Book 7 Summary and Analysis
The poet invokes the muse, Urania, but he makes it clear that it is “the meaning, not the name” that he is calling forth. His muse is not one of the nine sisters who was born on Mount Olympus but is “heavenly born” instead. Wisdom is her sister and the two played in the presence of the “Almighty Father” before the hills were created. The poet asks the muse to guide him safely down to Earth, his native element, from his wanderings in Heaven. His poem is only half sung, but he now feels safer and more familiar with mortal things on Earth despite the danger and “evil days” that have come upon him. He asks the muse to find an audience for his words and to drive away “Bacchus” and his “revellers” who threaten him with their “barbarous dissonance” and their drunken violence.
Raphael has already warned Adam and Eve, with the example of Satan’s fall, that they are subject to the same fate in Paradise if they disobey God’s commands. Since Raphael has described the war in Heaven for their instruction, Adam now asks him to impart further knowledge about how the world was created and for what purpose. He has the desire to know so that he can glorify God for all his works. They have time, Adam says, since Night has not yet fallen, or, if need be, they could delay the coming of Night to allow time for the story. Raphael replies that he has been instructed by God to give “knowledge within bounds.” Knowledge is like food that is to be absorbed with temperance, or it will soon turn “wisdom to folly.”
Raphael begins by explaining that the expulsion of Satan and the angels has “dispeopled Heaven.” To repair the loss, God decides to create another world with a new race of men who would, “by degrees of merit,” raise themselves to the level of Heaven into one happy kingdom without end. God appoints the Son to perform the creation of the world and set the boundaries of Heaven and Earth.
The angels rejoice in adoration of God for creating good out of evil by bringing a new race into their “vacant room” in Heaven. The Son, crowned with the radiance of the Father, leaves on his chariot to create the world. As he approaches, the gates of Heaven open wide to let the King of Glory pass through. The Son stands on the edge of the “heavenly ground” as he views the vast Abyss that appears “as a sea, dark, wasteful,” and “wild.” Chaos hears him call out, to silence the “troubled waves.” He then uses God’s golden compasses to circumscribe the Universe and form Heaven and Earth. The Spirit of God spreads his wings over the water, instilling it with warmth. He solidifies the elements and shapes them into the form of a globe.
God calls forth the light and it appears in a “radiant cloud,” for the sun has not been created yet. He then divides the light and calls it Day and the darkness is called Night. The celestial choirs joyously sing praises for the first day of creation.
On the second day, God creates the firmament “amid the waters,” far removed from Chaos so there will be nothing to disturb its form. He names the firmament Heaven, and the heavenly angels again sing joyously.
God gathers the waters together that appear “over all the face of Earth” and, on the third day, orders dry land to appear. Mountains rise and rivers are channeled into the seas, and God knows that it is good. He then calls for the Earth to cover its barren fields and put forth tender grass, fruit trees, flowering plants, clustering vines, shrubs, and bushes. A “dewy mist” rises to water the plants, and Earth now seems like Heaven where the “gods might dwell.”
On the fourth day, God creates the planets, the stars, the moon, and the sun that direct the days, the years, and the seasons. He then calls on the waters to generate the reptiles, the “great whales,” and the fish and creates the birds that fly in the air which solemnizes the fifth day of creation.
On the last day of creation, the sixth, God...
(The entire section is 1,936 words.)