Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Paradise Lost - Book I

Lines 242-282

To recap: Lucifer and his crew have been tossed out of Heaven and into the Vulcan like fire and brimstone Hell. Chained down in the Lake of Fire as a matter of fact. Lucifer and his second in command exchange some words regarding their situation, break free of the chains and fly to dry land.

Stanza 8 (lines 242- 270) is Satan accepting Hell as his new thrown, stating “be it so” since being farther from God is best. The lines “The mind is its own place, and in itself/ Can make a Heav'n of Hell, a Hell of Heav'n.” reminds me of a quote from Hamlet - “there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so”. I have always like that quote, and my mom has given me advice akin to it several times, so it is surreal to see the Devil living along the same concept. To me it embodies the difference between pessimism and optimism. Lucifer, well he is an optimist. He is seeing the good in this situation – what one person thinks of as Hell is not his hell; it is his version of Heaven. He is stuck with the fuzzy end of the lollipop, but he is going to make the most of it.

He continues to say that it does not matter where he is Possessor of, since he is still the same as he was before – the fall has not made him change – and that at the very least they are free now. In addition, he states, no one wants to come down here so they, the fallen, are secure.
He says, “Better to reign in Hell, then serve in Heav'n.” The footnotes make an interesting connection here: Homer's Odysseus says that when he interviewed Achilles in the underworld, Achilles expressed an attitude opposite to Satan's: "I would rather be a paid servant in a poor man's house and be above ground than king of kings among the dead”.

I found it an interesting comparison. Achilles was, as we know, a Greek hero who fought in the Trojan War. He was defeated by an arrow to the heel, which has become synonymous with a person’s one weakness that leads to their downfall. We could say that the Achilles ’ heel of Lucifer, who was arguably the most beloved arch-angel while in Heaven, was his Pride – as it ultimately lead to his downfall. The difference between Lucifer and Achilles, however, is in their attitudes.Achilles would rather be alive and a humble servant than be king of the underworld, while Lucifer is perfectly happy to give up his "life" because he is given the chance to be supreme ruler.

So, Satan says let us call up our “faithful friends” (who are still lying around in astonishment) and have a chat with them so we can figure out how we are going to run this affair.

Beelzebub answers Lucifer in Stanza 9 (lines 270-282). He says once they hear your voice calling to them, which they have heard confirm their worst fears and desires and which has led them through perilous battle, “they will soon resume/New courage and revive, though now they lye/Groveling and prostrate on yon Lake of Fire”. I think this stanza accurately shows Lucifer’s charisma as a leader; he is well liked by his followers, who are loyal to and worship him. He is a smooth talker, confident (to the point of hubris) and sure. He has many of the qualities of a good leader. There is no doubt in my mind that he will be able to rally his troops effectively.

next time: Lines 282-330, in which the image of Lucifer is provided as he gathers his fallen brethren.

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