What imagery is used in Paradise Lost?

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accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Clearly the vast majority of works of literature contain lots of examples of imagery, which is a term used to describe the way that authors paint pictures of what they are trying to describe with words. In particular, imagery helps to try and make us "see" the picture by incorporating as many of the five senses as possible: taste, sight, touch, smell and hearing. One example of this comes in Book I of this epic classic, when Satan addresses his despondent troops who have been unsuccessful in their attempt to overturn Heaven and depose God. Note how his soldiers respond to his exhortations:

He spake: and to confirm his words, out flew

Millions of flaming swords, drawn from the thighs

Of mighty Cherubim; the sudden blaze

Far round illumined Hell: highly they raged

Against the Highest, and fierce with grasped arms

Clashed on their sounding shields the din of war,

Hurling defiance against the vault of Heav'n.

Note how we have strong visual images in this quote of the flaming swords being drawn, with the heat of the flames indicated as well. Likewise we have our sense of hearing used as the cherubim "rage" against God and clash their arms against their shields. Such strong images are to be found again and again in this epic poem and help us to imagine the scene before our eyes.