Milton's Paradise Lost looks creepily like the anti-Trump Resistance movement

The seventeenth-century English Puritan John Milton provides in his great imaginative work Paradise Lost an apt and relevant perspective on the epic battle taking place among political rivals around the Beltway.  The first book of Paradise Lost (there are twelve) presents the old story from the biblical book of Genesis of man's fall and his subsequent ejection from Paradise.  After losing a power struggle, Satan, along with his legions of rebellious angels, is given the heave-ho from Heaven into the outer darkness that Milton calls Hell.  From the depths of disfavor and disgrace, Satan then conspires with these angels to manufacture a grand scheme of revenge.  In today's context of the 2016 presidential election and its aftermath that brought Republicans into power and turned Democrats out, that synopsis of Milton's epic poem makes allegorical sense.

Cast out, Satan is thunderstruck and wanders about in a state of disbelief.  He gathers himself from the confusion and chaos of this unforeseen catastrophe with "fixed mind and high disdain" for the "potent Victor."  He forthwith calls a full council of the "innumerable forces of spirits armed, that durst dislike his reign" in order "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."  His minions are urged to "consult how we may henceforth most offend our Enemy, our own loss repair, how overcome this dire calamity."  They dig in their heels, vowing "to do aught good never will be our task, but ever to do ill our sole delight, as being the contrary to his high will whom we resist."

Oppose and resist everything.  Some of this may have a familiar ring.

Bucked up by the Defeated One's oratory, these supporters from every squad and working committee of the fallen party band together to prosecute the dark design, pledging "out of good still to find means of evil, which oftentimes may succeed" so as perhaps "shall grieve him and disturb his inmost counsels from their destined aim."  All agree in a single voice that "war then, war open or understood" be waged as they continue to howl "against the highest hurling defiances toward the vault of heaven."  House speaker Azazel, a Cherub tall, leads the rebellious mob, a "horrid front of dreadful length and dazzling arms," already frenzied for the fight by the warlike calls for overthrow and impeachment.  Shrill voices from this nether region raised by an array of the disenfranchised, a sort of sympathetic press corps swaying public opinion in Hell, move in "perfect phalanx," "breathing united force with fixed thought."

We should take a minute to consider our own news media.  The Miltonic language it feeds us daily such as "dethrone," "towering rage," "pandemonium," "chaos," "treason," and "revenge" elevate the level of political commentary to epic heights.  Pandemonium, for instance, is the "high capital of Satan," where thick swarms of embittered angels overflow the "gates and porches wide but chief the spacious hall" to "expiate and confer their state affairs."  Beelzebub is Satan's nearest mate and confidant, a wily fellow whose rhetoric stirs up the crowd to astounding heights of fury and hatred.  Rousing the rabble?  This, too, sounds relevant.  And Lucifer, who can't keep his mouth shut?  Leakers!  Whistleblowers!

Our media may be on to something here, though their language is occasionally inflated, its version of the truth often distorted, and its power frequently abused.

Book One of Paradise Lost ends at the point where, after a brief silence in the vast hall during which those congregated hordes stand mute as the fell summons is read, "the great consult" begins.

Anyone curious to find how things work out on the floor of the Convention must move on to Book Two, where the poet presents all proposals, debates, and prophecies concerning conduct of the great battle to come.  The Devil is nominated as their leader, a de facto confirmation, and the council then wraps up its demonic business.  Thus, the defiance, anger, attacks, lies, and smears that have relentlessly filled the air leading up to this awful Convocation, having run their course, cease, and the representatives disperse.  Some return to their several ways, others take up their various employments, and the rest adjourn for their month-long vacations to await the outcome of this infernal coup-de-théâtre to regain Heaven.

And you thought the devil was only in the details.

Wayne W. Westbrook wrote Wall Street in the American Novel, a study of the devil in literature.

Photo montage by Monica Showalter from public domain sources.

The seventeenth-century English Puritan John Milton provides in his great imaginative work Paradise Lost an apt and relevant perspective on the epic battle taking place among political rivals around the Beltway.  The first book of Paradise Lost (there are twelve) presents the old story from the biblical book of Genesis of man's fall and his subsequent ejection from Paradise.  After losing a power struggle, Satan, along with his legions of rebellious angels, is given the heave-ho from Heaven into the outer darkness that Milton calls Hell.  From the depths of disfavor and disgrace, Satan then conspires with these angels to manufacture a grand scheme of revenge.  In today's context of the 2016 presidential election and its aftermath that brought Republicans into power and turned Democrats out, that synopsis of Milton's epic poem makes allegorical sense.

Cast out, Satan is thunderstruck and wanders about in a state of disbelief.  He gathers himself from the confusion and chaos of this unforeseen catastrophe with "fixed mind and high disdain" for the "potent Victor."  He forthwith calls a full council of the "innumerable forces of spirits armed, that durst dislike his reign" in order "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."  His minions are urged to "consult how we may henceforth most offend our Enemy, our own loss repair, how overcome this dire calamity."  They dig in their heels, vowing "to do aught good never will be our task, but ever to do ill our sole delight, as being the contrary to his high will whom we resist."

Oppose and resist everything.  Some of this may have a familiar ring.

Bucked up by the Defeated One's oratory, these supporters from every squad and working committee of the fallen party band together to prosecute the dark design, pledging "out of good still to find means of evil, which oftentimes may succeed" so as perhaps "shall grieve him and disturb his inmost counsels from their destined aim."  All agree in a single voice that "war then, war open or understood" be waged as they continue to howl "against the highest hurling defiances toward the vault of heaven."  House speaker Azazel, a Cherub tall, leads the rebellious mob, a "horrid front of dreadful length and dazzling arms," already frenzied for the fight by the warlike calls for overthrow and impeachment.  Shrill voices from this nether region raised by an array of the disenfranchised, a sort of sympathetic press corps swaying public opinion in Hell, move in "perfect phalanx," "breathing united force with fixed thought."

We should take a minute to consider our own news media.  The Miltonic language it feeds us daily such as "dethrone," "towering rage," "pandemonium," "chaos," "treason," and "revenge" elevate the level of political commentary to epic heights.  Pandemonium, for instance, is the "high capital of Satan," where thick swarms of embittered angels overflow the "gates and porches wide but chief the spacious hall" to "expiate and confer their state affairs."  Beelzebub is Satan's nearest mate and confidant, a wily fellow whose rhetoric stirs up the crowd to astounding heights of fury and hatred.  Rousing the rabble?  This, too, sounds relevant.  And Lucifer, who can't keep his mouth shut?  Leakers!  Whistleblowers!

Our media may be on to something here, though their language is occasionally inflated, its version of the truth often distorted, and its power frequently abused.

Book One of Paradise Lost ends at the point where, after a brief silence in the vast hall during which those congregated hordes stand mute as the fell summons is read, "the great consult" begins.

Anyone curious to find how things work out on the floor of the Convention must move on to Book Two, where the poet presents all proposals, debates, and prophecies concerning conduct of the great battle to come.  The Devil is nominated as their leader, a de facto confirmation, and the council then wraps up its demonic business.  Thus, the defiance, anger, attacks, lies, and smears that have relentlessly filled the air leading up to this awful Convocation, having run their course, cease, and the representatives disperse.  Some return to their several ways, others take up their various employments, and the rest adjourn for their month-long vacations to await the outcome of this infernal coup-de-théâtre to regain Heaven.

And you thought the devil was only in the details.

Wayne W. Westbrook wrote Wall Street in the American Novel, a study of the devil in literature.

Photo montage by Monica Showalter from public domain sources.