Taking as his point of departure the sexual obsessions and initiation of the poet John Milton, Paul West elucidates the psychology of an artist who would come to create the most enduring and compelling work of Western civilization on the subject of Original Sin. But that all comes later. Now, young Milton is a Cambridge student, a virgin, intoxicated by the power of words and the stories of myth - and especially the myth of Amaryllis, the shepherdess in Virgil. When he meets her on a crowded London street, and is led mutely to her odd dwelling, hung with the dripping animal skins and shared with a philosophizing, castrated expert on plague remedies, he encounters a living myth so powerful as to make his earlier learning - his religion, really - pale by comparison. Is she a prostitute? A witch? A myth sprung to life? All that and more, as she invites Milton to use her as his Muse.