Of that Forbidden Tree, whose mortal tast
Brought Death into the World, and all our woe,
With loss of Eden, till one greater Man
Restore us, and regain the blissful Seat, [ 5 ]
Sing Heav'nly 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 Heav'ns and Earth
Rose out of Chaos: Or if Sion Hill [ 10 ]
Delight thee more, and Siloa's Brook that flow'd
Fast by the Oracle of God; I thence
Invoke thy aid to my adventrous Song,
That with no middle flight intends to soar
Above th' Aonian Mount, while it pursues [ 15 ]
Things unattempted yet in Prose or Rhime.
Paradise Lost, Book 1, Lines 1-16
Of all the classes at university I don't regret taking, a semester of Milton is probably top on the list. It sounds nerdy, I know. But I never would have read Paradise Lost on my own--because Milton is probably the hardest author I've ever read. Not in terms of subject, but stylistically. His sentences are often convoluted and difficult to understand, and, as a result, some of the most beautiful sentences ever written.
It's a commitment to embark on this epic poem, but it's so worth the effort. Some of the greatest quotes of the English language come from this poem.
To name just two:
- "The mind is its own place, and in itself
- Can make a heav'n of hell, a hell of heav'n." --Book 1, lines 254-5
- "Who overcomes
- By force, hath overcome but half his foe." --Book 1, lines 648-9
If you've never read it, I suggest doing so. It's one of the few epic poems that I hold in high esteem.