  • That's right, it's snowing and there's hail. Basically it's like Antarctica. It's so cold, though, it almost burns. "Cold performs the effect of Fire," Milton says.
  • Apparently the fallen angels will be forced to spend time in this part of Hell on a regular basis, frozen in ice; the change from fire to ice is brutal.
  • Meanwhile, Satan makes his way towards the gates of Hell, which are very strong, and surrounded by fire. There are three of them (one brass, one iron, one "adamantine rock").
  • There are two figures on either side of the gate. The first is female from the head to the waste, and below the waist she is serpentine. Around her waist are little hell-hounds that constantly bark but sometimes retreat into her womb. Disgusting!
  • The other is dark and black; he appears shapeless, and is very terrible (sorry, that's all Milton gives us). He wears a fake crown on his head, and is introduced at line 666. Hmmm….
  • Satan is not afraid; he addresses them, saying he's going through that gate no matter what.
  • The male asks him if he's the rebel angel that started a huge war in Heaven. He (the shapeless figure) is in charge here, not Satan.
  • Satan and this figure stare each other down (like two thunder clouds), almost as if they were about to duel. Each plans to kill the other with one stroke, but the female jumps between them.
  • She asks Satan why he's about to kill his….son! And she asks the other why he's about kill his…father!
  • Satan asks her what she's talking about, and she tells him: during the planning of the revolt in Heaven, she (still unnamed) sprung forth from the left side of his head! The rebel angels named her Sin.
  • Satan had a secret sexual relationship with his daughter Sin and impregnated her; she fell with the angels from Heaven, was given the key to Hell, and gave birth to Death (the shapeless guy).
  • Death eventually raped ("embraces forcible and foul") Sin (his mother), who gave birth to those hell hounds around her waist. They howl and gnaw out her insides.
  • Satan tells Sin that he's trying to free his angels and that he's going in search of God's newly-created world. He'll let Sin and Death roam free there if he finds it.
  • Sin says that God has forbidden her to open the gates. Why should she listen to God, though, since He's exiled her? Besides, he's not her real dad, Satan is.
  • Sin opens the gates; a thunderous sound is heard, and flames and smoke burst out. Beyond is "a dark/ Illimitable Ocean without bound,/ Without dimension" (2.891-893).
  • Satan observes this place – it's called Chaos, and it is hot, cold, moist, and dry all at once. It's really loud, louder than the sounds of war or the sound of the earth imploding.
  • Satan takes flight; his journey takes him over a number of strange, hybrid substances; he has to walk-fly, crawl, swim, basically move in every which way. This is Chaos, after all.
  • He hears some sounds and moves towards them, eventually coming to Chaos' throne. He tells him (Chaos) that he's trying to find the borders of Heaven and asks for directions.
  • Chaos says he knows who he is; he heard the angels fall and saw the heavenly angels pursue them.
  • He directs Satan towards earth, and Satan takes off like a pyramid of fire.
  • Satan approaches Heaven, and he can see its light shining into the dark abyss. He also notices the universe (Milton calls it the "world"), hanging from Heaven by a golden chain.
  • He moves towards it "full fraught with mischievous revenge."

Summary

Satan opens the debate in Pandemonium by claiming that Heaven is not yet lost, and that the fallen angels (or devils) might rise up stronger in another battle if they work together. He opens the floor, and the pro-war devil Moloch speaks first. Moloch was one of the fiercest fighters in the war in Heaven, and he anxiously pleads for another open war, this time armed with the weapons of Hell. He reasons that nothing, even their destruction, could be worse than Hell, and so they have nothing to lose by another attack. Belial speaks up to contradict him. He eloquently offers calm reason to counter Moloch’s fiery temper, and claims that God has not yet punished them as fiercely as he might if they went to war with him again. After all, they are no longer chained to the fiery lake, which was their previous and worse punishment; since God may one day forgive them, it is better that they live with what they now have. But peace is not really what he advocates; rather, Belial uses his considerable intelligence to find excuses to prevent further war and to advocate lassitude and inaction. Mammon speaks up next, and refuses to ever bow down to God again. He prefers to peacefully advance their freedom and asks the devils to be industrious in Hell. Through hard work, the devils can make Hell their own kingdom to mimic Heaven. This argument meets with the greatest support among the legions of the fallen, who receive his suggestion with applause.
Summary
At the start of Book II, Satan sits on his throne like a Middle Eastern potentate and addresses the assembled devils as to the course of action they should follow. Four of the devils speak — Moloch, Belial, Mammon, and Beelzebub — with Beelzebub being Satan's mouthpiece. Each speaker offers a different attitude concerning a solution for their Hellish predicament: Moloch proposes open warfare on Heaven; Belial proposes that they do nothing; Mammon argues that Hell may not be so bad, that it can be livable, even comfortable, if all the devils will work to improve it; and Beelzebub, Satan's mouthpiece, argues that the only way to secure revenge on Heaven is to corrupt God's newest creation: Man.
Beelzebub's (Satan's) plan carries the day, and Satan begins his journey up from Hell. At Hell's Gate, he is confronted by his daughter, Sin, a being whose upper torso is that of a beautiful woman but whose lower body is serpent-like. All around her waist are hellish, barking dogs. Across from Sin is her phantom-like son, Death.
Satan persuades Sin to open the gates, which she does, but she cannot close them again. Satan ventures forth into the realm of Chaos and Night, the companions that inhabit the void that separates Hell from Heaven. From Chaos, Satan learns that Earth is suspended from Heaven by a golden chain, and he immediately begins to make his way there. As Satan creates the path from Hell to Earth, Sin and Death follow him, constructing a broad highway.
Analysis
Book II divides into two large sections. The first is the debate among the devils concerning the proper course of action. The second section deals with Satan's voyage out of Hell with Sin and Death — the only extended allegory in Paradise Lost.
The council of demons that begins Book II recalls the many assemblies of heroes in both the Iliad and the Aeneid. Further the debates also seem based on the many meetings that Milton attended in his various official capacities. In his speech, each devil reveals both the characteristics of his personality and the type of evil he represents. For example, Moloch, the first to speak, is the unthinking man of action. Like Diomedes in the Iliad, he is not adept in speech, but he does know how to fight. He is for continued war and unconcerned about the consequences. But, moreover, the attitude toward violence exhibited by Moloch reveals a particular type of evil. In the Inferno, Dante had divided evils into three broad categories: sins of appetite, sins of will, and sins of reason. In the Renaissance, these categories still dominated much thought concerning the nature of evil. In Moloch, the reader sees a straightforward example of the evil that comes from the will. Unthinking violence is the result of lack of control of the will. And for Moloch, the "furious king" (VI, 357), violence defines his character.
In contrast to Moloch, Belial as a character type is a sophist, a man skilled in language, an intellectual who uses his powers to deceive and confuse. His basic argument is that the devils should do nothing. Belial wishes to avoid war and action, but he couches his arguments so skillfully that he answers possible objections from Moloch before those objections can be raised. He, in fact, rises to speak so quickly that the assembly is not able to respond to Moloch's idea. Belial also suggests the possibility that at some point God might allow the fallen angels back into Heaven, though these arguments seem specious at best and simply an excuse for cowardly inactivity. In terms of evil, Moloch uses reason for corrupt purposes. The use of reason for evil was theologically the greatest sin because reason separates man from animals. Belial's sophistry is not as corrupting as Beelzebub's and Satan's fraud will be, but it is still a sin of reason. Milton, in fact, introduces Belial as fair and handsome on the outside but "false and hollow" within (112). Milton makes the point about reason straightforwardly at the end of Belial's speech by referring to it as "words cloth'd in reason's garb" (226), as opposed to simply words of reason.
Belial's persuasive speech for nothing is followed by the practical, materialistic assessment of Mammon. Mammon sees the little picture. He finds no profit in war with God or in doing nothing. Hell, he argues can be made into a livable, even pleasurable place. In Heaven, Mammon always looked down at the streets of gold. In Hell, he sees the gem and mineral wealth and thinks that Hell can be improved. In terms of sin, Mammon exhibits the sin of the appetite. Here the basic instinct of appetite controls the person. Mammon's desire for individual wealth controls his assessment of everything. The proverb that one cannot serve God and Mammon both easily translates to the idea that one cannot serve both God and one's appetite.
Finally, Beelzebub rises to speak — and he speaks for Satan. His argument to attack God by corrupting Man is Satan's argument. This idea is essentially a fait accompli; Satan has intended this plan all along and simply uses Beelzebub to present it. The entire council has been a sham, designed to rubber stamp Satan's design, a design that also allows Satan to leave Hell. Beelzebub's speech and actions are like those of Belial in that they pervert reason. But unlike Belial's arguments, Beelzebub's involve treachery against his fellow demons. All of the devils have involved themselves in treachery against God, but now Beelzebub and Satan compound this treachery by defrauding their own companions. The devils have seemingly been given a choice within a council, but in fact this seeming choice was illusion. They have been set up to do Satan's bidding. For many Renaissance thinkers, this type of treachery would have been considered Compound Fraud, the worst sin of all.
At this point, Satan begins his journey out of Hell to search for Earth and Man. The devils left behind explore Hell, finding various geographic areas including fire and ice, but also mountains and fields. Their exploratory activities along with their sports, songs, and games suggest another concept of Hell — Limbo, the part of Hell Catholicism recognized as reserved for virtuous pagans and unbaptised babies, a part of Hell that is Hell only in that those in it can never be in the presence of God. Limbo is an earthly paradise, and Milton seems to suggest that the fallen angels could have that for their punishment if they were content to accept their defeat by God.
As the devils explore Hell, Satan makes his way toward the gate out of Hell. This section of Book II begins the one extended allegory in Paradise Lost. An allegory is a literary work in which characters, plot, and action symbolize, in systematic fashion, ideas lying outside the work. While much of Paradise Lost deals with Christian ideas and theology, only in this section does Milton write in a true allegorical manner.
At the locked gate where he may exit Hell, Satan finds two guards: his daughter, Sin, and his grandson, Death. The way Sin and Death were created explains the nature of allegory. Sin was born when Satan, in Heaven, felt envy for Jesus. Sin sprang from Satan's head (symbolically his thoughts) just as Athena (wisdom) sprang from the head of Zeus. Death was born of the unnatural union between Satan and his daughter. Finally, adding to the general nastiness of the story, Death raped his own mother, Sin, creating the Cerberus-like hellhounds that gather around her waist.
The allegorical interpretation of this story is, in its simplest form, easy to follow. Satan's envy for Jesus was a sin, which becomes manifest in the character of his daughter, Sin. That is, the concept of sin in Satan's mind literally becomes Sin, a character. Sin, in conjunction with satanic evil, produces Death. Finally, Sin and Death together produce the hellhounds that will come to plague all mankind. The allegory here can be explored more deeply, but basically it explains, through characters and action, how sin and death entered the universe. Similarly, the fact that Sin opens the gate of Hell for Satan is also allegoric as is her inability to close it. Thus Satan, by leaving Hell, brings Sin and Death into the world.
Next Satan confronts the characters Chaos and Night. These two represent the great void that separates Earth from Hell. They are also part of the complex Renaissance cosmogony, but on the most basic level they represent the vast unorganized part of the universe away from Heaven and Earth. Hell lies on the other side of Chaos, and Night shows just how far removed Hell is, both figuratively and literally, from God.
Chaos and Night welcome Satan's attempt to cross the space between Heaven and Hell because they too lie outside the purview of Heaven. Satan becomes the pioneer who crosses the wilderness of Chaos and Night to find Earth, and in this effort he gains heroic stature. Within the allegory, however, he is simply charting the path for Sin and Death, since they follow him, building a broad highway. Once again the allegory is clear: Satan brings Sin and Death into the world where they will convey countless souls back across the broad highway to Hell. Also, the gate of Hell has been left open, and evils can now go from Hell to Earth at will.
Glossary
ambrosial (245) of or fit for the gods; divine.
vassal / vassalage (253) a subordinate, subject, servant, slave, etc.
Atlantean (305) of or like Atlas; strong.
abyss (405) Theol. the primeval void or chaos before the Creation.
Empyreal / Empyrean (430) the highest heaven; among Christian poets, the abode of God.
lantskip (491) landscape (a Dutch word whose form had not changed in English in Milton's time).
alchymy (516) an early form of chemistry studied in the Middle Ages, whose chief aim was to change base metals into gold and to discover the elixir of perpetual youth. Milton uses the word in this instance in its meaning of "metal."
welkin (538) the vault of heaven, the sky.
Styx, Acheron, Cocytus, Phlegethon (577) the four rivers of Hell.
frith (919) a narrow inlet or arm of the sea.