"A Leper Once He Lost And Gained A King"

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Last Updated on May 9, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 354

Context: In giving a catalogue of the devils in imitation of Homer's catalogue of the ships in Book II of the Iliad, Milton makes a reference to Rimmon's losing a leper; the story is told in II Kings 5: Naaman, a famous Syrian general, is a leper. A little captive maid from the land of Israel who waits on Naaman's wife says that he could be cured of his disease if he would consult the prophet in Samaria. The King of Syria sent a letter to the King of Israel, requesting a cure for Naaman's illness. The king, being powerless to effect a cure, was greatly troubled lest the King of Syria was seeking a quarrel with him, but the prophet Elisha took the matter upon himself. He commanded Naaman to wash seven times in the Jordan; this advice greatly angered Naaman, who said that the rivers of Damascus were superior to the Jordan. He was about to return home, but his servants prevailed upon him to follow Elisha's advice. He did so and was cured, and, as a result, became a believer in the one true God. The reference in the quotation to the gaining of a king concerns Ahaz, King of Judah, who allied himself with Assyria and encompassed the total destruction of the kingdom of Israel. "Grunsel," modern "ground sill," is part of a foundation.

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Next came one
Who mourned in earnest, when the captive ark
Maimed his brute image, head and hands lopped off
In his own temple, on the grunsel edge,
Where he fell flat, and shamed his worshippers:
Dagon his name, sea monster, upward man
And downward fish: yet had his temple high
Reared in Azotus, dreaded through the coast
Of Palestine, in Gath and Ascalon,
And Accaron and Gaza's frontier bounds.
Him followed Rimmon, whose delightful seat
Was fair Damascus, on the fertile banks
Of Abbana and Pharphar, lucid streams.
He also against the house of God was bold:
A leper once he lost and gained a king,
Ahaz his sottish conqueror, whom he drew
God's altar to disparage and displace
For one of Syrian mode, whereon to burn
His odious offerings, and adore the gods
Whom he had vanquished.

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