Does Milton attempt to describe the indescribable? To what extent does he succeed?

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Does Milton attempt to describe the indescribable? To what extent does he succeed?

Milton uses numerous literary devices in his attempt to describe the apparantly undescribable in Paradise Lost. The beginning of Paradise Lost is similar in gravity and seriousness to the book from which Milton takes much of his story: the Book of Genesis, the first book of the Bible. This can be construed by the reader to be almost a statement of intent from Milton, who it appears is likening Paradise Lost to the Holy Bible. He seemingly seeks to elevate himself above other epics as he attempts to 'assert eternal providence, and justify the ways of God to men.' From the very outset, this appears to be a rather fanciful and audacious task, and it is dubious as to whether any mortal is able to justify such a thing. The first two sentences, or twenty-six lines, of Paradise Lost are extremely compressed, containing a great deal of information about Milton's reasons for writing his epic, his subject matter, and his attitudes toward his subject. By invoking a muse, but differentiating it from traditional muses, Milton tells us a lot about how he sees his project. In the first place, an invocation of the muse at the beginning of an epic is conventional, so Milton is acknowledging his awareness of Homer, Virgil, and later poets, and signaling that he has mastered their format and wants to be part of their tradition. But by identifying his muse as the divine spirit that inspired the Bible and created the world, he shows that his ambitions go far beyond joining the club of Homer and Virgil. Milton's epic will surpass theirs, he says, drawing on a more fundamental source of truth and dealing with matters of more fundamental importance to human beings. At the same time, however, Milton's invocation is humble, expressing his dependence on God's grace in speaking through him. Milton thus begins his poem with a mixture of towering ambition and humble modesty, whilst simultaneously accrediting  his poetic forebearers and promising to soar above them for God's glorification.

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One important way in which Milton develops a picture of Satan is through epic similes, lengthy and developed comparisons common to many epics. When Satan lies on the 'burning lake', Milton compares him to the Titans who waged war upon Jove in Roman mythology. Then, at greater length, he compares Satan to a Leviathan, or giant sea creature, so huge that sailors mistake it for an island and fix their anchor to it. In other epics, these sorts of similes establish the great size or strength of characters, and on the surface these similes seem to do the same thing. At ...

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