When's the last time you read a poem? And when's the last time you read an epic poem?
At once, as far as Angels ken, he views
The dismal situation waste and wild.
A dungeon horrible, on all sides round,
As one great furnace flamed; yet from those flames
No light; but rather darkness visible
Served only to discover sights of woe,
Regions of sorrow, doleful shades, where peace
And rest can never dwell, hope never comes
That comes to all, but torture without end
Still urges, and a fiery deluge, fed
With ever-burning sulphur unconsumed.
The BBC is in the middle of its Poetry season, and last night screened a simply fantastic documentary, Armando Iannucci in Milton's Heaven and Hell.
As the name suggests, the show is presented by the horribly talented Armando Iannucci (the man behind the TV show The Thick of It and the movie In The Loop), and is all about John Milton's Paradise Lost.
Watching the programme is like sitting in on a brilliant lecture: Iannucci is passionate, entertaining, informative, and above all engaging. He fleshes out the historical context to the poem, looking at the social and political environment in which Milton was writing; but also examines the text in detail, honing in on words and phrases, to see how they create their effect.
It's genuinely a real treat, and worth checking out, even if your last experience of poetry was on the inside of a greetings card.