Context: Milton tells how the devils were hurled from heaven and lay for the space of nine days on a fiery gulf. He goes on to say that the region in which they are imprisoned is a fiery dungeon like a great furnace, although the flames of hell give forth no light. He is here using the universal symbolism of light and dark to indicate good and evil; when he describes heaven, he does so in terms of brilliant light. He also applies the same symbolism to Satan, who before his fall, as Lucifer, star of the morning, was the brightest of all the angels; as he becomes progressively more evil after his fall, he gradually loses all of his brightness. Milton's hell is often contrasted with Dante's: Milton's is a chaotic, unclear, murky region, but Dante's is highly systematized into a number of divisions and subdivisions. Milton is indicating the lack of order and the confusion inherent in evil; Dante is indicating divine order in the punishment of the sinful:
At once as far as angel's ken he viewsThe dismal situation waste and wild,A dungeon horrible, on all sides roundAs one great furnace flamed, yet from those flamesNo light, but rather darkness visibleServed only to discover sights of woe,Regions of sorrow, doleful shades, where peaceAnd rest can never dwell, hope never comesThat comes to all; but torture without endStill urges, and a fiery deluge, fedWith ever-burning sulphur unconsumed:Such place eternal justice had preparedFor those rebellious, here their prison ordainedIn utter darkness, and their portion setAs far removed from God and light of heavenAs from the center thrice to th'utmost pole.