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Inside Paradise LostReading the Designs of Milton's Epic$
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David Quint

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780691161914

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: October 2017

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691161914.001.0001

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Milton’s Book of Numbers: Book 1 and Its Catalog

Milton’s Book of Numbers: Book 1 and Its Catalog

(p.15) 1 Milton’s Book of Numbers: Book 1 and Its Catalog
Inside Paradise Lost

David Quint

Princeton University Press

This chapter shows how book 1 of Paradise Lost metaphorically depicts the role of the devil in raising the rebel angels out of their “bottomless perdition,” an act of poetic creation analogous to the divine creation of the universe described in the invocation—“how the heavens and earth/Rose out of chaos.” The chief devils described in the catalog that occupies the center of book 1 and organizes its poetic figures and symbolic geography—Carthage, Sodom, Egypt, Babel-Babylon, Rome—are precisely those who will come to inhabit the pagan shrines that human idolatry will build next to or even inside the Jerusalem temple, profaning God's house. This catalog—whose traditional epic function is to size up military force—instead suggests the force of spiritual falsehood, and it corresponds to the defeated devils' own reluctance to pursue another direct war against God; they would rather resort to satanic fraud.

Keywords:   Paradise Lost, devil, rebel angels, poetic creation, divine creation, human idolatry, military force, spiritual falsehood, satanic fraud, pagan shrines

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