Melvyn Bragg examines the literary and political career of the poet John Milton. If it wasn't for the poet Andrew Marvell we wouldn't have his later works; Paradise Lost, Paradise Regained and Samson Agonistes. Milton spent the English Civil Wars as a prominent politician and right hand man to Oliver Cromwell. When the Monarchy was restored in 1660 it was only Marvell's intervention that saved Milton from execution. By then, Marvell argued, Milton was old and blind and posed no threat to Charles II. But as a young man Milton had been an activist and pamphleteer extraordinaire. Allegedly inspired by a meeting with Galileo he wrote in passionate defence of Liberty. He detested the Church's insistence on empty ritual. And most dramatically for his time he demanded that the state serve its people rather than the people serve the state. How then should we remember Milton - as poet or politician - as an idealist or an apologist for a revolutionary yet intolerant regime? And was he a man at one with the people or an elitist who preached to the masses but lived his own life only in the most rarefied of circles? With John Carey, Emeritus Professor of English Literature at Oxford University; Lisa Jardine, Professor of Renaissance Studies at Queen Mary College, University of London and Honorary Fellow of King's College Cambridge; Blair Worden, Professor of Early Modern History at the University of Sussex.
On returning to England where the Bishops' Wars presaged further armed conflict, Milton began to write prose tracts against episcopacy , in the service of the Puritan and Parliamentary cause. Milton's first foray into polemics was Of Reformation touching Church Discipline in England (1641), followed by Of Prelatical Episcopacy , the two defences of Smectymnuus (a group of Presbyterian divines named from their initials; the "TY" belonged to Milton's old tutor Thomas Young), and The Reason of Church-Government Urged against Prelaty . He vigorously attacked the High-church party of the Church of England and their leader William Laud , Archbishop of Canterbury , with frequent passages of real eloquence lighting up the rough controversial style of the period, and deploying a wide knowledge of church history.
God hears their prayers, and sends Michael down to Earth. Michael arrives on Earth, and tells them that they must leave Paradise. But before they leave, Michael puts Eve to sleep and takes Adam up onto the highest hill, where he shows him a vision of humankind’s future. Adam sees the sins of his children, and his children’s children, and his first vision of death. Horrified, he asks Michael if there is any alternative to death. Generations to follow continue to sin by lust, greed, envy, and pride. They kill each other selfishly and live only for pleasure. Then Michael shows him the vision of Enoch, who is saved by God as his warring peers attempt to kill him. Adam also sees the story of Noah and his family, whose virtue allows them to be chosen to survive the flood that kills all other humans. Adam feels remorse for death and happiness for humankind’s redemption. Next is the vision of Nimrod and the Tower of Babel. This story explains the perversion of pure language into the many languages that are spoken on Earth today. Adam sees the triumph of Moses and the Israelites, and then glimpses the Son’s sacrifice to save humankind. After this vision, it is time for Adam and Eve to leave Paradise. Eve awakes and tells Adam that she had a very interesting and educating dream. Led by Michael, Adam and Eve slowly and woefully leave Paradise hand in hand into a new world.