An undergraduate student has discovered a secret message in John Milton’s epic poem “Paradise Lost.”
The hidden message is an acrostic, meaning a missive spelled out by the first letters in each line of the poem. It reads “FFAALL” and “FALL” — an appropriate triple-use of the word “fall,” as the poem’s subject is the Biblical story of the decline of Satan, as well as the banishment of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden.
Milton published “Paradise Lost” in 1667 in 10 books; a follow-up edition was released in 1674 in 12 books. The newly discovered acrostic appears in book 9 of 12, in lines that describe a debate between Eve and Adam over whether they should stick together in the face of Satan’s temptations or split up to face the devil’s snares separately.
“… his foul esteem
Sticks no dishonor on our Front, but turns
Foul on himself; then wherefore shunn’d or fear’d
By us? who rather double honor gain
*From his surmise prov’d false, find peace within,
*Favor from Heav’n, our witness from th’event.
*And what is Faith, Love, Virtue unassay’d
*Alone, without exterior help sustain’d?
*Let us not then suspect our happy State
*Left so imperfect by the Maker wise
*As not secure to single or combin’d.
*Frail is our happiness, if this be so,
And Eden were no Eden thus expos’d. (9.329-41)
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