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Paradise Lost by John Milton - Barron's Booknotes
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LINES 376-520. THE CATALOG OF FALLEN ANGELS

For the listing of the fallen angels, Milton needs further help from his muse, the Holy Spirit. The listing is like a panoramic shot of the huge forces moving from lake to shore, with faces in the crowd picked out as Milton comments on them.

While dramatic, the list is also another device of classical epic. In The Iliad there is a famous catalog of ships, and in The Aeneid there are catalogs of the armies and their leaders who help Aeneas. These catalogs make the scale of the epic enormous: by naming everyone, the poet gives the impression that anybody who was anybody was there.



Don't try to follow every name in the catalog of fallen angels. To do so will only get you lost in a maze of Old Testament history. Instead, read parts of the catalog aloud to appreciate how impressive the names sound.

But you should know why the fist is there. It shows that Milton had none of our multicultural appreciation for other religions or other mythologies beside the Christian one. In the later history of mankind, recorded in the Old Testament, the fallen angels become the false gods who turned the Israelites from the true God. The list includes the Egyptian gods and the gods of Greek and Roman mythology, "the Ionian gods" (line 508), who were also worshipped by people who Milton thinks ought to have known better. For him, all other deities except the Christian God are companions of Satan.

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