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I understand all the words, but not quite the meaning of the following passage, from Milton's Paradise Lost, Book I:

635 For me be witness all the host of heaven,
636 If counsels different, or danger shunn'd,
637 By me, have lost our hopes,

Also, I'd like to know if there are some references online where one can look up passages from this book. My edition has some footnotes, but they're not very thorough.


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What online resources have you already tried? – Barrie England Nov 18 '12 at 16:52
@BarrieEngland Basically, the first 10 or so that google will give if you type in the first sentence above. Most of them don't even have explanations, just the text. Since this is just me reading and not part of a course or something like that, I don't have any canonical resource to turn to. – student Nov 18 '12 at 17:01
There's a good collection of resources here: romanbooks.co.in/pl1.php. And you might also try this: christs.cam.ac.uk/darknessvisible/index.html – Barrie England Nov 18 '12 at 17:15
up vote 4 down vote accepted

Let the entire Host of Heaven be witness for me: [I ask] whether our hopes were lost through [my] advice, differing [from theirs], or [my] avoiding dangers [which they faced]?

There's at least one translation in print —a sample is available at www.paradiselost.org/— but I cannot recommend reading Milton this way. If you use a crib the whole way through you'll learn little, and slowly, and miss Milton's cunning; whereas if you'll go to the trouble of climbing the admittedly very steep learning curve for a Book or so you'll eventually get to the point of thinking in Milton's language, which is only distantly related to English. That will make it much easier to get through the rest of this exceptionally demanding and wearisome work.

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+1 for "wearisome"... as least when assigned as schoolwork... – GEdgar Nov 18 '12 at 17:53
@GEdgar I had "tedious" originally, which was not quite fair. But reading Milton is Very Hard Work, even if you're fluent in (ordinary) 17th-century English. – StoneyB Nov 18 '12 at 18:00
Thanks. I'm glad to know that it is considered a difficult book, since I'm not a native english speaker and I am indeed having a hard time. – student Nov 19 '12 at 23:15
@student Very difficult. English graduate students suffer nervous breakdowns from it. (That's not quite true, but almost). If you're enjoying it, good on you; but if you need something more contemporary, let me know. – StoneyB Nov 19 '12 at 23:19

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