Paradise Regained, Samson Agonistes, and the Conclusion of Milton’s Career
While one might think that writing Paradise Lost would have fulfilled Milton’s poetic ambitions, all passion spent by the time he reached the wondrous concluding lines, “They hand in hand with wandring steps and slow, / Through Eden took thir solitarie way” (12.648–9), evidently, he had still more to say,1 and, in 1671, Paradise Regained and Samson Agonistes appeared in one volume.2 Yet, these poems are not discrete efforts.3 Together, they form a coherent thematic unit tied together by many verbal parallels and echoes. Both poems also contain so many allusions to Milton’s earlier work, that it seems as if Milton intended his final poems as a summa of his life’s work—a crowning achievement that summons all his previous writings on stage for a final, brilliant affirmation and curtain call.4 The matter, however, is much more complicated, for in Paradise Regained, he conjures up the presence of his earlier work not to confirm, but to dismiss it, and Samson Agonistes undoes whatever certainties Paradise Regained achieves.
KeywordsStrong Motion Mass Murder Paradise Lost Religious Doubt Righteous Indignation
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