Sunday, June 07, 2009

Paradise Downloaded

My car these days is powered by supermarket diesel, Radio 4 and poetry. This later power source arrives courtesy of the nice people at Librivox, a network of volunteers who record themselves reading out-of-copyright books and make the recordings available for free on their website.

I found them when I failed to find an audiobook of "Paradise Lost". I had been inspired to read it by Armando Iannucci's passionate and accessible programme "Milton's Heaven and Hell".

It's not as distracting as I thought to have different untrained voices reading each section of the book - the quality of the reading is high, as you would expect from willing volunteers reading a text that obviously means a lot to them. Not sure which profesional actor I'd chose to read "Paradise Lost" with Richard Burton being dead. Anthony Hopkins would probably have to suffice.

Anyway, the book.



You know ?

Just .. er ...




The reason I like Carol Ann Duffy's work is the way that she uses simple language to describe the human experience of eternal issues such Love and Hate and lots of other stuff just begging for Capital Letters.

Milton by contrast deploys a formidable arsenal of vocabulary and attempts to actually explain those eternal issues, or as he has it "... to explain the ways of God to Man".

It's as though Carol Ann is describing how it feels to watch an exciting football match, but Milton actually tries to get across how it feels to have your shirt tugged as your goalie boots over a last minute hopeful Hail Mary freekick into the box and a dozen heads rise hoping against hope for a miracle.

My instinctive religio-phobia has kept me away from this book for so long, and that's a pity. Like so many cultures through history, Milton uses The Gods as metaphors for human emotions and experiences. I'm sure many devout Christians would dislike some of this book. This atheist absolutely loved it though. I didn't get all the classical and biblical allusions, but at those points you just let the pure music of words wash over you.

But not to the extent that you forget you're responsible for steering a ton and a half of metal doing 69.5 mph on the M6.

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