Psalm 8

Psalm 8

Translated by John Milton on August 14, 1653

O Jehovah Lord how wondrous great
And glorious is thy name through all the earth?
So as above the Heavens thy praise to set
Out of the tender mouths of latest hearth,
Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings thou
Hast founded strength because of all thy foes
To stint th' enemy, and slack th' avengers brow
That bends his rage thy providence to oppose,
When I behold thy Heavens, thy Fingers art,
The Moon and Starrs which thou so bright hast set,
In the pure firmament, then saith my heart,
O what is man that thou remembrest yet,
And think'st upon him; or of man begot
That him thou visit'st and of him art found;
Scarce to be less then Gods, thou mad'st his lot,
With honour and with state thou hast him crown'd.
O're the works of thy hand thou mad'st him Lord,
Thou hast put all under his lordly feet,
All Flocks, and Herds, by thy commanding word,
All beasts that in the field or forrest meet.
Fowl of the Heavens, and Fish that through the wet
Sea-paths in shoals do slide. And know no dearth.
O Jehovah our Lord how wondrous great
And glorious is thy name through all the earth.


Psalm 8 (King James Version)

Psalm 8

 1O LORD, our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth! who hast set thy glory above the heavens.

 2Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings hast thou ordained strength because of thine enemies, that thou mightest still the enemy and the avenger.

 3When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained;

 4What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him?

 5For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour.

 6Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet:

 7All sheep and oxen, yea, and the beasts of the field;

 8The fowl of the air, and the fish of the sea, and whatsoever passeth through the paths of the seas.

 9O LORD our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth!

Compare this version to the KJV of Psalm 8.  Which is better?  Why?

Paradise Lost


an attempt to explain why God allows evil in the world and why He allows people to suffer. The classic answer to this is because people were bad, but the righteous suffer too. For example, in the Bible, Job’s friends told him to fess up, but he was innocent.
Milton's statement of the purpose of his epic has also been used to define theodicy:
"to justify the ways of God to men" (1. 25).  Milton wants to demonstrate that the problems in the world are not God's fault, but Satan's & ours.
Where does evil come from? Satan, the accuser, is the evil one.
In Job 1: 6, "the satan" (literally, the accuser. Satan is the prosecuting attorney) in God’s court accuses Job of weakness and wrongdoing.
Without Satan as God's opponent, God would be in charge of everything.  There were no proximate causes; everything was God’s will.

A theology that allows possible secondary causes because God is not doing everything  allows Him to retain goodness. Blame Satan. For example, God allowed Job’s kids to be killed, but He did not actually do the killing. As the doctrine of Satan continued to develop, he was seen as an independent being, evil and at war with God. Satan is no longer part of God's court.

Suffering comes from Satan and the sinful ways of man. God is perfect and working to overcome evil. God created people with free will in order for us to have a true relationship with him. He allows us to stand or fall.


The background for Milton’s epic is the Judeo-Christian Bible and classical Greek and Roman epics,  such as Homer’s Iliad & Odyssey and Virgil's Aeneid.  He also makes extensive use of the medieval epic Inferno by Dante. They both spend a lot of time in Hell. He doesn't use much from the Anglo-Saxon or French backgrounds. He had, however, mastered Latin, Greek, Hebrew, Italian, and several other languages. He combines the Biblical account with the "machinery" of Graeco-Roman epics.

Machinery. Elements that typically adorn epics, such as supernatural beings, epithets (nicknames), battles, epic similes (elaborate comparisons).


Milton used blank verse in his English epic form, which doesn’t rhyme. Milton allowed God, Jesus, and Adam to represent perfect men and heroes. Satan is also a hero in the poem, though Milton probably didn't mean for him to be.

He wrote the poem in 12 books for traditional reasons. Homer's epics had 24 books each. Virgil's had 12. Most epics have either 24, 12, or 6 books because of that tradition.

Milton tried to portray need for submission to hierarchy against the desire for individual freedom (Remember the Great Chain of Being?).

Satan seems more of a hero than God sometimes for various reasons:

  1. God has no imperfections or tensions. God's voice when he does speak is the voice of reason. He's logical and dispassionate. He thus seems remote, in contrast to Satan's passions & forceful personality.
  2. Satan is involved in the action of the epic, God mostly in giving narratives of future history.
  3. Satan is on stage more, especially in the edited edition in your textbook.  The discourses of God & his angels tend to get left out.
  4. Changing views of right & wrong.  Our society stresses freedom & doesn't like submitting to the authority of others. "Better to reign in hell than serve in heaven" has a more positive ring in our ears than it did in Milton's audience.
  5. Satan is a tragic figure. He has fallen into ruin from a great height. He especially evokes sympathy among those who are familiar with tragedy.
  6. Milton himself was ambivilant about the hierarchy. He wrote pamphlets defending Cromwell's execution of King Charles I. He wrote Areopagitica, an early defense of the free press. He wrote in favor of liberalized divorce laws (because he had an unhappy marriage).
Pride is the classic sin from which others flow.  It occurs when you put your will before his.
Ambition is even worse than pride in Paradise Lost. "Pride and worse Ambition threw me down" (4. 39).  Today, we think of ambition as a good thing.  We need the ambition to improve our selves. Then, ambition was the desire to get out of the spot that God put you in, to disrupt the divinely-ordained hierarchy.

Archangel is the ruler of other angels.

Satan tried to overthrow God, so he got thrown into hell, the bottom of the chain. If he succeeded, it would disrupt the hierarchy and destroy the universe.

Paradise Lost deals with the disruption of hierarchy. Satan would rather reign in hell than serve in Heaven. He was a high angel, but was unhappy to be beneath God.

Great chain of Being hierarchy for angelic powers












Uxorious comes from the Latin word uxorius, meaning a man who allows his wife rule him. By giving in to Eve's nagging, Adam becomes uxorious. They disrupted the natural order (as in the Wife of Bath & Phyllis & Ariltotle).

In the traditional epic form, Milton begins by asking his muse to inspire him to write. The Greeks had 9 Muses. Christians sometimes talk about the Tenth Muse, Holy Spirit. Milton also addresses the Holy Spirit as Urania. He is "musing over" the ambition of his people. The Puritans had overthrown Charles I and beheaded him at Commonwealth. By the time he wrote this, Milton was old, blind, and poor and had served time in jail when Charles II, the son of the beheaded Charles I, came back to England and took over the throne.

The Romantic Period later would elevate Milton's Satan. They had a new approach to thinking. It was the rise of the Industrial Revolution, which caused the ideas about ambition to change. The Satanic Hero is a central type in the Romantic Era. He is one who goes too far and falls. He does not go with the flow; he says no.

Felix Culpa  is a happy or fortunate fall. Humans ended up being better off because of Jesus. Things are better in the end than the beginning even though the fall was tragic.

Plot structure
Paradise Lost follows a tragic plot structure.  In tragedy, the hero's life is one of a rise then a fall.  Books 1-6 slowly rise from hell to earth to heaven.  Books 7-12 conter around the fall.  The first word in 7.1 is "descend," and that is what we do.

Book 1

We begin in medias res, in the middle of things. This type of beginning is typical of epics, which usually begin with action and later explain how things got to be this way.
1. 160
God can bring good from evil. This justifies his ways & also shows how a fall (culpa) can in the end be fortunate (felix),
1. 192-200
An epic simile that shows similarities between the devil and other creatures. At the end of the epic, all of Satan’s devils are turned into snakes. Satan falls from God status to animal status.
1. 257
refers to Zeus.
1. 263  This is one of Satan's great lines.
Jesus is Satan’s archenemy. Jesus kicked Satan out of Heaven. They had fought for three days, and fell for nine days. In Paradise Regained, Jesus and Satan face off again, as the temptation of Christ.
1. 361ff
The catalogue of heroes is also a standard epic device.  In this epic, we get the catalogue of demons.
1. 506
Stygian and hellish. Sin and Death and Cerebus is a three-headed dog that guards the gate to hell. It let Satan out because Satan brings people back for the dogs to eat. The path to hell leads through chaos down a wide road.
1. 590
                                                he above the rest
               In shape and gesture proudly eminent
               Stood like a Towr; his form had yet not lost
               All her Original brightness, nor appear'd
               Less then Arch Angel ruind, and th' excess
               Of Glory obscur'd: As when the Sun new ris'n
               Looks through the Horizontal misty Air
               Shorn of his Beams, or from behind the Moon
               In dim Eclips disastrous twilight sheds
               On half the Nations, and with fear of change
               Perplexes Monarchs. Dark'n'd so, yet shon
               Above them all th' Arch Angel: but his face
               Deep scars of Thunder had intrencht, and care
               Sat on his faded cheek, but under Browes
               Of dauntless courage, and considerate Pride
               Waiting revenge: cruel his eye, but cast
               Signs of remorse and passion to behold
               The fellows of his crime
This heroic description of Satan is one of the passages that make us as readers feel sympathy for him.  He is not pure evil at this point.  He will become more evil as the story progresses, and his form will change.  What does he look like at the end?

"As when the Sun. . . ." is an epic simile or Homeric simile, an extended comparison first made popular in Homer's Iliad.

1. 756  Pandemonium = (pan) demons (demonium).  It is the castle built by devils.

 Book 2

The demons hold a council in hell.  What do they decide to do?

What does Satan encounter at the gates of Hell?

What is his connection to them?

What deal do they make?

Book 3

We see a moral exchange. Sin must be atoned; this is possible if the person submits to God and focuses on morality. Satan can’t escape hell because it is within him. He wants to go back to heaven but refuses to submit. Women are supposed to submit to men because women were made inferior. Eve sinned to obtain knowledge; Adam’s sin was noble - he wanted to share Eve's fate.
3. 90ff
Central to the project of theodicy is to exonerate God of any blame for the imperfect condition of the world.  Commonly, the power of God is somehow circumscribed, making evil come from some other cause.  Thus here, where God grants angels and humans free will, and they fall into sin of their own choice.

Another part of theodicy is to support the idea that God is acting to overcome the problems in the world. What action does God plan that will undo the advent of SIN?  Who else is involved in his plan?

Book 4

Accuser.  As a scholar of Hebrew, Milton is aware of the original meaning of "ha-satan" - the accuser.
Tempter.  "The tempter" is another popular description of Satan, and one central to the plot of Paradise Lost.
4. 20
He can't really leave hell.  He carries it inside him wherever he goes.
4. 32ff
Another of Satan's great speeches.
"Pride and worse Ambition threw me down
Warring in Heav'n against Heav'n's matchless King:"
He regrets his decision but sticks with it.
4. 75
"Myself am Hell."  Just as Queen Elizabeth or King James could say "I am England."  The state was embodied in its monarch.  But this carries another meaning - he embodies suffering and torment.
4. 715
Eve is compared to Pandora.  She was the 1st woman in Greek mythology.  She brought disaster to humanity by opening the jar (or box) that the gods had told her to keep closed.
4. 740ff
Adam & Eve have sex.  It is pure & innocent.

Book 5

Eve dreams of her temptation & Raphael warns them against Satan.  Thus they are without excuse for their fall.

Book 6

Milton at the half-way point again invokes the muse to help him.  Urania ~ Holy Spirit.

Book 8

In his innocent state, Adam responds to God's providence with the proper awe & gratitude.
8. 450ff
The creation of Eve.
8. 535
Eve has been created inferior to Adam.  Milton thus makes her secondary status natural rather than a status that resulted from the fall.  Milton's attitudes toward women are negative.
8. 610
Looking at beauty can lead you to contemplate heavenly Beauty, the ultimate Beauty.  This way of thinking comes from Plato.

Book 9

Book 10

What happens to Satan & his minions when he returns to hell?
10. 710ff    What are the attitudes of Adam and Eve now?

Book 12

What happens to Adam & Eve?
What promise do they receive?