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Satanic Vision and Acrostics in Paradise Lost AUTHOR: JANE PARTNER TITLE: Satanic Vision and Acrostics in Paradise


SOURCE: Essays in Criticism 57 no2 129-46 Ap 2007 MILTON ENCAPSULATED the entire moral and narrative trajectory of Paradise Lost in a series of four words that are hidden within the main body of the text. The way that this acrostic micro-epic is concealed, and the means by which the reader is led to find it, exemplify both the argument and the medium of the whole poem. Through the allusive reach of this virtuoso wordplay -- the individual occurrences of which have not previously been considered as a group - Milton expounds the moral and physical frailty of the human eye, and so reflects upon the process of reading. These themes lead him to draw upon his own experience of blindness, contributing in turn to his authorial self-fashioning as a seer fit for the audacious poetic task to 'assert Eternal Providence/And justifie the wayes of God to men'.(FN1) Vision is central to the theological structure of Paradise Lost, a poem in which the fall of man is expressed as the fatal desire for 'that false Fruit that promis'd clearer sight' (XI. 413). Visual perception is consequently Milton's most pervasive metaphor for knowing and understanding throughout the poem, where he uses different ways of seeing to distinguish mere empirical facts from the true wisdom that brings inward illumination. As the frailties of the 'visual Nerve' (XI. 415) come into conflict with higher rational, spiritual and imaginative modes of 'internal sight' (VIII. 461), Milton employs contrasting types of looking to differentiate the spiritual status of his characters. Extending this concern to encompass the inconclusive endeavours of fallen man to know the heavens by empirical means, Milton also marked out Galileo the 'Tuscan Artist' (I. 288) as the only contemporary figure to be referred to directly in the poem.(FN2) Within this framework, the precisely imagined way that the Devil sees in Paradise Lost is crucial to the reader's relationship with the fallen archangel -- a relationship that determines our moral experience of the poem. The contentious amount of sympathy that Milton had, and asked his readers to have, with his darkly charismatic anti-hero has long been a principal debate attending the epic, epitomised in Blake's statement that Milton was 'of the Devils party without knowing it'.(FN3) Milton gives us beguiling descriptions of the spectacular panoramas that the fiend enjoys, as 'Undazl'd, farr and wide his eye commands' (III. 614), but the alluring intimacy that is forged as we share Satan's viewpoints is undermined by the deceptive-ness of the sights that he sees; he is the only character in the poem to be subject to optical illusions. As Stanley Fish has pointed out, one way in which readers are surprised by sin in Paradise Lost is through the demonstration that their senses are 'unreliable and hopelessly limited'.(FN4) Given the pervasive didactic intent of Milton's poem, I suggest that we too are tested by exposure to the spectacular panoramas that are presented to Satan's insatiable vision. Milton's hidden acrostics function to draw readers into experiencing the duplicity and moral vulnerability of their own eyes

at the same time as they read about the ocular failings of his characters. The visual dimension of the reader's trial by sympathy with Satan begins with his very first appearance. As the retrospective account of the fall of the rebel angels shifts into direct narration and the reader is made privy to Satan's tormented thoughts, the first present-tense action of Paradise Lost is the movement of his eyes: round he throws his baleful eyes That witness'd huge affliction and dismay Mixt with obdurate pride and stedfast hate: At once as far as Angels kenn he views. (I. 56-9) The word 'witness'd' promises an immediate description of the landscape that Satan's moving eyes survey but, as if he is not yet actually seeing, the following line in fact stresses the 'huge affliction and dismay' that Satan's anguished eyes bear witness to. His 'obdurate pride and stedfast hate' are only by extension a characterisation of the scene around him, reflecting the anguish of his followers.(FN5) This elision of perception and emotion, meaning that Satan 'does not really see anything but his own feelings', offers the reader a dual perspective as we look both into and out of his eyes.(FN6) When Satan's rolling eyes finally do come into focus, how do they see? In his fallen state the fiend still views as 'far' (1.59) as an angel, but this qualification suggests that he no longer perceives as an angel would. When Satan lands on the sun in Book III, we discover that his sight is dependent upon the 'visual ray' (HI. 620) common to mortal sight, the clarity of which varies in accordance with the available light. This resemblance shows us that Milton uses Satan's vision, in conjunction with the other corporeal details of his angelology, to stress that heavenly beings inhabit bodies that differ from the material substance of the human form merely by degree.(FN7) Satan's eyes are therefore fitted to represent the frailties of mortal sight, and on this basisMilton is able to use the way that the Devil sees to dramatise Christian teaching about the good government of the eye. According to these precepts, Satan is shown to abuse the remnants of his 'Angels kenn' because his fascination with outward appearances leads him, as Paul Stevens observes, to prefer 'creation to its creator, the sight to what it signifies'.(FN8) More explicitly however, reference to the compendium of Christian belief about right looking contained in Robert Dingley's treatise Divine Opticks (1654) makes clear the emphatic moral significance accorded to the ways in which Satan views the cosmos. Dingley warns that anyone who 'negligently uses the external eye of his body, should be justly punished with blindness and sottishness, in the inward eye of his mind'.(FN9) Such abuse includes the failure to learn about God from the sight of his creation: 'much of God is to be seen in his Works, and if we do not behold them aright, we shall be inexcusable saith Paul; If our eyes be shut that we do not see God in his Works' (p. 75). This is precisely the nature of Satan's sin when he unwittingly puts the Tree of Life to its 'meanest use'

(IV. 204) as a mere 'prospect' (IV. 200) from which to enjoy the physical appearance of the world. Consequently he beholds a spectacular panorama of the Earth at a moment of utter spiritual blindness: 'Beneath him with new wonder now he views/To all delight of human sense expos'd' (IV. 205-6). Satan's looking is further characterised by a lingering indulgence that falls foul of Dingley's distinction between 'a necessary and lawful vision, which is transient' and a 'sinful and dangerous sight of vanity, which is approving, admiring and idolizing' (p. 54). Dingley accordingly warns that inappropriately protracted looking makes the eye 'a burning-glass of the Soul, that fixing too long on forbidden fruit, will beget a flame in the heart' (p. 19). Miltonassociates Satan with this particular ocular indulgence by repeatedly describing his looking as 'gazing'.(FN10) The term was a common one in anti-theatrical and iconoclastic rhetoric, as found in Stephen Gosson's impassioned declamations against 'gazeing' at plays.(FN11) Indeed,Milton had used the term himself to attack the 'civil kinde of Idolatry' represented in the frontispiece of the Eikon Baslilike (1649), an image which he denounced as being 'sett there to catch fools and silly gazers'.(FN12) Milton gives this morally charged vocabulary of looking a special purpose in the temptation of Eve in Paradise Lost, where the reader is challenged to distinguish the spiritual connotations of different kinds of seeing. Satan plays upon the first woman's uncertainty over the priority of spectacle and spectator in the newly created universe, a doubt she had voiced when looking at the night sky: 'for whom/This glorious sight, when sleep hath shut all eyes?' (IV. 657-8). Luring Eve into vanity like his own, Satan conflates the worthy duty of man to behold the work of God with the insatiate gaze that both feeds upon and flatters physical beauty: in vain, If none regard, Heav'n wakes with all his eyes, Whom to behold but thee, Natures desire, In whose sight all things joy, with ravishment Attracted by thy beauty still to gaze. (V. 43-7) The terms of Eve's question are smoothly reversed, making its original object -- the stars -- into the spectators, and transforming Eve herself into the 'glorious sight'. This recurring verbal slippage expresses an insidious spiritual decline, as the morally neutral verb to 'behold' gives way to the reprehensible indulgence of the 'gaze'. Later, in Book LX, this pattern becomes central to the temptation scene itself when Satan attempts to collapse the moral distinctions between blameless 'seeing' or 'beholding', and reprehensible 'admiring', 'gazing' and 'adoring'.(FN13) To this end his increasingly idolatrous argument is crowned with the flattering lie that he has come to 'gaze, and worship thee [Eve] of right declar'd/Sovran of Creatures' (LX. 611-12). The emphasis upon vision in this crucial scene draws attention to the fact that Eve's sin of ambition to godhead and to knowledge was commonly equated with the 'lust of the eyes' (1 John

2:16).(FN14) In line with the account given in Genesis 3:4, Satan claims that God's interdiction has been set on the Tree of Knowledge because he knows that once its fruit is eaten: 'your Eyes that seem so cleere,/Yet are but dim, shall perfetly be then/Op'nd and cleerd' (LX. 706-8). Although the fruit promises 'clearer sight' (XI. 413), Milton shows that it in fact sets man in the thrall of dimmed material vision. In making the 'Fruit Divine,/Fair to the Eye' (LX. 7767), Milton follows the description in Genesis of the Tree of Knowledge as 'pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired' (3: 6). But Satan's description of the visual appeal of the fruit elaborates the connotations of this attractiveness as he repeats the slide from 'beholding' to 'gazing': I chanc'd A goodly Tree farr distant to behold Loaden with fruit of fairest colours mixt, Ruddie and Gold: I nearer drew to gaze (IX. 575-8) As Eve gradually succumbs to Satan's glozing, she also takes on the vocabulary of his looking: 'Fixt on the Fruit she gaz'd, which to behold/Might tempt alone' (IX. 735-6). Sensitised toMilton's morality of seeing, we understand that Eve is no longer capable of the blameless act of beholding. The mere sight of the fruit would tempt, but Eve's lingering gaze ensures that she is unable to resist. Satan's misuse of his eyes is compounded by the restless covet-ousness of his vision that -- in contrast to the static, omniscient perspectives of God (II. 189-90, III. 77-9) -- affords him only fragmentary and deceptive knowledge. Dingley had in the same way warned of the need to 'order and watch over that ranging sense, which like Quicksilver, layed upon a table, is ever moving' (p. 96), so as to avoid the interconnected fates of a 'wandering eye and fugitive heart' (p. 99). To express the connection between restless vision and spiritual disorientation, Miltondescribes the moving viewpoint that is created by Satan's 'flight precipitant' as he 'windes... his oblique way/Amongst innumerable Starrs' (HI. 563-5). During this journey the fiend accordingly beholds a rapid succession of Irreconcilable images, so that the heavenly bodies 'that shon/Stars distant' take on a very different appearance when seen close by: 'nigh hand seemd other Worlds' (HI. 565-6). Repeating the thematic vocabulary of 'seeming', Satan's two views of the spherical primum mobile are also set beside each other to heighten the effect of visual incommensurability: 'a Globe farr off/It seem'd, now seems a boundless Continent' (III. 422-3). To emphasise the restless nature of Satan's looking, the description of ocular movement seen in Milton's first description of the ruined archangel -- 'round he throws his baleful eyes' -- is often repeated; his insatiable viewpoint is not static even when the rest of his body is standing still. The fiend's characteristic trait of casting his eyes about him, either in curiosity or in stealth, shows us panoramas that are envisaged from a moving viewpoint. Later in Book I, the fallen angel is granted a grand sweep of the eye that spans three lines of verse: 'He through the armed

Files/Darts his experience't eye, and soon traverse/The whole Battalion views' (I. 567-9). Even from the apparently static vantage-point of 'the lower stair/That scal'd by steps of Gold to Heav'n Gate' (HI. 540-1), Satan seizes the opportunity to look about him as 'Round he surveys' (HI. 555). In particular, Milton describes Satan's circumspection with a humorous serpentine sibilance that anticipates the hissing snakes of Book X: 'With silent circumspection unespi'd' (VI. 523), and again: 'So saying, his proud step he scornful turn'd,/But with sly circumspection' (IV. 536-7). The heightened awareness of sight as a kinetic experience that is fostered through Satan's ceaseless eye movement becomes poignant when considered in relation to the details ofMilton's own blindness. The initial description of Satan's 'baleful eyes' in Book I is later given a new significance when the poet, addressing himself to 'holy Light', describes the movement of his unseeing eyes: thee I revisit safe, And feel thy sovran vital Lamp; but thou Revisit'st not these eyes, that rowle in vain To find thy piercing ray, and find no dawn. (III. 21-4) As Milton had described when he sought help from the Parisian oculist Thvenot in 1654, the sensory capacity of his eyes had already become predominantly haptic: 'when the eye rolls itself, there is admitted, as through a small chink, a certain little trifle of light'.(FN15) Again, writing to Peter Heimbach, Milton describes his looking as a mere useless movement of the eye: 'on account of my blindness, painted maps can hardly be of use, vainly surveying as I do with blind eyes the actual globe of the earth'.(FN16) Milton's repeated references to the movement of Satan's eyes therefore connect with his own vestiges of ocular sensation, and the connection acts to emphasise the transcendent value of his inspired poetic seeing. By this means Miltonshows us that the fallen angel commands merely the basely physical dimension of vision. In contrast, the poet himself had already stated elsewhere that he would rather have his own blindness than that of one political detractor, which, 'deeply implanted in the inmost faculties, obscures the mind, so that you may see nothing whole or real. Mine, which you make a reproach, merely deprives things of colour and superficial appearance'.(FN17) Milton uses Satan's eyes to remind us that he is beyond the reach of the visual allurements that the Devil falls prey to, and in so doing he asserts his identity as an author fit to 'see and tell/Of things invisible to mortal sight' (III. 54-5). In conjunction with Satan's indulgently lingering gaze, his wandering eyes also demonstrate moral degeneracy by means of his habitual looking askance: 'the Devil... with jealous leer maligne/Ey'd them askance' (IV. 502-4); 'Whom the grand foe with scornful eye askance,/Thus answered' (VI. 149-50).(FN18) Sideways looking was a common indication of covetousness and deceit in devotional writing, and Dingley therefore condemned the practice of looking 'a squint on

the property of others' (p. 27). Edward Fairfax's translation of Tasso's Godfrey of Bulloigne (1600) had more particularly described the Devil's malign looking by using the same term: 'The ancient foe to man, and mortall seed,/His wannish eies upon them bent askance'.(FN19) In Paradise Lost, however, this sideways quality of Satan's looking forms part of a larger symbolic pattern of obliquity and misalignment that emanates from the fiend as the progenitor of sin. A related thwartness is therefore implemented on a cosmic scale when God 'bid his Angels turne ascanse/The Poles of Earth... they with labour push'd/Oblique the Centric Globe' (X. 668-71). Thus the consequences of inward evil are played out in the symbolic space of Milton's allegorical cosmos, as the skewed quality of Satan's looking 'askance' is transferred onto the whole orb of the earth. The eccentricity of Satan's viewpoints plays an important part in the optical illusions that, again with emphatic moral significance, he is the only character in Milton's poem to witness. When the fallen angel first passes through the primum mobile (IO. 540), and wonders at the 'goodly prospect' (III. 548) offered by 'the sudden view/Of all this World at once' (IE. 542-3), he in fact sees the entire creation askance: from Eastern Point Of Libra to the fleecie Starr that bears Andromeda farr off Atlantic Seas Beyond th' Horizon: then from Pole to Pole He views in bredth. (III. 557-61) This description reveals the inadequacy of Satan's powers of spatial visualisation in a way that challenges the reader's own. Alastair Fowler helps us to get our bearings in this vertiginous passage, noting that when Satan 'views in bredth' from 'Pole to Pole' he in fact mistakenly beholds the 'Celestial poles, not terrestrial... without understanding'.(FN20) Satan's sidelong perspective therefore suggests the insufficiency of any single physical vantage-point to offer an accurate view of the world, and it is simultaneously emblematic of the fallen angel's inability to establish moral or physical co-ordinates as he veers on his 'oblique way' (III. 564) towards the sun. From the same position that affords this disoriented view of the cosmos, Satan also witnesses a second optical illusion, according to which the shadow of the earth appears foreshortened: 'Round he surveys, and well might, where he stood/So high above the circling Canopie/Of Nights extended shade' (DI. 555-7). From Satan's perspective the cone-shaped shadow of the earth, which is created by its proximity to the larger sun, appears flattened to a circle.(FN21) Appropriately, the term that Milton uses to offer us this double perspective -- 'circling' -- itself demands to be looked at in two ways: indicating both 'revolving within the universe' and 'taking on the appearance of a circle'.(FN22) With Satan positioned unwittingly at the apex of this conical

shadow, its tapering shape traces out his cone of vision in umbra to remind us that, morally speaking, 'darkness visible' (I. 63) emanates from the 'Hell within' (IV. 20). It is during this account of Satan's doubly deceptive vantage-point that Milton draws attention to the direction of the reader's own looking by inserting the poem's first acrostic, 'STARS' (IE. 552-6). Alerted by the 'oblique way' (HI. 564) that the fallen angel steers 'Amongst innumerable Starrs... that shon/Stars distant' (III. 565-6), the reader suddenly finds the horizon of the text reoriented. While Satan succumbs to visual greed, our own eyes are enticed to read askance: Such wonder seis'd, though after Heaven seen, The Spirit maligne, but much more envy seis'd At sight of all this World beheld so faire. Round he surveys, and well might, where he stood So high above the circling Canopie Of Nights extended shade. (III. 552-7) Fowler attributes a provident meaning to this wordplay, observing that, with the appearance of another star, 'Satan is surrounded by lights of God'.(FN23) This interpretation assumes, however, that Milton is here taking on one particular use of the devotional acrostic that was made by his contemporaries, including Edward Benlowes and Mildmay Fane, according to which a concealed sacred word manifests the divine order of the universe.(FN24) The deployment of the technique in Paradise Lost is in fact more searching. 'STARS' makes a rhyming allusion to the classical precedent for a hidden word in an epic: Virgil's 'MARS' acrostic in the Aeneid.(FN25)Milton's echo elevates this reference from a pagan god to his own Christian incarnation of the heavenly muse 'Urania' (VIL 1), patroness of astronomy, while also recalling Satan's former status as 'Lucifer' (VII. 131), who had been 'brighter once amidst the Host/Of Angels, then that Starr the Starrs among' (VA. 132-3).(FN26) Relying upon deceptive physical vision to lead him through the moral and physical universes alike, Satan is apt to lose his way. The 'STARS' acrostic appears at just such a moment when he has lost his bearings, failing to find a star to steer by from amongst the dazzling multitude that surround him. As we are told a few lines later, the fallen angel cannot situate his progress as he travels 'up or downe... hard to tell' (DI. 574-5). Obliging us to read in a different direction -- 'up or downe' -- the acrostic draws the reader into an enactment of this loss of spatial and spiritual coordinates, and by this means Milton's verbal patterning forms a microcosmic part of the larger moral allegory of space that structures his symbolic cosmos. Satan's inability to visualise his own moral situation in spite of -- indeed because of -- the voraciousness of his eyes, stands in defiant contrast with Milton's account of his own lost sight given in 'To Mr. Cyriak Skinner Upon his Blindness' (c.1655). Here, despite the poet's inability to see 'sun or moon or star' (1. 5), the 'better guide' (1. 14) of his faith enables him to 'steer/Right onward' (11. 8-9).(FN27) Lacking suchinward

spiritual referents during his errant course through the universe, Satan finally heads for the sun solely because its brightness 'Allur'd his eye' (HI. 573). As we shall see, this emphasis upon the susceptibility of the eye to be lured foreshadows the prominent role of sight in the temptation of Eve -- and it is in this scene that the next acrostic appears. The presence of the second thwart word in Paradise Lost, 'SATAN', is signalled in a similar way to that of the first. The fiend's indirect approach to Eve in the garden, his 'tract oblique' (DC 510), is a call to readerly vigilance that echoes the 'oblique way' (HI. 564) that had drawn our attention to the previous example. Here the most literal sense of 'tract' as the 'course or path traversed by a person' is elided with its more prominent contemporary meaning of a 'literary treatment or discussion' as Milton uses this quibble to alert us to the different kinds of 'tract oblique' that he and Satan are making.(FN28) As the Devil winds his way into Eve's peripheral vision, his serpentine incarnation is described as more beautiful than the snake that was seen: with her who bore Scipio the highth of Rome. With tract oblique At first, as one who sought access, but feard To interrupt, side-long he works his way. As when a Ship by skilful Stearsman wrought Nigh Rivers mouth or Foreland, where the Wind Veers oft, as oft so steers, and shifts her Saile; So varied hee, and of his tortuous Traine Curld many a wanton wreath in sight of Eve, To lure her Eye. (IX. 509-18) This acrostic is mimetic of Satan's doubling 'side-long' movement, and its aptness to his veering course draws the reader to reflect upon the abruptly reoriented zigzag movement of their own eyes. Keeping out of her direct line of sight, Satan tempts Eve by appearing in the corner of her eye and obliging her to look askance in the same way that he is wont to do himself. There is a deeper significance, however, in the fact that Satan should use Eve's eyes to insinuate himself first into her presence, and thence into her confidence. As Dingley repeatedly states, the connection was a conventional one: 'Now, by the eyes, offentimes, as by windows, death steals into the heart, as in the case of Eve... The old Serpent, having woond his head in at our eye, will easily work his whole body into the heart and life' (pp. 15, 21). Inducing the reader to join Eve in imitating Satan's thwart perspective at this decisive moment, Milton leads us to lose our way in the text. Thus partaking of Eve's danger, we are obliged to consider the moral vulnerability of our own unruly eyes. This microcosmic loss of verbal direction contributes to Milton's broader symbolism of spatial orientation. Following on from the moral errancy of Satan's disoriented course through the

universe, his involuted form as a snake is described as a 'Labyrinth of many a round self-rowld' (IX. 183), and as 'a surging Maze' (IX. 499). The effects of his tempting are in addition compared to the 'delusive Light' that 'Misleads th' amaz'd Night-wanderer from his way' (IX. 639-40). It is this vocabulary that reveals the ultimate literary reference point for Milton's dual-directional verbal patterning: the text labyrinth. Within this context, and in contrast to the providential interpretation, the acrostic uses interwoven words to emblemise the degeneracy of the fallen mind and world. Examples of a related technique are found in John Mennes's Musarum Deliciae (1655), where a knot of words challenges readers' visual concentration and interpretative powers as they attempt to follow an entwined text.(FN29) As Eve becomes 'amaz'd' by Satan's damnable logic, Milton uses another verbal disorientation to lure our inquisitive eyes. As with the concealed word 'STARS', the appearance of the third acrostic, 'WHY' (DC. 704-6), is signalled by several horizontal occurrences of the word: Why then was this forbid? Why but to awe, Why but to keep ye low and ignorant, His worshippers; he knows that in the day Ye Eate thereof, your Eyes that seem so cleere, Yet are but dim, shall perfetly be then Op'nd and cleerd, and ye shall be as Gods, Knowing both Good and Evil as they know. (IX. 703-9) Even more strikingly in this case, however, the spellings of the word on the two axes intersect, such that the 'W' that begins the third horizontal appearance of the word also begins the vertical one. This doubling effect, according to which the key word 'why' can be read in two directions at once, emblemises the damnably persuasive duplicity that is recounted in this passage: both by inscribing the double meanings of Satan's false rhetoric, and by evoking the forked tongue of the serpent who speaks them. The word 'WHY' itself gives two perspectives upon the overreaching that is here being set in motion, because as Satan questions the basis of the divine interdiction set upon the Tree of Knowledge, he simultaneously incites Eve's hunger for seeking other forbidden answers. The visual disturbance caused by this acrostic coincides with Milton's citation of the biblical passage in which the desire for knowledge is expressed in relation to sight: 'The serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil' (Genesis 3: 4). The impact of this crucial passage is heightened as our eyes slide guiltily into it from the sideways text, and by this means Milton ensures that readers cannot feel themselves to stand aloof from the -- moral peril faced by the first woman. Later in Book IX, during the most fateful scene of the poem, Milton's verbal symbolism of moral space culminates in the forceful simplicity of his final acrostic: 'WOE'. This word appears at the

moment when Adam eats the forbidden fruit, when it annunciates the unheeded consequences of his action: Nature gave a second groan, Skie lowr'd and muttering Thunder, som sad drops Wept at compleating of the mortal Sin Original; while Adam took no thought, Eating his fill. (IX. 1001-5) Alluding back to the premise of Milton's poem as it had been set out in his opening sentence, we are reminded of the poet's undertaking to expound 'the Fruit/Of that Forbidden Tree, whose mortal tast/Brought Death into the World, and all our woe' (I. 1-3). As the rain comes down like tears, and man falls, Milton gives us a typographical depiction of the fatal cadence. In doing so he again obliges us to become uncomfortably aware of our own eye movement as we work our way ever downward through the poem. At the precise moment of the fall of man, we are reminded by this downward text that the poem we are reading is, as a consequence, itself expressed in fallen language. Fittingly, shortly after this final verbal disorientation, the 'first displaid' (DC. 1012) result of postlapsarian moral degeneracy is expressed through looking: Adam 'on Eve I Began to cast lascivious Eyes, she him/As wantonly repaid' (IX. 1013-15). One of the few critical responses to Milton's use of acrostics has claimed that this kind of verbal patterning represents 'no mean accomplishment for a blind poet, composing only in his head'.(FN30) But stressing the difficulty that Milton might have experienced in visualising his dictated manuscript misses the point that the acrostics connect with the predominant sensation remaining in Milton's eyes. As we have seen, the poet in fact had a heightened awareness of the eye movement that is set in action by this wordplay. Thus we have to imagine the process of their composition from the inside and, along with Milton, to feel rather than simply to see it. The acrostics in Paradise Lost go beyond a mere exercise of wit by contributing to Milton's larger consideration of the moral susceptibility of vision, and of the dignified but fallible reasoning powers that this sense can be used to represent. In the careful thematic placement of these words, Milton encompassed the entire narrative trajectory of his poem. Seeing the fallen angel lost amongst the 'STARS' reminds us of his previous exalted status as Lucifer, and the following acrostic 'SATAN' acts to affix this 'unacknowledged' name as the fiend hardens his heart to revenge.(FN31) The third, 'WHY', expresses the temptation of man and the thirsting after forbidden knowledge, while the fourth, 'WOE', brings us finally to the human consequence of the fall of Lucifer and the birth of evil. The intricate web of associations that connects these words is emphasised by the way that they alliterate in matched pairs, each of which contain the same number of letters: 's', 's', 'w', 'w'; five, five, three, three. These precisely constructed pairs of words each express a fall -- that of Satan and then that of man -- which add together to comprehend the

essential events of the epic. In addition, however, these concealed words go further to comment upon the methods and form of the poem, drawing attention to reading as a morally implicated process. In this way, these verbal flourishes form part of Milton's wider purpose to stimulate the reader's reason by presenting them with an intellectually strenuous interpretative process. Throughout Paradise Lost, Milton's syntax obliges us to be active in the constitution of meaning, as we are called upon to negotiate enjambments and to determine the interlineal relations of sense. Thus we must read backwards as well as forwards, as subsequent clauses qualify our assumptions about the meaning of preceding words. The acrostics extend this process along another axis, and in obliging us to read vertically, they draw our eyes into the enactment of a very literal kind of moral vigilance. By demonstrating the vulnerability of the sense upon which reading depends, Milton reminds us that his poem is written in fallen language, and is read by fallen eyes. ADDED MATERIAL JANE PARTNER Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge FOOTNOTES 1 Paradise Lost: A Poem in Twelve Books, 2nd edn. (1674), I. 25-6. 2 For an account of the literature on Galileo in Paradise Lost, see Amy Boesky, 'Milton, Galileo and Sunspots: Optics and Certainty in Paradise Lost', Milton Studies, 34 (1996), 23-43. 3 'The Marriage of Heaven and Hell', in The Complete Poetry and Prose of William Blake, ed. David V. Erdman, rev. edn. (Berkeley, 1982), p. 35. 4 Stanley Fish, Surprised by Sin (Berkeley, 1967), p. 28. 5 On Satan's eyes in this passage, and in particular on the critical debate over the meaning of 'witnessed', see Neil Forsyth, The Satanic Epic (Princeton, 2003), pp. 77-9. 6 Ibid., p. 78. Joseph Beaumont had made a similar play upon the relationship between demonic landscape and character: 'his Eyes/Were Hell reflected in a double glass' (Psyche (1648), I. 99100). 7 See Robert Hunter West, Milton and the Angels (Athens [1955]), pp. 43-8, 136-40; Stephen M. Fallon, Milton Among the Philosophers: Poetry and Materialism in Seventeenth-Century England (Ithaca, 1991), pp. 137-68. 8 Paul Stevens, Imagination and the Presence of Shakespeare in 'Paradise Lost' (Madison, Wis., 1985), p. 138. 9 Robert Dingley, Divine Opticks; or, A Treatise of the Eye (1654), p. 45. 10 'Gaze': 'To look vacantly or curiously about' (OED v. 1). 11 Stephen Gosson, Playes Confuted in Five Actions (1582), sig. B7r. See also Clifford Davidson, 'The Anti-Visual Prejudice', in Clifford Davidson and Ann Nichols (eds.), Iconoclasm Versus Art and Drama (Kalamazoo, Mich., 1989), pp. 33-46. 12 Eikonoklastes, in Complete Prose Works of John Milton [CPW], gen. ed. Don M. Wolfe, 8 vols.

(New Haven, 1953-82), iii. 343, 342. 13 Thus the progression from 'visible' (IX. 604), through 'beheld' (DC. 608), to 'gaze' (DC. 611). The word 'gaze' appears ten times in Paradise Lost, and five of these usages occur in Book DC (at lines 524, 535, 539, 578 and 611). Of the others, four also relate directly to Satan (H. 613, III. 671, IV. 356, V. 47), the single exception forming part of the phrase 'at gaze' (VI. 205). 14 This sin was defined by Augustine as a 'certain vain and curious desire' for knowledge, sight being 'the sense chiefly used for attaining knowledge': The Confessions of St. Augustine, trans. E. B. Pusey (1939), Book X, p. 238. See also Elizabeth Marie Pope, 'Paradise Regained': The Tradition and the Poem (Baltimore, 1947), pp. 51-60. 15 Milton, Letter 24, to Philaras, 28 Sept. 1654: CPW, iv/2. 869-70; trans, cited from Eleanor Brown, Milton's Blindness (New York, 1934), p. 16. 16 Letter XX, to Peter Heimbach, 8 Nov. 1656: CPW vii. 495; trans, cited from Brown, Milton's Blindness, p. 75. 17 Pro populo Anglicano defensio secunda: CPW iv/1. 590. 18 See Milton's other moral uses of the vocabulary of visual distortion for cognitive error: 'squint suspicion' (Comus, 1.413), in Complete Shorter Poems, ed. John Carey, 2nd edn. (Harlow, 1997); 'is common sense flown asquint' (Tetrachordon, CPW ii. 641). 19 Godfrey of Bulloigne: A Critical Edition of Edward Fairfax's Translation of Tasso's 'Gerusalemme Liberata', ed. Kathleen M. Lea and T. M. Gang (Oxford, 1981), 11.11-12. 20 Paradise Lost, ed. Alastair Fowler, 2nd edn. (Harlow, 1998), m. 560-1 n. (p. 202). 21 Ibid., m. 556-7 n. (p. 201). 22 'Circling': 'forming a circle', 'revolving' (OED a. la, 2). 23 Paradise Lost, ed. Fowler, m. 552-6 n. (p. 201). 24 See e.g. Mildmay Fane, Otia Sacra. Optima Fides, ed. Donald Friedman (1648; New York: Scholars' Facsimiles and Reprints, 1975), pp. 19, 24, 114, 115; Edward Benlowes, Theophila (1652), pp. 268, 269; see also Dick Higgins, Pattern Poetry: Guide to an Unknown Genre (Albany, 1987), pp. 95-104. 25 Aeneid VII-XII, trans. H. Rushton Fairclough, rev. G. P. Goold (Cambridge, Mass., 2000), VII. 601-4; P. J. Klemp, '"Now hid, now seen": An Acrostic in Paradise Lost', Milton Quarterly, 11 (1977), 91-2. 26 See also Isaiah 14:12-15: 'How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning!... For thou has said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God'. On Milton's use of the morning star to allude to 'Satan's original glory' see John Leonard, Naming in Paradise: Milton and the Language of Adam and Eve (Oxford, 1990), pp. 104-19. 27 Milton, 'To Mr. Cyriak Skinner Upon his Blindness', in Shorter Poems, p. 346. See also Dingley: 'Let not your eyes wander but be fixed on right objects... Do as Marriners, That have their eye on the Star' (p. 39).

28 'Tract': OED n.3 8; n. 1. For a discussion of this acrostic see also Leonard, Naming in Paradise, pp. 136-40. 29 John Mennes, Recreation for Ingenious Head-Peeces (1654), sig. 3Q2[supr]. The full-scale spiritual labyrinth had already been popular on the Continent for more than a century, particularly in Germany, and an early woodcut example by Urban Wyss, published in 1561, begins with a self-reflexive text about the clarity of moral vision that appears to expressMilton's own intent: 'He who wants to know the nature of the world must only read these rhymes. He will quickly find within how the whole world has gone blind'. Herman Kern, Through the Labyrinth: Designs and Meanings Over 5000 Years (New York, 2000), p. 215; See also Piort Rypson, 'The Labyrinth Poem', Visible Language, 20/1 (1986), 65-95. 30 Michael Bauman, Milton's Arianism (Frankfurt, 1987), p. 249. For an account that considers other possible acrostics, though in my view these are accidental, see Mark Vaughn, 'More Than Meets the Eye: Milton's Acrostics in Paradise Lost', Milton Quarterly, 16 (1982), 6-8. 31 Leonard, Naming in Paradise, p. 138.