Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained Mass Market Paperback – Nov 2 2010
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About the Author
John Milton was born in London on December 9, 1608, and studied at the University of Cambridge. He originally planned to become a clergyman, but abandoned those ambitions to become a poet. Political in his writings, he served a government post during the time of the Commonwealth. In 1651, he went completely blind but he continued to write, finishing Paradise Lost in 1667, and Paradise Regained in 1671. He died in 1674.
Christopher Ricks is professor of humanities at Boston University and most recently author of Dylan’s Visions of Sin.
Susanne Woods is a Provost nad Professor of English at Wheaton College in Massachusetts, and Chair of the professional Northeast Milton Seminar. Her doctorate is from Columbia University and she has taught at the University of Hawaii, Franklin & Marshall College, and at Brown University, where she maintains an affiliation. Her books include Natural Emphasis: English Versification from Chaucer to Dryden (1984), and Lanyer: A Renaissance Woman Poet (1999), and she has published numerous articles on Milton and other English renaissance poets.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
A few years ago I made two fortunate decisions. I elected to read Milton's Paradise Lost and I bought the Norton Critical Edition (edited by Scott Elledge). I read and reread Paradise Lost over a period of three months as well as the 300 pages of the Norton critical commentary. I was stunned by the beauty and power of Milton. Why had I waited so long to even approach such a literary masterpiece?
Make no mistake. I had been right in several ways. Paradise Lost is difficult, it is long, and full appreciation requires an understanding of the historical and religious context. But Paradise Lost is a remarkable achievement. It explores questions regarding man and God that are as relevant today as in the 17th century. And the genius of Milton has never been surpassed.
I found the Norton footnotes extremely helpful - definitions for rare or archaic words and expressions, explanations of the historical context, and links to the critical commentary section. The footnotes are at the page bottom, making them readily accessible.
The Norton biographical, historical, and literary commentaries were fascinating in their own right. I may well as spent as many hours reading commentary as with Paradise Lost itself.
John Milton led a remarkable life. His enthusiastic euology on Shakespeare was included in the second folio edition of Shakespeare in 1632. This was Milton's first public appearance as an author! While traveling as a young man he "found and visited" the great Galileo, old and blind, a house prisoner of the Inquisition for his astronomical heresy. Years later Milton, a close supporter of Cromwell, barely escaped the scaffold at the Restoration and was at risk for some period afterwards. Many considered Milton no more than an outcast, now old and blind himself, a republican and regicide who had escaped death by too much clemency. Within a few years this aging blind outcast created one of the masterpieces of the English language.
Milton broke all English tradition by writing Paradise Lost in blank verse. Homer in Greek and Vergil in Latin had used blank verse, but English demanded rhyme. Although others failed to imitate Milton's blank verse (I suspect that none wanted to be compared directly with genius), the praise was without exception. Dryden, a master of rhyme, is attributed with saying, "This man cuts us all out, and the ancients too".
Milton's characterization of Satan, Adam, Eve, the archangels Raphael, Michael, and Gabriel, and even God himself are masterful. The debates and arguments that evolve around free will, obedience, forbidden knowledge, love, evil, and guilt are timeless. And fascinating. And thought provoking.
Paradise Lost will require commitment and patience and thought. The commitment in time is substantial. (I enjoy Samuel Johnson's subtle comment: "None ever wished it longer than it is.") But the return is a personal experience with great literature, one of the masterpieces of the English language. I consider myself fortunate to have made such an investment.
As to the poem itself, some people are hard on it for all the wrong reasons. Remember that it is a 17th century poem, that English was not exactly similar as it is today, and that there are many, many words which were first used in English in "Paradise Lost". Milton was innovative with words, and he gave English new words, and expressions, such as the most famous "all Hell broke loose", which was first uttered in "Paradise Lost".
A poem like this cannot be read without good notes, and this is what this edition has to offer. Notes aren't enough, though, they have to be good, and in this edition, they are. The poem itself is not burdened by the numbers of the notes, because there are so many, the editor decided not to show them in the text per se, but at the end of the book, you will always have the reference, the lines, which the notes are about.
As to the poem itself, if you don't know it, you certainly know of the story of the Fall of Man, Adam and Eve, and the rebellion of Satan in Heaven. I'll only say that Milton's God is one seriously problematic figure in the poem, and that it caused centuries of academic discussion as to whether Milton's God is a good God or a devilish one, whether "Paradise Lost" was truly a "myth", in the old sense of a story which explains why we're here and how it got to be, or whether it was an attack on Christianity. Scholars still discuss this today, so make your own mind if you can!
What separates this version from all the others available? The incredibly detailed work of the editors. The annotations of this edition are absolutely fantastic. They are plentiful (sometimes taking up as much as half a page), extremely informative, and surprisingly fun to read. Most annotated works such as this merely clarify antiquated vocabulary, but in this case the editors point out classical allusions, references to current events, and references to Milton's prose works. In addition to the prose and poetry associated with the text, the editors routinely mention the critical discourse (of which there is an unholy amount) associated with Milton. There are even moments where I laughed out loud at their comments. There is also a subtle touch to the annotations, in that there is no indication of annotations within the line. What I mean by this is that there are no bubbles or footnote marks in the body of the poem. The annotations at the bottom of the page simply point to a line number. This allows the reader to ignore the annotations if they choose to do so.
Another nice characteristic of this edition is the artwork and illustrations included. There's some really fantastic stuff in there.
All in all, this is an excellent edition of an excellent poem.
If thou beest he but O how fall'n! how changed
From him who in the happy realms of light
Clothed with transcendent brightness didst outshine
Myriads, thought bright! if he whom mutual league,
United thoughts and counsels, equal hope. . .
The meaning of the lines is confusing because Satan himself is confused, and now speaking for the first time a fallen language. The "he" from line one gets dropped until line four, when Satan remembers what he's talking about after wandering through a few memories of his life before the fall. The reader is supposed to feel the confusion and torment of this run-on sentence. But Teskey uses parentheses to clean up the very mess Milton wanted Satan to make of the sentence:
If thou beest he (but O how fallen! how changed
From him who in the happy realms of light
Clothed with transcendent brightness didst outshine
Myriads, though bright) if he whom. . .
This effectively dumbs down the poem and drastically changes it. And there is way too much of it in this edition. It is common enough to modernize spelling and syntax in editions of early modern poetry, but this is a bit too much. Readers don't buy this book because they want an easy read; most readers, even students, don't mind if it is a little hard and confusing in parts. Mostly, I bet they want to see what Milton and not his editors wrote.
The introduction and notes on all chapters written by Philip Pullman are short, refreshing and suprisingly funny. Even if you studied Paradise in depth, his comments may shed new light on this classic work. As he reminds the readers, these are his views as a fan rather than a scholar, and he tries to clear some cobwebs that gathered on Milton's opus and bring it closer into focus for the modern readers. Among his references are Alfred Hitchcock's movies and novels of Frederick Forsyth. And he tackles that age old dilema- if he is so evil, why do we find Lucifer so damn likeable...?
If you want to read Paradise Lost for the first time, possibly after/before devouring Pullman's own Dark Materials trilogy, look no further than this beautiful edition. And even if you have other copies, this is a great addition to your home library. Nothing wrong with a good looking book, when the content matches the design in quality, as it is the case here.
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