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THE REST OF BOOK VII
We are now back at the point where Book I began. But the flashback isn't complete yet. While the rebel angels were falling through Chaos and lying chained on the burning lake in Hell, God created the World.
The whole of Book VII is a retelling in frequently delightful poetry of the Hebrew creation myth found in the Book of Genesis, Chapter I and the first three verses of Chapter 2. Read them parallel with Book VII so that you can see where Milton uses the same words and where he embroiders an idea suggested in Genesis.
There is one important difference you may have noticed from this telling of the myth and Milton's. In Paradise Lost it is God the Son who goes down to the World and creates all things. As you know from the note on Christian theology in Book III, the Holy Trinity existed from the first, in a mystic whole-and-part relationship. When the Hebrew creation myth was written, God was single, as he still is in the Judaic religion.
But Milton isn't really clear about which aspect of God actually performs the creation. God takes the golden compasses (line 225) to carve the world out of Chaos, and it isn't obvious that the Son is meant here. In fact, when the Son returns to Heaven in triumph, Milton admits that God the Father had been along all the time: "for he also went / Invisible, yet stayed (such privilege / Hath Omnipresence)".
You might want to consider the difficulties Milton has in making details like this logically consistent. Think of it this way: we now have a physical explanation for the universe; we can deduce the origins of matter and life from scientific observations. We don't attribute moral qualities to the universe. Our explanation is objective and neutral.
But Milton saw the universe and its creation as moral acts. From the physical universe he deduced a necessary pattern of man's moral behavior. The Christian Son of God, with his sacrifice for mankind's sake, had to be part of the essential structure of the universe. Nothing is morally neutral, for everything speaks to us of God's goodness and reminds us of our place in the universe and the responsibilities due to that place.
It's worth pointing out that Milton was trying to do something we don't attempt any more. We now attribute moral behavior entirely to our need to live together peaceably for everyone's benefit.
Book VII is a joyous interlude after the noise and terror of the War in Heaven and before the anguish of Adam and Eve's temptation. Just enjoy it. Read it fast for the sweep of the creation and the pleasure of the details-the "fish that with their fins and shining scales / Glide under the green wave"; the whale who "at his trunk spouts out a sea"; and the mole throwing little hills of dirt behind him as he digs.