The Spicy Lotus

March 24, 2008

Paradise Lost, John Milton

Filed under: Classic,English,Poetry — pha9 @ 11:20 pm

Paradise Lost is an epic poem in blank verse by the 17th-century English poet John Milton. It was originally published in 1667 in ten books; a second edition followed in 1674, redivided into twelve books (in the manner of the division of Virgil’s Aeneid) with minor revisions throughout and a note on the versification. The poem concerns the Judeo-Christian story of the Fall of Man: the temptation of Adam and Eve by Satan and their expulsion from the Garden of Eden. Milton’s purpose, stated in Book I, is “to justify the ways of God to men” (l. 26) and elucidate the conflict between God’s eternal foresight and free will.

The protagonist of this epic is the fallen angel, Satan. Milton presents Satan as an ambitious and proud being who defies his creator, omnipotent God, and wages war on Heaven, only to be defeated and cast down. Indeed, William Blake, a great admirer of Milton and illustrator of the epic poem, said of Milton that “he was a true Poet, and of the Devil’s party without knowing it.”(Blake 1793) Some critics regard the character of Lucifer as a precursor of the Byronic hero.(Eliot 1932)

Milton worked for Oliver Cromwell and the Parliament of England and thus wrote first-hand for the Commonwealth of England. Arguably, the failed rebellion and reinstallation of the monarchy left him to explore his losses within Paradise Lost. Some critics say that he sympathized with the Satan in this work, in that both he and Satan had experienced a failed cause.

Milton incorporates Paganism, classical Greek references and Christianity within the story. He greatly admired the classics but intended this work to surpass them. The poem grapples with many difficult theological issues, including fate, predestination, and the Trinity.

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August 30, 2007

Odyssey, Homer

Filed under: Classic,Greek,Poetry — pha9 @ 4:15 am

The Odyssey (Greek Οδύσσεια (Odússeia) ) is one of two major ancient Greek epic poems attributed to the Ionian poet Homer. The poem is commonly dated circa 800 to circa 600 BC. The poem is, in part, a sequel to Homer’s Iliad and mainly centers on the Greek hero Odysseus (or Ulysses in Latin, which is what the Romans called him after they were told of his journeys) and his long journey home to Ithaca, following the fall of Troy.

It takes Odysseus eleven years to reach Ithaca after the nine-year Trojan War.[1] During this absence, his son Telemachus and wife Penelope must deal with a group of unruly suitors who have moved into Odysseus’ home to compete for Penelope’s hand in marriage, since most have assumed that Odysseus has died.

The poem is fundamental to the modern Western canon and continues to be read in Homeric Greek and translations into modern languages around the world. The original poem was composed in an oral tradition by an aoidos perhaps a rhapsode. The details of the ancient oral performance, and the story’s conversion to a written work inspire continual debate among scholars. The Odyssey was written in a regionless poetic dialect of Greek and comprises 12,110 lines of dactylic hexameter. Among the most impressive elements of the text are its strikingly modern non-linear plot, and the fact that events are shown to depend as much on the choices made by women and serfs as on the actions of fighting men. In the English language as well as many others, the word odyssey has come to refer to an epic voyage.

Online version of the Odyssey.

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