Paradise Lost Book 2: Line 73-77 - Explanation

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Line. 73-77: Let such is adverse.

      Rising up to speak on Satan's motion what they should do to regain their lost place in Heaven, Moloch advises war. He tells the assembly that it is easy to invade Heaven, for the motion proper to the fallen angels is upward, not downward. He bids them recollect how difficult it had been for them to move downward, when recently they had been hurled downwards from Heaven into Hell, after their unsuccessful revolt against God. He makes an ironic reference to their recent sufferings on the lake of fire, into which they had fallen from Heaven, wondering whether they could have forgotten their own characteristics in the profound sleep they had enjoyed on its surface. He thus twits them with the memory of their anguish and pain, in order to enthuse them to fall in with his view.

      Milton's conception may be wrong according to modem astronomical and physical notions. There is no up or down in outer space, and gravitation in the usual sense is non-existent in ultramundiine space. It cannot be pleaded that Milton did not know anything about them, for "even Ptolemy had a vague conception of a force tending towards the centre of the earth, which not only kept bodies upon its surface, but in some way upheld the order of the universe. But Milton was obliged to clothe his theme in the language of human ideas, and therefore he had to speak of 'ascent' and 'descent' Besides one of the tenets of the scholastic philosophers before him was that angels are not subject to natural laws, such as gravitation, and he makes use of it in Moloch's speech." The actual experience of Satan however when he had to fly through Chaos gives the lie direct to what Moloch holds out here. He could not have known these difficulties, and, even if he could have known them, he was making out a brief for his point of view, and nothing prevented him from supressing it to his audience.

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