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Thread: Paradise Lost

  1. #1
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    Thumbs up Paradise Lost

    I just completed reading Paradise Lost. I found it to be pretty easy reading. I am not particularly religious, but I feel having read The King James Bible in it's entirety really helped being able to read this, as well as understand the story. That and some Shakespeare.

    Overall, I am glad to have read what is essentially Genesis and Exodus, Satan's fall, and the fall of man and his redemption through Christ in beautiful verse. Will I read it again? That's hard to say. I will definitely read his poems, Comus, and Samson Agonistes because the read was enjoyable.

    In another thread I made a comment that I felt Paradise Lost was the most beautiful work I had read up to this point, but having completed it, I have to rescind that statement. For me, The Iliad is the most beautiful work I have read. The metaphors are amazing, and I find it truly epic. I will read both The Iliad and The Odyssey many times, in different translations throughout my life. I can't necessarily say the same for Paradise Lost even though I am glad to have read and experienced it. I would read it again, but it's not a priority.

    Overall, I would recommend it to anyone with an interest in religion or spirituality, or who simply like to read works that are eloquently composed in verse.

  2. #2
    King of Dreams MorpheusSandman's Avatar
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    There's nothing about Exodus in PL. Exodus was the story of Moses leading the Jews out of enslavement in Egypt. Anyway, it's nice that you enjoyed it. If you decide to look into it, there's as much great, enlightening criticism out there on PL as there is any work in the English language. I would highly, highly recommend Empson's Milton's God, which is one of the greatest works of criticism I've ever read. As for reading more Milton, I would actually recommend his lyric poetry: Lycidas, L'allegro/Il Penseroso, On the Morning of Christ's Nativity, the sonnets, etc. You can read them all for free with good annotations/footnotes here. Comus, Paradise Regained and Samson Agonistes are all excellent, but very different from both PL and Milton's other lyric poetry. I actually do feel PL is the most beautiful work in the English language. It's especially nice hearing it read aloud by someone who knows what they're doing, like Anton Lesser.
    "As far as we can discern, the sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light of meaning in the darkness of mere being." --Carl Gustav Jung

    "To absent friends, lost loves, old gods, and the season of mists; and may each and every one of us always give the devil his due." --Neil Gaiman; The Sandman Vol. 4: Season of Mists

    "I'm on my way, from misery to happiness today. Uh-huh, uh-huh, uh-huh, uh-huh" --The Proclaimers

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    I don't know when the last time you read Paradise Lost was, but there most certainly are elements of Exodus in it. It's either book 11 or 12, Moses, Sinai, crossing the Red Sea, Egypt, and the slaves, the 7 plagues of Pharaoh, river turning red, pillar of fire etc, it's there and that's Exodus.

    Thanks for the comments.

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    King of Dreams MorpheusSandman's Avatar
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    Ah, I get what you're saying now. Yes, those mentions are part of the tradition in epic poetry of "prophesying the future" with an accuracy that makes Nostradamus look like Nostradumbass. What I should've said was that none of PL's narrative takes place in the time of Exodus, the same way none of the Aeneid takes place in the time after the Trojans settle Rome (though the Trojans settling Rome is prophesied); rather, Exodus is mentioned amongst a lit of other Biblical events that will happen in the future (from the perspective of Adam and Eve and the proposed historical time of Genesis) in the form of prophecy.
    "As far as we can discern, the sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light of meaning in the darkness of mere being." --Carl Gustav Jung

    "To absent friends, lost loves, old gods, and the season of mists; and may each and every one of us always give the devil his due." --Neil Gaiman; The Sandman Vol. 4: Season of Mists

    "I'm on my way, from misery to happiness today. Uh-huh, uh-huh, uh-huh, uh-huh" --The Proclaimers

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    That's what I meant; we are on the same page there. Adam is freaking out and Eve is going into hysterics, so Michael shows and tells them the future so that they can realize there is life after Eden.

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    I'm dying to read the entirety of PL. I have read parts of it, and it is some of the most beautiful and overpowering writing in the English language (and, I suspect, all of world literature). I have read the entirety of the Old Testament in the King James version, and I'm planning on going back and reading the Apocrypha and the New Testament before I tackle Paradise Lost.

    Out of curiosity, what makes you recommend reading Shakespeare before tackling PL? I actually haven't read too much Shakespeare, but I probably will read some before Paradise Lost.

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    I can't give you a well reasoned academic answer as far as why reading Shakespeare helped me, but my guess is it's the antiquated style of speech. Same thing for the King James Bible. I had heard people say Milton and Shakespeare were difficult reads, but because I had read The King James Bible quite abit, I found adapting to the older style and spelling of the speech of Shakespeare and Milton to be pretty easy. I actually feel like Milton is easier to read than Shakespeare, but I think it's because Shakespeare has and uses words that have different meanings than we are used to using, probably more so Americans than western europeans, whereas Milton really didn't use any words that I had difficulty grasping. Milton spells common words different than they are spelled now, in places, but it's generally pretty obvious what the word is.

    I would definitely recommend reading it straight through in it's entirety. It is beautiful and really elaborates on the bible in a creative and wonderful way. Even though I said I wasn't sure if I would read it again, that wasn't really a strike against it. I have so many books to read, and not many books get a second read from me. Even then, I enjoyed it enough that I plan to read the majority of his best known works, so that's saying something in itself.

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    I don't think The Iliad can be compared to Paradise Lost in terms of 'beauty.' Unless you actually mean to say that the language of an english translation of the Iliad is more beautiful than the english of Paradise Lost. In which case, I have to ask what translation you read that could have brought you to such a conclusion. Or do you mean to say that, regardless of language, the story of the Iliad is more beautiful than that of Paradise Lost? idk man i like them both

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    I enjoy the story of The Iliad more than Paradise Lost. Theology and Christianity both interest me quite abit, but I still find The Iliad the more enjoyable read, and the more "epic" feeling of the two, even though the subject matter of Paradise Lost is technically more epic and lofty.

    I love both the Alexander Pope translation/interpretation as well as the Richmond Lattimore version. Those are my two favorites. I enjoyed the Robert Fagles and found it a highly enjoyable and fast paced read, but that the language was not as epic feeling as it could be. I would specifically point to the Alexander Pope translation as being stunningly beautiful, and far more faithful to the feel and intent of the original than some people have given it credit. Samuel Johnson himself pronounced Pope's version, "the greatest translation ever achieved in English or in any other language." Granted, that was a long time ago, but it still carries weight imo.

    Here's a a little snippet of Pope from Book 5 as an example of why I would even think of comparing it to Paradise Lost in terms of beauty. I literally flipped straight to the front of book 5, so this isn't a cherry picked perfect section of verse, but does show the general beauty of this translation, and having read a more literal version of the work, also approximates the feel and meaning very closely imo.

    Book 5: The Acts of Diomed

    But Pallas now Tydides' soul inspires,
    Fills with her force, and warms with all her fires,
    Above the Greeks his deathless fame to raise.
    And crown her hero with distinguish'd praise.
    High on his helm celestial lightnings play,
    His beamy shield emits a living ray;
    The unwearied blaze incessant streams supplies,
    Like the red star that fires the autumnal skies,
    When fresh he rears his radiant orb to sight,
    And, bathed in ocean, shoots a keener light.
    Such glories Pallas on the chief bestow'd,
    Such, from his arms, the fierce effulgence flow'd:
    Onward she drives him, furious to engage,
    Where the fight burns, and where the thickest rage.

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    I'll counter your samuel johnson with a stock richard bentley quote: "it is a pretty poem, mr. pope, but you must not call it homer." I do agree, however; the pope version is really pretty. The heroic couplets give it a nice and grand feel, but become a little tiresome after awhile. i've never read lattimore. fitzgerald is too colloquial and fagles is good, but reads kind of like prose.

    Unless i'm wrong, the problem with finding the most "literal" translations or the "closest thing" is that anyone who has ever translated homer has only known ancient greek academically, and, for obvious reasons, has never actually lived the language. translating ancient languages is a crapshoot. it is like trying to re-flesh a fossil. the best translation is still a rude approximation (this is just my opinion). the horizons of meaning are just too far apart to be bridged. i'd like to believe, that by reading a translation, i can arrive at an authentic appreciation and understanding of the work. instead i feel like my appreciation for works i've read in translation is only a superficial one. it's kind of like making love to a corpse . . .

    of course, in light of recent theories, you could make a similar case against reading works that are not translations, but still in your own tongue. i'm not going to go there.

    sorry for the rant, i'm not sure if this has anything to do with what you're saying, but this has always been something that has bothered me about translations. it's fair to appreciate translations, their language and what not, but you must never call it homer (haha).

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    "it is a pretty poem, mr. pope, but you must not call it homer."

    I have seen this quote, and I still think Pope understood Homer's work better than Richard Bentley. There's a book at my college's library that talks about Pope, especially his The Iliad translation, and why some of the criticisms put forth against, like that of Richard Bentley, are not nearly as convincing as they sound. I read a couple of chapters of the book, comparing Pope's translation of passages to several others and when you analyze it, Pope is saying the same thing. Maybe not the exact same words, but the same thing is being said or represented.

    I agree that translations will never be as good as the original because the translation is subject to so many factors that influence it. I disagree with that Richard Bentley quote, and agree with Johnson's.

  12. #12
    King of Dreams MorpheusSandman's Avatar
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    I do agree that Pope's translation is (probably) more Pope than Homer. Have a Homeric virgin read some of Pope's famous works (Rape of the Lock, Dunciad, etc.) and then give them his Homer and I doubt they'd have trouble identifying it as the same author. I think the challenge of translating Homer is how to maintain the epic qualities while keeping Homer's inherent simplicity, swiftness, lucidity, etc. I tend to think Pope errs more on the side of elegance and, in turn, misses some of Homer's roughness. I actually kinda feel that Pope would've been better off translating Virgil and Dryden better off translating Homer; I think the styles would've been a better fit. To date, my favorite Homer is a different classic version, that of Chapman.
    "As far as we can discern, the sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light of meaning in the darkness of mere being." --Carl Gustav Jung

    "To absent friends, lost loves, old gods, and the season of mists; and may each and every one of us always give the devil his due." --Neil Gaiman; The Sandman Vol. 4: Season of Mists

    "I'm on my way, from misery to happiness today. Uh-huh, uh-huh, uh-huh, uh-huh" --The Proclaimers

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    I've perused the Chapman, but honestly haven't given it enough of a perusal to say what I think about it. Now that I think of it, I'll give it a closer eye this week. I have heard a few people say that is their favorite translation.

    As a side note, I've found that heroic couplets don't bother me. I read Troilus and Cressida in verse and I actually grew to really enjoy it. After awhile I don't think about it, and it just sounds beautiful. I remember thinking how barren or harsh non-rhyming prose felt to me for the first few minutes after reading that.

  14. #14
    King of Dreams MorpheusSandman's Avatar
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    I have no problem with heroic couplets, especially when they're used by a master like Pope, but what I dislike was the Augustan idea that heroic couplets were the perfect form for EVERYTHING. Most poets throughout history have realized that different forms work better or worse depending on what's being written.
    "As far as we can discern, the sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light of meaning in the darkness of mere being." --Carl Gustav Jung

    "To absent friends, lost loves, old gods, and the season of mists; and may each and every one of us always give the devil his due." --Neil Gaiman; The Sandman Vol. 4: Season of Mists

    "I'm on my way, from misery to happiness today. Uh-huh, uh-huh, uh-huh, uh-huh" --The Proclaimers

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    Registered User duke-one's Avatar
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    What do you all think of the value of C.S. Lewis' "A Preface to Paradise Lost"? I've been though both but a long time ago and the memory is going.........
    KDM

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