Paradise Lost "No Light, But Rather Darkness Visible"

John Milton

"No Light, But Rather Darkness Visible"

Context: Milton tells how the devils were hurled from heaven and lay for the space of nine days on a fiery gulf. He goes on to say that the region in which they are imprisoned is a fiery dungeon like a great furnace, although the flames of hell give forth no light. He is here using the universal symbolism of light and dark to indicate good and evil; when he describes heaven, he does so in terms of brilliant light. He also applies the same symbolism to Satan, who before his fall, as Lucifer, star of the morning, was the brightest of all the angels; as he becomes progressively more evil after his fall, he gradually loses all of his brightness. Milton's hell is often contrasted with Dante's: Milton's is a chaotic, unclear, murky region, but Dante's is highly systematized into a number of divisions and subdivisions. Milton is indicating the lack of order and the confusion inherent in evil; Dante is indicating divine order in the punishment of the sinful:

At once as far as angel's ken he views
The dismal situation waste and wild,
A dungeon horrible, on all sides round
As one great furnace flamed, yet from those flames
No light, but rather darkness visible
Served only to discover sights of woe,
Regions of sorrow, doleful shades, where peace
And rest can never dwell, hope never comes
That comes to all; but torture without end
Still urges, and a fiery deluge, fed
With ever-burning sulphur unconsumed:
Such place eternal justice had prepared
For those rebellious, here their prison ordained
In utter darkness, and their portion set
As far removed from God and light of heaven
As from the center thrice to th'utmost pole.