The first thing I'm putting up is a part of my final project in my Milton Class. Rather than go the Evangelion route described in an earlier article, I've decided on a more creative project. See, William Blake, the crazy poet/prophet/visionary/artist dude, has this whole critique of Paradise Lost where he says, essentially, that from the unison of opposites--the blending of good and evil--new ideas arise. One and the other on their own cannot allow for truly new ideas to emerge. So, I'm going to reapply those principles to Milton by taking different characters in the text and making them--if good--do evil and--if evil--do good.
The first one is the most logical choice: Satan himself. In the original text, Satan decides that the best way to revenge himself upon God is to destroy God's new creation: Earth, and by extension Adam and Eve. There's a monologue he gives in Book 4 of Paradise Lost where he starts out marveling at and pitying the two helpless mortals, astonished at how unprotected they are from the penetration of his overwhelming evil into Eden. Ultimately, however, he convinces himself to continue on his task and destroy the two, seducing them into falling.
What would happen, I thought, if Satan had instead chosen a different path?
First Fantastic Vision: Satan’s Repentance; The Roving Eye of God
[Satan begins his monologue upon seeing Adam and Eve]
...O Hell! what doe mine eyes with grief behold,
Into our room of bliss thus high advanc't
Creatures of other mould, earth-born perhaps, [ 360 ]
Not Spirits, yet to heav'nly Spirits bright
Little inferior; whom my thoughts pursue
With wonder, and could love, so lively shines
In them Divine resemblance, and such grace
The hand that formd them on thir shape hath pourd. [ 365 ]
Ah gentle pair, yee little think how nigh
Your change approaches, when all these delights
Will vanish and deliver ye to woe,
More woe, the more your taste is now of joy;
Happie, but for so happie ill secur'd [ 370 ]
Long to continue, and this high seat your Heav'n
Ill fenc't for Heav'n to keep out such a foe
As now is enterd; how could I not feel
A stirring pity for these newborn lights!
Although my heart does yearn to make with them [ 375 ]
A compact or a hellish league to sate
The howling loneliness of I bereft
Of pity and of true comradery
To see them here so helpless, without sin
Compels me back, now doubled on my plan, [ 380 ]
Of two minds fraught! Could this now be the scheme
Set forth by my assailer, to create
A land unfenced and free, protected not
From archfiends sowing mischief in the fold?
Not even my opponent would be rash [ 385 ]
As this! A trap instead: the vaunted one
Seeks out their fall, through me, a damned wretch
With such insid’ous thought to turn Eden
Into a kind of hell. And so revenge
Becomes for me another fall. I now [ 390 ]
Renounce my vow before Hell’s princes grand
And turn my back upon this errand bleak;
Now Moloch’s errand seems the better task,
To rally up the armies of the deep
And marshal out once more my bitter fiends [ 395 ]
To draw the eye of the Almighty God
Away, and to our battles in the roil,
Away from Eden, that these two might stay
Untainted by this godly, dev’lish trap!
So saying, the archfiend ascended hence [ 400 ]
From Eden, ne’re to forge the Fall of Man,
Out to attract the roving eye of God
And draw it from the innocents on Earth.
Although the fall would come to pass in time
A softer fall it was, and knowingly [ 405 ]
As Eve and Adam unified in trust
Ate undeceived that they might taste of truth,
By sin to know of Eden’s beauty more...
[Satan exists, the confrontation with Gabriel and Uriel, &c.
I've chosen, obviously, to take the original text and veer off from it. I would be interested to hear if people can pick out exactly what points in the poetry I started making changes. By the end, obviously, things have run completely off the rails. In this version of Paradise Lost I imagine that the rest of the book would chronicle, in true Epic Tragedy fashion, the horrible toll that the eternal war would take upon both combatants, Satan knowing all the while that he must deceive the other devils and throw them mercilessly into battle in order to protect the innocents. I won't be delving into that, as I want to explore the possibilities rather than a full rewrite of the text (you'll see more of these possibilities as the week goes on) but I wanted to at least suggest that possibility in my revision of the original plan for Book 4.