Summary: Book VII

At the halfway point of the twelve books of Paradise Lost, Milton once more invokes a muse, but this time it is Urania, the Muse of Astronomy. Milton refers to her in Christian terms, as a source of inspiration much like the Holy Spirit. He asks Urania to insure his safe transition from relating the story of the war in Heaven back to Raphael and Adam’s conversation on Earth. Again, Milton asks that the muse inspire him through the rest of Raphael’s speech and protect him from the troublesome beliefs of others who do not have access to her wisdom.

Back on Earth, Adam asks Raphael about how and why the world was created, as well as about his own creation. Adam initially believes that he may not be allowed to hear the story of creation, so he asks cautiously, although his curiosity is overwhelming. Raphael agrees to tell him, explaining that the story of creation is not a secret to be kept from human beings. Raphael begins by picking up where he left off, with the fall of Satan and his rebel followers. He explains that shortly after the fall, the Father wished to forge a new race, partly to erase the memory of the rebellion and partly to make up for the rebels’ absence from the ranks of God’s loyal creations. Raphael believes that by replacing the fallen angels, God renders Satan unable to claim that he diminished God’s creation. By creating Earth and mankind in a nearly empty part of the universe, God shows the fallen angels that his glorious kingdom can be expanded indefinitely. For all these reasons, God decides to create Earth and humans, with the idea that Earth and Heaven will eventually be joined together as one kingdom through mankind’s obedience to God’s divine will.

Raphael says that God sends the Son down into Chaos to create Earth. The Earth is first formed out of Chaos and given light and dark, or night and day, in equal measure. Land is separated from water, and animals are created to populate both land and sea. The creation takes six days, and Adam and Eve are created last. The entire act of creation is done through the Son, who makes man in his image and gives him authority over all the animals on Earth. God gives Adam one command: he must not eat the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge, which gives knowledge of good and evil. The Son, finishing with his work, hangs Earth beneath Heaven by a chain. He reascends to Heaven as the angels sing hymns and praise his work. Pleased with his work, God rests on the seventh day, which then becomes known as the Sabbath.

Analysis: Book VII

In the same manner as the two previous invocations of the muse, Milton’s invocation of Urania fuses classical allusion with Christian belief. Milton reconfigures Urania and likens her to the Holy Spirit, placing a corrective, Christian spin on an old mythological figure. The cumulative effect of Milton’s allusions to and corrections of classical culture is to convey the impression that Greek and Roman civilization was indeed great, but misled in its philosophy and religion. Thus Milton can claim to build upon the achievements of classical authors while replacing their religious beliefs with Christian ones. Being born before Christ, most classical authors do have a good excuse for not professing Christian beliefs. In this respect, Milton’s stance toward antiquity is not unlike that of earlier Christian poets such as Dante or Spenser, who were similarly steeped in classical literary culture.

Read more about Milton's classical education and the conventions of epic poetry.

Raphael’s account of the world’s creation closely follows the biblical account of creation in the first few chapters of Genesis. Milton takes some of his language directly from popular English translations of the Bible. By using biblical language, Milton gives Raphael’s account more authority and renders the invented details of his story more credible as well. Raphael’s extended explanations about the world and about God and Satan are lengthy, but their length demonstrates Milton’s beliefs concerning the absolute importance of conversation, knowledge, and thought. Book VII presents a curious Adam who seeks knowledge and an agreeable Raphael who disposes his knowledge in human terms. Their evolving interaction in this book differs from their interaction in earlier books, as Adam becomes more aggressive in his attempts to gain wisdom from Raphael. Throughout their conversation, the desire for knowledge is expressed through metaphors of hunger, eating, and digestion. Adam’s craving for knowledge begins to surface in this book and foreshadows his potential temptation to eat from the Tree of Knowledge.

Read more about conversation and contemplation as a motif.

The Son is given a more significant role in Book VII than he has in previous books, illustrating that he is the instrument through which God acts. Milton actually departs from the Bible in having the Son create the world, as Genesis says nothing about the Son. But according to Christian teaching, God and the Son are manifestations of the same entity. Milton begins with the orthodox Christian premise of a three-part God and then elaborates on the relationship between God the Father and God the Son. By having God send the Son to defeat Satan and create the universe, Milton shows how God and the Son can work separately yet still work as one God. Even though they appear as separate characters, Milton believed that the Son represents the living, active, almost human likeness of God.