If you’re familiar with poetry of English literature then you most certainly know of John Milton and his epic English poem Paradise Lost. With knowing that book comes the knowledge of its challenge to the reader. Milton’s epic poem is well known for its excessive use of commas, its lack of full stops and breaks that makes reading it a furious, blistering passion. Leaving the reader with no real place to pause or stop reading except per books. Of which there are twelve (ten in the original, but two were further split into two each. Making four onto the eight remaining.)
While no doubt remains as to Milton’s poetic ability and his work being a classic of monstrous proportion. The difficulty of the text often removes the respect which young readers and much more mature readers can have for him. And even push people to dislike him. This is mostly because his language is out dated compared to modern texts, and this makes it some what hard to grasp at times. But also because the huge epic is written in poetic speech which can make certain parts of the story unclear, and distort what the characters are actually doing or meaning to say.
This book relieves this problem somewhat by taking the original text and running it side by side with a plain English version. The story and speeches make far more sense when put in such simple ways. If this book is used as a companion for the original most people, if not all, can grasp the entire story and some of the most striking speeches and moments.
The only problem with a plain English text version is it impacts on the poetic form and also the passion which Milton was noted for. It removes all sense of romantic rebellion from Satan, all sense of sensuality from Eve, and all sense of nobleness from Adam.
This of course is a serious flaw considering the passion of Milton’s characters is what makes Paradise Lost such a pleasure to read in the first place. However, the purpose of this book is not to give you the original passion, but to help you understand what is actually happening and being said: and in this respect the book does not fail.
Some of the speeches and actions are put so simply that they can come across as almost blunt. Although, so long as the reader looks at the original, or bears in mind it is not conveying the original poetic form and passion then that should not be a problem.
All in all this book should be used as a companion piece of the actual epic poem, and not as a substitute. But the work done in this book is fantastic in the sense that it translates the poem into plain English very well and accurately. Which is a great achievement considering the difficulty of the text itself.
A link to the book on Amazon and where my book review is contained: