College Student Discovers Secret Message in Milton’s “Paradise Lost”

The message was discovered by a senior at Tufts University

College Student Discovers Secret Message in Milton’s “Paradise Lost”
By Bonnie Stiernberg / September 17, 2019 9:24 am

More than 350 years after it was first published, a hidden message has been discovered in John Milton’s epic poem Paradise Lost. As Live Science reports, the message — uncovered by an undergraduate student — is an acrostic spelled out by the first letters in each line. It reads “FFAALL” and “FALL,” a fitting reference to the three Biblical falls from grace in the poem.

The acrostic can be found in book nine of Paradise Lost in lines where Adam and Eve debate whether they should stick together to face Satan’s temptations or split up. Read from top to bottom, it spells out “FFALL,” likely representing the double decline of the pair, and read bottom to top, it spells “FALL,” a possible reference to Satan’s fall from Heaven. Milton also uses an acrostic elsewhere in the poem, spelling out “SATAN” when the devil appears in the form of a serpent to tempt Eve in the Garden of Eden.

The new acrostic was discovered by Miranda Phaal, a Tufts University senior who published an article about her findings in Milton Quarterly. “This acrostic entwines the double fall of man (FFAALL) with the fall of Satan (a single FALL, read from bottom to top), perhaps commenting on their shared inciter — Satan— or their shared root — pride,” she wrote. “Ultimately, the acrostic distills the entire poem down to its essence: three contingent falls, two paradises lost.”

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