, by John Milton
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As a young student, John Milton fantasized about bringing the poetic elocution of Homer and Virgil to the English language. Milton realized this dream with his graceful, sonorous Paradise Lost, now considered the most influential epic poem in English literature.
A retelling of the biblical story of mankind’s fall from grace, Milton’s epic opens shortly after the dramatic expulsion of Satan and his army of angels from Heaven. What follows is a cosmic battle between good and evil that ranges across vast, splendid tracts of time and space, from the wild abyss of Chaos and the fiery lake of Hell to the Gate of Heaven and God’s newly created paradise, the Garden of Eden. Controversy still swirls around Milton’s magnificent and sympathetic characterization of Satan, a portrait so compelling that many critics have maintained that he is the true hero of the story.
David Hawkes is Associate Professor of English at Lehigh University. His books include Idols of the Marketplace (2001) and Ideology (second edition, 2003), and he has contributed articles to The Nation, the Times Literary Supplement, and the Journal of the History of Ideas.