Paradise Lost Book 2 - Summary

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      In the magnificent Pandemonium all the infernal Peers have gathered together with grave faces and anxious minds to debate on the course of action to be adopted under the circumstances. Satan, the president of the council, sits high up on a splendid throne, full of ambition and pride. His brief inaugural address expresses his pride under the garb of humility. He was first in Heaven and is now first in Hell also. He hopes that nobody should envy him his place which he has by their choice and which involves the largest share of danger and suffering. He then asks the advice of his friends.

      Having been thus invited Moloch is the first spirit to speak. He is fierce and fiery and the very personification of brute force and blind anger. He does not talk subtlety and diplomacy, but would pay God back in his own coin by invading Heaven. They are already at their worst, and so need not fear anything worse. After him stands Belial, a soft and sinful slave, who prizes ease and luxury more than freedom and honor. In his opinion a reason for war, grounded in despair, is of itself a reason against war. Revenge is impossible and God is unconquerable. Any foolish attempt at revenge will only exasperate him further and bring down greater punishment on their poor heads. The wild talk of annihilation is as meaningless as it is undesirable and will bring no remedy whatsoever. He does not agree with Moloch in thinking that they are already at the worst. So his voice is for peace. Suffering is not vile; so let them suffer and wait. In the meantime God may abate his anger, or their pain lessen, or time may bring a better chance.

      The third speaker is Mammon in whom the inordinate love for sordid wealth has crushed all higher thoughts and honorable instincts. He is a master of seductive logic. War is meaningless, because it can neither dethrone God nor reestablish them in Heaven; If God, out of pity, gave them back their place in Heaven, it will be unacceptable to them. For with God on the throne of Heaven they cannot reasonably expect any seat of honor there. They will have to serve the tyrant of Heaven as his slaves. So it is better to reign in Hell than to serve in Heaven. Let them stand on their own legs and build a free and magnificent empire in Hell itself with the treasure of gold and precious stones with which Hell abounds.

      His speech is universally appreciated, when Beelzebub, a great and wise statesman with grave eyes and furrowed forehead stands up to speak. He ridicules those who advocate direct war, or indulge in thoughts of peace, or build vain empires in Hell. God is the lord of Heaven as well as of Hell. He is not going to allow them any peace or liberty of action in Hell. The policy of war has failed; so there is only one course left open for them-that of indirect revenge. Perhaps by this time the new World has been created. They would ruin its inhabitants whom God likes so much. But some one must volunteer to undertake the quest. As nobody dares come forward Satan boldly offers himself for the task and asks the infernal angels to await his return and beguile the time in any way they like. The council is dissolved, Satan departs, and the fallen spirits take to various diversions. Some indulge in physical feats, some in philosophical and theological discourses, some in music and songs, and some in bold advantages of discovery. The last party traverses the various gloomy regions of Hell. They see the four terrible infernal rivers, and the fifth, Lethe, rolling its slow waters at a great distance. Beyond this river they see a dark, dismal and dreadfully cold expanse of perpetual snow where the damned souls are periodically brought by the furies from the extreme heat of the hell-fire to be tormented by extreme cold. '

      Meanwhile Satan flies towards the ninefold gates of Hell and on reaching the entrance finds there two dreadful and repulsive figures-one half-woman, half-snake and the other a mere dark phantom with a deadly dart, in its hand. Satan challenges this hideous shadow which at once flies into full fury and attacks him. When the fight is imminent the female form rushes forward with a hideous cry and tells Satan a nauseating story. She is Sin, his daughter, and the grim shadow is his son by her and is called Death. So, they being father and son, should not fight. The artful fiend now flatters them, tells them of his mission and promises to take them to the Earth. Both the creatures, specially Death, are maddened with joy at the bright prospect and the huge gate is opened. Satan comes out and finds himself on the brink of the deep and dreadful gulf of Chaos which is all confusion and all tumult. There the elementary qualities are fighting with one another for supremacy and the embryo atoms are in deadly conflict. The dauntless fiend plunges headlong into the hideous confusion and struggles onward with head, hands, legs and wings, sometimes blown thousands of miles up and sometimes hurled thousands of miles down till he reaches the very throne of Chaos and ancient Night, the hoary Anarch and his consort. Here confusion is worse confounded and horrors are piled upon horrors. The royal throne is surrounded by a group of metaphysical and mystical monsters. Satan apologizes for his encroachment and explains his mission to Chaos who, grieving over the recent curtailment of his ancient empire of God, helps him with directions. Satan flies on and sees the welcome light of Heaven far off shooting into chaos and the starry universe suspended from Heaven by a golden chain and looking like a star by the full moon.

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