Verse > Anthologies > T. H. Ward, ed. > The English Poets > Vol. II. Ben Jonson to Dryden
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CONTENTS · BIBLIOGRAPHIC RECORD
Thomas Humphry Ward, ed.  The English Poets.  1880–1918.
Vol. II. The Seventeenth Century: Ben Jonson to Dryden
 
Extracts from Paradise Lost: Book I
By John Milton (1608–1674)
 
[1658–1665; æt. 50–57.]

OF Man’s first disobedience, and the fruit
Of that forbidden tree, whose mortal taste
Brought death into the world, and all our woe,
With loss of Eden, till one greater Man
Restore us, and regain the blissful seat,        5
Sing, heavenly muse, that on the secret top
Of Oreb, or of Sinai, didst inspire
That shepherd who first taught the chosen seed,
In the beginning how the heavens and earth
Rose out of chaos: or, if Sion hill        10
Delight thee more, and Siloa’s brook that flow’d
Fast by the oracle of God, I thence
Invoke thy aid to my adventrous song,
That with no middle flight intends to soar
Above the Aonian mount, while it pursues        15
Things unattempted yet in prose or rhyme.
And chiefly thou, O Spirit, that dost prefer
Before all temples the upright heart and pure,
Instruct me, for thou know’st; thou from the first
Wast present, and, with mighty wings outspread,        20
Dove-like sat’st brooding on the vast abyss,
And mad’st it pregnant: what in me is dark,
Illumine; what is low, raise and support;
That to the height of this great argument
I may assert eternal Providence,        25
And justify the ways of God to men.
  Say first, for Heaven hides nothing from thy view,
Nor the deep tract of hell; say first, what cause
Moved our grand parents, in that happy state,
Favour’d of Heaven so highly, to fall off        30
From their Creator, and transgress his will
For one restraint, lords of the world besides?
Who first seduced them to that foul revolt?
The infernal Serpent; he it was, whose guile,
Stirr’d up with envy and revenge, deceived        35
The mother of mankind, what time his pride
Had cast him out from heaven, with all his host
Of rebel angels; by whose aid, aspiring
To set himself in glory above his peers,
He trusted to have equall’d the Most High,        40
If he opposed; and, with ambitious aim
Against the throne and monarchy of God,
Raised impious war in heaven, and battle proud,
With vain attempt. Him the Almighty Power
Hurl’d headlong flaming from the ethereal sky,        45
With hideous ruin and combustion, down
To bottomless perdition; there to dwell
In adamantine chains and penal fire,
Who durst defy the Omnipotent to arms.
Nine times the space that measures day and night        50
To mortal men, he with his horrid crew
Lay vanquish’d, rolling in the fiery gulf,
Confounded, though immortal: but his doom
Reserved him to more wrath; for now the thought
Both of lost happiness and lasting pain        55
Torments him: round he throws his baleful eyes,
That witness’d huge affliction and dismay,
Mix’d with obdurate pride and steadfast hate:
At once, as far as angel’s ken, he views
The dismal situation waste and wild;        60
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        65
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:
Such place eternal justice had prepared        70
For those rebellious; here their prison ordain’d
In utter darkness, and their portion set
As far removed from God and light of heaven,
As from the centre thrice to the utmost pole.
O, how unlike the place from whence they fell!        75
There the companions of his fall, o’erwhelm’d
With floods and whirlwinds of tempestuous fire,
He soon discerns, and weltering by his side
One next himself in power, and next in crime,
Long after known in Palestine, and named        80
Beëlzebub. To whom the arch-enemy,
And thence in heaven call’d Satan, with bold words
Breaking the horrid silence, thus began:
  ‘If thou beest he; but O, how fallen! how changed
From him, who, in the happy realms of light,        85
Clothed with transcendent brightness, didst outshine
Myriads though bright! If he whom mutual league,
United thoughts and counsels, equal hope
And hazard in the glorious enterprise,
Join’d with me once, now misery hath join’d        90
In equal ruin: into what pit thou seest
From what height fallen, so much the stronger proved
He with his thunder: and till then who knew
The force of those dire arms? Yet not for those,
Nor what the potent Victor in his rage        95
Can else inflict, do I repent or change,
Though changed in outward lustre, that fix’d mind,
And high disdain from sense of injured merit,
That with the Mightiest raised me to contend,
And to the fierce contention brought along        100
Innumerable force of spirits arm’d,
That durst dislike his reign, and, me preferring,
His utmost power with adverse power opposed
In dubious battle on the plains of heaven,
And shook his throne. What though the field be lost,        105
All is not lost; the unconquerable will,
And study of revenge, immortal hate,
And courage never to submit or yield,
And what is else not to be overcome;
That glory never shall his wrath or might        110
Extort from me. To bow and sue for grace
With suppliant knee, and deify his power
Who from the terror of this arm so late
Doubted his empire; that were low indeed,
That were an ignominy, and shame beneath        115
This downfall: since by fate the strength of gods,
And this empyreal substance cannot fail:
Since through experience of this great event
In arms not worse, in foresight much advanced,
We may with more successful hope resolve        120
To wage by force or guile eternal war,
Irreconcilable to our grand foe,
Who now triumphs, and in the excess of joy
Sole reigning, holds the tyranny of heaven.’
  So spake the apostate angel, though in pain,        125
Vaunting aloud, but rack’d with deep despair:
And him thus answered soon his bold compeer.
  ‘O prince, O chief of many-throned powers,
That led the embattled seraphim to war
Under thy conduct, and in dreadful deeds        130
Fearless, endanger’d heaven’s perpetual King,
And put to proof his high supremacy,
Whether upheld by strength, or chance, or fate;
Too well I see, and rue the dire event,
That with sad overthrow, and foul defeat,        135
Hath lost us heaven, and all this mighty host
In horrible destruction laid thus low,
As far as gods and heavenly essences
Can perish: for the mind and spirit remain
Invincible, and vigour soon returns,        140
Though all our glory extinct, and happy state
Here swallow’d up in endless misery.
But what if he our Conqueror (whom I now
Of force believe almighty, since no less
Than such could have o’erpower’d such force as ours)        145
Have left us this our spirit and strength entire
Strongly to suffer and support our pains,
That we may so suffice his vengeful ire,
Or do him mightier service as his thralls
By right of war, whate’er his business be,        150
Here in the heart of hell to work in fire,
Or do his errands in the gloomy deep?
What can it then avail, though yet we feel
Strength undiminish’d, or eternal being
To undergo eternal punishment?’        155
Whereto with speedy words the arch-fiend replied:
  ‘Fall’n cherub, to be weak is miserable
Doing or suffering; but of this be sure,
To do aught good never will be our task,
But ever to do ill our sole delight,        160
As being the contrary to his high will
Whom we resist. If then his providence
Out of our evil seek to bring forth good,
Our labour must be to pervert that end,
And out of good still to find means of evil,        165
Which ofttimes may succeed, so as perhaps
Shall grieve him, if I fail not, and disturb
His inmost counsels from their destined aim.
But see, the angry Victor hath recall’d
His ministers of vengeance and pursuit        170
Back to the gates of heaven: the sulphurous hail,
Shot after us in storm, o’erblown, hath laid
The fiery surge, that from the precipice
Of heaven received us falling; and the thunder,
Wing’d with red lightning and impetuous rage,        175
Perhaps hath spent his shafts, and ceases now
To bellow through the vast and boundless deep.
Let us not slip the occasion, whether scorn
Or satiate fury yield it from our foe.
Seest thou yon dreary plain, forlorn and wild,        180
The seat of desolation, void of light,
Save what the glimmering of these livid flames
Casts pale and dreadful? Thither let us tend
From off the tossing of these fiery waves;
There rest, if any rest can harbour there;        185
And, reassembling our afflicted powers,
Consult how we may henceforth most offend
Our enemy; our own loss how repair;
How overcome this dire calamity;
What reinforcement we may gain from hope;        190
If not, what resolution from despair.’
  Thus Satan, talking to his nearest mate,
With head uplift above the wave, and eyes
That sparkling blazed; his other parts besides
Prone on the flood, extending long and large,        195
Lay floating many a rood; in bulk as huge
As whom the fables name of monstrous size,
Titanian, or Earth-born, that warr’d on Jove;
Briareos or Typhon, whom the den
By ancient Tarsus held; or that sea-beast        200
Leviathan, which God of all his works
Created hugest that swim the ocean stream:
Him, haply, slumbering on the Norway foam,
The pilot of some small night-founder’d skiff
Deeming some island, oft, as seamen tell,        205
With fixed anchor in his scaly rind
Moors by his side under the lee, while night
Invests the sea, and wished morn delays:
So stretch’d out huge in length the archfiend lay
Chain’d on the burning lake: nor ever thence        210
Had risen, or heaved his head; but that the will
And high permission of all-ruling heaven
Left him at large to his own dark designs;
That with reiterated crimes he might
Heap on himself damnation, while he sought        215
Evil to others; and, enraged, might see
How all his malice served but to bring forth
Infinite goodness, grace, and mercy, shewn
On man by him seduced; but on himself
Treble confusion, wrath, and vengeance pour’d.        220
Forthwith upright he rears from off the pool
His mighty stature; on each hand the flames,
Driven backward, slope their pointing spires, and, roll’d
In billows, leave in the midst a horrid vale.
Then with expanded wings he steers his flight        225
Aloft, incumbent on the dusky air,
That felt unusual weight; till on dry land
He lights, if it were land that ever burn’d
With solid, as the lake with liquid fire;
And such appear’d in hue, as when the force        230
Of subterranean wind transports a hill
Torn from Pelorus, or the shatter’d side
Of thundering Ætna, whose combustible
And fuell’d entrails thence conceiving fire,
Sublimed with mineral fury, aid the winds,        235
And leave a singed bottom all involved
With stench and smoke: such resting found the sole
Of unblest feet. Him follow’d his next mate:
Both glorying to have ’scaped the Stygian flood
As gods, and by their own recover’d strength,        240
Not by the sufferance of supernal power.
  ‘Is this the region, this the soil, the clime,’
Said then the lost archangel, ‘this the seat
That we must change for heaven; this mournful gloom
For that celestial light? Be it so, since he        245
Who now is Sovereign, can dispose and bid
What shall be right; farthest from him is best,
Whom reason hath equall’d, force hath made supreme
Above his equals. Farewell, happy fields,
Where joy for ever dwells! Hail horrors, hail        250
Infernal world, and thou profoundest hell,
Receive thy new possessor; one who brings
A mind not to be changed by place or time:
The mind is its own place, and in itself
Can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven.        255
What matter where, if I be still the same,
And what I should be; all but less than he
Whom thunder hath made greater? Here at least
We shall be free; the Almighty hath not built
Here for his envy, will not drive us hence:        260
Here we may reign secure, and, in my choice,
To reign is worth ambition, though in hell:
Better to reign in hell than serve in heaven.
But wherefore let we then our faithful friends,
The associates and copartners of our loss,        265
Lie thus astonish’d on the oblivious pool,
And call them not to share with us their part
In this unhappy mansion, or once more,
With rallied arms, to try what may be yet
Regain’d in heaven, or what more lost in hell?’        270
  So Satan spake, and him Beëlzebub
Thus answer’d. ‘Leader of those armies bright,
Which but the Omnipotent none could have foil’d,
If once they hear that voice, their liveliest pledge
Of hope in fears and dangers, heard so oft        275
In worse extremes, and on the perilous edge
Of battle when it raged, in all assaults
Their surest signal, they will soon resume
New courage and revive; though now they lie
Grovelling and prostrate on yon lake of fire,        280
As we erewhile, astounded and amazed;
No wonder, fall’n such a pernicious height.’
  He scarce had ceased when the superior fiend
Was moving toward the shore: his ponderous shield,
Ethereal temper, massy, large, and round,        285
Behind him cast; the broad circumference
Hung on his shoulders like the moon, whose orb
Through optic glass the Tuscan artist views
At evening from the top of Fesole,
Or in Valdarno, to descry new lands,        290
Rivers, or mountains, in her spotty globe.
His spear, to equal which the tallest pine
Hewn on Norwegian hills, to be the mast
Of some great ammiral, were but a wand
He walk’d with, to support uneasy steps        295
Over the burning marle, not like those steps
On heaven’s azure; and the torrid clime
Smote on him sore besides, vaulted with fire:
Nathless he so endured, till on the beach
Of that inflamed sea he stood, and call’d        300
His legions, angel forms, who lay entranced
Thick as autumnal leaves that strew the brooks
In Vallombrosa, where the Etrurian shades,
High over-arch’d, embower; or scatter’d sedge
Afloat, when with fierce winds Orion arm’d        305
Hath vex’d the Red-Sea coast, whose waves o’erthrew
Busiris and his Memphian chivalry,
While with perfidious hatred they pursued
The sojourners of Goshen, who beheld
From the safe shore their floating carcasses        310
And broken chariot wheels: so thick bestrewn,
Abject and lost, lay these, covering the flood,
Under amazement of their hideous change.
He call’d so loud, that all the hollow deep
Of hell resounded. ‘Princes, potentates,        315
Warriors, the flower of heaven, once yours, now lost,
If such astonishment as this can seize
Eternal spirits; or have ye chosen this place
After the toil of battle to repose
Your wearied virtue, for the ease you find        320
To slumber here, as in the vales of heaven?
Or in this abject posture have ye sworn
To adore the Conqueror? who now beholds
Cherub and seraph rolling in the flood
With scatter’d arms and ensigns, till anon        325
His swift pursuers from heaven-gates discern
The advantage, and descending, tread us down
Thus drooping, or with linked thunderbolts
Transfix us to the bottom of this gulf,—
Awake, arise, or be for ever fall’n.’        330
  They heard, and were abash’d, and up they sprung
Upon the wing; as when men wont to watch
On duty, sleeping found by whom they dread,
Rouse and bestir themselves ere well awake.
Nor did they not perceive the evil plight        335
In which they were, or the fierce pains not feel;
Yet to their general’s voice they soon obey’d,
Innumerable. As when the potent rod
Of Amram’s son, in Egypt’s evil day,
Wav’d round the coast, upcall’d a pitchy cloud        340
Of locusts, warping on the eastern wind,
That o’er the realm of impious Pharaoh hung
Like night, and darken’d all the land of Nile:
So numberless were those bad angels seen
Hovering on wing under the cope of hell,        345
’Twixt upper, nether, and surrounding fires;
Till at a signal given, the uplifted spear
Of their great sultan waving to direct
Their course, in even balance down they light
On the firm brimstone, and fill all the plain:        350
A multitude like which the populous north
Pour’d never from her frozen loins, to pass
Rhene or the Danaw, when her barbarous sons
Came like a deluge on the south, and spread
Beneath Gibraltar to the Libyan sands.        355
Forthwith from every squadron and each band
The heads and leaders thither haste where stood
Their great commander; godlike shapes and forms
Excelling human, princely dignities;
And powers that erst in heaven sat on thrones,        360
Though of their names in heavenly records now
Be no memorial; blotted out and rased
By their rebellion from the books of life.
Nor had they yet among the sons of Eve
Got them new names; till, wandering o’er the earth,        365
Through God’s high sufferance for the trial of man,
By falsities and lies the greatest part
Of mankind they corrupted to forsake
God their Creator, and the invisible
Glory of him that made them to transform        370
Oft to the image of a brute, adorn’d
With gay religions, full of pomp and gold,
And devils to adore for deities:
Then were they known to men by various names
And various idols through the heathen world.        375
  Say, muse, their names then known, who first, who last
Roused from the slumber on that fiery couch,
At their great emperor’s call, as next in worth
Came singly where he stood on the bare strand,
While the promiscuous crowd stood yet aloof.        380
The chief were those, who, from the pit of hell,
Roaming to seek their prey on earth, durst fix
Their seats long after next the seat of God,
Their altars by his altar, gods adored
Among the nations round, and durst abide        385
Jehovah thundering out of Sion, throned
Between the cherubim; yea, often placed
Within his sanctuary itself their shrines,
Abominations; and with cursed things
His holy rites and solemn feasts profaned,        390
And with their darkness durst affront his light.
First, Moloch, horrid king, besmear’d with blood
Of human sacrifice, and parents’ tears;
Though for the noise of drums and timbrels loud
Their children’s cries unheard, that pass’d through fire        395
To his grim idol. Him the Ammonite
Worshipp’d in Rabba and her watery plain,
In Argob and in Basan, to the stream
Of utmost Arnon. Nor content with such
Audacious neighbourhood, the wisest heart        400
Of Solomon he led by fraud to build
His temple right against the temple of God
On that opprobrious hill; and made his grove
The pleasant valley of Hinnom, Tophet thence
And black Gehenna call’d, the type of hell.        405
Next, Chemos, the obscene dread of Moab’s sons,
From Aroer to Nebo, and the wild
Of southmost Abarim; in Hesebon
And Horonaim, Seon’s realm, beyond
The flowery dale of Sibma clad with vines,        410
And Eleäle to the asphaltic pool.
Peor his other name, when he enticed
Israel in Sittim, on their march from Nile,
To do him wanton rites, which cost them woe.
Yet thence his lustful orgies he enlarged        415
Even to that hill of scandal, by the grove
Of Moloch homicide; lust hard by hate;
Till good Josiah drove them thence to hell.
With these came they, who, from the bordering flood
Of old Euphrates to the brook that parts        420
Egypt from Syrian ground, had general names
Of Baälim and Ashtaroth; those male,
These feminine: for spirits, when they please,
Can either sex assume, or both; so soft
And uncompounded is their essence pure;        425
Not tied or manacled with joint or limb,
Nor founded on the brittle strength of bones,
Like cumbrous flesh; but, in what shape they choose
Dilated or condensed, bright or obscure,
Can execute their airy purposes,        430
And works of love or enmity fulfil.
For those the race of Israel oft forsook
Their living strength, and unfrequented left
His righteous altar, bowing lowly down
To bestial gods; for which their heads as low        435
Bow’d down in battle, sunk before the spear
Of despicable foes. With these in troop
Came Astoreth, whom the Phœnicians call’d
Astarte, queen of heaven, with crescent horns;
To whose bright image nightly by the moon        440
Sidonian virgins paid their vows and songs;
In Sion also not unsung, where stood
Her temple on the offensive mountain, built
By that uxorious king, whose heart, though large,
Beguiled by fair idolatresses, fell        445
To idols foul. Thammuz came next behind,
Whose annual wound in Lebanon allured
The Syrian damsels to lament his fate
In amorous ditties all a summer’s day;
While smooth Adonis from his native rock        450
Ran purple to the sea, supposed with blood
Of Thammuz yearly wounded: the love-tale
Infected Sion’s daughters with like heat,
Whose wanton passions in the sacred porch
Ezekiel saw, when, by the vision led,        455
His eye survey’d the dark idolatries
Of alienated Judah. Next came one
Who mourn’d in earnest, when the captive ark
Maim’d his brute image, head and hands lopp’d off
In his own temple, on the grunsel-edge,        460
Where he fell flat, and shamed his worshippers:
Dagon his name, sea-monster, upward man
And downward fish: yet had his temple high
Rear’d in Azotus, dreaded through the coast
Of Palestine, in Gath and Ascalon,        465
And Accaron and Gaza’s frontier bounds.
Him follow’d Rimmon, whose delightful seat
Was fair Damascus, on the fertile banks
Of Abana and Pharphar, lucid streams.
He also ’gainst the house of God was bold:        470
A leper once he lost, and gain’d a king;
Ahaz his sottish conqueror, whom he drew
God’s altar to disparage and displace
For one of Syrian mode, whereon to burn
His odious offerings, and adore the gods        475
Whom he had vanquish’d. After these appear’d
A crew, who, under names of old renown,
Osiris, Isis, Orus, and their train,
With monstrous shapes and sorceries abused
Fanatic Egypt and her priests, to seek        480
Their wandering gods disguised in brutish forms
Rather than human. Nor did Israel ’scape
The infection, when their borrow’d gold composed
The calf in Oreb; and the rebel king
Doubled that sin in Bethel and in Dan,        485
Likening his Maker to the grazed ox;
Jehovah, who in one night, when he pass’d
From Egypt marching, equall’d with one stroke
Both her first-born and all her bleating gods.
Belial came last, than whom a spirit more lewd        490
Fell not from heaven, or more gross to love
Vice for itself: to him no temple stood,
Or altar smoked; yet who more oft than he
In temples and at altars, when the priest
Turns atheist, as did Eli’s sons, who fill’d        495
With lust and violence the house of God?
In courts and palaces he also reigns
And in luxurious cities, where the noise
Of riot ascends above their loftiest towers,
And injury and outrage: and when night        500
Darkens the streets, then wander forth the sons
Of Belial, flown with insolence and wine.
Witness the streets of Sodom, and that night
In Gibeah, when the hospitable door
Exposed a matron, to avoid worse rape.        505
These were the prime in order and in might:
The rest were long to tell, though far renown’d,
The Ionian gods, of Javan’s issue; held
Gods, yet confess’d later than heaven and earth,
Their boasted parents: Titan, heaven’s first-born,        510
With his enormous brood, and birthright seized
By younger Saturn; he from mightier Jove,
His own and Rhea’s son, like measure found;
So Jove usurping reign’d: these first in Crete
And Ida known, thence on the snowy top        515
Of cold Olympus, ruled the middle air,
Their highest heaven; or on the Delphian cliff,
Or in Dodona, and through all the bounds
Of Doric land: or who with Saturn old
Fled over Adria to the Hesperian fields,        520
And o’er the Celtic roam’d the utmost isles.
  All these and more came flocking; but with looks
Downcast and damp, yet such wherein appear’d
Obscure some glimpse of joy, to have found their chief
Not in despair, to have found themselves not lost        525
In loss itself: which on his countenance cast
Like doubtful hue: but he, his wonted pride
Soon recollecting, with high words, that bore
Semblance of worth, not substance, gently raised
Their fainting courage, and dispell’d their fears.        530
Then straight commands, that at the warlike sound
Of trumpets loud and clarions be uprear’d
His mighty standard; that proud honour claim’d
Azazel as his right, a cherub tall:
Who forthwith from the glittering staff unfurl’d        535
The imperial ensign; which, full high advanced,
Shone like a meteor streaming to the wind,
With gems and golden lustre rich emblazed,
Seraphic arms and trophies; all the while
Sonorous metal blowing martial sounds;        540
At which the universal host up-sent
A shout, that tore hell’s concave, and beyond
Frighted the reign of Chaos and old Night.
All in a moment through the gloom were seen
Ten thousand banners rise into the air        545
With orient colours waving: with them rose
A forest huge of spears; and thronging helms
Appear’d, and serried shields in thick array
Of depth immeasurable: anon they move
In perfect phalanx to the Dorian mood        550
Of flutes and soft recorders; such as raised
To height of noblest temper heroes old
Arming to battle; and instead of rage,
Deliberate valour breathed, firm and unmoved
With dread of death to flight or foul retreat:        555
Nor wanting power to mitigate and ’suage
With solemn touches troubled thoughts, and chase
Anguish, and doubt, and fear, and sorrow, and pain
From mortal or immortal minds. Thus they,
Breathing united force, with fixed thought,        560
Moved on in silence to soft pipes, that charm’d
Their painful steps o’er the burnt soil: and now
Advanced in view they stand; a horrid front
Of dreadful length and dazzling arms, in guise
Of warriors old with order’d spear and shield!        565
Awaiting what command their mighty chief
Had to impose: he through the armed files
Darts his experienced eye, and soon traverse
The whole battalion views, their order due,
Their visages and stature as of gods;        570
Their number last he sums. And now his heart
Distends with pride, and hardening in his strength
Glories; for never since created man
Met such embodied force, as named with these
Could merit more than that small infantry        575
Warr’d on by cranes: though all the giant brood
Of Phlegra with the heroic race were join’d
That fought at Thebes and Ilium, on each side
Mix’d with auxiliar gods; and what resounds
In fable or romance of Uther’s son        580
Begirt with British and Armoric knights;
And all who since, baptized or infidel,
Jousted in Aspramont, or Montalban,
Damasco, or Marocco, or Trebisond,
Or whom Biserta sent from Afric shore,        585
When Charlemain with all his peerage fell
By Fontarabia. Thus far these beyond
Compare of mortal prowess, yet observed
Their dread commander; he, above the rest
In shape and gesture proudly eminent,        590
Stood like a tower; his form had yet not lost
All her original brightness, nor appear’d
Less than archangel ruin’d, and the excess
Of glory obscured; as when the sun, new risen,
Looks through the horizontal misty air        595
Shorn of his beams; or from behind the moon,
In dim eclipse, disastrous twilight sheds
On half the nations, and with fear of change
Perplexes monarchs. Darken’d so, yet shone
Above them all the archangel; but his face        600
Deep scars of thunder had intrench’d; and care
Sat on his faded cheek; but under brows
Of dauntless courage, and considerate pride
Waiting revenge; cruel his eyes, but cast
Signs of remorse and passion, to behold        605
The fellows of his crime, the followers rather
(Far other once beheld in bliss), condemn’d
For ever now to have their lot in pain:
Millions of spirits for his fault amerced
Of heaven, and from eternal splendours flung        610
For his revolt; yet faithful how they stood,
Their glory wither’d: as when heaven’s fire
Hath scathed the forest oaks, or mountain pines,
With singed top their stately growth, though bare,
Stands on the blasted heath. He now prepared        615
To speak; whereat their doubled ranks they bend
From wing to wing, and half enclose him round
With all his peers: attention held them mute.
Thrice he assay’d, and thrice, in spite of scorn,
Tears, such as angels weep, burst forth: at last        620
Words interwove with sighs found out their way.
  ‘O myriads of immortal spirits! O powers
Matchless, but with the Almighty; and that strife
Was not inglorious, though the event was dire,
As this place testifies, and this dire change        625
Hateful to utter! but what power of mind,
Foreseeing or presaging, from the depth
Of knowledge, past or present, could have fear’d,
How such united force of gods, how such
As stood like these, could ever know repulse?        630
For who can yet believe, though after loss,
That all these puissant legions, whose exile
Hath emptied heaven, shall fail to reascend
Self-raised, and repossess their native seat?
For me, be witness all the host of heaven,        635
If counsels different, or dangers shunn’d
By me, have lost our hopes. But he who reigns
Monarch in heaven, till then as one secure
Sat on his throne, upheld by old repute,
Consent or custom; and his regal state        640
Put forth at full, but still his strength conceal’d,
Which tempted our attempt, and wrought our fall.
Henceforth his might we know, and know our own;
So as not either to provoke, or dread
New war, provoked; our better part remains        645
To work in close design, by fraud or guile,
What force effected not: that he no less
At length from us may find, who overcomes
By force, hath overcome but half his foe.
Space may produce new worlds; whereof so rife        650
There went a fame in heaven that he ere long
Intended to create, and therein plant
A generation, whom his choice regard
Should favour equal to the sons of heaven:
Thither, if but to pry, shall be perhaps        655
Our first eruption: thither or elsewhere;
For this infernal pit shall never hold
Celestial spirits in bondage, nor the abyss
Long under darkness cover. But these thoughts
Full counsel must mature: peace is despair’d;        660
For who can think submission? War then, war,
Open or understood, must be resolved.’
  He spake; and, to confirm his words, out-flew
Millions of flaming swords, drawn from the thighs
Of mighty cherubim; the sudden blaze        665
Far round illumined hell: highly they raged
Against the Highest, and fierce with grasped arms
Clash’d on their sounding shields the din of war,
Hurling defiance toward the vault of heaven.
  There stood a hill not far, whose grisly top        670
Belch’d fire and rolling smoke; the rest entire
Shone with a glossy scurf, undoubted sign
That in his womb was hid metallic ore,
The work of sulphur. Thither, winged with speed,
A numerous brigade hasten’d: as when bands        675
Of pioneers, with spade and pickaxe arm’d
Forerun the royal camp, to trench a field,
Or cast a rampart. Mammon led them on,
Mammon, the least erected spirit that fell
From heaven; for e’en in heaven his looks and thoughts        680
Were always downward bent, admiring more
The riches of heaven’s pavement, trodden gold,
Than aught divine or holy else enjoy’d
In vision beatific: by him first
Men also, and by his suggestion taught,        685
Ransack’d the centre, and with impious hands
Rifled the bowels of their mother earth
For treasures, better hid. Soon had his crew
Open’d into the hill a spacious wound,
And digg’d out ribs of gold. Let none admire        690
That riches grow in hell; that soil may best
Deserve the precious bane. And here let those
Who boast in mortal things, and wondering tell
Of Babel, and the works of Memphian kings,
Learn how their greatest monuments of fame,        695
And strength and art, are easily outdone
By spirits reprobate, and in an hour,
What in an age they with incessant toil
And hands innumerable scarce perform.
Nigh on the plain, in many cells prepared,        700
That underneath had veins of liquid fire
Sluiced from the lake, a second multitude
With wondrous art founded the massy ore,
Severing each kind, and scumm’d the bullion dross:
A third as soon had form’d within the ground        705
A various mould, and from the boiling cells,
By strange conveyance, fill’d each hollow nook;
As in an organ, from one blast of wind
To many a row of pipes the sound-board breathes,
Anon out of the earth a fabric huge        710
Rose like an exhalation, with the sound
Of dulcet symphonies and voices sweet,
Built like a temple, where pilasters round
Were set, and Doric pillars overlaid
With golden architrave; nor did there want        715
Cornice or frieze, with bossy sculptures graven;
The roof was fretted gold. Not Babylon,
Nor great Alcairo, such magnificence
Equall’d in all their glories, to enshrine
Belus or Serapis, their gods, or seat        720
Their kings, when Egypt with Assyria strove
In wealth and luxury. The ascending pile
Stood fix’d her stately height: and straight the doors,
Opening their brazen folds, discover wide
Within, her ample spaces o’er the smooth        725
And level pavement: from the arched roof
Pendent by subtle magic many a row
Of starry lamps and blazing cressets, fed
With naphtha and asphaltus, yielded light
As from a sky. The hasty multitude        730
Admiring enter’d; and the work some praise,
And some the architect: his hand was known
In heaven by many a tower’d structure high,
Where sceptred angels held their residence,
And sat as princes; whom the supreme King        735
Exalted to such power, and gave to rule,
Each in his hierarchy, the orders bright.
Nor was his name unheard or unadored
In ancient Greece; and in Ausonian land
Men call’d him Mulciber; and how he fell        740
From heaven, they fabled, thrown by angry Jove
Sheer o’er the crystal battlements: from morn
To noon he fell, from noon to dewy eve,
A summer’s day; and with the setting sun
Dropped from the zenith like a falling star,        745
On Lemnos the Ægean isle: thus they relate,
Erring; for he with this rebellious rout
Fell long before; nor aught availed him now
To have built in heaven high towers; nor did he ’scape
By all his engines, but was headlong sent        750
With his industrious crew to build in hell.
  Meanwhile the winged heralds, by command
Of sovereign power, with awful ceremony
And trumpet’s sound, throughout the host proclaim
A solemn council forthwith to be held        755
At Pandemonium, the high capital
Of Satan and his peers: their summons call’d
From every band and squared regiment
By place or choice the worthiest; they anon
With hundreds and with thousands trooping came        760
Attended: all access was throng’d, the gates
And porches wide, but chief the spacious hall
(Though like a cover’d field, where champions bold
Wont ride in arm’d, and at the soldan’s chair
Defied the best of Panim chivalry        765
To mortal combat, or career with lance),
Thick swarm’d, both on the ground and in the air
Brush’d with the hiss of rustling wings. As bees
In spring-time, when the sun with Taurus rides,
Pour forth their populous youth about the hive        770
In clusters; they among fresh dews and flowers
Fly to and fro, or on the smoothed plank,
The suburb of their straw-built citadel,
New rubb’d with balm, expatiate and confer
Their state affairs: so thick the airy crowd        775
Swarm’d and were straiten’d; till, the signal given,
Behold a wonder! They but now who seem’d
In bigness to surpass earth’s giant sons,
Now less than smallest dwarfs, in narrow room
Throng numberless, like that pygmean race        780
Beyond the Indian mount, or fairy elves,
Whose midnight revels, by a forest-side
Or fountain, some belated peasant sees,
Or dreams he sees, while over head the moon
Sits arbitress, and nearer to the earth        785
Wheels her pale course; they, on their mirth and dance
Intent, with jocund music charm his ear;
At once with joy and fear his heart rebounds.
Thus incorporeal spirits to smallest forms
Reduc’d their shapes immense, and were at large,        790
Though without number still, amidst the hall
Of that infernal court. But far within,
And in their own dimensions, like themselves,
The great seraphic lords and cherubim
In close recess and secret conclave sat,        795
A thousand demigods on golden seats,
Frequent and full. After short silence then
And summons read, the great consult began.
 
 
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