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This report is taken from PN Review 238, Volume 44 Number 2, November - December 2017.

Some Thoughts on Paradise Lost Frank Kuppner
Some Thoughts on a Speech of Adam’s in Paradise Lost [XII: 469–78]


1. ‘O goodness infinite, goodness immense.’ [XII:469]

[Would it not have been a little shrewder here to put this pair of phrases the other way round? Of course, it’s a tiny point, and one understands that Adam must be somewhat overwhelmed by recent revelations and developments (even more unprecedented, as it were, than usual), but – particularly if he is to be thought of as an inspired utterer of some configuration of English, be his idiolect never so Edenic (if the ‘immense’ is actually Latin then it’s probably beckoning towards the Immeasurable that dare not quite speak its name) – it might fairly have occurred to our first Prodger that to lead off with ‘infinite’ then cap it with ‘immense’ introduced a certain grace-note of anti-climax into these desperately solemn proceedings. (And do the Lord’s metaphorical ears miss anything?) Not to mention the patent tautology – since goodness could hardly be infinite without being immense at the same time. (What could? Of course, no actual goodness could ever, within the unavoidable constrictions of the (limited because) merely real world, be infinite. No real agent can be infinitely good – any more than he, she or it can be infinitely agile, or liquid, or alert, or lanky, or snail’s-paced, or infinitely not quite right. And so on, pretty much for ever. Yet once more, it’s the ancient, invalid, smoke-and-mirrors device of using as an absolute a descriptive term which is ...


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