Paradise Lost Book 9: Line 20-29 - Summary

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IF ANSWERABLE STYLE.....VERSE. (LINES 20-29)

      Convinced of the epic dignity and importance of his theme, Milton hopes that his patroness, the Heavenly Muse will bless him with a style as lofty as his great theme, for a great theme must be fittingly displayed. During her gracious visits each night she inspires him with lines which he writes out the next day. His epic is thus the result of divine inspiration and not just the result of his own labor which can never be perfect.

      This passage has a twofold significance. It bears on Milton’s faith in his Muse, and it throws light on the manner of composition of Paradise Lost.

      The idea of a goddess inspiring poetical composition or any artistic effort is a classical conception. It is a part of convention to invoke her air, to begin with and Milton follows it. However, his Muse is not the same as the classical Muse of poetry. He calls her the “Heavenly Muse”, or, as here, his “celestial Patroness”, or one who inspires sacred verse. A name that he gives elsewhere is ‘Urania’ and ‘Urania’ is said to be the Muse of Astronomy. It is fitting that she should inspire him because he sings, in this poem of the beginning of our stellar and planetary universe and of the heavenly regions.

      This passage indicates the precise manner in which Milton composed this poem. He was then blind and between fifty and fifty-five years without much domestic happiness or sleep. Available evidence suggests that in the long winter nights, in bed but not asleep, he framed the verses—some twenty to forty at a time and in the morning he dictated them slowly and carefully to any young or old friend who would oblige him by taking them clown.

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