The Poetry Collections
POEMS, 1645
PARADISE LOST
PARADISE REGAINED
SAMSON AGONISTES
POEMS, 1673
VERSES FROM MILTON’S COMMONPLACE BOOK

The Prose Works
AREOPAGITICA
THE DOCTRINE AND DISCIPLINE OF DIVORCE
ON EDUCATION
COLASTERION
THE TENURE OF KINGS AND MAGISTRATES
A TREATISE OF CIVIL POWER
DE DOCTRINA CHRISTIANA

The Biographies
MILTON by Mark Pattison
THE LIFE OF JOHN MILTON by Richard Garnett
MILTON by Sir Walter Alexander Raleigh

 

Complete Works of John Milton by Delphi Classics Book Chapter One

 

First published in 1667, Paradise Lost is now widely regarded as the greatest epic poem in the English language. It concerns the Biblical stories of Satan’s expulsion from Heaven, the temptation of Adam and Eve and their own expulsion from the Garden of Eden. A second edition followed in 1674, which Milton changed from ten books to twelve books to conform with Virgil’s structuring of The Aeneid.  The lengths of each book varied greatly, with the longest being Book IX, with 1,189 lines and the shortest being Book VII, with 640 lines. In the second edition, each book was preceded by a summary titled The Argument, which have all been provided in this eBook.

The epic poem begins as the rebel angels have been banished to Hell, where Satan employs his rhetorical skill to organise his followers.  Satan volunteers himself to poison the newly-created Earth and God’s new creation, Mankind.  Midway through the story, the Angelic War over Heaven is recounted, as Satan’s rebellion follows the epic convention of large-scale warfare used by Homer and Virgil. The battles between the faithful angels and Satan’s forces take place over three days. The final battle involves the Son of God single-handedly defeating the entire legion of angelic rebels and banishing them from Heaven. Following the purging of Heaven, God creates the World, culminating in his creation of Adam and Eve. While God gave Adam and Eve total freedom and power to rule over all creation, He gave them one explicit command: not to eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil on penalty of death.

Satan, who decides that “All good to me is lost; Evil, be thou my Good” (IV.109-10), is comparable in many ways to the tragic heroes of classic Greek literature. Though essentially the villain, Satan is still commonly understood to be the antagonist of the epic and he is given some of Milton’s greatest lines of poetry.

Having gone completely blind in 1652, Milton wrote the epic poem entirely through dictation with the help of his daughters and friends. The poet endured many misfortunes during the writing of Paradise Lost, suffering severely from gout, as well as the emotional loss of his second wife, Katherine Woodcock, who died tragically young in 1658, and the death of their infant daughter five years later.  In spite of these complications, Milton completed a set amount of lines each day, finishing the great work after nine years of composition.

 

Gustave Doré (1832–1883) was a celebrated French engraver and illustrator, who worked primarily with wood and steel engraving. In 1866 he illustrated Milton’s great epic poem in a collection of 50 engravings, which would influence how many modern readers now view the poem. Doré’s beautiful engravings are provided with the text in this edition of the epic poem.