One of my favorite books is Paradise Lost by John Milton, an English Poet from the seventeenth century. Most people are at least somewhat familiar with it, if only with the name. It’s the embellished story of the Creation of the world, the fall of Satan and his followers, and the fall of mankind. It is such a favorite of mine that I think I shall have to set aside a post to devote to it, as well as a post about John Milton himself.
But for today, I’ll just share with you one of my favorite quotes from Paradise Lost, from its very beginning:
“Fast by the Oracle of God; I thence
Invoke thy aid to my adventurous Song,
That no middle flight intends to soar
Above th’ Aonian Mount, while it pursues
Things yet unattempted in Prose or Rhyme.
And chiefly Thou O Spirit, that dost prefer
Before all Temples th’ upright heart and pure
Instruct me, for Thou know’st; Thou from the first
Wast present, and with mighty wings outspread
Dove-like satst brooding on the vast Abyss
And madst it pregnant: What in me is dark
Illumin, what is low raise and support;
That to the highth of this great Argument
I may assert Eternal Providence,
And justifie the wayes of God to men.”
Now, there’s a good chance that if you’re not overly familiar with old English, that you had a rather hard time reading all that. There is also the chance that you got halfway through the first line and said, “Nope! I’m not reading that!” I’ve read this particular section several times, so it’s not that bad for me. And if you don’t particularly care for it, that’s just fine.
But the reason that I love this passage is because this is John Milton about to embark on the journey of narrating the Creation account, and he’s asking his Lord for help to do that. More simply, it’s an author asking for the Lord’s help to write a story.
This resonates deeply with me, because it’s something that I have to do, too. If I ever want to write something of quality, I know that I have to have my Lord’s help with that. Of course, when I ask for help with that, my phraseology is not half so beautiful as Milton’s. But there is still the common thread of a storyteller asking for the assistance of the greatest Author that ever has been and ever will be.