Book 8 Summary and Analysis
Adam has been so captivated by Raphael’s discourse on the creation of the World that he waits expectantly for him to continue. When he realizes that Raphael has finished, he thanks him appropriately. His thirst for knowledge has been allayed, Adam says, but yet another doubt remains that can only be resolved by the archangel. Adam is troubled by the disproportions in Nature in which a superfluous number of celestial bodies revolve around the ¬“sedentary Earth” that is merely a spot or atom compared to the firmament.
When Eve sees that Adam is entering into an intellectual conversation with Raphael, she excuses herself to attend to her garden. She would be delighted by such conversation and is capable of understanding it, but she prefers to hear it from Adam who will mix his explanations with interesting digressions and “conjugal caresses.”
Raphael tells Adam he does not blame him for being curious, but it is not important for him to know whether the celestial bodies revolve around the Earth or whether it is the Earth that moves. Heaven is likened to the Book of God where Adam can learn the seasons, hours, days, months, and years. God conceals the rest of his secrets from Man and is probably laughing at the “quaint opinions” of those who conjecture about the movements of the planets in the universe. It is not “great or bright” that determines excellence, Raphael says, since the “bright luminaries” shine for Man’s benefit and could not fulfill their purpose without him. The spaciousness of the entire universe is too large for Man so the rest is ordained for the use of the omnipotent God. Raphael goes on to say that there is no advantage for Man to go beyond the limits of his knowledge. He instructs Adam to concern himself only with his life and that of his “fair Eve” and leave other worlds to “God above.” Adam is satisfied with Raphael’s explanation and relieved to know he has been “taught to live/ The easiest way.” The “prime wisdom” is to learn of ordinary things in one’s own “daily life,” Adam says.
Conversing with Raphael seems like Heaven to Adam, and he offers to tell the story of his own creation in order to detain Raphael further. Raphael is pleased to listen to Adam’s account since on the day of creation the archangel had been on an excursion to the gates of Hell to prevent a spy from escaping while God was performing his work. To their relief the gates were locked, but inside they heard tormented cries from the fallen angels in Hell, and they gladly returned to Heaven before the coming of the Sabbath.
Adam then describes with difficulty how human life began. As he awakes from sleep, he finds himself lying in a “balmy sweat” on a soft bed of “flowery herbs.” The sun soon dries him as he gazes up at Heaven. Instinctively, he springs to his feet, surveying the landscape and all living creatures. With joy in his heart, he then peruses his own body, trying to establish his identity and the reason for his existence. He finds his voice and asks the sun and hills and all living creatures how he has come to this place. By his own instincts he knows he was created by “some great Maker” and asks where he might find him but receives no answer. Pensively, he sits down on a bank of flowers and falls asleep. God comes to him in a dream, leading him to the “garden of bliss.” When he awakes, he falls at the feet of God in adoration. Lifting him up, God tells Adam he has found the one he was seeking. He presents Adam with the gift of Paradise where he may “eat freely” all fruits except one: the fruit from the “Tree of Knowledge of good and ill” growing next to the “Tree of Life” in Paradise. The penalty of disobedience, God says, is death and the loss of his immortal state. God’s interdiction still rings in his ear, Adam says, though the choice is his to make.
God presents the entire Earth as a gift to Adam and his descendants, promising them dominion...
(The entire section is 2,362 words.)