BLTC Press Titles


available for Kindle at Amazon.com


The Pictorial Key to the Tarot

Arthur Edward Waite


Leaves of Grass

Walt Whitman


The Count of Monte Cristo

Alexandre Dumas


Shakti and Shakta

John Woodroffe


Paradise Lost

by Unknown

Excerpt:

The introductory matter should be read carefully before beginning the critical study.

The diagrams will assist in understanding Milton's cosmography. Probably no one of them will be found entirely satisfactory; but if they awaken the student's interest, if they aid his imagination, and if they lead him to a closer study of the poem, the object of introducing them will have been gained. Some explanation of the two which stand respec

* In regard to the use of capital letters, the authority of Wilson on Punctuation has generally been followed.

tively at the beginning and at the end may here be appropriate.

Milton recognizes the sphere as the normal shape of worlds. And so, in the 'void profound' of infinite space, during the cycles of past eternity, lay that vast aggregation of matter which constituted the luminous Empyreal Heavens above and the black abysses of Chaos beneath. He tells us that heaven is like earth.

"What if earth
Be but the shadow of heaven, and things therein
Each to other like, more than on earth is thought1?"

To use Brooke's eloquent description in his incomparable Milton Primer, "Heaven is on high, indefinitely extended, and walled towards Chaos with a crystal wall having opal towers and sapphire battlements. In the wall a vast gate opens on Chaos, and from it runs a broad and ample road, 1 powdered with stars,' whose dust is gold, to the throne of God. The throne is in the midst of Heaven, high on the sacred hill, lost in ineffable light. . . . Around the hill is the vast plain clothed with flowers, watered by living streams among the trees of life, where on great days the angelic assembly meets; and nearer to the hill is the pavement like a sea of jasper. Beyond are vast regions, where are the blissful bowers of 'amarantine shade, fountain, or spring,' . . . and among them the archangels have their royal seats built as Satan's was, far blazing on a hill, of diamond quarries and of golden rocks." *

Like those of earth, 'this continent of spacious heaven' has its ocean. That ocean is Chaos. It lies beside and beneath

* Milton Primer, pp. 84, 85, by Stopford A. Brooke (D. Appleton & Co's Series of Classical Writers).

heaven, whose shining cliffs and walls rise sheer out of the dark unfathomable depths. It is not homogeneous. It apparently has strata. In it there is at least one 'vast vacuity.' Through it Satan, 'with difficulty and labor hard,'

'O'er bog or steep, through strait, rough, dense, or rare, With head, hands, wings, or feet, pursues his way, And swims, or sinks, or wades, or creeps, or flies.'

Yet it is an ocean —

'Outrageous CIS <l SOft. dark, wasteful, wild,
Up from the bottom turned by furious winds,
And surging waves as mountains, to assault
Heaven's highth, and with the centre mix the pole.'

Clearly, if heaven has sharp, rigid outlines like the moon, chaos has a shifting, tumultuous surface like the sun.

Deep in this tremendous abyss lies Bell, perhaps near the centre, possibly at the nadir; distant, at any rate, from the light of God by three times the radius of our starry universe.* In the centre of hell is the lake of fire, a 'boiling ocean.' Three vast regions of horror lie in concentric zones around it. First, a belt of fiery volcanic soil; then, a moist region, through which, like an ocean stream,

"Lethe, the river of oblivion, rolls
Her watery labyrinth;"

next, a frozen continent with

'A gulf profound as that Serbonian bog;'

* We need not suppose a mathematical exactness. "The moment you furnish Imagination with a yardstick, she abdicates in favor of her statistical poor-relation Commonplace." — Lowell on Milton (Among My Books, 2d series).


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