John Milton in the Retiro Park?

Written on October 22, 2007 by Arantza de Areilza in Arts & Cultures & Societies

Angel_caido Arantza de Areilza                         (Click here for this post in Spanish)

This weekend, I went to the Retiro Park in Madrid to visit the only statue dedicated to the fallen angel, who names one of the entrances to the gardens.  It was the Duke of Fernan Nuñez, deaf to the exclamations of scandalized fellow members of the Aristocracy of the age, who entrusted the sculptor Ricardo Bellver in 1874, to erect this fountain at the end of the avenue that bears his name.  The author was honored four years later in the National Exposition in 1878. 

This singular monument to the Devil symbolizes the banishment of Lucipher from Heaven for having defied God’s commands. 

In this singular form, the idea of lost Paradise appears once again encompassing History. 

Perhaps the epic poem of John Milton (1608-1674) Paradise Lost is one of the most brilliant works ever written on this subject.  In this epic of more than 10,000 verses, Milton describes the original loss of Paradise and the fall of man into sin.  Milton characterizes this by representing Heaven and Hell as spiritual states, rather than physical ones.  Satan and his court are banished from Heaven to Chaos.  From there, Satan plots his vengeance: to tempt the most perfect creation of God, man, to try the forbidden fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.  It is this act of disobedience to God which provokes their definitive expulsion from original Paradise.  Through the narration of how Lucipher and man have been expelled from Paradise because of their disobedience to God, Milton tries to justify God’s behavior towards man and convey the hope that the son of God will bring after the fall. 

Milton was a great defender of Republican ideas which took force in Cromwell’s England after the English Civil War and supported his beliefs in the Puritan mandate of the inviolability of the conscience.  Milton, a precursor of liberalism, defended the separation of Church and State and a great constitutional liberty.  As such, he moves through History as a theoretician of Animist Materialism, which argued that the universe is composed of only one substance material which is “animate, self-active, and free”.  Milton also defended divorce and the belief that the soul dies with the body. 

I asked myself what would this British poet and philosopher have thought, branded as a heretic in his time, if he could walk beneath the shadow of the Fallen Angel of Bellver in these solitary days in the Retiro.  Do you think he would have smiled? 


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