Wednesday, April 26, 2006


Pagan Myth in Milton

Gypsy Scholar:
Milton is not averse to using even pagan myth to illuminate a crucial point.
Here are a few examples from Paradise Lost.

5.285-287 (angel Raphael compared to Hermes):
                              Like Maia's son he stood,
And shook his plumes, that heav'nly fragrance filled
The circuit wide.
5.377-383 (Eve compared to Aphrodite):
                              So to the sylvan lodge
They came, that like Pomona's arbor smiled,
With flow'rets decked, and fragrant smells; but Eve,
Undecked, save with herself, more lovely fair
Than wood-nymph, or the fairest goddess feigned
Of three that in Mount Ida naked strove,
Stood to entertain her guest from Heav'n.
11.8-14 (Adam and Eve compared to Deucalion and Pyrrha):
                              Yet their port
Not of mean suitors, nor important less
Seemed their petition, than when th' ancient pair
In fables old, less ancient yet than these,
Deucalion and chaste Pyrrha to restore
The race of mankind drowned, before the shrine
Of Themis stood devout.
11.129-133 (cherubim compared to Janus and Argus):
                              With him the cohort bright
Of watchful Cherubim; four faces each
Had, like a double Janus, all their shape
Spangled with eyes more numerous than those
Of Argus, and more wakeful than to drowse,
Charmed with Arcadian pipe, the pastoral reed
Of Hermes, or his opiate rod.
11.184-186 (eagle called bird of Jove):
                              Nigh in her sight
The bird of Jove, stooped from his aery tow'r,
Two birds of gayest plume before him drove.
11.240-244 (Michael the Archangel's vest dyed by Iris):
                              Over his lucid arms
A military vest of purple flowed,
Livelier than Meliboean, or the grain
Of Sarra, worn by kings and heroes old
In time of truce; Iris had dipt the woof.

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