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Paradise Lost by John Milton - Barron's Booknotes
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LINES 371-551. DEATH AND OLD AGE

Remember that Adam has no idea what to expect from death. It's just a word to him. When Michael shows him Cain killing Abel, he cries out that "some great mischief" has happened to him. Michael explains that these two are Adam's own sons, so that he is seeing all at once the first death, the first murder, and the first fratricide.

Adam is horrified that death is so ugly and dirty, for Abel rolls "in dust and gore" as he dies. Michael makes him feel even worse as he shows him a hospital with people dying from all manner of diseases, some of them even crying for death as a release.



Adam's distress brings from Michael the explanation that the sin of Eve brought down on mankind the curse of sickness because she did not respect God's image in herself. Sickness comes from excesses which pervert the image of God in every person.

However, Michael says to comfort Adam, if you live temperately, you will die of old age, not sickness. He gives a touchingly realistic picture of old age, with its lost youth, strength, and beauty and its "melancholy damp of cold and dry." The result is that Adam thinks death a deliverance from "this cumbrous charge," life, which he isn't so eager now to prolong. Michael sums up the discussion in a two-line moral:

Nor love thy life nor hate; but what thou livst Live well, how long or short permit to Heaven.

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Paradise Lost by John Milton - Barron's Booknotes
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