Notes on Paradise LostArgument. Milton announces that he intends to follow classical precedents by beginning his epic in medeas res, in the middle of things, and only later coming back, by reported action, to beginnings. The story of creation, for example, comes in book 7. Death into the World, and all our woe. This locution echoes fairly closely Virgil's narrative voice in Aeneidbook 4, announcing that death and woe followed the ersatz nuptials of Aeneas and Dido: To the same cave come Dido and the Trojan chief. Primal earth and nuptial Juno give the sign; fires flashed in heaven, the witness to their bridal, and on the mountain-top screamed the Nymphs. That day was the first day of death, that the first cause of woe. (Trans. H. Rushton Fairclough in Virgilvol. 1 [Cambridge, MA: Havard University Press, 1935] 407) See also the Perseus Projectedition of this passage. Pandemonium. Literally, "all the demons." Milton coins the name for the assembly hall of devils whose erection is recounted at the end of book 1. one greater Man. The Messiah. Heav'nly Muse. Is the "Heavenly Muse" invoked here the same as the "Urania," traditionally the muse of astronomy, invoked at book 7.1? More likely, contemporary readers would have first thought of the "Holy Spirit," as the inspiration of Moses. Oreb. Moses, "That Shepherd," received the Law on Mt. Horeb (Deuteronomy 4: 10) or its spur, Mt. Sinai (Exodus 19: 20). adventrous Song. Note the similarities between Milton's opening and the opening lines of Virgil's Aeneidand of Homer's Odyssey. Milton wants not only to compare his project to the ancient epics, but also himself to those poets and his main character, Adam, to their celebrated heroes. All of these comparisons raise interesting and complicated questions of authority, heroism, and nationalism in art. chosen seed.The people of Israel. See Exodus 19-20. In the Beginning. The opening words of both Genesis (Geneva)and the Gospel of John (Geneva). Sion. To the haunts of the classical muses near the Castalian spring on Mt. Parnassus, Milton prefers to claimMt. Sion and its brooks Kidron and Siloa, a kind of biblically authorized Parnassus. out of Chaos. One of Milton's several heterodox positions. Orthodoxy held that God created everything ex nihilo, out of nothing (the "void" of Genesis 1:2; See Calvin's Commentary on Genesis). Milton borrows the concept of chaos, or unformed matter, from Hesiodand Platonic philosophy (especially the Timaeus53b). Milton was also a monist, holding that all things were created out of God; see book 5.468-490. Aonian Mount. Mt. Helicon, in Aonia, sacred to the classical muses. Line 16. The line ironically (maybe even sarcastically?) recalls the stanza 2 of canto 1 of Ariosto's Orlando Furioso.
Dove-like. The Holy Spirit appears as a dove in John 1: 32. See also Paradise Regain'd1.30-1.