Milton again invokes a muse, but this time he specifically summons Urania, the Greek Muse of Astronomy. Milton then conflates her with the Holy Spirit, saying that she is not “Of old Olympus… but Heav’nly born.” Milton asks her to protect him from the many wrong beliefs of those around him, and to inspire him to tell the pure truth.
Milton reaffirms his fusion of classical tradition with Christian belief. By conflating Urania with the Holy Spirit, he implies that Greek and Roman civilization was indeed great and worthy of study, but mistaken in terms of religious truth. Milton then “corrects” the ancients with his Christian doctrine, while still following their epic tradition.
The scene returns to Eden, where Adam thanks Raphael for his tale. Adam wants to know more, however, so he asks Raphael about when, how, and why the world was created. He wants to keep Raphael there as long as he can so as to ask him more questions, but Adam also asks if he is crossing any boundaries of divine knowledge by being so curious.
While the forbidden fruit symbolizes the dangers of forbidden knowledge, this long conversation and Adam’s innocent curiosity show the importance Milton placed on proper knowledge, conversation, and contemplation.
Raphael assures Adam that the story of creation is not a secret from humans, as it will help Adam further glorify God. Raphael does warn Adam that the “appetite” for knowledge requires temperance, but then he begins his story: After the Son drove Satan and his angels from Heaven, God decided to create a new race of creatures and a new world. This was partly to heal the memory of the war and rebellion, but also to refill the ranks of his worshippers after Satan “dispeopled Heav’n,” and to make sure Satan could not take pleasure in diminishing God’s creation.
Instead of the constant action and warfare of the classical epics, Paradise Lost is mostly filled with dialogue and interior monologues, as Milton felt that knowledge, contemplation, and quiet obedience to God was just as important and heroic as any war. Raphael associates Adam’s growing desire for knowledge with a physical “appetite,” foreshadowing the eating of the forbidden fruit.
In describing this new race, God said that they would not dwell in Heaven until they had proved themselves “by degrees of merit,” but that then he will unite Earth with Heaven into one glorious kingdom. God created through his Son, and sent along his Spirit to describe the bounds of Chaos. Raphael says the creation took place immediately, as all God’s acts do, but it can only be told as “earthly notion can receive” as occurring over six days.
This scene implies that God partly created humans to spite Satan, or to at least undo the damage Satan did to his number of worshippers. God also undercuts the “fortunate fall” theory that existed during Milton's time—that the Fall brought about greater goodness than would have come to Unfallen humanity. God still planned on eventually elevating humans to Heaven even if they remained obedient.
After God’s announcement the angels all praised him for bringing “Good out of evil.” The Son then emerged from Heaven’s gates to perform the actual creation, his chariot surrounded by angels arranged by rank – Cherubim, Seraphim, Potentates, Thrones, and Virtues. The Son came to the edge of the abyss and circumscribed the bounds of the new universe, and then formed the Earth out of Chaos. The Son then said “Let there be light,” and divided the Earth into night and day, and so the “first day” of creation passed, and all the angels sang praises.
Milton expands on the Biblical account of creation here while taking many phrases exactly from Genesis to give his tale greater credibility. One of Milton’s departures is having the Son create the universe instead of the Father, as in Genesis there was not yet a concept of the Christian Trinity. Milton also tries to resolve the Biblical self-contradiction of how there were “days” of creation before there was even a sun.
The Son (now referred to as God) divided the land from the water on the second day, and on the third day he created oceans, rivers, and plants, and sent rain to make the plants grow. On the fourth day he created the sun, moon, and stars, and arranged them by rank and glory. On the fifth day he created fish, birds, and all the other creatures of the sea. On the sixth day God made all the beasts of dry land. They sprang up in pairs fully grown, all at peace with each other, but none having names.
By having the Son create the universe, Milton expands on his idea that though the Son and the Father are of one essence, the Son is the more active aspect of God – it is the Son who defeats Satan, creates the universe, punishes Adam and Eve, and then becomes incarnate as a man. Everything in the original, perfect creation is properly ordered and ranked.
God then created his “master work,” a creature who stood upright and had the “sanctity of reason,” one who could govern all the other plants and animals and could give thanks to his Maker. God and the Son created this first Man together, making him in their own image out of dust and then breathing life into him. They then created a woman, and commanded the pair to “Be fruitful… and fill the earth.” God gave all creation for these humans to govern, except he forbade them from eating of the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, for if they did so they would discover Sin and Death.
Throughout the poem Milton connects “uprightness” with goodness, as humans are the only creatures to walk upright and also the only creatures given reason and knowledge of God. In the original Paradise humans had dominion over the animals, who all acted friendly and tame. God’s command to “be fruitful” becomes Milton’s justification for placing innocent sex in unfallen Eden. This scene is taken almost entirely from Genesis.
The Son then surveyed his work, saw that it was “entirely good,” and returned to Heaven, hanging the mortal universe directly beneath Heaven so that angels could easily commune back and forth. God rested on the “seventh day” while angels praised him and his new creation, and this day became known as the Sabbath. Raphael finishes by asking if Adam wants any other knowledge that is within his bounds.
Milton uses his poetic powers to emphasize the beauty and goodness of the original creation, where angels and humans were close together and could commune regularly. The general order of the universe is now established – Heaven above, Earth below, and Hell below that.