Satan visited the Garden of Eden. He hoped to ruin God’s creation by introducing sin into the world. He learned that God had commanded Adam and Eve not to eat of the tree of knowledge, so he wanted to persuade them to disobey this command.
God sent Raphael to warn Adam about the danger he faced. He explained how Satan, once an angel of light, rebelled against God. He told about the subsequent war in heaven and the dreadful punishment that Satan and his hosts suffered because of their transgression. In conclusion, he urged Adam to remember their fate and fear to transgress.
At the beginning of the seventh book, Milton invokes the muse Urania. His conception of the muses differs from that of Hesiod. He calls them sisters of divine Wisdom, and they dwell in heaven with the Almighty.
After describing the war in heaven, Milton had to get down to earth, where the action of the seventh book takes place. He asks her to set him safely on the ground, lest he fall from his steed like Bellerophon.
The seventh book continues the conversation between Adam and Raphael. After hearing about the war in heaven, Adam wanted information about his own world. He wanted to know how God created the heavens with its innumerable lights. He also wished to learn why God had created his world.
Raphael explained that God created the new world to replenish heaven. In spite of Lucifer’s rebellion, there still were plenty of angels in heaven. However, to prevent Satan from boasting that he had depopulated heaven, God resolved to create “out of one man, a race of men innumerable.” This race would dwell in a new world called earth, “till by degrees of merit raised they open to themselves at length the way up hither, under long obedience tried.” Eventually heaven and earth would become one kingdom. There would be “joy and union without end.”
The Father sent His Word, His begotten Son, to do this creative work. He sent His overshadowing Spirit and might with Him.
The Son rode forth on his chariot. He left the celestial realm and entered the realm of Chaos, which was “outrageous as the sea, dark, wasteful, wild, up from the bottom turned by furious winds and surging waves, as mountains to assault heavens height, and with the center mix the pole.”
The Omnific Word pacified the deep and the troubled waves with His command. Then He rode into the realm of Chaos and circumscribed the new universe with golden compasses.
The matter of the new world was yet unformed and void, but the Spirit of God spread out His wings and infused the elements with vital warmth. Like associated with like, and the world began to organize itself.
God said: “Let there be light.” Immediately ethereal light sprang from the deep and “from her native east to journey through the airy gloom began.” Since the sun did not exist as of yet, the light resided in a radiant cloud. God saw that the light was good. Having divided the light from the darkness, He called the light day and the darkness night. As the hosts of heaven celebrated the event with song, the birth-day of heaven and earth drew to a close.
The next day, God created a firmament to effect a division between the waters, some of which were suspended above while others lay below on the surface of the earth. God called the firmament heaven.
As the third day dawned, God commanded the waters to be gathered together into one place, so that dry land appeared. He called the dry land earth, and the assembled waters He called seas. Since the ground was bare, he adorned it with grass and herbs, as well as bushes and stately trees.
On the fourth day, the Almighty said: “Let there be lights high in the expanse of heaven to divide the day from night.” Besides the stars, He made two great lights: the greater to rule by day and the less by night. He took the light that was residing in a radiant cloud and transplanted most of it into the sun. The porous orb of the sun drank in the liquid light. The sun became a palace to which other stars repaired and drew light as from a fountain. In this way, the morning planet gilded his horns. The moon also borrowed its light from the sun. It ruled the night but shared its reign with a thousand lesser lights.
On the fifth day, God commanded the waters to generate living creatures, and he bade birds to fly above the earth. He blessed them and said “Be fruitful and multiply.” A multitude of fish immediately populated the seas. Dolphins engaged in play, and the huge leviathan seemed to be a moving island. Meanwhile, eagles and storks soared through the sublime air, and smaller birds delighted the forest with their song.
On the sixth day, God commanded the earth to bring forth a variety of animals, each after its kind. The earth obeyed and opened her fertile womb. The behemoth and crocodile appeared, as well as lions, tigers, and cattle. Insects and worms began to creep along the ground. The female bee began to feed her husband deliciously and build her waxen cells.
Raphael then informed Adam that he also was created on the sixth day. Adam was God’s master work, a creature endowed with reason.
As they were about to create Adam, the Father said to His Son: “Let us make man in Our image.” Accordingly, God formed Adam from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life. He made Adam a male and subsequently gave him a female and said: “Be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it.”
God planted the Garden of Eden as a home for Adam. Raphael reminded Adam that God had given him permission to eat the fruit of all the trees of the garden except the tree that imparted knowledge of good and evil. He reiterated the warning: “Beware, and govern well thy appetite, lest sin surprise thee, and her black attendant Death.”
Having finished His creative work, God returned to heaven. Acclamations followed Him, and ten thousand harps tuned angelic harmonies. Adam himself had heard them.
On the seventh day, God rested, and the empyrean rang with hallelujahs.
Adam thanked Raphael for the information that he had given. However, there was one factor that still puzzled him. He considered the earth insignificant in comparison to the majestic lights in the heavens. He wondered why these glorious bodies moved across the heavens merely to give light to the earth, while the earth remained stationary. He thought that it would be better if the earth would move.
Up to this point, Eve had been listening to the conversation. Now, when she saw that Adam was entering on abstruse studious thoughts, she rose with majestic grace and went out to take care of the fruits and flowers. She left because she wanted Adam to tell her what the angel said later on. She preferred to listen to Adam rather than the angel. She figured that she would receive a lot of conjugal caresses while he was explaining these abstruse topics.
Raphael pointed out that the heavens were “as a book of God before thee set, wherein to read His wondrous works, and learn His seasons, hours, or days, or months, or years.” It made no difference whether the earth moved or the heavens. In either case, man could read the heavens and learn the lessons that they were designed to teach.
The Great Architect had wisely concealed the fabric of the heavens from men and angels. Raphael pointed out that it was better to admire the heavens rather than prying into their secrets.
Raphael also addressed himself to Adam’s opinion that the brighter and greater heavenly bodies ought not to serve the more insignificant earth. Even though the earth is small and dark in comparison to heaven, it may contain more solid good than the sun, the rays of which are barren until they strike the fruitful earth.
Moreover, Raphael pointed out that the earth is not really the object that the heavenly orbs serve. Man is the object of their ministrations.
Raphael told Adam: “Heaven is for thee too high to know what passes there.” Instead, he urged Adam to rejoice in the blessings that God had given him: his paradise and his fair Eve.
After finishing his discourse, Adam offered to inform Raphael about his own experiences that occurred shortly after his creation.
During the creation of the world, God had sent Raphael with a legion to guard the gates of hell. God wanted to make sure that none of its inmates escaped while He was creating heaven and earth. As a result, Raphael was glad that Adam could tell him about some of the things that he had not witnessed.
Adam described his initial experiences thus: “As new waked from the soundest sleep soft on the flowery herb I found me laid in balmy sweat, which with his beams the sun soon dried, and on reaking moisture fed. Strait toward heaven my wondering eyes I turned, and gazed a while the ample sky, till raised by quick instinctive motion up I sprung, as thitherward endeavoring, and upright stood upon my feet; about me round I saw hill, dale, and shady woods, and sunny plains, and liquid lapse of murmuring streams; by these, creatures that lived, and moved, and walked, or flew, birds on the branches warbling; all things smiled, with fragrance and with joy my heart oreflowed.”
Adam did not know what he was. He examined himself and tested his movements by running. He tried to speak, and words immediately flowed from his mouth. He found that he could name the sun and everything else that he saw round about. He felt that he was happier than he knew and wanted to adore his Creator. He asked the sun, the rivers, the woods, and other objects how he got to be where he was, but he received no answer.
He then sat down, and a gentle sleep overcame him. He thought that he might be dissolving.
As he slept, he dreamed that a divine Shape told him to rise and come to the mansion prepared for him. He took Adam by the hand and led him up a woody mountain. At its summit was an enclosed plain with goodly trees. It was a true garden of bliss.
When Adam awakened, he found that everything that he had dreamed was real. He was about to examine his home when he caught sight of the divine Presence that had brought him to the garden. He was the Creator for whom Adam had been looking. He told Adam to eat freely of every tree of the garden, except for the tree whose operation brought knowledge of good and evil. If he ate the fruit of that tree, he would die.
He also told Adam that he and his race would be masters of the whole earth. He then brought the birds and the beasts to Adam. They came two by two, two of each kind. Adam named them all.
Adam then addressed the heavenly Vision. He was thankful for all the blessings that his Creator had given him. However, he said: “Thou hast provided all things: but with me I see not who partakes. In solitude what happiness, who can enjoy alone, or all enjoying, what contentment find?”
The Creator pointed out that he had filled the earth with living creatures. Adam knew their language and their ways. He could divert himself by playing with them.
In reply, Adam begged the Creator not to be offended with his words. He pointed out that all the creatures were far beneath him, so they were not suitable companions for him. He desired someone fit to participate in all rational delight.
Adam pointed out that each bird and beast consorted with its own kind. He gave the lion and the lioness as an example. In contrast, a bird was not a suitable companion for a beast or for a fish, and a man and a beast was an even worse combination.
The Almighty was not displeased. He said: “A nice and subtle happiness I see thou to thyself proposest, in the choice of thy associates.” He then said: “What thinkest then of Me, and this My state, seem I to thee sufficiently possessed of happiness, or not? Who am alone from all eternity, for none I know second to Me or like, equal much less. How have I then with whom to hold converse save with the creatures I have made, and those to Me inferior, infinite descents beneath what other creatures are to thee?’
Adam replied: “To attain the height and depth of Thy eternal ways all human thoughts come short, Supreme of things; Thou in Thyself art perfect, and in Thee is no deficience found, not so in man.” He pointed out that God does not have to propagate, but man does. Moreover, if God wanted satisfactory social communication with man, He could raise man as high as He wished. However, man could not raise a beast from its prone position.
God had been testing Adam, and Adam’s answers showed that he understood not only the beasts, but also himself. Before Adam had spoken, God knew that it was not good for man to be alone. God had created Adam in His own image. Therefore, the beasts were not suitable companions for him.
Adam then fell asleep, but he was aware of what God was doing. God opened Adam’s side and took out a rib, streaming with life blood. The wound was wide, but it quickly healed. Then God fashioned and formed the rib with His hands. “Under His forming hands a creature grew, manlike, but different sex, so lovely fair, that what seemed fair in all the world, seemed now mean.” As Adam beheld her, he felt a sweetness enter his heart – something that he had never felt before.
Suddenly she disappeared. Adam woke up. He endeavored to find her, or deplore her loss forever. Finally he saw her not far off. She looked just as she had in Adam’s dream, “adorned with what all earth or heaven could bestow to make her amiable.” She came to Adam, led by her Heavenly Maker, who was not visible. She understood nuptial sanctity and marriage rites. “Grace was in all her steps, heaven in her eye, in every gesture dignity and love.”
Adam told the Creator that she was the best of His gifts. He called her bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh. He called her woman because she was extracted from man.
When she saw Adam, she coyly turned. Adam followed her, and led her to the nuptial bower. Though sinless, she blushed like the morn. “All heaven, and happy constellations on that hour shed their selectest influence, the earth gave signs of gratulation, and each hill; joyous the birds; fresh gales and gentle airs whispered it to the woods, and from their wings flung rose, flung odors from the spicy shrub, disporting, till the amorous bird of night sung spousal, and bid haste the evening star on his hill top, to light the bridal lamp.”
After telling Raphael about his experiences, Adam evaluated Eve. He felt that her outward beauties exceeded her inward faculties. Yet when he beheld her beauty, it seemed to him that all her words and actions were wisest. In her presence, all higher knowledge seemed to fall degraded.
With contracted brow, Raphael said: “Accuse not nature, she hath done her part; do thou but thine, and be not diffident of wisdom, she deserts thee not, if thou dismiss not her, when most thou needst her nigh, by attributing overmuch to things less excellent.” He pointed out that Eve’s outward beauties deserved admiration, but not subjection. [Note that this warning is a functional part of the plot. It becomes important when Eve later offers the forbidden fruit to Adam.]
Raphael also distinguished between love and passion: “In loving thou dost well, in passion not, wherein true love consists not; love refines the thoughts, and heart enlarges, hath his seat in reason, and is judicious, is the scale by which to heavenly love thou mayest ascend, not sunk in carnal pleasure, for which cause among the beasts no mate for thee was found.”
In reply, Adam said that far more than her fair outside, he appreciated “those graceful acts, those thousand decencies that daily flow from all her words and actions, mixed with love and sweet compliance, which declare unfeigned union of mind, or in us both one soul, harmony to behold in wedded pair.”
Adam asked Raphael not to blame him for loving, since love leads up to heaven. He then asked Raphael how heavenly spirits express their love.
Raphael replied: “Let it suffice thee that thou knowest us happy, and without love no happiness.” He pointed out that their incorporeal nature made expressions of love considerably different in heaven.
Before leaving, Raphael again emphasized the importance of resisting temptation and observing God’s commandment. He said: “To stand or fall free in thine own arbitrement it lies.”
Adam then bade farewell to Raphael, saying: “Go heavenly guest, heavenly messenger, sent from Whose sovereign goodness I adore. Gentle to me and affable hath been thy condescension and shall be honored ever in grateful memory: thou to mankind be good and friendly still, and oft return.”
Literature.Org: Paradise Lost