The Fall of Satan 
from Paradise Lost 
John Milton 

            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 
5          Restore us, and regain the blissful seat, 
            Sing, Heavenly 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 Heavens and Earth 
10         Rose out of Chaos; or if Sion hill
            Delight thee more, and Siloa’s brook that flowed 
            Fast by the oracle of God, I thence 
            Invoke thy aid to my adventurous song, 
            That with no middle flight intends to soar 
15         Above the Aonian mount, while it pursues 
            Things unattempted yet in prose or rhyme.
            And chiefly thou, O Spirit, that dost prefer 
            Before all temples the upright heart and pure, 
            Instruct me, for thou know’st; thou from the first 
20        Wast present, and with mighty wings outspread 
            Dove-like sat’st brooding on the vast abyss 
            And mad’st it pregnant: what in me is dark 
            Illumine, what is low raise and support; 
            That to the height of this great argument 
25         I may assert Eternal Providence, 
            And justify the ways of God to men. 
            Say first, for Heaven hides nothing from thy view, 
            Nor the deep tract of Hell, say first what cause 
            Moved our grand parents in that happy state, 
30         Favored of Heaven so highly, to fall off 
            From their Creator, and transgress his will 
            For one restraint, lords of the world besides? 
            Who first seduced them to that foul revolt? 
            The infernal Serpent; he it was, whose guile, 
35         Stirred up with envy and revenge, deceived 
            The mother of mankind, what time his pride 
            Had cast him out from Heaven, with all his host 
            Of rebel angels, by whose aid aspiring 
            To set himself in glory above his peers, 
40         He trusted to have equaled the Most High, 
            If he opposed; and with ambitious aim 
            Against the throne and monarchy of God, 
            Raised impious war in Heaven and battle proud 
            With vain attempt. Him the Almighty Power 
45         Hurled headlong flaming from the ethereal sky 
            With hideous ruin and combustion down 
            To bottomless perdition, there to dwell 
            In adamantine chains and penal fire, 
            Who durst defy the Omnipotent to arms. 
50         Nine times the space that measures day and night 
            To mortal men, he with his horrid crew 
            Lay vanquished, rolling in the fiery gulf, 
            Confounded though immortal. But his doom 
            Reserved him to more wrath; for now the thought 
55         Both of lost happiness and lasting pain 
            Torments him; round he throws his baleful eyes, 
            That witnessed huge affliction and dismay 
            Mixed with obdurate pride and steadfast hate. 
            At once as far as angels ken he views 
60         The dismal situation waste and wild: 
            A dungeon horrible on all sides round 
            As one great furnace flamed, yet from those flames 
            No light, but rather darkness visible 
            Served only to discover sights of woe, 
65         Regions of sorrow, doleful shades, where peace 
            And rest can never dwell, hope never comes 
            That comes to all; but torture without end 
            Still urges, and a fiery deluge, fed 
            With ever-burning sulfur unconsumed: 
70         Such place Eternal Justice had prepared 
            For those rebellious, here their prison ordained 
            In utter darkness, and their portion set 
            As far removed from God and light of Heaven 
            As from the center thrice to the utmost pole. 
75         O how unlike the place from whence they fell! 
            There the companions of his fall, o’erwhelmed 
            With floods and whirlwinds of tempestuous fire, 
            He soon discerns, and weltering by his side 
            One next himself in power, and next in crime, 
80         Long after known in Palestine, and named 
            Beelzebub. To whom the Arch-Enemy, 
            And then in Heaven called Satan, with bold words 
            Breaking the horrid silence thus began:
            “If thou beest he—but O how fallen!    how changed
85         From him, who in the happy realms of light
            Clothed with transcendent brightness didst outshine
            Myriads though bright—if he whom mutual league,
            United thoughts and counsels, equal hope
            And hazard in the glorious enterprise,
90         Joined with me once, now misery hath joined
            In equal ruin: into what pit thou seest
            From what height fallen! so much the stronger proved
            He with his thunder; and till then who knew
            The force of those dire arms? Yet not for those,
95         Nor what the potent Victor in his rage
            Can else inflict, do I repent or change,
            Though changed in outward luster, that fixed mind
            And high disdain, from sense of injured merit,
            That with the Mightiest raised me to contend,
100     And to the fierce contention brought along
            Innumerable force of spirits armed
            That durst dislike his reign, and, me preferring,
            His utmost power with adverse power opposed
            In dubious battle on the plains of Heaven,
105     And shook his throne. What though the field be lost?
            All is not lost; the unconquerable will,
            And study of revenge, immortal hate,
            And courage never to submit or yield:
            And what is else not to be overcome?
110     That glory never shall his wrath or might
            Extort from me. To bow and sue for grace
            With suppliant knee, and deify his power
            Who from the terror of this arm so late
            Doubted his empire, that were low indeed,
115     That were an ignominy and shame beneath
            This downfall; since by fate the strength of gods
            And this empyreal substance cannot fail,
            Since through experience of this great event,
            In arms not worse, in foresight much advanced,
120     We may with more successful hope resolve
            To wage by force or guile eternal war
            Irreconcilable to our grand Foe,
            Who now triumphs, and in the excess of joy
            Sole reigning holds the tyranny of Heaven.”
125      So spake the apostate Angel, though in pain,
            Vaunting aloud, but racked with deep despair;
            And him thus answered soon his bold compeer:
            “O Prince, O Chief of many thronèd Powers,
            That led the embattled Seraphim to war
130      Under thy conduct, and in dreadful deeds
            Fearless, endangered Heaven’s perpetual King,
            And put to proof his high supremacy,
            Whether upheld by strength, or chance, or fate;
            Too well I see and rue the dire event,
135     That with sad overthrow and foul defeat
            Hath lost us Heaven, and all this mighty host
            In horrible destruction laid thus low,
            As far as gods and heavenly essences
            Can perish: for the mind and spirit remains
140      Invincible, and vigor soon returns,
            Though all our glory extinct, and happy state
            Here swallowed up in endless misery.
            But what if he our Conqueror (whom I now
            Of force believe almighty, since no less
145     Than such could have o’erpowered such force as ours)
            Have left us this our spirit and strength entire
            Strongly to suffer and support our pains,
            That we may so suffice his vengeful ire,
            Or do him mightier service as his thralls
150      By right of war, whate’er his business be,
            Here in the heart of Hell to work in fire,
            Or do his errands in the gloomy deep?
            What can it then avail, though yet we feel
            Strength undiminished, or eternal being
155      To undergo eternal punishment?”
            Whereto with speedy words the Arch-Fiend replied:
            “Fallen Cherub, to be weak is miserable,
            Doing or suffering: But of this be sure,
            To do aught good never will be our task,
160      But ever to do ill our sole delight,
            As being the contrary to his high will
            Whom we resist. If then his providence
            Out of our evil seek to bring forth good,
            Our labor must be to pervert that end,
165      And out of good still to find means of evil;
            Which ofttimes may succeed, so as perhaps
            Shall grieve him, if I fail not, and disturb
            His inmost counsels from their destined aim.
            But see the angry Victor hath recalled
170      His ministers of vengeance and pursuit
            Back to the gates of Heaven; the sulfurous hail
            Shot after us in storm, o’erblown hath laid
            The fiery surge, that from the precipice
            Of Heaven received us falling, and the thunder,
175      Winged with red lightning and impetuous rage,
             Perhaps hath spent his shafts, and ceases now
            To bellow through the vast and boundless deep.
            Let us not slip the occasion, whether scorn
            Or satiate fury yield it from our Foe.
180     Seest thou yon dreary plain, forlorn and wild,
            The seat of desolation, void of light,
            Save what the glimmering of these livid flames
            Casts pale and dreadful? Thither let us tend
            From off the tossing of these fiery waves,
185      There rest, if any rest can harbor there,
            And reassembling our afflicted powers,
            Consult how we may henceforth most offend
            Our Enemy, our own loss how repair,
190      How overcome this dire calamity,
            What reinforcement we may gain from hope,
            If not, what resolution from despair.”
            Thus Satan talking to his nearest mate
            With head uplift above the wave, and eyes
            That sparkling blazed; his other parts besides,
195      Prone on the flood, extended long and large,
            Lay floating many a rood, in bulk as huge
            As whom the fables name of monstrous size,
            Titanian or Earth-born, that warred on Jove,
            Briareos or Typhon, whom the den
200      By ancient Tarsus held, or that sea-beast
            Leviathan, which God of all his works
            Created hugest that swim the ocean stream:
            Him haply slumbering on the Norway foam,
            The pilot of some small night-foundered skiff,
205      Deeming some island, oft, as seamen tell,
            With fixèd anchor in his scaly rind
            Moors by his side under the lee, while night
            Invests the sea, and wishèd morn delays:
            So stretched out huge in length the Arch-Fiend lay
210     Chained on the burning lake; nor ever thence
            Had risen or heaved his head, but that the will
            And high permission of all-ruling Heaven
            Left him at large to his own dark designs,
            That with reiterated crimes he might
215      Heap on himself damnation, while he sought
            Evil to others, and enraged might see
            How all his malice served but to bring forth
            Infinite goodness, grace, and mercy shown
            On man by him seduced, but on himself
220     Treble confusion, wrath, and vengeance poured.
            Forthwith upright he rears from off the pool
            His mighty stature; on each hand the flames
            Driven backward slope their pointing spires, and rolled
            In billows, leave in the midst a horrid vale.
225      Then with expanded wings he steers his flight
            Aloft, incumbent on the dusky air
            That felt unusual weight, till on dry land
            He lights, if it were land that ever burned
            With solid, as the lake with liquid fire;
230     And such appeared in hue, as when the force
            Of subterranean wind transports a hill
            Torn from Pelorus, or the shattered side
            Of thundering Etna, whose combustible
            And fueled entrails thence conceiving fire,
235     Sublimed with mineral fury, aid the winds,
            And leave a singèd bottom all involved
            With stench and smoke: such resting found the sole
            Of unblest feet. Him followed his next mate,
            Both glorying to have scaped the Stygian flood
240      As gods, and by their own recovered strength,
            Not by the sufferance of supernal power.
            “Is this the region, this the soil, the clime,”
            Said then the lost Archangel, “this the seat
            That we must change for Heaven, this mournful gloom
245     For that celestial light? Be it so, since he
            Who now is sovereign can dispose and bid
            What shall be right: farthest from him is best,
            Whom reason hath equaled, force hath made supreme
            Above his equals. Farewell, happy fields,
250     Where joy forever dwells! Hail, horrors! hail,
            Infernal world! and thou, profoundest Hell,
            Receive thy new possessor; one who brings
            A mind not to be changed by place or time.
            The mind is its own place, and in itself
255     Can make a Heaven of Hell, a Hell of Heaven.
            What matter where, if I be still the same,
            And what I should be, all but less than he
            Whom thunder hath made greater? Here at least
            We shall be free; the Almighty hath not built
260     Here for his envy, will not drive us hence:
            Here we may reign secure, and in my choice
            To reign is worth ambition, though in Hell:
            Better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven.
            But wherefore let we then our faithful friends,
265     The associates and copartners of our loss,
            Lie thus astonished on the oblivious pool,
            And call them not to share with us their part
            In this unhappy mansion, or once more
            With rallied arms to try what may be yet
270     Regained in Heaven, or what more lost in Hell?”

 

Making Meanings
The Fall of Satan

textbook page 449

Reading Check
a. Whom does Milton call upon at the outset (lines 1–16)? What question does he ask about Adam and Eve (lines 27–33)?

b. What is Milton’s purpose in writing this epic story?

c. Why was Satan cast out of Heaven?

d. In his first speech, what does Satan tell Beelzebub that he will never do? What course does he favor instead? 

e. According to Milton in lines 210–220, who allows Satan the freedom to pursue his evil intentions?

f. In his last speech, what does Satan claim are the advantages of life in Hell?

 

First Thoughts

1. How did you react to Milton’s portrait of Satan? What images describing Satan or words spoken by Satan made the greatest impression on you?

Shaping Interpretations

2. According to Milton, how is the rebellion of Satan and the angels against God connected with “man’s first disobedience” and the origin of evil in the world?  How does Milton explain the existence of evil in a world created by a loving God? 

3. Reread Milton’s first description of Hell (lines 53–74). How is hell both a psychological state and a physical place? What do you make of the poet’s use of paradox in the phrase “darkness visible” (line 63)? 

4. In his opening speech, Satan vows never to “repent or change” (line 96). Nevertheless, do you catch any hint of longing in this speech for the angels’ former state? How might this yearning be related to Milton’s mention of “the thought . . . of lost happiness” in lines 54–55? 

5. Beelzebub reminds Satan that even in Hell the evil angels may be unwittingly serving God’s purposes. How does Satan reply to this objection in lines 157–168? 

6. In lines 210–220, Milton offers a solemn assurance that despite all Satan’s power and grandeur, the devil is still subject to God’s purposes. How do these lines contribute a level of dramatic irony to Satan’s ringing assertion of freedom in his final speech (lines 242–270)? 

7. Discuss why some people see Milton’s Satan as a heroic figure. How do you feel about this heroic depiction of Satan? 

8. What images in the story helped you to see and smell Hell? 

Connecting with the Text

9. Perhaps the most famous verses of this passage are in Satan’s last speech (lines 254–255): In your experience, is this an accurate description of what the mind can do?

Extending the Text

10. Do people today use the arguments and rationalizations used by Satan and his old crony Beelzebub in their dialogue (lines 143–168)? If so, how?

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