Satiation in John Milton’s Paradise Lost and Margaret Cavendish’s Blazing World
Hell is huge but it isn’t big enough. Within the text of Paradise Lost by John Milton, it is, A universe of death, which God by curse Created evil, for evil only good,Where all life dies, death lives, and nature breeds,Perverse, all monstrous, all prodigious things,Abominable, inutterable, and worse… (II.622-6)There is no satiety in Hell. Eden, by comparison, is a relatively small place in Milton’s epic poem, but it seems to be an environment replete with satisfaction. Or is it? We students of experiential literature owe Milton a debt of gratitude for helping us to experience our forebears’, that is Adam and Eve’s, lack of satiation within a paradisiacal environment. This paper will explore the topic of satiety within that environment; and, along the way, discuss the concept of singularity found in Cavendish’s Blazing World for comment upon that satiation.
Milton begins at the middle of his epic with an appeal to music, a universal and fulfilling language, “Restore us, and regain the blissful seat, Sing Heavenly Muse” (I.5-6).He immediately places us after the fall and takes us beyond sentience with an invocation to a muse, only this muse is beyond all muses and this epic is above all epics:
I thence Invoke thy aid to my advent’rous song,That with no middle flight intends to soarAbove th’ Aonian mount, while it pursues Things unattempted yet in prose or rhyme. (I.12-16)
Milton establishes himself as the legitimate teller of the tale – and this tale will take us beyond the mythology of the Greeks’Aonian Mount and inoculate us against Hell’s prodigiousness. He is taking us beyond mythological or explanatory pictures of ourselves, to an area where we may bask in a greater comfort:
Taught by the Heav’nly Muse to venture down The dark descent, and up to reascend,Though hard and rare: thee I revisit safe,And feel thy sovran vital lamp… (III.19-22)
In her note to the reader in The Description of A New World, Called The Blazing World, it is evident that Margaret Cavendish seeks to take us beyond mere studious thoughts, to a place sated with fancy:
And this is the reason, why I added this piece of fancy to my philosophical observations, and joined them as two worlds at the ends of their poles;both for my own sake, to divert my studious thoughts, which I employed in the contemplation thereof, and to delight the reader with variety, which is always pleasing.