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 Heav’nly 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 Heav’ns and Earth
Rose out of Chaos: Or if Sion Hill
Delight thee more, and Siloa’s Brook that flow’d
Fast by the Oracle of God; I thence
Invoke thy aid to my advent’rous Song,
That with no middle flight intends to soar
Above th’ Aonian Mount, while it pursues
Things unattempted yet in Prose or Rhyme.
With these lines, Milton begins Paradise Lost and lays the groundwork for his project, presenting his purpose, subject, aspirations, and need for heavenly guidance. He states that his subject will be the disobedience of Adam and Eve, whose sin allows death and pain into the world. He invokes his muse, whom he identifies as the Holy Spirit. He asserts his hopes that his epic poem will surpass the other great epic poems written before, as he claims that his story is the most original and the most virtuous. He also asks his muse to fill his mind with divine knowledge so that he can share this knowledge with his readers. Finally, he hopes this knowledge and guidance from his muse will allow him to claim authority without committing any heresies, as he attempts to explain God’s reasoning and his overall plan for humankind.
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