Home » (Experimental Thoughts) » Four Meditations on Milton.

Four Meditations on Milton.

Sin opens the gates of Hell and she with Satan and Death peer out:

Before thir eyes in sudden view appear
The secrets of the hoarie deep, a dark
Illimitable Ocean without bound,
Without dimension, where length, breadth, & highth,
And time and place are lost; where eldest Night
And Chaos, Ancestors of Nature, hold
Eternal Anarchie, amidst the noise
Of endless Warrs, and by confusion stand.
For hot, cold, moist, and dry, four Champions fierce
Strive here for Maistrie, and to Battel bring
Thir embryon Atoms; they around the flag
Of each his faction, in thir several Clanns,
Light-arm’d or heavy, sharp, smooth, swift or slow,
Swarm populous, unnumber’d as the Sands
Of Barca or Cyrene‘s torrid soil,
Levied to side with warring Winds, and poise
Thir lighter wings. To whom these most adhere,
Hee rules a moment; Chaos Umpire sits,
And by decision more imbroiles the fray
By which he Reigns: next him high Arbiter
Chance governs all. Into this wilde Abyss,
The Womb of nature and perhaps her Grave,
Of neither Sea, nor Shore, nor Air, nor Fire,
But all these in thir pregnant causes mixt
Confus’dly, and which thus must ever fight,
Unless th’ Almighty Maker them ordain
His dark materials to create more Worlds,
Into this wild Abyss the warie fiend
Stood on the brink of Hell and look’d a while,
Pondering his Voyage: for no narrow frith
He had to cross.

—Milton, Paradise Lost 2.890-920

  • God, the Lord of kosmos, is necessarily the Lord of chaos. But then again, once order is established, can there be disorder at all? If there is disorder that threatens the order, then is the order anything but an illusion? It is, unless the Lord of order is also able to define order the way he would—beyond our theoretical powers—separate light from darkness.
  • What would Lucretius say about Milton’s cosmogeny? Of course, he would deny the Almighty Maker, but would he not see such a “maker” in the “high Arbiter Chance” ?
  • The doctrine of creatio ex nihilo, which Milton rejects here to some degree, is very difficult to penetrate. Is there a biblical support for it? Or is it merely a hasty reaction to Platonism the same way that limited atonement is to Arminianism? How much biblical language must be explained away in order to make sense of it all?
  • Creation as ordering. Milton might clarify what C. S. Lewis’s cosmogeny has in common with Mormonism.
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