Paradise Lost, Urania the muse


In the invocation to Book 7 of John Milton’s epic poem Paradise Lost, the poet invokes Urania to aid his narration of the creation of the cosmos, though he cautions that it is “[t]he meaning, not the name I call” (7.5).

The first 83 lines are addressed to “The Muse” and constitute a prologue to the poem, setting forth the theme and stating the premises of the first book.

The Muse whom the poet addresses is not identified here. Riverside suggests that Milton wants us to identify the Muse with the Godhead, but that he will later name the Muse Urania, the Muse of Astronomy. That seems appropriate since the poem is based on the Christian understanding of Jewish cosmology. From line 17, “And chiefly Thou, O Spirit…” seems to confirm this idea.

Here is the author addressing an informant:

Say first, for Heav’n hides nothing from thy view
Nor the deep Tract of Hell, say first what cause
Mov’d our Grand Parents in that happy State,
Favour’d of Heav’n so highly, to fall off
From their Creator, and transgress his Will
For one restraint, Lords of the World besides?
Who first seduc’d them to that fowl revolt?

And then the Muse answers:

Th’ infernal Serpent; he it was, whose guile
Stird up with Envy and Revenge, deceiv’d
The Mother of Mankinde …

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