Paradise Lost Book 2: Line 582-584 - Explanation

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Line. 582-584: Far of from.....wattery labyrinth.

      During Satan’s absence from Hell on his expedition to the material universe to seduce man, the bad angels amused themselves in various ways, some of them bent on exploring whether there were any milder parts anywhere, which might yield them easier habitation. They came across four rivers flowing into the lake of liquid fire and yet another stream called Lethe. Milton takes the names of these rivers from the descriptions of the underworld given by Greek Roman writers.

      Lathe, as its name signifies, is the river of forgetfulness; and, according to classical legend, the souls of the dead were obliged to bathe in this river, and to ferry accross it, thereby to forget all that had happened to them in their lives. Milton seems at first to have intended the lake of fire to correspond to Greek Lethe; but he here introduces the Greek river by name, and describes it as 'flowing at a distance from the lake.' Thus, in the hell of Paradise Lost, we have both a lake of forgetfulness and river of forgetfulness.

      The stream moves sluggishly and silently because it is the river of slow forgetfulness, till the memory of the past becomes an absolute silence. It is also appropriately described as rolling its waters in a labyrinth, which is richly suggestive of 'the tortuous maze of the currents in its sluggish water.'

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