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Paradise Lost by John Milton - Barron's Booknotes
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LINES 871-1009. CHAOS AND OLD NIGHT

Sin opens the gates, which can never again be shut (lines 883-884). The gates are wide enough to let an army, chariots and all, pass easily. They open on the realm of Chaos. Think of it as the first few moments after the Big Bang, when there is nothing but a soup of uncombined electrons and neutrons. Here "hot, cold, moist, and dry," the four elements in medieval science, contend in confusion. The prospect is so terrifying that even Satan pauses before launching himself out of the gates.

When he finally jumps into Chaos, he is swept first down and then up because the region is so chaotic that it is land, sea, and air, by turns and all at once. In three and a half lines composed almost entirely of monosyllables we get a vivid impression of confused and constant change:

So eagerly the fiend Over bog, or steep, through the strait, rough, dense, or rare, With head, hands, wings, or feet pursues his way, And swims or sinks, or wades, or creeps, or flies



After a prolonged struggle, he follows a "universal hubbub wild" to the place where King Chaos and his companion, Old Night, sit with their followers, who are all allegorical figures like Sin and Death. Note that Chance is one of these figures. Chance has no place in the ordered universe ruled by God-chance is chaotic by nature.

Satan asks Chaos and Old Night for directions to the World. He points out that if he reaches the earth and is successful in ruining it, Chaos will gain because he will have more territory. It is an argument Chaos is glad to hear; he grumbles that too much has been taken from him recently. He lost territory when God created Hell out of a corner of Chaos and then lost more when God created the World. It can be seen hanging on a golden chain from Heaven down into Chaos (see illustration). But the World isn't far away now, so Chaos wishes Satan luck. They have the same aims.

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