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The purpose of this book is to remove hindrances to the enjoyment of Paradise Lost: the author felt it useful to start by defending the genre of long narrative poems as such. There is no point reading them like lyrics and looking for good lines: that is like looking for good stones in a cathedral. Lewis frankly admits the poem's weak points (especially the closing books in respect of which he quotes Dr Johnson: "the story cannot possibly be told in a manner which will make less impression on the mind") but rises to the defence of the pomp and ceremony of epic poems, which are usefully distinguished into primary (Iliad, Beowulf) and secondary (Aeneid, Paradise Lost). The point of the distinction is to place Milton in the line of descent from Vergil: a poet whose poem points somewhere and who writes within a conscious scheme of things (this teleological aspect being lacking from, say, Homer).
Is a book about Paradise Lost likely to be read only by the true believers? Perhaps, but the ideal reader would be someone who has struggled to get past the first book or two and would appreciate getting the hindrances cleared out of the way.
I have bought this book twice but have no copy of it now: don't lend it out if you want to get it back.
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