The young Milton (1608-74) took Virgil as a model and planned a career progressing from pastoral poetry to heroic verse. Yet it was only in his fifties that - blind, bitterly disappointed by the Restoration of Charles II and briefly in danger of execution - he finally turned his energies to work on the grand scale. Although originally conceived as a tragedy on the Fall of Man, the epic form he eventually used allowed Milton to conjure up a vast, awe-inspiring cosmos, to range across huge tracts of space and time - and to put a naked Adam and Eve at the very centre of his story. Long regarded as one of the most powerful and influential poems in the English language, Paradise Lost still inspires intense debate about whether it manages 'to justify the ways of god to men' or exposes the cruelty of Christianity and the Christian God. John Leonard's illuminating introduction is fully alive to such controversies; it also contains full notes on Milton's highly individual use of language and many allusions to other works.