Of Man's first disobedience, and the fruit
Of that forbidden tree whose mortal taste
Brought death into the World, and all our woe,
With loss of Eden, till one greater Man
Restore us, and regain the blissful seat,
Sing, Heavenly 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 heavens and earth
Rose out of Chaos: or, if Sion hill
Delight thee more, and Siloa's brook that flowed
Fast by the oracle of God, I thence
Invoke thy aid to my adventurous song,
That with no middle flight intends to soar
Above th' Aonian mount, while it pursues
Things unattempted yet in prose or rhyme.
And chiefly thou, O Spirit, that dost prefer
Before all temples th' upright heart and pure,
In sublime poetry of extraordinary beauty, Milton's poem references tales from Ovid's Metamorphoses, the Iliad and Odyssey, and Virgil's Aeneid. But one need not be a classical scholar to appreciate Paradise Lost. In addition to its imaginative use of language, the poem features a powerful and sympathetic portrait of Lucifer, the rebel angel who frequently outshines his moral superiors. With Milton's deft use of irony, the devil makes evil appear good, just as satanic practices may seem attractive at first glance.
Paradise Lost has exercised enormous influence on generations of artists and their works, ranging from the Romantic poets William Blake and Percy Bysshe Shelley to Joseph Haydn's oratorio The Creation and J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings.