Paradise Lost as an Epic Poem

Paradise Lost as an Epic Poem

Table of Contents:-

    2.3 Ideal of unity
    2.4 Choric Quality.

Paradise Lost : an Epic :-

'Epic Poetry' is one of the oldest form of the art that has come down to us in the English literature. An epic is a long narrative poem that is written in a grand scale, about the deeds of the mythical, legendary or real historical warriors and heroes. Epics are grouped into two categories-

a) In first category comes the primary or oral epics such as Illiad and Odyssey of Homer.

b) second category is of secondary or literary epics.

Paradise Lost as an Epic Poem
credit : flicker.com

Characteristics of an Epic :-

Paradise lost is a comprehensive classical epic. An epic poem is supposed to have high seriousness, comprehensiveness, unity and choric property. All these characteristics can be seen in the paradise lost.

Let's have a look at various characteristics of an epic in Paradise Lost :-

1) High Seriousness:-

An epic poem's most apparent quality is its high seriousness of the subject. The epic poet sets out to produce something that has never been achieved. In Milton's paradise lost we see 'fall of the man' and in book-1 there is a description of the  aftermath of Satan's rebellion.

2) Comprehensiveness :-

An epic poem's plot's foremost quality is its comprehensiveness. It is characterized by the greatness of scope and majesty of incident. It allows the inclusion of  a variety of incidents. The magnificent aim of Milton in paradise lost can not be denied.

3) Ideal of unity :-

The epic poem includes a single action from the beginning and middle to the end. Though subsidiary actions are also there but they serve the cause of the main plot. Paradise lost has its central action as fall of the man to which all other episodes are  subsidiary.

4) Choric Quality :-

Choric quality means that epic poetry is a public poetry exhibiting the spirit of an age or nation and not merely the thoughts of poet.

Apart from these qualities, which are the core to an epic, we see poets following conventions in writing an epic poetry. In paradise lost we see similar convention:

1) Invocation to the Muse :-

An epic starts with the invocation or prayer by which the poet seeks some inspiration of God or deity. In paradise lost Milton invokes the 'Muse':

"I thence

Invoke thy aid to my adventurous song,

That with no middle flight intends to soar,

Above the Antonian mount, while it persues,

Things in yet in prose or rhyme."

2) Narrative starting through middle Action :-

In epics the narrative, usually, begins in the middle of the action. In paradise lost, the narrative starts with the fall of Satan and his comrades in the hell.

3) Abundance of Similes :-

Homeric similes are used in a large scale in an epic. Likewise, in paradise lost these similes abound. Here is one such simile regarding the fallen angel :

"Thus Satan taking to his nearest mate,

With head uplift above the wave, the eyes

That sparkling blazed, his other part besides prone on the flood.....

So stretch out huge in length the arch-fiend lay chain'd on burning lake."

4) A conspicuous contest :-

A wide description of the athletic contests can also be seen in epic poems. In paradise lost book-2 fallen angels arrange an athletic meet.

5) Hazardous Journey :-

Epic Hero's hazardous journey, in an epic poem, is a distinctive characteristic. Satan's journey in space counts on the same.

Thus, it is clear that Milton's grand epic paradise lost is an epic  that deals with a vast and universal theme. It is superior to many other epics. It occupies a central position in the western literature.

Read More in English Literature :-

1)Super Natural Machinery in the Rape of the lock.

2) Rape of the lock as a Mock-Epic.

3) Paradise Lost as an Epic.

4) Character Sketch of Satan in Paradise Lost.

5) Rape of the lock as a social satire.

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