Summer 1980 • Vol. II No. 3 Nonfiction |

Byron’s “Cain”: A Romantic Version of the Fall

When we see an author choose a Biblical subject, our natural reaction is to assume a pious intention on his part. But first impressions can be very misleading, especially when one is dealing with Romantic myth. The Romantic poets set out to subvert the religious tradition from within. In recreating inherited myths, the Romantics inverted the orthodox values, portraying the traditionally divine figures in a sinister and sometimes even demonic light (Blake's Urizen, for example), while recasting the traditional devil figures as potentially heroic saviors of mankind (Blake's Orc). In the history of religion, this particular mythic strategy is known as gnosticism, and one can find remarkable parallels between the myths of Blake and Shelley, for example, and gnostic cosmogonies dating from as early as the beginning of the Christian era.1 In rewriting the Bible, the Romantics also found themselves faced with rewriting Milton's Paradise Lost. The struggle to reinterpret the Biblical v

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Notebook

By Albert Goldbarth

When we see an author choose a Biblical subject, our natural reaction is to assume a pious intention on his part. But first impressions can be very misleading, especially when […]

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