They hand in hand with wandering steps and slow
Through Eden made their solitary way
Milton, Paradise Lost, Book XII, 648-9
A foot trod upon the dusty path,
Before untorn, now calloused and worn,
Like he who stands upon the path,
Adam, father of mankind,
Beside Eve, bowed with shame and sorrow,
Blaming herself alone for the painful walk.
Together, cloaked in primitive garb,
They continue along the dusty way,
Between the verdant hills of Eden,
Going onwards, not allowed to stay
In the luscious land of trees and grasses,
Abundant fruits and untilled soil
Tall palms and gen’rous hedgerows
That, overburdened with fruit,
Cloak the many miles of Paradise,
Divided only by lonely paths
That, now mankind did fall,
Guide Adam and his wife Eve
To the lofty Western wall,
Whereupon two fiery angels stand,
Bright-blazing swords waiting in hand
Burning even to the eagle’s eye
That sees beyond the tropic paradise.
The distant desert where no foot has yet trod
Where those two marching specks will stay, obedient to their God.
So ends the immense amount of poetry based on Paradise Lost. The first poem is here, and was published last August while I was at the Edinburgh Fringe. So much has changed since then that it is surprising for me to think of this great continuity. So, some reflections.
When I started, I realised that it would be big. I did not count out the 80 poems that it would eventually come to. Right now, I feel fatigued, and disinclined towards doing something like this again – odd quotes may well appeal to me, but not whole works.
I like Milton, but am not sure I will read him again for a while. If you want to, then please do so.
One thing that has repeatedly struck me is how I sometimes identify more with the words out of context, as love-words or expressions of something I believe in. Perhaps the clearest example of this is ‘I watched Eve‘. In it, I viewed Eve as a homosexual figure, forced into heterosexual behaviour. I am still unsure whether this was justified, but it remains one of my favourite poems of the set, so I guess that’s good.
It has been murder for traffic. Nobody wants to read about Milton (If you do, then do comment about it). I have no idea how many words I have written about it, but over half a year of Milton-based poetry is a long time indeed, and I’m looking forward to some other things.
What did you make of the Milton epic? If you’ve been with me from the beginning, or have just tagged on, let me know.
The Hapless Neo-Romantic