"Freely They Stood Who Stood, And Fell Who Fell"

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Last Updated on May 9, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 291

Context: Milton begins the third book with an address to God as light, and says that he has just worked his way up through the darkness of chaos from hell, where the rebelling Satan and his hosts had been hurled when they lost the battle in heaven. He then reflects upon his blindness, mentioning other blind poets and some blind philosophers. As the acquisition of knowledge on his part is wholly closed to him through the agency of sight, he will have to depend upon his mind: inner light will have to take the place of external light. Milton then turns his attention to God, enthroned in the empyrean; He looks down on earth, where the newly created man and woman live in joy and love in the solitude of the garden. He sees Satan, weary from his arduous journey through chaos, ready to land on the earth to begin the attempt to ruin mankind. God addresses His Son, telling Him that Satan has come to seduce mankind; he will succeed in his attempt, but his revenge will rebound upon himself. He will succeed in perverting mankind, because man will disobey the one command that has been given to him:

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So will fall
He and his faithless progeny: whose fault?
Whose but his own? ingrate, he had of me
All he could have; I made him just and right,
Sufficient to have stood, though free to fall.
Such I created all th'ethereal powers
And spirits, both them who stood and them who failed;
Freely they stood who stood, and fell who fell.
Not free, what proof could they have given sincere
Of true allegiance, constant faith or love,
Where only what they needs must do, appeared,
Not what they would? What praise could they receive?
. . .

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