Portrait of John Milton

John Milton on Satan’s Reign in Hell

Found in: The Poetical Works of John Milton

The poet William Blake famously argued that, in Paradise Lost, John Milton was “of the Devil’s party without knowing it.” Satan gets most of the best lines in the poem, is arguably a more exciting character than any of the heavenly occupants or newly created humans, and he had a strong appeal to the idealistic Romanticism ushered in by Blake and brought to a peak by poets like Byron and Shelly. For them, Satan’s arguments for independence and freedom held a great attraction. This passage from one of Satan’s speeches in Paradise Lost contains two of the poem’s most quoted lines, and neatly sums up the kind of bold argumentation that attracted readers like Blake.

Literature & Music

The mind is its own place, and in itself Can make a heav’n of hell, a hell of heav’n. What matter where, if I be still the same, And what I should be, all but less than he Whom thunder hath made greater? Here at least We shall be free: th’Almighty hath not built Here for his envy, will not drive us hence: Here we may reign secure, and in my choice To reign is worth ambition, though in hell; Better to reign in hell than serve in heav’n.

Paradise Lost, Book One, lines 254-263