First published in 1977, Ronald Johnson’s Radi os revises the first four books of Paradise Lost by excising words, discovering a modern and visionary poem within the seventeenth-century text. As the author explains, “To etch is ‘to cut away,’ and each page, as in Blake’s concept of a book, is a single picture.” With God and Satan crossed out, Radi os reduces Milton’s Baroque poem to elemental forces. In this retelling of the Fall, song precipitates from chaos, sight from fire: “in the shape / as of / above the / rose / through / rose / rising / the radiant sun.”

In his afterword, Guy Davenport comments: “Radi os is a meditation, first of all, on grace. It finds in Milton’s poems those clusters of words which were originally a molecular intuition of the complex harmony of nature whereby eyesight loops back to its source in the sun, the earth, the tree, our cousin animals, the spiralling galaxies, and mysteriously to the inhuman black of empty space.”