Most students of classical literature, who study the works of the seventeenth century poet John Milton, are familiar with that popular joke,
“Milton first wrote ‘Paradise Lost‘. Then his wife died. So Milton wrote Paradise Regained!”
In the course of our post-graduate study we soon discovered that there’s not much truth there really! That comic quip was probably the creation of one who wanted to alleviate some of the tediousness of studying that epic with all its biblical references and canonical allusions…not the most appealing at that youthful age. Yet not many works can really surpass the grandeur of that epic in rhyme and in subject. The subject may be the the age old story of hubris and man’s fallen nature but the words have a lasting influence. One of the reasons probably was the explanation by our Professor who urged us to forget all that talk of Milton wanting to support canonical religious beliefs and understand that Milton’s mind worked by ‘metanoia’~ his main way of reasoning was always by using ‘however’; so whenever he said one thing, he also suggested something else. He believed quite strongly that alternative truths are not only possible but coexist and explain each other. There is an underlying passion for freedom and self-determination ~ of the mind transcending circumstances and time to create its own reality.
In truth, we all create our own heavens or hells of understanding using the power of our minds and of our imagination. That is why the same set of circumstances sees one person achieving a state of happiness and another leading a life of misery. We are what we choose to think or what we choose to ignore (the other side of the coin, if you can call it that). So whether our paradise is ‘lost’ or ‘regained’ is for us to determine…essentially we define our own reality.
To end with those famous lines by Lucifer after his fall from heaven in Book One of Paradise Lost ~
Farewell, happy fields,
Where joy for ever dwells! Hail, horrors! hail,
Infernal world! and thou, profoundest Hell,
Receive thy new possessor—one who brings
A mind not to be changed by place or time.
The mind is its own place, and in itself
Can make a Heaven of Hell, a Hell of Heaven.
What matter where, if I be still the same…
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