The Verse is a statement which Milton added to the second printing of Paradise Lost: this statement was probably written because of complaints from readers about the fact that the poem was not written in heroic couplets (rhymed iambic pentameters).
· measure = metro
· adjunct =aggiunta
· rhyme being no = poiché la rima non è
· of prime note = di primaria importanza
· as have also long since our best English tragedies = come hanno anche fatto molto tempo fa le nostre migliori tragedie inglesi
· trivial = triviale
· delight = delizia/gioia
· “which” refers to “delight”
· apt numbers = un numero di versi
· “the sense variously drawn out from one verse into another” = “il senso si completa di verso in verso (enjambment or run-on line
· neglet = trascuranza
· set = posto/stabilito
· bondage = legame
· troublesome = fastidioso
· This = Il fatto di
Line 1 to 49 are the prologue of Book 1, while the action of the poem starts in line 50.
The prologue makes it clear that the subject-matter is taken from the first chapters of the Genesis. The subject-matter is man’s first disobedience in eating the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and his consequent fall and all the woes it brought into the world.
Milton begins his poem by stating his subject (line 1 to 3), he then invokes his muse (line 4 to 23) to help him carry out his purpose, which is to justify the ways of God to men (lines 24 to 26). This form of opening was established in epic poetry by Homer followed by Virgil: in the Iliad Homer asks the muse to sing of Achilles and all the woes that his wrath caused to Greece, and in the Odyssey Homer asks his Muse to sing of the wonderings of Odysseus.
Virgil begins his Aeneid with the words “Arms and the man I sing”.
The epic poet also invoked the muse at intervals when he had something important to narrate.
Milton invokes his Muse again in Book VII when he has completed half of his poem and is going to start the second half.
Milton’s muse is not one of the 9 muses of classical poets, it is the inspirer of sacred song and prophecy; it is the Muse of divine inspiration, the Muse who inspired the poets and prophets of Israel. In ancient tradition the classical gods were invoked under different names and at various sanctuaries. Milton follows this tradition in his invocation of the Muse: he first invokes his Muse as inspirer of Moses and then as haunting the water of Siloah.
In his 40 days and nights when he was alone on Mount Sinai, Moses received the 10 Commandments and also learnt the secrets that he then revealed in the Book of Genesis. Siloah is a stream that flows beneath Mount Sion on which stood the temple containing the Ark of the Covenant, the sign of God’s presence with his people. In the waters of Siloah’s pool Jesus healed a blind man: after anointing him with clay and spittle he told him to go and wash his eyes there.
In the Prologue to Book I two mountains of revelation are set before us: Mount Sinai, where Moses received a special revelation, and Mount Sion where God was present among his people.
After the invocation to the muse of Sinai and of Sion, Milton turns to pray to the Holy Spirit. There’s a contrast between the tone and the rhythm of the first 16 lines and the tone and the rhythm of the prayer that follows: the first 16 lines are a very long sentence with suspended verbs, culminating in Milton’s aspiration to pursue “things unattempted yet in Prose or Rhyme” to deal with a very high subject.
He asks his muse to lead him higher than classical poets because his subject is higher than theirs.
The prayer to the Holy Spirit is characterised by briefer clauses and simpler syntax. In the first 16 lines the tone is daring and very confident while in the prayer to the Holy Spirit it is very humble.
The invocation to a muse is the epic poet’s way of declaring that the subject of his poem is very important and also true: he’s not going to make things up, he’s just going to relate what the Muse revealed to him so he is speaking with an authority higher than his own.
Milton follows his classical ancestors not only in the immediate introduction of the subject of the poem, but also in his grammatical structure, which is highly Latinate: the most notorious/famous feature of the style of Paradise Lost is its Latinity. Milton’s sentences are characterised by long or short main-clauses followed or preceded by long chains of dependent clauses: this can be seen at the beginning of the poem and also in lines 27 to 32.
The prologue to the poem begins in a simple way, but then the sense is developed by subordination of clauses and the use of conjunctions, adverbs or prepositions and relative pronouns.
The main verb of the first sentence doesn’t appear until line 6. This device is called reversal/inversion of the normal English word order. Milton often uses it to emphasise specific words, phrases or even sentences. In the first line of the poem it enables him to place the subject of the main sentence, which is the theme of the poem, at the beginning. Another example of the use of inversion for emphasise is seen in line 44.
Paradise Lost is also highly Latinized in the use of words: we find expression like “mortal taste”, “the infernal serpent”, “empious war”.
There is a liking for periphrasis, for example “the oracle of God” (called that for the temple which stands on Mount Sion)”, “the mother of mankind” (for Eve) and “The Most High” (for God).
“What time his pride” (line 36) is a translation of the Latin expression quo tempore.
The Latin style of the adjective placed after the noun that it qualifies is exemplified in line 43 by “battle proud”.
Milton, however, also follows the Italian structure first adjective-noun-second adjective quite often. An example of this occurs in his prayer to the Holy Spirit (line 18) “th’ upright heart and pure”: “upright” is the first adjective, “heart” is the noun and “pure” is the second adjective.
The sounds Milton uses in this passage are mainly harsh sounds which denote the enormity of Satan’s crime and punishment like for example in “hearled headlong”, with its alliteration of the h-sound, and “hideous ruin and combustion”. There is also an onomatopoeia, for example in line 21 “sat’st brooding on the vast abyss” where it gives the sense of a prolonged deep meditation.
In Milton’s time, intellectuals spoke Latin, thought in Latin and wrote private notes and letters in Latin. After the execution of Charles I in 1649, Milton was appointed Secretary for Foreign Tongues by the Council of State: this position was the equivalent of that of a Foreign Ministry. His job was to prepare and translate into Latin all the dispatches to and from foreign governments.
Nove volte lo spazio che misura il giorno e la notte per i mortali giacque sconfitto con la sua orrida ciurma rotolando nel golfo di fuoco travolto sebbene immortale. Ma la sua condanna gli riservava altra pena, poiché ora il pensiero sia della felicità perduta, e della pena interminabile lo tormenta; getta intorno i suoi sguardi funesti che videro immensa afflizione e sgomento commisto a inflessibile orgoglio e odio tenace. Per quanto è dato agli angeli di vedere, egli vede subito la sua spaventosa situazione (luogo), desolato (waste) ed aspro/impervio, una prigione orribile simile ad una grande fornace in fiamme da tutte le parti. Tuttavia da quelle fiamme non giunse alcuna luce, ma piuttosto un’oscurità trasparente che serviva solo a rivelare visioni di dolore, immagini di sventura, regioni di sofferenza, ombre di angoscia, dove la pace ed il riposo non possono mai dimorare, dove non giunge mai la speranza che a tutti (gli uomini), ma torture senza fine affliggono gli angeli caduti e un diluvio di fuoco alimentato dallo zolfo che brucia perenne senza mai consumarsi. La giustizia eterna aveva preparato un simile luogo a quei ribelli (angeli), qui aveva decretato la loro prigione nella totale oscurità fuori dal Paradiso, aveva stabilito la loro dimora tanto lontano da Dio e dalla luce del Paradiso quanta era la distanza dal centro dell’Universo fino alla sfera più esterna (tanto lontano da Dio e dalla luce del Paradiso quanto tre volte la distanza dal centro dell’Universo fino alla sua sfera più esterna. Com’era diverso dal luogo da cui erano caduti.
· “Nine times”: the rebel angels fall for nine days and then they lie on the fiery gulf for another nine days. Milton was inspired by Hesiod Theogony, in which the poet describes the fall of the Titans after their defeat by the gods of Olympus (the rebel angels fall for as many days as the Titans after they had been defeated by the gods of Olympus).
· “Doom”: here refers to the judgement which was passed on Satan
· “baleful” means “full of Evel”, it means “malevolent”, but also “full of suffering”
· “as far as angels ken” stands for “as far as angels can see (verb)” or “as far as angels’ range of vision (adjective)”
· “utter” means “nella totale oscurità” or “nella totale oscurità fuori dal Paradiso”
· “situation” here stands for “place”
· “yet from those flames no light”: it was a popular belief that the flames of Hell gave no light. This expression is also based on the idea that the damned are prevented from seeing God, who is light. There’s no light in Hell because God is not there, God can’t be seen by those who are in Hell.
· “darkness visible” is an oxymoron. Milton means not absolute darkness, but a gloom which both conceals and reveals objects. It is this kind of darkness which enables Satan to see the “sights of woe” (scene di angoscia) in Hell.
· “to discover” stands for “to reveal”
· “hope never comes that comes to all”: this expression echoes Dante’s expression “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here” which is placed over the gates of Hell. Hope comes to all human beings but it never comes to hell-dwellers (those who are in Hell).
· “urges” stands for “afflicts”
· “utter darkness” means both “complete darkness” and “outer darkness”. Milton often combines the everyday use of a word with a more learned meaning derived from its etymology.
· Line 73-74: the distance of Hell from Heaven is three times the distance from the Earth, which is at the centre of the Universe, to its outermost sphere. Milton uses the image of a Ptolemaic Universe, which is composed of ten concentric spheres: the Earth is placed at the centre of this kind of Universe/Ptolemaic cosmos.
· From line 27 to 75 Milton summarizes the rebellion of Satan and his defeat and then moves to the beginning of the action of his poem with Satan and the other fallen angels lying on the fire gulf for nine days.
In the first 75 lines Milton states the subject, he invokes the muse, he then turns to a prayer to the Holy Spirit, after which he summarises Satan’s rebellion and defeat and then begins the poem with the fall of the rebel angels.
 Distici eroici
 corso d’acqua
 Arca dell’Alleanza
aver unto (con l’olio santo)
 argilla e saliva
 full of humility (umile)
 to invent things
 Significa che Milton non pone, come sarebbe usuale, il soggetto all’inizio della frase
 dà l’idea di
 che lascia intravvedere le cose
 campo visivo
 to conceal = celare
 sfera più esterna