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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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Fear of Falling: Icarus, Phaethon, and Lucretius

Fear of Falling: Icarus, Phaethon, and Lucretius

Chapter:
(p.63) 3 Fear of Falling: Icarus, Phaethon, and Lucretius
Source:
Inside Paradise Lost
Author(s):

David Quint

Publisher:
Princeton University Press
DOI:10.23943/princeton/9780691161914.003.0004

This chapter demonstrates how—through a complicated chain of intermediary texts—the depiction of Satan's fall through Chaos in book 2, which invokes the myth of Icarus, and the Son's successful ride in the paternal chariot of God at the end of the War in Heaven in book 6, which rewrites the story of Phaethon, both trace back to the De rerum natura of Lucretius. They counter the Roman poet's depiction of an Epicurean cosmos ordered by chance and in a constant state of falling through an infinite void—the “vast vacuity” of Chaos. The myths of these highfliers who fall are further countered in Paradise Lost by the motif of poetic flight. The shaping power of poetry itself and the epic high style counteract the specter of a universe without bound and dimension, or of the shapelessness of Death; poetry raises the poet over his fallen condition.

Keywords:   Satan, Chaos, Icarus, War in Heaven, Phaethon, De rerum natura, Lucretius, Epicurean cosmos, poetic flight, poetry

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