"Of Man's First Disobedience"

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Last Updated on May 9, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 177

Context: Like many another seventeenth century author, Milton believed the greatest poetic achievement to be an epic poem. Unlike most of his contemporaries, he succeeded in writing a great one. Paradise Lost is the supreme epic poem of Protestant Christianity, and it uses the characteristic qualities of the epic which can be traced back many centuries to the Homeric prototypes. In practice the epic poet announces the subject of his poem and then invokes the aid of the gods for his task. Milton announces his subject and then invokes the aid, not of Kalliope, the Greek muse of epic poetry, but the Holy Spirit who inspired the writers of Scripture:

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Of man's first disobedience, and the fruit
Of that forbidden tree, whose mortal taste
Brought death into the world, and all our woe,
With loss of Eden, till one greater Man
Restore us, and regain the blissful seat,
Sing, Heavenly Muse, that on the secret top
Of Oreb, or of Sinai, didst inspire
That shepherd, who first taught the chosen seed,
In the beginning how the Heavens and Earth
Rose out of chaos. . . .

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