Paradise Lost (Scott Bates’ Mole Version)

Romney, "Milton and His Daughters"

Romney, “Milton and His Daughters”

Here’s a satire of Milton by my favorite poet of light verse (my dad). Appearing in his collection of animal fables (Lupo’s Fables), the poem features a mole delivering his version of Paradise Lost. (Paradise is down, not up, for moles.) The “epic mole” promises to justify the ways of God to man, warns of apocalyptic punishments, and promises the “Holey Moley Firmament” to those who behave.

And how is our mole received? Like many poets and prophets, he is all but ignored since most moles are just trying to get by. The poem ends fatalistically with a mole’s version of “sometimes you eat the bear and sometimes the bear eats you.”

I’ve written about how my father was always suspicious of claims of transcendence. He may have idealistically worked for social justice, but he always claimed that people were deterministically guided by self interest and their own material concerns.

At the very least, such skepticism serves to check head-in-the-clouds idealism and overly grandiose claims for poetry. “Epic Mole” has a touch of Auden’s contrasts in “Musée des Beaux Arts”:

How, when the aged are reverently, passionately waiting
For the miraculous birth, there always must be
Children who did not specially want it to happen, skating
On a pond at the edge of the wood…

And now for the poem:

The Epic Mole

By Scott Bates

A blind and
Philosophic Mole
Too old
To cultivate his hole

Dictated to
His daughters three
Immortal Epic

He sang of Heaven
Deep inside
The Earth and of
The Sin of Pride

That Satan Mole
Was guilty of
And how he fell
To Hell above

And how he tried
To discontent
The Holey Moley

He sang how every
Mole could find
The awful truth
Of all Molekind

And how it went
From Bad to Worse
In his
Apocalyptic verse

And how a few
Still might be saved
If Mighty Mole
Thought they behaved

He sang
And found himself ignored
By all the lesser
Molish horde

Who went on
Careless of their souls
Pursuing worms
Pursuing moles

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  • Literature is as vital to our lives as food and shelter. Stories and poems help us work through the challenges we face, from everyday irritations to loneliness, heartache, and death. Literature is meant to mix it up with life. This website explores how it does so.

    Please feel free to e-mail me [rrbates (at) smcm (dot) edu]. I would be honored to hear your thoughts and questions about literature.

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