The Semantics of Colors in John Milton's Poem Paradise Lost

Semantics as the search for meaning in the language and character values in their combinations. Principles of color semantics. Linguistic and theological studies color categories in the poem J. Milton's "Paradise Lost." Semantic analysis of color terms.

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Colour is a subject that has captured assiduous attention from the earliest times. Its manifestation is discussed by Aristotle who advanced the first known theory of colour. The Greek philosopher determined four colours conforming to the four elements, namely earth, fire, water and wind. Colour terms also play an essential role in literature. In John Milton's epic poem Paradise Lost, colours are deeply rooted into a religious scenario and they serve as a means to express the poet's religious convictions.

Broadly speaking, the investigation of colour categories is an interesting field of study among scholars. However, in Paradise Lost, colour terms have not been studied extensively. Thus, the object of the present investigation is colour categories in J. Milton's poem Paradise Lost. This investigation is vitally important both for linguistic and theological studies as the analysis casts a new light on the meaning of colour terms. The initial hypothesis could be formulated as follows: in Paradise Lost, colour categories serve as a vehicle to express J. Milton's religious ideas and believes. Hence, the paper aims at analyzing the semantic meaning of colours in J. Milton's poem Paradise Lost.

In order to achieve the aim, the following tasks are to be fulfilled:

to introduce the subject of semantics;

to present the basic principles of colour semantics;

to analyze the chosen colour terms in J. Milton's poem Paradise Lost.

This descriptive-analytical paper advocates an interdisciplinary approach embracing the fields of cognitive semantics, philosophy and theology.

The major part of theoretical insights is obtained from John Saeed's Semantics (2009), Vyvyan Evan's How Words Mean: Lexical Concepts, Cognitive Models, and Meaning (2009), Juan Eduardo Cirlot's Dictionary of Symbols (2001), Friedrich Ungerer and Hans-Jrg Schmid's An Introduction to Cognitive Linguistics (1996) and Ray Jackendoff's Semantics and Cognition (1983).

The paper consists of an Introduction, two Chapters, Conclusions, the Summary in Lithuanian, a List of References and Appendices. Chapter one, General Principles of Semantic Analysis, deals with the subject of semantics. Different views of linguists such as Anna Wiezbicka's, Ray Jackendoff and Vyvyan Evans' are presented here. Chapter two, The Analysis of Colour Terms in Paradise Lost, focuses on the study of colour terms in the poem. Finally, Conclusions summarize the results and observations of the analysis of colour meanings in J. Milton's poem Paradise Lost.


Semantics is defined as the study of meaning in human language. To be more precise, it is the representation of the meaning of every type of component and expression in language as well as the meaning relationships between them. Moreover, semantics relates to symbolism as it studies the interpretation of symbols in their various combinations (Brown 2009, p. xi).

1.1 The Subject of Semantics

The traditional descriptive objectives of semantics are to represent the meaning of all words in a language and to reveal how the meanings of words in a language are connected (Saeed 2009, p. 53). Dirk Geeraerts points out that the meaning side of language and meaning itself is not something that exists in isolation, but it is integrated with commonsense human experience and world knowledge (Geeraerts 2006, p. 270). The Russian psycholinguist Rebecca Frumkina claims that the study of denotative meanings is the secondary discipline. She also focuses on the analysis of the meaning of the whole expression, keeping within the limits of Meaning - Text ( 1984, p. 7). Anna Wierzbicka states that meaning depends on constant aspects which can be ascertained in different ways such as a methodical introspective study, psycholinguistic experiments, common phraseological units, metaphors, etc. All these methods reveal that, in the speaker`s minds, words are mutually related in different ways, and they allow us to establish how they are related (Wierzbicka 1996, p. 297).

There are various types of semantics differentiated amongst scholars. This paper particularly deals with cognitive semantics where meanings are approached as concepts, namely as things in the mind (Cruse 2006, p. 3). This area of study is based on the analysis of the interrelations between experience, the conceptual system, and the semantic structure encoded by language. Indeed, language is a tool to represent semantics, the human conceptual systems as well as to construct the meaning. Strictly speaking, in cognitive semantics language is applied as the lens through which these cognitive phenomena can be investigated (Evans 2009, p. 49). The key points of scholars' research working in cognitive semantics are based on conceptual structure and meaning construction. Therefore, investigation in cognitive semantics inclines towards modeling the human mind as much as it is related to analyzing linguistic semantics, that is to say semantic structure (ibid).

Hence, the scholars of cognitive semantics emphasize the fact that there is no access to a reality independent of human categorization and that therefore the structure of reality as reflected in language is a product of the human mind (Saeed 2009 Colour terms are one of the fields of the study of semantics that still is ambiguous and has variuos views on colour categorization. The investigation on this matter is presented in the following section.

1.2 The Semantics of Colour Terms

The mental process of classification is commonly called categorization. The results of categorization are cognitive categories. For example, the colour categories are red, yellow, green, blue, and etc. (Schmid, Ungerer 1996, p. 2). This process cannot operate without conceptualization that forms minimal units of experience (Lakoff, Johnson, 1999, pp. 122-124). Hereby, colour categorization is a product of the interaction between the intrinsic structure of the colour space -- including physiologically determined salient values -- and the number and position of colour values for which the language has words (Berlin, Kay cited in Jackendoff 1992, p. 45). However, the difficulty of categorization lied in the fact that the principles of mental process of it and particularly of colours categorization were not known or properly investigated. The problem was solved in 1969, when two anthropologists Brent Berlin and Paul Kay presented their survey on focal colours or the publication Basic Colour Terms (hereinafter BCTs). B. Berlin and P. Kay's findings showed that in categorizing colours people rely on certain points in the colour space for orientation (Schmid, Ungerer 1996, p. 5). Their experiment indicated the following 11 colours that are considered to be BCTs: black, white, red, orange, yellow, green, blue, pink, violet, brown and grey.

Even though the position of the B. Berlin and P. Kay's paradigm seems to be indisputable, there are scholars who reject the theory of BCTs (Steinvall 2002, p. 35). For example, A. Wierzbicka argues that colour is not a universal term. The linguist agrees with Berlin and Kay's outcomes but refuses to see neurophysiology as the source of the universality referring to people's shared experience (ibid, p. 27).

After B. Berlin and P. Kay's survey, new aspects on colour categorization were proposed in early 1970s from the psychological point of view. Eleanor Rosch introduced the term prototype and prototype theory. In linguistics, prototype theory shows the way word meanings are organized in the mind. According to E. Rosch, prototypes appear to be just those members of a category that most reflect the redundancy structure of the category as a whole (Rosch 1978, p. 12). Moreover, a `basic' or `prototypical' colour term in its denotative use carries the same function as non-basic colour terms such as rosy or indigo; as part of a physical, objective description. The prototypicality of colours can be illustrated by corpus examples involving comparison of a colour to an object or entity (Philip 2003, p. 43).

Furthermore, all the words can be classified into semantic fields according to their meaning. A semantic field is a set of words with a recognizable semantic affinity. Cf. the following sets, which form the semantic field of colour terms (Finegan 2001, p. 196):

a) basic colour terms: blue, red, yellow, black, white, etc;

b) non-basic colour terms: indigo, saffron, royal blue, aquamarine.

However, colours are able to form semantic fields within colour terms, e.g. semantic fields of light and darkness. Obviously, white would refer to light, whilst black to darkness. However, in the literary context, any other colour could refer to one of these fields, even if its denotative meaning does not refer to.

In accordance with Marion Matschi, apart from the eleven BCTs, which seem to be more stable, countless non-basic terms are used either for poetic reasons or to draw a distinction between shades of a particular colour. The majority of colour terms borrowed into English were taken over from French and Latin, languages with a rich colour terminology. Therefore, all types of images and concepts (e.g. plants, animals, food, etc.) can be applied to indicate colour (Matschi 2004, p. 132).

In the book The Semantics of Colour. A New Paradigm, A. Wierzbicka considers a new approach to the study so called from `colour' semantics to `visual' semantics. In the first part of the book the scholar states that the question about visual semantics is more fundamental one than the question about semantics of colour. In order to explore the semantics of colour terms, it is necessary to explore the context of more fundamental analysis. The whole field of visual semantics is still largely framed in terms of `colour': `colour' is its cornerstone and the validity of this notion as an analytical tool continues to be taken for granted (Wierzbicka 2006, p. 1-3).

According to the psychologists, there is a mental model of colours in people's mind. Consequently, it does not make any difference to see the colour or to think about it in terms of our psychological reaction. When we think about a particular colour, our mind immediately finds the appropriate colour model (Dmitrieva 2002, p. 1). Similarly R. Frumkina maintains that the mind of a native speaker models the associations between colour terms and their connotations, fixed in the language. Though, the interrelations between terms and connotations are not understood by the speaker ( 1984, p. 32).

Hence, language is used to describe facts and situations in order to communicate with others. From the denotational perspective, the search for meaning is the way to conceive how the symbols of language relate to reality.

1.3 The Symbolic Meaning of Colour Terms

In everyday life, people mainly identify colours by their names and describe their characters by semantic terms, for example, light red, strong blue, etc. Colour names can be employed to generate semantic interpretation, describe the appearance of the image and finally to identify important semantic symbols. In this section, colours are conceptualized as emotions, feelings, reflections and associations due to visual perceptional reasons.

Colour symbolism is definitely an integral part of symbolism, especially in literature. According to Juan Eduardo Cirlot, colour symbolism is commonly the outcome of one of the following aspects: a) a fundamental element that each colour has, intuitively understood as a fact of reality; b) the connection between colour and the planetary symbol which is related to that symbol by tradition; or c) the interrelation that is based on elementary logic (Cirlot 2001, p. 53).

Indeed, in literature, colour terms are one of the most important methods of expressing meanings and ideas in a remarkable and metaphorical way. Yuliya Nelzina proposes the idea that colour symbols generalize and connect the real subjects with ideal ones. Whilst in literary text, symbolic generalization is based on the associative-semantic field of a colour lexeme, i.e. concepts that stand behind the lexeme, its content. ( 2007, p. 145). Colour lexemes express direct, figurative (metonymical or metaphor-metonymical) or symbolic meanings, depending on the relations between colour and the object it is associated with (ibid, p. 143).

Thus, the following J. E. Cirlot's statements are particularly relevant: (a) Nothing is meaningless or neutral: everything is significant. (b) Nothing is independent; everything is in some way related to something else (Cirlot 2001, p. xxxvi). For instance, if the structure of any object is investigated (whether it is a colour or material), it is always divided into two components: real and symbolic (ibid). According to Jack Tresidder, at the beginning, the most significant symbols were the endeavour to expose the mysterious meaning of humankind existence. Most of them are widely used in psychology due to the fact that they reflect mind and cognition. On the other hand, symbols are able to be imaginary and optional (Tresidder 1999 Hence, colour terms as symbols might have a whole range of various meanings such as direct, literal, traditional, metaphorical and connotative.


The prime topic of Paradise Lost is the idea of the Fall. The book opens immediately after the fall of Satan and closes on the fall of mankind. Along the way, this fall theme appears again and again in smaller contexts, but always paralleling the idea of falling away from the goodness, the grace and light of God. It can also, however, be extrapolated out to hold theological and religious messages, as well as political and social themes. Therefore, Paradise Lost still has the significant interest among scholars even it has been studied from several distinct perspectives.

2.1 The Concept of Red in J. Milton's Poem Paradise Lost

In early legends, the different colours are sometimes supposed to be symbolic of various virtues or feelings. Thus, red typified love, green - hope, and blue - truth or faith (Tennyson 2004, p. 149). According to M. Matchi, red has a positive notion if linked to love, vigour or strength (Matchi 2004, p.60). Cf. the following lines from Paradise Lost where red colour stands for love:

Bear with me, then, if lawful what I ask

Love not the heavenly spirits, and how their love

Express they, by looks only or do they mix

Irradiance, virtual or immediate touch?

To whom the angel with a smile that glow'd

Celestial rosy red, love's proper hue,

Answered: Let it suffice thee that thou know'st

Us happy, and without love no happiness. (Milton 2005, p. 259).

There are many varieties of red such as crimson, scarlet, ruddy, etc., and there are many tints and shades of each kind of red. A large number of tints, hues and shades represent the many varieties of love in men of different characters. For instance, in Paradise Lost, J. Milton speaks of celestial rosy red, love's proper hue1. According to Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary (OALD 2011 Available at:

2 Available at:, rosy means likely to be good or successful and it is the synonym for the adjective hopeful. According to J. Milton, man's love should be a rational love, based on person and respect for the living as opposed to corrupted lust. Let it suffice thee that thou knows't us happy, and without love no happiness (Milton 2005, p. 259).

It is significant to accentuate the fact that red colour also carries negative meaning. In the quote below, the mix of ruddy and gold reflects human's temptation and sin:

Till, on a day roving the field, I chanced

A goodly tree far distant to behold,

Loaden with fruit of fairest colours mixed,

Ruddy and gold. I nearer drew to gaze,

When from the boughs a savoury odour blown... (Milton 2005, p. 282)

In the above quote, the name of the fruit is not referred to as well as in the all poem. J. Tressider states that even though in the Bible the fruit was not named, apple became the first one to have been chosen by ancient interpreters. Hence, the apple, as a symbol, gained both positive and negative connotations concerning the concept of cognition (due to the fact that Eve picked it off from the tree of knowledge of good and evil).

Hence, according to J. Milton, the interior state of the soul is displayed visibly in the physical, e.g. sin is always visible and here it is presented as an apple. In the case of `red and gold' antithesis (in alchemy and therefore sometimes in symbolism), gold is superior and masculine and red is inferior and feminine (Cirlot 2001, p. 60). Indeed, M. Matschi also points out that the OE noun rudu 'red colour' by the suffix -ig refers to the healthy facial complexion, especially in the context of female beauty (Matschi 2004, p. 62). However, M. Ferber mentions that gold is connected with danger for the soul, corruption (Ferber 2004, p. 45). In the poem, the earth, when Adam takes a bite of the apple, the natural elements of earth crumbles and become corrupted. Thus, colours of the fruit combine both feminine and masculine beauty and sin. However, in Paradise Lost, the real danger comes from the darkness and the concept of black represents it.

2.2 The Concept of Black in J. Milton's Poem Paradise Lost

In the article Weaving the symbolism of light it is claimed that according to a well-known universal symbolism, light expresses the distinction of creation from the darkness of non-distinction or primeval chaos. In India and China, as in the Book of Genesis, the first work of creation is the separation of light and dark. Light tends to expresses a positive affirmation while darkness carries the negative sense of chaos (Scott 2007, p. 1).

J. Milton uses black colour as the background to describe darkness and to represent hell and death. Indeed, black is almost universally presented as a colour of negative and painful events. It symbolizes the darkness of death, sorrow and evil as well as the whole range of other bad qualities as well as emotions. For instance, Satan is often called the prince of darkness. Furthermore, black colour also symbolizes the lowest stages of the universe such as the underworld, the primary chaos and sinister predictions ( 1999, p. 410). It is interesting to note that in the Bible the black colour is not frequently used, although the connotations are usually negative (Ferber 2004, p. 111).

Similarly, according to M. Matschi, black, as the achromatic colour, is the darkest possible hue, absorbing all light. As it passes into meanings that suggest darkness, it is also attributed to night and depth (Matschi 2004, p. 111). In the poem, hell is represented as a dark abyss that boils out from under ground:

Marching from Eden towards the west, shall find

The plain wherein a black bituminous gurge

Boils out from under ground, the mouth of Hell. (Milton 2005, p. 383)

Furthermore, in accordance with the old English, hell denoted something that is covered, hidden or unseen. It is claimed that Gehenna is a symbolic expression used in reference to eternal punishment. J. Milton also employs it in the following lines Available at:

His temple right against the temple of God

On that opprobrious hill, and made his grove

The pleasant valley of Hinnom, Tophet thence

And black Gehenna called, the type of Hell. (Milton 2005, p. 23)

In the New Testament, the term Gehenna is used more frequently in preference to Hades, as a name for the place of punishment of the damned Available at: Hence, black Gehenna, from J. Milton's paradoxical point of view, was the place where .... from those flames No light; but rather darkness visible (Milton 2005, p. 10). What is more, fire has always been the source of light, however, in the poem, black fire represents darkness of the hell.

The man's disobedience brought death into the earth. As a consequence, it first appeared in the hell too. Amidst this realm of darkness, the form of Death came out:

If shape it might be called that shape had none

Distinguishable in member, joint, or limb

Or substance might be called that shadow seemed,

For each seemed either - black it stood as Night. (Milton 2005, p.65)

In the above quote, death characterizes a total blackness even in the darkness of hell. Death has a body, however it is inhuman. In the epic, its physical form is not interpreted in human terms; it is a monster (Milton 2005, p. 65), Goblin (Milton 2005, p. 65), hellish Pest (Milton 2005, p. 67), that Phantasm (Milton 2005, p. 67) and the black attendant (Milton 2005, p. 219) of sin. Describing death physically as a horrible monster, J. Milton explains the evil it embodies (Tesdal 2009, p. 26).

2.3 The Concept of White in J. Milton's Poem Paradise Lost

With reference to light, J. Milton rarely uses white colour to describe light and to represent something. However, cf. the following lines where white colour stands for the divine light:

Darkness ere day's mid-course and morning-light

More orient in yon western cloud that draws

O'er the blue firmament a radiant white

And slow descends with something heavenly fraught? (Milton 2005, p. 355)

White, an achromatic colour, reflects all light without absorption and is thus devoid of any distinctive hue. As the colour system in Old English, it had the numerous expressions to convey light and brightness, and their amount was twice richer than ones for darkness (Matschi 2004, p. 100). White is the absolute colour of light, and therefore, it is a symbol of purity, truth, innocence, sacrifice and divinity ( 1999, p. 23).

Despite the fact that white is used only twice in Paradise Lost (the second example is not analyzed in this work due to the denotative meaning of white), J. Milton reflects the light using other colours together with light-associated lexemes. The deeper analysis of it will be presented in further chapters of the paper.

2.4 The Concept of Green in J. Milton's Poem Paradise Lost

According to Alfred Tennyson, in early legends green typified hope (Tennyson 2004, p. 149). Indeed, hope in J. Milton's poem plays an important role. Milton therefore locates it in literal and figurative places where its material value is both spiritual and palpable (Fenton, p. 2) 317). Cf. the following lines:

But I can now no more; the parting sun

Beyond the earth's Green Cape and Verdant Isles

Hesperian sets, my signal to depart.

Be strong, live happy, and love, but, first of all

Him whom to love is to obey, and keep

His great command; take heed lest passion sway (Milton 2005, p. 259)

In the above lines, the earth's green cape means the Cape of Good Hope and it is one of the places where Milton locates it. In the book Milton's places of hope: spiritual and political connections of hope with land, Mary Fenton maintains that Milton's reference to sailing Beyond the Cape of Hope signifies in a profound way his persistent connection of hope with landed, real locales(Fenton 2006, p. 159). According to colour symbolism, green is the representation of the function of sensation as it is the colour of earthly, material, immediately cognizable growing things (Cirlot 2001, p. 53). The English word green is related to words grow and grass (Ferber 2004, p. 316). Ferber notices that green colour often represents hope, particularly the Christian hope for salvation (Ferber 2004, p. 317). In the realm of Christianity, it is associated with mercy and hope (Matschi, 2004 p. 83).

Furthermore, the Eden was the perfect place with picturesque views and nature, where everything is growing and blooming. Hence, green also has the associations with life. Consider the following quote:

A darksome cloud of locusts swarming down

Must eat, and on the ground leave nothing green;

Darkness must overshadow all his bounds... (Milton 2005, p. 388)

Generally speaking, green is the most frequently mentioned colour in Paradise Lost. The majority of landscapes and their descriptions in Eden are followed by green. As the paradise is considered to be the place of eternal life, it proves the idea of colour of life.

2.5 The Concepts of Light and Darkness in J. Milton's Poem Paradise Lost

In Paradise Lost, many of the structures and symbols are similar. For instance, in heaven and hell there is a lord, namely God and Satan. In the poem, the most prominent thing about hell is its darkness, whereas heaven is full of luminous light. Moreover, the fallen angels, previously glorious and beautiful, are now ugly and disfigured. In the following lines, confrontation of black and white, or darkness and light, or evil and good appears:

With blackest insurrection to confound

Heaven's purest light, yet our great Enemy,

All incorruptible, would on his throne.... (Milton 2005, p. 45)

Thus, blackest insurrection reflects hell, whilst purest light - heaven. These mirror, and therefore reverse; images of heaven and hell also work on a theological level. The darkness of hell symbolizes the distance Satan and his army are from the luminous light and grace of God.

In this section, the comparison of two semantic fields, light and darkness, is presented too. One can notice from Table 1 that J. Milton uses a wide range of collocations with colours to represent the concepts of light or darkness:

color semantic paradise lost

Table 1



Semantic field







Rosy red




Hand to plague



Impetuous rage









Bank, profuse of flowers






Tartareous cold infernal dregs



Thunderous clouds



Fire, horror, rage



Bituminous gurge



Attendant death





Therefore, from the above table one can obviously see that light is presented in a very laconic way, whilst the darkness is full of substantives that refer to darkness, evil, chaos and death. J. Milton groups lexical units into the fields and set them into a religious scenario. The author uses this dualism and symbols to signify the nature of light and darkness, its relevance to human world. Thus, the concept of evil is more precise than the concept of good in the poem. The God and everything that relates to him is presented through the perspective of disobedience, fall as well as through the satan and fallen angels' point of view.


The semantic analysis of colours in John Milton's poem Paradise Lost led to the following conclusions:

1. Four colour terms were analyzed, namely black, white, red, and green. In Paradise Lost, they appear 33 times: black (13), white (2), red (4), green (14). The analysis showed which colour terms have denotative meaning and which ones bear connotative and symbolical meaning.

2. In the poem, black colour represents death, hell and abyss whilst white colour reflects the divine light. Moreover, the results showed the stark contrast between these two colours.

3. Red colour stands for love. This colour is also used to express temptation and sin of human beings.

4. Green colour stands for hope and life. Hope is one of the complex subjects of the poem.

5. Colour categories play a major role to express J. Milton's religious ideas and believes. The poet as a Christian believed in one supreme God, who created the Earth. In Paradise Lost, the God is represented through the perspective of disobedience and through the satan and fallen angels' point of view.


Spalvos nuo seniausi laik domina vairi srii specialistus. Pasaulio literatroje spalv reikmei ir simbolikai skiriamas vienas i pagrindini vaidmen. io tyrimo objektas -- spalv kategorijos (juoda, balta, raudona ir alia) Dono Miltono poemoje Prarastasis rojus. Darbo aktualumas pasiymi tuo, kad iki iol spalv kategorijos, vartojamos poemoje, nebuvo analizuojamos. io darbo rezultatai ne naujovi spalv reikms suvokim lingvistikos bei teologijos srityse. Darbo tikslas yra itirti spalv reikmes. Norint pasiekti io tikslo ikelti ie udaviniai: aptarti sermantikos mokslo objekt, apvelgti pagrindinius spalv semantikos tyrimus ir ianalizuoti poemoje pasirinktas spalvas. Teorins dalies mediaga buvo surinkta i lingvistikos, semantikos bei simbolizmo mokslinink darb toki kaip Anna Wiezbicka, Ray Jackendoff, Vyvyan Evan, Juan Eduardo Cirlot ir kit. Tyrimas susideda i 5 dali, kuriose spalv kategorij analiz ir rezultatai bei tamsos ir viesos semantiniai laukai yra pateikti. I viso buvo ianalizuoti 33 vardyt spalv atvejai. Analizs metu paaikjo, kurie i spalv atvejai turi signifikatin reikm, o kurie simbolin. Juoda spalva poemoje yra interpretuojama kaip mirtis, pragaras ir bedugn. Balta spalva atspindi dievik vies. Tokiu bdu parodomas juodos ir baltos spalv suprieinimas. Raudona spalva poemoje vaizduoja meil, pagund bei nuodm, o alia vilt bei gyvenim. Tyrimo rezultai glaudiai susij su Dono Miltono religininiais sitikinimais.


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Book 1

But see! the angry Victor hath recalled

His ministers of vengeance and pursuit

Back to the gates of Heaven: the sulphurous hail,

Shot after us in storm, o'erblown hath laid

The fiery surge that from the precipice

Of Heaven received us falling; and the thunder,

Winged with red lightning and impetuous rage,

Perhaps hath spent his shafts, and ceases now

To bellow through the vast and boundless Deep.

Of utmost Arnon. Nor content with such

Audacious neighbourhood, the wisest heart

Of Solomon he led by fraoud to build

His temple right against the temple of God

On that opprobrious hill, and made his grove

The pleasant valley of Hinnom, Tophet thence

And black Gehenna called, the type of Hell.

Book 2

Against the Torturer; when, to meet the noise

Of his almighty engine, he shall hear

Infernal thunder, and, for lightning, see

Black fire and horror shot with equal rage

Among his Angels, and his throne itself

Mixed with Tartarean sulphur and strange fire,

Scorning surprise. Or, could we break our way

By force, and at our heels all Hell should rise

With blackest insurrection to confound

Heaven's purest light, yet our great Enemy,

All incorruptible, would on his throne

What if the breath that kindled those grim fires,

Awaked, should blow them into sevenfold rage,

And plunge us in the flames; or from above

Should intermitted vengeance arm again

His red right hand to plague us? What if all

Her stores were opened, and this firmament

Of Hell should spout her cataracts of fire,

Impendent horrors, threatening hideous fall

Into the burning lake their baleful streams--

Abhorred Styx, the flood of deadly hate;

Sad Acheron of sorrow, black and deep;

Cocytus, named of lamentation loud

Heard on the rueful stream; fierce Phlegeton,

Whose waves of torrent fire inflame with rage.

Distinguishable in member, joint, or limb;

Or substance might be called that shadow seemed,

For each seemed either--black it stood as Night,

Fierce as ten Furies, terrible as Hell,

And shook a dreadful dart: what seemed his head

No second stroke intend; and such a frown

Each cast at th' other as when two black clouds,

With heaven's artillery fraught, came rattling on

Over the Caspian,--then stand front to front

Hovering a space, till winds the signal blow

To join their dark encounter in mid-air.

Book 5

Proportioned to each kind. So from the root

Springs lighter the green stalk, from thence the leaves

More aery, last the bright consummate flower

Spirits odorous breathes: flowers and their fruit,

Man's nourishment, by gradual scale sublimed

Book 6

They found, they mingled, and, with subtle art,

Concocted and adusted they reduced

To blackest grain, and into store conveyed:

Part hidden veins digged up (nor hath this earth

Entrails unlike) of mineral and stone,

Book 7

And vital virtue infused, and vital warmth

Throughout the fluid mass; but downward purged

The black tartareous cold infernal dregs,

Adverse to life: then founded, then conglobed

Brought forth the tender grass, whose verdure clad

Her universal face with pleasant green;

Then herbs of every leaf, that sudden flowered

Opening their various colours, and made gay

Her bosom, smelling sweet: and, these scarce blown,

Death is the penalty imposed; beware,

And govern well thy appetite; lest Sin

Surprise thee, and her black attendant Death.

Here finished he, and all that he had made

Ceased warbling, but all night tun'd her soft lays:

Others, on silver lakes and rivers, bathed

Their downy breast; the swan with arched neck,

Between her white wings mantling proudly, rows

Her state with oary feet; yet oft they quit

Book 8

This happy light; when, answer none returned,

On a green shady bank, profuse of flowers,

Pensive I sat me down: There gentle sleep

Love not the heavenly Spirits, and how their love

Express they? by looks only? or do they mix

Irradiance, virtual or immediate touch?

To whom the Angel, with a smile that glowed

Celestial rosy red, Love's proper hue,

Answered. Let it suffice thee that thou knowest

But I can now no more; the parting sun

Beyond the Earth's green Cape and verdant Isles

Hesperian sets, my signal to depart.

Be strong, live happy, and love! But, first of all,

Him, whom to love is to obey, and keep

His great command; take heed lest passion sway

Book 9

From dust: Spite then with spite is best repaid.

So saying, through each thicket dank or dry,

Like a black mist low-creeping, he held on

His midnight-search, where soonest he might find

Till, on a day roving the field, I chanced

A goodly tree far distant to behold

Loaden with fruit of fairest colours mixed,

Ruddy and gold: I nearer drew to gaze;

When from the boughs a savoury odour blown,

Book 10

With adverse blast upturns them from the south

Notus, and Afer black with thunderous clouds

From Serraliona; thwart of these, as fierce,

Forth rush the Levant and the Ponent winds,

Darkness ere day's mid-course, and morning-light

More orient in yon western cloud, that draws

O'er the blue firmament a radiant white,

And slow descends with something heavenly fraught?

Book 11

With their four wives; and God made fast the door.

Mean while the south-wind rose, and, with black wings

Wide-hovering, all the clouds together drove

From under Heaven; the hills to their supply

Book 12

Marching from Eden towards the west, shall find

The plain, wherein a black bituminous gurge

Boils out from under ground, the mouth of Hell:

A darksome cloud of locusts swarming down

Must eat, and on the ground leave nothing green;

Darkness must overshadow all his bounds

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