One further contradiction deamnds fuller treatment: Milton´s mixture of two cosmologies, the Ptolemaic and the Copernican, in Paradise Lost.
Throughout the Middle Ages it had been accepted that man was the centre of the universe and his Earth the hub of rotating planetary system. The seven known planets orbited the Earth, each one´s atmosphere pushing round the one next inside it by friction , thus creating a note of music; of the spheres. The outermost orbit, that of the planet Saturn, was itself surrounnded by the spere of the fixed stars (Book III,481) and outside that again was the vast expanse of the waters of firmament, also called by Milton the Crystalline firmament, as distinct from the waters on the earth and under the earth, had been used by God as an insulating jacket designed to protect His Chaos through wich Satan flies at the end of Book II. The whole universe was suspended from Heaven (also frequently called the Empyrean) by a golden chain. In the area outside the Hyaline was the sphere of the Primum Mobile, or First Mover. This Primum Mobile trasformed the love of God for mankind into energy and provided the impetus that made the whole universe rotate; the middle Ages believed literally that it was Divine Love that made the world go round.
In Heaven, God sits on His throne supported by four seraphim,
the most powerful of the nine orders of angels wich had remained loyal.
The rebel tenth who had revolted under Satan had been hurled down into
another dread realm, Hell, created for them to occupy beyond the domain
of Chaos and Old Night to the outer surface of our universe. Deceiving
Uriel, regent of the sun, he flies down to Eden. The subsequent movements
of both Satan and the guardians of Paradise are explained in Books IV and
IX with detailed astronomical references.
Some of the features of this cosmology have been added to the Ptolematic system as amended by Alfonso X of Castile in the 13th century; the golden chain on wich the universe hangs, and the site and physical features of Hell, for example. But the most interesting point about Milton´s cosmology is this: why, when he knew of the discoveries Galileo had made with his telescope-as Book VIII clearly proves-and must have accepted the validity of the Copernican cosmology, wich our planetary system revolves, did Milton base his universe upon the Ptolematic pattern? The answer lies in the literary advantages of accepting the older though erreoneous concept: it was known, and Copernicanism was strongly resisted and only slowly accepted; the Ptolematic system was orderly, it laid down limits within wich Milton found it easier to work, and it made God and man the two ends of a chain-man can ascend, onward and ever upward, to union with the divinity, and this could never have happened in an open-ended Copernican universe.
Cosmology is not of major concern in Books IV and IX; but see the notes to IX,52 and particularly IV,592-5, where one of the main differences between the Ptolematic and Copernican systems is considered.
©York Notes . Paradise Lost .Books I-II and IV-IX. John Milton
by Richard James Beck . Paradise Lost . Books I-II and IX-X By R.E.C.