Change dire and delectable : time as meaning in Paradise Lost.

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Moore, Harry
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Middle Tennessee State University
Since for Milton time is the measure of motion, three kinds of time emerge in Paradise Lost: time that moves in a straight line, time that moves in a circle, and time that does not move at all. These varieties of time interact in rich and complex ways to embody major themes of the poem.
In its broadest sense, time in Paradise Lost is linear and virtually absolute, encompassing matters traditionally assigned to a timeless eternity. Time in this sense includes sequence but little sense of duration.
Time as pronounced linear change and unbroken duration is associated most frequently with the fallen angels, including Satan, and with human beings in the fallen world; this is true although history, a form of linear time, is the medium in which Eternal Providence operates. Time as rhythmical recurrence, a kind of dynamic changelessness, is associated with Paradise and prelapsarian humanity, with Heaven and its perpetual praise, and--as a symbol of grace--with natural rhythms in the fallen world. Although Hell has some static qualities, time as stasis is associated primarily with God the Father and his view of all time at once, including the future.
A creative tension between linear, cyclical, and static time embodies the pervasive themes and conflicts of the poem. These conflicts are seen in the experience of Adam and Eve, who feel time as bitter change before they discover through repentance that time can be turned to restoration; in human history, where divine grace converts the linear movement of time toward death into a cycle of restoration after loss; and in the experience of the narrator, who escapes irreversible linear change and dark stasis through the nightly visits of the muse. Although time in these cases causes nothing to happen, it measures each character's spiritual status or spiritual health, linking sin and its effects to linear change and the recovery of grace to rhythmical recurrence. In this sense, time in all its movements in the poem is meaning.
Director: Charles Durham.