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Paradise Lost by John Milton - Barron's Booknotes
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LINES 551-649. THE FINAL WALK THROUGH PARADISE

Milton has poured all the Christian wisdom necessary for a good life into Adam's final speech. Adam has learned the hard way, but now he knows that to obey is best, that dependence on God's truth will bring him mercy and strength. It must be Milton's own voice we hear in the lines: "That suffering for Truth's sake / Is fortitude to highest victory."

Michael sees that he's finished his work, for Adam has "attained the sum / Of wisdom." He urges him to live in faith, virtue, patience, temperance, but to add love to all of these. If he takes love with him in his soul, he will not be leaving Paradise but will have it always with him.

The time has come to leave the Garden. Adam has 930 more years to live on earth with Eve, but they will be strengthened and comforted by the knowledge of the redeemer who is to arise from their "seed."

Eve already knows everything through her dream. What Milton is saying here is that women have a more direct access to some kinds of knowledge through their intuition. Eve also rejoices in her "felix culpa": "though all by me is lost... By me the promised seed shall all restore."



Now the archangels glide toward them like a mist rising from the river. This final epic simile of the poem has the usual extra message-the mist seems to urge the laborers home, just as now the angels have to make Adam and Eve hurry. Michael seizes a hand each of Adam and Eve and ushers them through the gate and down to the plain below. He leaves immediately.

Imagine Adam and Eve at this final moment: they look back up at the cliff, their eyes full of tears, and see the gate closed against them. Above it flames the burning sword, and all around are the armed angels with forbidding faces.

They turn away from the cliff and look out to a land they have never seen. It is frightening, but they seek each other's hands and feel strengthened by their trust in God.

These last few lines are not in the Biblical source, as you can see. They express in simple words (look how many are monosyllables) that frightening sense of intense aloneness you feel when beginning a new part of your life. Even though you know that eventually everything will turn out well, those first few steps are hard to take. Like Adam and Eve, we all have to take them.

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Paradise Lost by John Milton - Barron's Booknotes
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