Where are some specific examples of bird symbolism in Milton's Paradise Lost and his other works?

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mlsldy3 | Elementary School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator

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In Paradise Lost, John Milton uses the cormorant as a symbol for Satan. A cormorant is a medium to large sized dark seabird. They are known for their long necks, which help them dive down into the sea and catch eels, fish and sea snakes. In book four of Paradise Lost, Satan takes the form of a cormorant in order to enter Eden. When he spots the Tree of Life, it is said that he perches himself on top of the tree as a cormorant. As he watches Adam and Eve, and sees the beauty of Eden, he becomes furious with God. He sets out to destroy Adam and Eve, thus destroying what God has made. 

"Me miserable! which was shall I fly Infinite wrath and infinite despair? Which was I fly is Hell; myself am Hell."

In Milton's poem, Sonnet of the Nightingale, Milton symbolizes the nightingale and the cuckoo. He uses the nightingale as a symbol of love. The sounds of the nightingale are beautiful and welcoming. 

"O Nightingale that yon blooming spray Warblest at eve, when all the woods are still, Thou with fresh hopes the Lover's heart dost fill, While the jolly Hours lead on propitious May."

While Milton uses the nightingale as a symbol for love, in contrast, he uses the cuckoo as a symbol of hate. He uses the cuckoo as the symbol when wives are unfaithful to their husbands and the cuckoo comes to warn them. 

"Now timely sing, ere the rude Bird of Hate. Fore tell my hopeless doom in som Grove ny."

Milton uses birds as many symbols for many things. We see in these two pieces of work, how he symbolizes the birds for a more ominous being. Yes, the nightingale, is used as something beautiful and hoped for, he uses the cuckoo and the cormorant for symbols of things that are hated and feared. In Paradise Lost, he uses the cormorant to symbolize Satan. Satan takes the form of a bird, to plot his revenge against God. He uses the cuckoo to symbolize betrayal and deceit. 

Paradise Lost is by far Milton's most famous piece of literature, but in the poem Sonnet of the Nightingale we see a different side of Milton. We see his feelings on love and betrayal.

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