Battle of the Poets (Paradise Lost Book 9)

Nothing in this world is funnier to me than the beef between old poets. In the beginning of Book 9, Milton throws some shade at fellow poets Virgil and Homer. Clearly, Milton sees himself to be writing something more important than Virgil’s The Aeneid or Homer’s The Iliad. Not to discredit the “death of the author” and all that, but it’s important to examine Milton’s intent for writing Paradise Lost.

Sad task, yet argument
Not less but more Heroic then the wrauth
Of stern Achilles on his Foe pursu’d
Thrice Fugitive about Troy Wall; or rage
Of Turnus for Lavinia disespous’d

Milton IX.13-17

Here Milton is referencing Homer and Virgil, respectively, and saying that his poem is more heroic and more important than The Iliad and The Aeneid. Perhaps this is because his poem is about a Christian myth rather than a Greek or Roman one. He then invokes his “Celestial Patroness.” Typically that would be Urania, the muse of astronomy, but it seems like he’s somewhat given the Holy Spirit the name of Urania. Why? I don’t know.

What was Milton’s intent for writing Paradise Lost? Was it to write his own great epic, or was it more because of his religion? Is this something that can be divulged from the text? He always talks about his muse and how important it is that he writes this poem, but now he’s just trying to show up other poets. Maybe it’s a bit of both?

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