The poet evokes Heavenly Wisdom as his muse to sing the creation. He mentions that the muse visits his slumbers nightly to give him inspiration, though he has fallen on evil days and dangers. He asks for “fit audience, though few.”
Adam thanks Raphael for the stories about heaven, and now wants further information about the creation of the world he lives in. Raphael answers that he can tell certain things within bounds, but knowledge is like food, and one needs to be temperate in the desire for knowledge.
After the fall of angels, God wanted to create a new race who would “by degrees of merit [be]rais’d,” if it be found obedient. God the Father sends out His creative powers through Christ and the Holy Ghost to create the world. He creates order by circumscribing chaos with his golden compasses. The angels praise Him for making good out of Satan’s fall.
The Holy Ghost infuses “vital virtue” in the matter, and then God shapes it, making the light, firmament, waters, land, vegetation, day and night, stars, animals, and finally his master work—Man, who has Reason and can govern all the rest. God comes down Himself to create Adam in His own image. He creates Eve as well so they will propagate the race. He leaves only one taboo: the fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.
God returns to heaven, pleased, listening to the harmonious music of the spheres. Earth is still directly connected to heaven at this time, so heavenly beings can visit. God rests on the seventh day, and the angels celebrate his achievement, saying: “to create is greater than to destroy.”
Milton’s address to the muse Urania is a self-portrait of the poet in his present circumstance. Since he was a Puritan who advocated the overthrow of monarchy, he was in danger when the Royalists regained the government after the Civil War. He alludes to his blindness (darkness) and asks for receptive readers, even though he anticipates few in number. Milton dramatizes his position, evoking the figure of Abdiel, who stood alone but told the truth.
Raphael’s caution to Adam to desire knowledge in moderation is an allusion and warning to the forbidden tree. Satan’s argument to Eve will be that God is keeping knowledge from them. Raphael likens knowledge to food; it must be wholesome and one does not need to overeat. One thinks of all the overreachers: Satan, Faust, Ahab and all those who crave forbidden knowledge and power.
God’s desire to culture the human race and raise it by degrees of perfection anticipates Satan’s lie that God wants to keep man down.
Paradise Lost: Book 7