OED Post

My friends,

While reading the first book of Paradise Lost I came across an intriguing word: Baleful, found in line 56. Upon further investigation into the meaning of this word I found that baleful means malignant, destructive, injurious, and mischievous. Another meaning is subjectively as: Full of pain or suffering, painful; unhappy, wretched, miserable, distressed, sorrowful, or mournful.

What a great word and how well it fits into the content. This book is about humankind’s disobedience towards God. Both meanings of baleful fit into the story of Adam and eve eating the fruit from the tree of knowledge and disobeying God’s wishes. Adam was definitely destructive and mischievous in that he disobeyed God’s orders. But also he was sorrowful, mournful, and full of pain because as a result of disobeying God he and Eve were sent out of paradise to live in the regular world and compared to paradise that was suffering and terrible.

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About Alex Mueller

Alex Mueller can be found running and cycling the streets and suburbs of Boston, taking long sojourns in rare book archives whenever he can. He teaches English at UMass Boston, serves as Book Review Editor for Arthuriana, and writes about digital pedagogy, open access publishing, and medieval literature.

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