Milton, Paradise Lost, Book V, 445-446
I was asked to judge them as they walked by,
To say of each one if they deserved paradise
And the procession of people trod on their way
As I tried to decide what gave them access
To bliss eternal. The first was a father,
Walking with his child, his face harried by woe.
He looked suspiciously ’round him, not trusting his fellow man,
And had a dip on his finger where a ring once used to go.
What drove his spouse away, perhaps he was unlovable,
“He cannot go” hissed the voice behind my ear.
But I gazed upon the child, gazing ’round with joy,
Unaware of its father’s heavy load,
Thoughts empty of all malice, free of cruel revenge,
That perverts to wickedness the best of men.
On seeing this innocent the voice spoke again,
“This one may enter the Garden of Eden.”
Why? I asked, why do they deserve Paradise
For never knowing or understanding pain?
Are they to be rewarded for never having suffered,
While the father suffers for being human?
Why should innocence make the child deserving of paradise,
And sorrow send the father down to hell?
The voice in my ear vanished with a hiss,
And the child carried on, thinking all was well.
Regular readers might have realised that I’m not a huge fan of some Church teachings. This is one I find bizarre – that innocence is what deserves paradise, not deeds. Obviously, this is far from universal for Christians, but to Milton, innocence is what saves men.
The Hapless Neo-Romantic