Paradise Regained and The Idea of Reversals

Paradise Regained, Duane Michals, 1968


…”And Ladies of th’ Hesperides, that seem’d

Fairer then feign’d of old, or fabl’d since

Of Fairy Damsels met in Forest wide

By Knights of Logres, or of Lyones,

Lancelot or Pelleas, or Pellenore,

And all the while Harmonious Airs were heard

Of chiming strings, or charming pipes and winds

Of gentlest gale Arabian odors fann’d

From their soft wings, and Flora’s earliest smells.

Such was the Splendour, and the Tempter now

His invitation earnestly renew’d.

What doubts the Son of God to sit and eat?

These are not Fruits forbidden, no interdict

Defends the touching of these viands pure,

Thir taste no knowledge works, at least of evil,

But life preserves, destroys life’s enemy,

Hunger, with sweet restorative delight…”

John Milton

Excerpt from Paradise Regain’d: Book 2 (1671 version)


Paradise Regained is connected by name to John Milton’s earlier and more famous epic poem Paradise Lost, with which it shares similar theological themes; indeed, its title, its use of blank verse, and its progression through Christian history recall the earlier work. However, this effort deals primarily with the temptation of Christ as recounted in the Gospel of Luke.

One major concept emphasized throughout Paradise Regained is the idea of reversals. As implied by its title, Milton sets out to reverse the “loss” of Paradise. Thus, antonyms are often found next to each other, reinforcing the idea that everything that was lost in the first epic will be regained by the end of this “brief epic.” Additionally, the work focuses on the idea of “hunger”, both in a literal and in a spiritual sense.

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