Paradise Lost I

Circumference?…Sir, How Come You Made That Inference?

Page 384 reads, upon mentioning of the creation of another world (Earth)–in addition to heaven, “so was his will / Pronounced among the gods, and by an oath, / That shook heaven’s whole circumference, confirmed.”

The phrase “heaven’s whole circumference” puzzled me.  My question is: Sir {Milton}, how come you made that inference?  Milton’s inference that heaven has a circumference would then mean it has physical limits.  Should my guess–that Milton’s purpose was to be literal–be wrong, an alternative is that Milton was not inferring Heaven is limited in space, but rather it is not actually encompassed and he only used the word “circumference” to create the powerful image for the reader to (from a distance) view the heavenly world being shaken (I say from a distance because that is how I imagined it, as a result of the perimeter-suggesting word “circumference.”  One further possibility is that Milton intended both of these ideas–that Heaven has boundaries and that Milton used imagery to capture the great commotion of heaven hearing this news.

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