Detailed Summary of Paradise Lost Book 9

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Original Sin

      Book IX of Paradise Lost deals with the theme of man's betrayal of his allegiance to God and thus proves himself guilty of disobedience and disloyalty. In the book, there is the presentation of how Eve was tempted by Satan and how she in her turn tempted Adam. This resulted in the alienation of Heaven and the pronouncement of a stern judgment on mankind resulting in suffering, disease and death.

The Poet’s Invocation

      Since the theme adopted by Milton i.e. the Fall of Man was very difficult to present, he invokes the heavenly Muse to inspire him and guide him to come up with the requirement of the situation. Only after a long deliberation could he make his choice of the theme of the poetry. He considers it not to be his talent to analyze the long and tedious devastation of legendary knights in imaginary battles, while leaving the superior heroic courage of suffering and martyrdom uncelebrated in verse, nor was it for him to describe ‘Races and Games’ as Homer and Virgil did, so the poet says:

Nor skill Me of these nor studious, higher argument
Remains slervour. Other later poets, like sufficient of itself to raise That name, unless and age too late, or cold
Climate, or years damp my intended wing
Deprest and much they may. if all be mine,
Not hers who brings it mightily to my ear.

      Milton chose a tragic theme but in no way an interior theme. Rather his theme is more heroic for he considers it the skill of inferior craftsmanship to indulge in subjects like the trappings and paraphernalia of medieval chivalry with its heraldic finery, its jousts and tournaments and formal banquets. Thus, he says:

Sad task, yet argument
Not less but more heroic than the wrath
Of stem Achilles on his foe pursued
Thrice fugitive about Troy wall; or rage
Of Tumus, for Lavinia disespoused,
Or Neptun’s ire on Juno’s, that so long
Perplexed the Greek and Cytherea’s son

Satan’s Journey

      Now begins the drama of the Fall of Man. The story of Satan broken off at the end of Book IV is now resumed. Satan who had circled the earth a number of times discovered Adam and Eve living so blissfully in their Paradise, this arouses the envy and jealousy of Satan. He is intent on taking his revenge upon God through Adam and Eve who have been so lovingly created and are indulgently guarded by him, so now he improves upon his deception and malice. In order to avoid being observed by Uriel, he keeps circling the earth till the sun sinks and millions of stars come out in the sky. He had ridden round the earth in darkness for seven successive nights. On the eighth night, he affects an entry from the side of Paradise as the main gateway was heavily guarded against Satan for God had already warned and cautioned his angels as well as Adam and Eve themselves against Satan’s black designs. Satan goes down the river which has been called ‘Tigris’ and when he comes up, he is wrapped around in mist. He looks for a place to hide and contemplates upon the shape to assume in order to reach Adam and Eve.

There was a place
(Now not, though sin, not time, first wrought the change)
Where Tigris, at the foot of Paradise
Info gulf shot under ground, till part
Rose up a fountain by the Tree of life.
In which the river sunk, and with it rose,
Satan, involved in rising mist, then sought
Where to lie hid.

Choice of the Serpent

      Satan first thinks of assuming the shape of a member of beasts freely roaming about in Paradise. His final choice is that of the serpent in whom the dark insinuations can be concealed from detection by the sharpest sight. No one would regard the sly tricks of the serpent as suspicious because of the wily snake being naturally cunning and subtle. So in a serpent, it would not be suspected that the actions of the serpent were not the result of his own guile but some diabolic power which possessed it and animated it.

Satan’s View of Paradise

      Before assuming the form of a serpent, Satan views Paradise which appears to him much like Heaven or even more beautiful than Heaven. The earth occupies a central position around which the dancing stars carry their lamps. It is a place in which life has been rising higher and higher starting from plants, animals and finally, Man is the most supreme of all the created things. The pleasures around him only intensify his sadness and he becomes more obsessed to avenge God.

The more I see
Pleasures about me, so much more I feel
Torment within me, as from the hateful siege
Of contraries; all good to me becomes
Bane, and in heaven much worse would be my state,
But neither here seek I, no nor in heav’n
To dwell, unless by mast’ring Heav’n’s Supreme;
Nor hope to be myself less miserable
By what I seek, but others to make such
As I, though thereby worse to me redound.
For only in destroying I find ease
To my relentless thoughts; and him destroyed.

      Adam and Eve enjoying a blissful life in the garden of Eden arouses his envy and jealousy. He beguiles Adam and Eve into tasting the fruit of the ‘Tree of Knowledge’ and thus brings about their Fall.

Satan’s Soliloquy

      The most important of the three soliloquies of book IX is the one in which Satan indulges in length. The soliloquy adequately brings out his inner anguish, his passion for revenge. He is conscious of his own degradation for he had waged war against the Almighty reducing the number of his adorers which till now remains impaired.

Whether such virtue spent of old new failed
More angels to create, (if they at least
Are his created) or to spite us more,
Determined to advance into our room
A creature foamed of earth, and him endow,
Exalted from so base original,
With heav’nly spoils, our spoils
what he decreed
He effected; man he made, and for him built
Magnificent this world, and earth his seat,
Him lord pronounced, and, O indignity.
Subjected to his service angel wings
And flaming ministers to watch and tend
There earthly charge.

Satan’s Descent into a Serpent

      Satan is shown searching for a serpent to conceal himself and carry out his wicked aims. After much search his serpent is discovered coiled round in many a round, self-rolled after the fashion of his own evil thinking, as just evidenced, and therefore indeed “fit vessel” to contain him. The creature is not harmful as yet by soon does Satan take possession of it. The animal faculties of the serpent are mixed with his power of intellect and thus the serpent also gains the power of speech. He himself confesses to the degrading state he has reached:

O foul descant! that I who erst contended
With Gods to sit the highest, am now constrained
Into a beast, and mixed with bestial slime,
This essence to incarnate and imbrute
That to the height of diety aspired;
But what will not ambition and revenge
Descend to? Who aspires must down as low
As high he soared, obnoxious first or last
To basest things, Revenge, at first though sweet,
Bitter ere long back on itself recoils.

      Satan’s entry into the sleeping serpent is described thus.

In at his mouth
The Devil entered, and his brutal sense,
In heart or head possessing soon inspired
With act in intelligential; but his sleep
Disturbed not, waiting close the approach of mom

Act-II - Adam and Eve

      Act II opens with the dawning of the day and inspires the living world of nature with a magnificent hymn in which Adam and Eve join voicing the praise of dumb animals. After humbly offering their prayer to God, now they discuss the problem of their increasing work which is out growing the capacity of two people.

Eve’s Division of Work

      Eve this morning suggests that they should work independently as in working together much of their time is wasted in passing sweet glances and having sweet talks with each other.

Let us divide our labours - thou where choice
Leads thee, or where most needs, whether to wind
The wood bine round this arbour, or direct
The clasping ivy where to climb; while I,
In yonder spring of roses intermixed
With myrtle, find what to redress till noon.

Adam’s Dislike of the Proposal

      Adam does not like the proposal of Eve and warns Eve against the Satanic powers which may be lurking around and takes the first opportunity to destroy their blissful life. He is apprehensive that it would be easier for Satan to trap them if he finds them alone.

Leave not the faithful side
That gave thee being, still shade thee and protects.
The wift, where danger of dishonour lurks,
Safest and seemliest by her husband stays,
Who guards her, or with her the worst endures.’

      Eve is hurt by this suggestion for she feels that she is being accused of being unable to restrain the Satanic powers. Adam by no means has the intention of doubting her, thus he feels apologetic and says:

Not diffident of thee do I dissuade
Thy absence from my sight, but to
Th’ attempt itself intended avoid by our foe.
For he who tempts, though in vain, at least asperses least
The tempted with dishnor foul, supposed
Not incorruptible of faith, not prood
Against temptation. Thou thyself with scan
And danger wouldst resent the offered wrong,
Though ineffectual found. Misdeem not then,
If such affront I labor to avert
From thee alone, which on us both at once
The enemy, though bold, will hardly dare.

      Inspite of this warning, Eve insists on working alone, Adam allows her to go though reluctantly. Eve goes and guilefully remarks that she is going with his permission for later she blames him for allowing her to go. Milton depicts the fall of Eve before the actual Fall and Milton misses no opportunity in exposing the pettiness and frivolity of the fair sex.

The Last Word is Eve’s

      Adam then reluctantly gives in to the desire of Eve. Her hand is withdrawn from the hand of her husband. Walking away in her majesty and grace she looks like a Diana but, unlike Diana, she is not equipped with bow and quiver but with gardening tools. She is also compared to ‘Pales’ and ‘Pomona’, Roman Goddesses of flocks and fruits, and to Ceres, goddess of agriculture and mother of Proserpina. But undoubtedly, Eve was mistaken for Satan was lying waiting in hiding to tempt and seduce her with a mind to destroy the blissful state they were living in, thus the poet comments:

O much deceived, much failing, hapless Eve,
Of thy presumed return event perverse
Thou never from that how in Paradise
Found’st either sweet repast or sound repose;
Such ambush, hid among sweet flowers and shades, Waited with hellish rancour imminent
To intercept thy way, send thee back
Despoiled by innocence, of faith, of bliss.
For now, and since first break of dawn the Fiend,
Mere serpent in appearance, forth was come
And on his quest, where like best he might find
The only two of mankind.

Act-III: Temptation of Eve

      Here we have the depiction of the temptation, seduction, and the fall of Eve. Satan has been seeking every nook and comer of the earthly Paradise in search of Adam and Eve. Finding either of them alone was the much coveted opportunity that he desired. Eve working away from her husband with a deep spirit of innocence and faith is detected by Satan who creeps near her in the form of the serpent. He is sure of seducing her because she is working alone and unprotected. Working among flowers she appears to be the most beautiful flower and for an instance Satan forgets his thought “of guile, of hate, of envy, of revenge.”

her heav’nly form
Angelic, but more soft and feminine,
Her graceful innocence, her every air
Or gesture on feast action over awed
His fierceness of the fierce intent it brought
That space the Evil One abstracted stood
From his own evil, and for the time remained
Stupidly good, of enmity disarmed.

      But ‘hot-Hell’ comes quickly back to burn up his delight. He recovers himself from his trance and vows vengeance upon the Almighty by betraying his frail creatures - Adam and Eve. His extreme desire for revenge is brought out in the lines.

But the hot hell that always in him burns,
Through in mid Heaven, soon ended his delight,
And tortures him now more he sees
Of pleasures not for him ordained, then soon
Fierce hate he recollects, and all his thoughts
Of mischief; gratulating, thus excites.

Satan’s Conversation with Eve

      Satan makes an effort to entrap Eve by praising her beauty and grace. He moves closer to her on “a base of rising folds”. He has been compared to the most beautiful snakes in literature and mythology. He plays around Eve for some time, and when he catches her attention, he talks to her in the human voice which surprises her much for he was the first of beasts she had ever known who had talked to her in the human voice. He tries to flatter the woman in Eve by praising her beauty and addressing her by titles like "Sovereign Mistress", "Empress of the fair world, resplendent Eve." He wonderess why her beauty should not be admired by endless train of angels but only by one man. She is surprised with the speech of the serpent and wonders how he could speak so beautifully.

"What may this mean? Language of Man pronounced
By tongue of brute, and human sense expressed.
The first at least of these I thought denied
To beasts, whom God on their creation day
Created mute to all articulate sound;
The latter I demur, for in their looks
Much reason, and in their actions, oft appears.
Thee, Serpent, subtlest least of all the field
I knew, but not with human voice endowed;
Redouble then this miracle, and say,
How cam’st thou speakable of mute, and how
To me so friendly grown above the rest
Of brutal kind, that daily are in sight;
Say, for such wonder claims attention due".

Satan’s Deceitfulness

      Satan deceitfully tells her that he acquired his power of speech and reasoning while roving in the fields where he ate the golden fruits of a tall tree. He was tempted by the beauty and the sweet smell of the fruit. The apple was so sweet that he ate more and more of it. Soon after eating the fruit, he discovered that he had acquired the faculty of language and reasoning. This arouses the interest of Eve and she asks the serpent to lead her to that tree. When he brings her to the tree the fruit of which was forbidden for Eve, she instantly reacts and tells him that she had been forbidden to eat from that tree:

Serpent, we might have spared our coming hither,
Fruitless to me, though fruit be here to excess;
The credit of whose virtue rest with thee;
Wondrous, indeed, if cause of such effects.
But of this tree we may not taste nor touch;
God so commanded, and left that command
Sole daughter of his voice; the rest, we live
Law to ourselves; our reason is our law

Satan’s Argument

      Satan falsely argues his stand against Eve’s fear of eating from the Tree of Knowledge. He tells her that her fear that the tasting of the apple of knowledge will bring death is unfounded. The motive behind God’s forbidding them to eat the fruit must have been to keep man ‘low and ignorant’. For God fears that when Adam and Eve eat the fruit of the tree they ‘shall be as Gods/Knowing both good and evil as they know.’ The serpent now claims to have internally become a man by eating the fruit so Adam and Eve by eating the fruit will become Gods.

How should Ye? Ye shall not die by the fruit? it gives you life
To knowledge by the threat’ner? look at me,
Me who have touched and tasted, yet both live,
And life more perfect have attained than fate
Meant me, by vent’ring higher than my lot
Shall that he shut to man, which to the beast
Is open? or will God incense his ire
For such a petty trespass, and not praise
Rather your dauntless virtue, whom the pain
of death denounced, whatever thing death be.
Deterred not from achieving what might lead
To happier life, knowledge of good and evil.

      Eve is now convinced by this strongly advocated argument of Satan. Eve’s temptation to eat the fruit becomes more severe because of the time of the day i.e. noon time when she feels hungry after the day’s work. Being convinced by the tempter’s arguments she begins to question herself regarding the warning of God against the fruit. She is too confused with his arguments to think reasonably and logically. On top of it her hunger and the sweet-savory look of the fruit tempts her all the more.

Her rash hand in evil hour
Forth reaching to the fruit, she plucked, she ate.
Earth felt the wound and Nature from her seat
Sighing through all her works gave signs of woe,
That all was lost.

Eve Eats to Her Fill

      Not having any knowledge of the impending doom, Eve is delighted at having eaten of the Fruit of knowledge, which she believes has brought her knowledge, wisdom, experience, power of discretion and several other such blessings. Milton uses various words to describe Eve’s eating the fruit rather to excess:

Greedily she engorged without restraint,
And knew not eating death. Satiate at length,
And heightened as with wine, jocund and boon,
Thus to herself she pleasingly began.

      A kind of intoxication seems to have taken over her and she feels justified in all her actions. Now she deliberates whether she should confide this act of hers to Adam or not. Initially, she thinks that she should keep the secret to herself and deny Adam the knowledge and thus claim equality or even superiority over him. Then she is overcome by the fear of death and is tormented at the thought of Adam marrying another woman. Her love for Adam is however stronger and above all, the governing passion.

So dear I love him that with him all deaths
I could endure, without him live no life

      She is sure of having risen in the chain of being and is guilty not only of disobedience and intemperance but of the sin of jealousy and pride.

Act-IV: Eve Tempts Adam

      Eve now goes to seek out Adam who is preparing himself to receive Eve with a garland of flowers to crown her hair. However, he is disturbed by an under-current of foreboding and there is an unsteadiness in his heartbeat as he sets out to meet her. The delay in Eve’s return causes Adam’s apprehension and he starts moving in the direction in which she had gone that morning. In his search for her, he passes the Tree of Knowledge and meets Eve there carrying in her hands a "bough of the fairest fruit",

there he her meet,
Scarce from the tree returning, in her hand
A bough of fairest fruit that downy smiled,
New gathered and ambrosial smell diffused
To him she hasted; in her face excuse
Came prologue and apology to prompt
Which, with bland words at will she thus addressed.

      Eve does not hinder in speaking false and deceptive words which come out of her lips smoothly. In this act Adam is tempted by Eve as she herself had been tempted by Satan earlier. Their life was soon going to be taken over by sin, deceit, falsehood and mutual quarrel. Eve comes smiling and straight way tells Adam that the Fruit of knowledge is not actually the fruit of sin or death. In fact, the tree is divinely efficacious in endowing those who taste it with insight and godhead.

      ‘The wise serpent, either not being under our prohibition, or being disobedient, has eaten of it and acquired human speech and understanding, so that he has reason astonishingly well, and has persuaded me also to taste.’ She offers the same fruit to Adam saying:

Thou therefore, also taste, that equal lot
May join us, equal joy, as equal laws
Lest thou not tasting, different degree
Disjoin us, and I then too late renounce
Deity for thee, when fate will not permit.
Adam is astonished and horrified at the tresspass of Eve and
From his slack hand the garland wrethed for Eve
Down dropped and all the faded roses shed
Speechless he stood and pale,

      Adam now indulges in a long soliloquy Which provides a peep into the inner thoughts of his mind and which enables him to decide his future course of action.

Holy divine good amiable or sweet?
How art thou lost! how on a sudden lost,
Defaced, deflowered, and now to deat devote!
Rather how has thou yielded to transgress
The strict forbiddance, how to violate
The sacred fruit forbidd’n? Some cursed fraud
Of enemy hath beguiled thee, yet unknown,
And me with thee hath ruined; for with thee
Certain my resolution is to die,
How can I live without thee?

Adam’s Nobility

      Though Adam is not convinced with Eve’s arguments still he decides to eat the fruit for he has decided to undergo whatever doom is in store for Eve. The bond of Nature proves stronger than the law of obedience:

However, I with thee have fixed my lot,
Certain to undergo like doom: if death
Consort with thee, death is to me as life;
So forcible within my heart I feel
The bond of Nature draw me to my own,
My own in thee, for what thou art is mine;
Our state cannot be severed; we are one,
One flesh; to lose thee were to lose myself.

      Eve is grateful at this mark of strong affection from her husband. She is glad to hear Adam speak of their unity in the flesh. She amplifies the bond: they are ‘One Heart, One Soul in both’ as evidenced by Adam’s noble resolve to share with her "One Guilt, One Crime". That is, she adds, if there be any crime in tasting the fruit whose effect has been, directly or indirectly, to present this fortunate trial and proof of Adam’s love, which otherwise would never have been so eminently revealed.

Adam Eats the Fruit

      Adam is not deceived against his better knowledge but is enticed by female charms and takes the enticing fruit from Eve’s hand:

With liberal hand; he scrupled not to eat,
Against his better knowledge not deceived,
But fondly over come with female charm.
Earth trembled from her entrails, as again
In pangs, and Nature gave a second groan,
Sky loured, and, muttering thunders,
Wept at completing of the mortal sin original

      Adam takes no heed of the thunder and Eve does not fear to repeat her trespass. The two of them are intoxicated; they reel in mirth and imagine that they feel divinity developing within them, giving them wings to lift them above the earth.

Consequence of Disobedience

      Unlike in the case of Eve, in the case of Adam, the immediate effect of his eating the fruit increases his sexual appetite. Both of them join themselves in amorous bonds and retire to a couch of sweetest and softest flowers under a sweet bower to have a bliss of their conjugal life.

But that false fruit
Far other operations first displayed
Camal desire inflaming: he on Eve
Began to cast lascivious eyes, she him
As wantonly repaid; in lust they bum,
Till Adam thus gan Eve to dalliance move
Her hand he seized, and to a shady bank,
Thick overhead with verdant roof embow’ red,
He led her nothing loth; flowers were the couch,
Pansies, and violets, and asphodel,
And hyacinth, earth’s freshest, softest lap
There they their fill of loves deport
Took largely, of their mutual guilt the seal,
The solace of their sin, till dewy sleep
Oppressed them, wearied with their amorous play.

      They got off to sleep after being exhausted from their amorous play but are still not refreshed because of the unhealthy vapors, rising from below, oppressing them and clouding their rational faculties.

Their Repentance

      Very soon the excitement of their first experience of knowledge ebbs out. Now they realize that they have been deceived by the treacherous serpent. They realize that their celestial bliss had departed and they had become grossly earthly. Innocence, that as a veil had shadowed them from knowing ill, was gone. They feel ashamed of their nakedness and try to cover it with fig leaves:

Thus, fenced, and as they thought, their shame in part
Covered, but not at rest or ease of mind,
They sat them down to weep; nor only
Tears rained at their eyes, but high winds worse within
Began to rise, high passions, anger, hale,
Mistrust, suspicion, discord, and shook some
I heir inward slate of mind, calm region once
And full of peace, now tossed and turbulent

Their Mutual Reproach

      Adam accuses Eve of disobedience and defiance of his advice and warning not to go away from him to work alone in the fields. He accuses her of invoking God's fury on themselves and their race and the curse of death. Eve in her turn complains that he is being too severe in imputing to her wilful wandering something which might just as easily have happened to him. He would also not have been able to detect the fraudulence of the serpent, speaking as he spoke, and there being no known grounds for hostility between serpent and men. Adam repents for having trusted Eve for going away on her own and Eve also accuses him of not exercising his authority in stopping her:

Thus it shall befall
Him who to worth in women overtrusting
Lets her will rule, restraint she will not brook,
And left to herself, if evil thence ensure,
She first his weak indulgence will accuse.
Thus they in mutual accusation spent
The fruitless house, but neither self-condemning,
And of their vain contest appeared no end.

      In this way Adam and Eve wasted their time in quarreling and accusing each other, but neither examined his own behavior and conduct. There seemed to be no end to their futile quarrel and discussion. Thus, does Milton end his Book IX of Paradise Lost.

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