June 24, 2016

Metaphysical poetry as explained by Florence + the Machine (part 3/4)


(For the introduction to this series, see here)


“The stars, the moon/ they have all been blown out
You left me in the dark/ No dawn, no day, I’m always in this twilight
In the shadow of your heart”

Paradise Lost largely focuses on the Fall of Man and the loss of privileges that Adam and Eve suffer in the wake of their condemnation. As such, one of Milton’s chief methods of imparting the feeling of hell both on earth and in actual hell is by emphasizing the link between despair, darkness, and the absence of God. The introduction of darkness to Man’s paradisaical world once the Original Sin has been committed is symbolic of Man and earth’s tainted status. In Book IX, after Eve convinces Adam to also partake of the fruit, the pair feel briefly invigorated and flee into a shadowy forest. Upon awakening in the darkness, however, they see the world in a new way and realize that they have lost favour with God, thereby losing Paradise.

“I can hear your heartbeat/ I tried to find the sound
But then it stopped/ and I was in the darkness
So darkness I became”

One of Adam’s first lamentations after his expulsion from Eden is that he can no longer communicate directly with God. Although he is aware of his maker’s presence on earth, he can only offer prayers to an invisible force rather than speak to God, face to face. Adam’s world becomes that much more silent as a result, and he finds himself in anguish over the loss of God’s physical voice.

“I took the stars from my eyes/ and then I made a map
And knew that somehow I could find my way back”

In Book X, the archangel Michael descends to escort Adam and Eve out of Eden. After putting Eve to sleep in order to have a private conversation with Adam, Michael comforts Adam with the thought that his separation from God is only as temporary as his life on earth, so long as Adam lives virtuously. Having seen Michael’s visions of how humanity will withstand the forces of evil despite their tendency to sin, Adam then feels reassured that he and his descendants will be able to rejoin their maker in heaven and becomes resolved to endeavor towards that end.

“Then I heard your heart beating/ you were in the darkness too
So I stayed in the darkness with you”

Once Eve awakens from the sleep that Michael induced, the couple is led to the gate of Eden. As soon as they pass through, Michael stands before it alongside other angels, wielding a flaming sword to protect its entrance. Adam and Eve tearfully turn away, hand in hand, and venture out to take their place in their new, impure world. As sorrowful as they are to leave, however, they are assuaged by the idea presented by Eve in Book X that they might not be overwhelmed by the darkness of their new home as long as they remain united and equal in sharing the burden that has befallen them.

Next (part 4/4): The Sonnets of John Donne as set to “All This and Heaven Too”



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