Paradise Lost Book 2: Line 708-711 - Explanation

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Line. 708-711: and like a comet.....pestilence and war.

      Arrived at the gates of Hell, Satan meets Sin and Death. The latter, a grisly Terror, flings insulting language at Satan at which he is incensed. The poet describes in these lines how Satan looked in his anger.

      We usually speak of anger as inflaming, a person, using the word 'inflame' in its metaphorical sense. But Milton says that Satan was not only inflamed metaphorically, but also literally, since he looked like a comet, all a fire in his wrath.

      In order to impress us adequately with the size of the person who was all in flames with anger, Milton compares Satan with the comet which illumines the whole length of the constellation, Ophiuchus, which reaches from Hercules, with which it is much mixed up, to Scorpio across the equator. To keep up the simile, Milton imagines the flaming hair of Satan to be similar to the tail of the comet; hence he speaks of his 'horrid' or bristing hair.
Milton’s similes are vivid and picturesque, and in his epic he strews them liberally, with the idea of conveying adequate impressions of the size, might and courage of his supernatural character.

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