So God with Man Unites

  • Stanley Eugene Fish


With Adam’s lament the reader enters into the last phase of his relationship with the poem. No longer a participant, he is here returned to the more conventional role of spectator, concerned, but detached. It is Adam who must now adjust to circumstances of which he has had no prior knowledge, and his struggles with difficulties (physical and intellectual) the reader has already encountered, in life and in the poem, are interesting and significant, but not unexpected. One can almost feel comfortable with his distress because it is familiar as innocence never was. In some ways the poem demands less of the reader here than it has before, and this continues to be true in the final books where he is asked to provide traditional interpretations for a succession of bibliohistorical tableaux. Few new revelations await him in these books; instead, the series of exempla offers a restatement, in a manner frankly didactic, of the lessons he has proven on his pulse in the body of the poem. So that, paradoxically, the narrative is felt less personally and immediately as it expands to include the events of fallen human history. At the same time, however, a different kind of vigilance must be exercised, less Self-conscious, but conscious nevertheless: with the addition of the historical perspective, which also includes or is absorbed into the eschatological perspective, new levels of reference are created to which everything must now be referred.


Reading Experience Paradise Lost True Patience Early Scene Liquid Fire 
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  1. 1.
    For a discussion of fortitude as the virtue which ‘strengthens one against both prosperity and adversity’, see William O. Harris, Skelton’s Magnyfycence and the Cardinal Virtue Tradition (Chapel Hill, 1965), pp. 71–126.Google Scholar
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    See Barbara Lewalski, ‘Structure and Symbolism in Michael’s Prophecy’, Philological Quarterly, xlii (1963), 30–31.Google Scholar
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    James H. Sims, The Bible in Milton’s Epics (Gainesville, 1962), p. 11.Google Scholar
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    R. Tuve, A Reading of George Herbert (London, 1952), p. 105.Google Scholar
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    Jonas A. Barish, Ben Jonson and the Language of Prose Comedy (Cambridge, Mass., 1960), p. 48Google Scholar
  6. George Williamson, The Senecan Amble (London, 1951), p. 50.Google Scholar
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    John Donne, ‘Death’s Duel’, in Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions Together With Death’s Duel (Ann Arbor, 1959), p. 182.Google Scholar
  8. 1.
    Quoted by Helen Gardner, A Reading of Paradise Lost (Oxford, 1965), p. 46.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Stanley Eugene Fish 1967

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  • Stanley Eugene Fish

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