Paradise Lost "For One Restraint, Lords Of The World Besides"

John Milton

"For One Restraint, Lords Of The World Besides"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: Milton begins Paradise Lost with the statement of his theme, man's disobedience to God and the coming of death into the world. Throughout the poem the idea is developed that the death is both physical and spiritual. The idea of the introduction of physical death derives from Genesis 3: 19 and 3: 22, where it is contained both in the curse laid on Adam after he had eaten the forbidden fruit though allowed all the rest, and in the fact that he must be evicted from the garden so that he cannot eat of the tree of life and regain his lost immortality. Milton says that a greater Man will come and restore us; that is, Christ will come down and do away with the necessity for spiritual death. Milton then continues that he is going to do things never before attempted in either prose or poetry; among other things, he will justify the ways of God to man. What is meant here is that he will make clear or explain God's ways, which are sometimes difficult of understanding for the ordinary person. When he has done this, he then makes a direct invocation of the heavenly Muse:

Say first, for heaven hides nothing from thy view
Nor the deep tract of hell, say first what cause
Moved our grandparents in that happy state,
Favored of heaven so highly, to fall off
From their Creator, and transgress his will
For one restraint, lords of the world besides?
Who first seduced them to that foul revolt?
Th' infernal serpent; he it was, whose guile
Stirred up with envy and revenge, deceived
The mother of mankind, what time his pride
Had cast him out from heaven, with all his host
Of rebel angels, by whose aid aspiring
To set himself in glory above his peers,
He trusted to have equalled the most high,
If he opposed. . . .