Advertisement

“This Pendent World”: The Cosmos of Paradise Lost

  • Malabika Sarkar
Chapter
  • 93 Downloads

Abstract

At the end of his long journey from hell through chaos, Satan arrives within sight of “the empyreal heaven, extended wide / In circuit” (2.1047–48) and sees “fast by hanging in a golden chain / This pendent world” (2.1051–52). As readers, this is our first encounter with Milton’s new cosmos, one of the most remarkable innovations in Paradise Lost, and the suggestive phrase—this “pendent world”— captures the essential ambiguity in the epic poet’s imaginative depiction of the universe. The range of possible meanings of “pendent” expands through its homophonic association with “pendant” to signify both the state of the new cosmos as being contingent and uncertain, as well as the appearance of the new cosmos as a jewel hanging from heaven on a golden chain. The associated “pendant” urges us to consider the new cosmos as a precious gem as well as a work of art. We are invited to look at it as an auxiliary visual object just below heaven, like a pendant painting below that grander canvas. However, the perspective on its size as being like “a star / Of smallest magnitude close by the moon” (2.1052–53) is a deeply troubling one as the moon, to which heaven is apparently being compared here, has no light of its own and shines with borrowed light unlike a star, even the least significant one with which the cosmos is being compared, which has light of its own.

Keywords

Space Flight Vitalist Debate Concentric Sphere Paradise Lost Cosmic Space 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Notes

  1. 1.
    Edmund Burke, A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and the Beautiful, ed. J. T. Boulton (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1958, rpt 1990), p. 59.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    John Leonard, “Milton, Lucretius, and ‘the Void Profound of Unessential Night,’” in Living Texts: Interpreting Milton, ed. Kristin A. Pruitt and Charles W. Durham (Selingrove: Susquehanna University Press, 2000).Google Scholar
  3. 4.
    For an account of these early developments, see J. L. E. Dreyer, A History of Astronomy from Thales to Kepler (New York: Dover Books, 1953).Google Scholar
  4. 5.
    On the etymology, see Alastair Fowler, Milton, Paradise Lost (Harlow: Longman, Ltd. 2nd ed., 1998), p. 267.Google Scholar
  5. 7.
    Harinder Singh Marjara, Contemplation of Created Things: Science in Paradise Lost (Toronto, Buffalo, London: University of Toronto Press, 1992), p. 190.Google Scholar
  6. 15.
    John Rogers, The Matter of Revolution: Science, Poetry and Politics in the Age of Milton (Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 1996).Google Scholar
  7. 16.
    James H. Hanford, “Dr. Paget’s Library,” in Bulletin of the Medical Library Association 33.1 (1945), 90–99.Google Scholar
  8. 19.
    Christopher Kendrick, Milton: A Study in Ideology and Form (New York: Methuen, 1986), p. 180.Google Scholar
  9. 20.
    See Walter Pagel, Joan Baptista Van Helmont: Reformer of Science and Medicine (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982), pp. 79–86.Google Scholar
  10. 21.
    See David Mulder, The Alchemy of Revolution: Gerrard Winstanley’s Occultism and Seventeenth-Century English Communism (New York: Lang, 1990).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Malabika Sarkar 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Malabika Sarkar

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations