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 Regained: Book III
By John Milton (1608–1674)
 
(See full text.)

SO spake the Son of God; and Satan stood
A while as mute, confounded what to say,
What to reply, confuted and convinced
Of his weak arguing and fallacious drift;
At length, collecting all his serpent wiles,        5
With soothing words renew’d, him thus accosts:
  ‘I see thou know’st what is of use to know,
What best to say canst say, to do canst do;
Thy actions to thy words accord, thy words
To thy large heart give utterance due, thy heart        10
Contains of good, wise, just, the perfect shape.
Should kings and nations from thy mouth consult,
Thy counsel would be as the oracle
Urim and Thummim, those oraculous gems
On Aaron’s breast; or tongue of seers old,        15
Infallible: or wert thou sought to deeds
That might require the array of war, thy skill
Of conduct would be such, that all the world
Could not sustain thy prowess, or subsist
In battle, though against thy few in arms.        20
These god-like virtues wherefore dost thou hide,
Affecting private life, or more obscure
In savage wilderness? wherefore deprive
All earth her wonder at thy acts, thyself
The fame and glory, glory the reward        25
That sole excites to high attempts, the flame
Of most erected spirits, most temper’d pure
Ethereal, who all pleasures else despise,
All treasures and all gain esteem as dross,
And dignities and powers all but the highest?        30
Thy years are ripe, and over-ripe; the son
Of Macedonian Philip had ere these
Won Asia, and the throne of Cyrus held
At his dispose; young Scipio had brought down
The Carthaginian pride; young Pompey quell’d        35
The Pontic king, and in triumph had rode.
Yet years, and to ripe years judgment mature,
Quench not the thirst of glory, but augment.
Great Julius, whom now all the world admires,
The more he grew in years, the more inflamed        40
With glory, wept that he had lived so long
Inglorious: but thou yet art not too late.’
  To whom our Saviour calmly thus replied:
‘Thou neither dost persuade me to seek wealth
For empire’s sake, nor empire to affect        45
For glory’s sake, by all thy argument.
For what is glory but the blaze of fame,
The people’s praise, if always praise unmix’d?
And what the people but a herd confused,
A miscellaneous rabble, who extol        50
Things vulgar, and, well weigh’d, scarce worth the praise?
They praise, and they admire, they know not what,
And know not whom, but as one leads the other;
And what delight to be by such extoll’d,
To live upon their tongues, and be their talk,        55
Of whom to be dispraised were no small praise,
His lot who dares be singularly good?
The intelligent among them and the wise
Are few, and glory scarce of few is raised.
This is true glory and renown; when God,        60
Looking on the earth, with approbation marks
The just man, and divulges him through heaven
To all his angels, who with true applause
Recount his praises; thus he did to Job,
When to extend his fame through heaven and earth,        65
As thou to thy reproach may’st well remember,
He ask’d thee, “Hast thou seen my servant Job?”
Famous he was in heaven, on earth less known;
Where glory is false glory, attributed
To things not glorious, men not worthy of fame.        70
They err, who count it glorious to subdue
By conquest far and wide, to overrun
Large countries, and in fields great battles win,
Great cities by assault: what do these worthies,
But rob and spoil, burn, slaughter, and enslave        75
Peaceable nations, neighbouring or remote,
Made captive, yet deserving freedom more
Than those their conquerors, who leave behind
Nothing but ruin wheresoe’er they rove,
And all the flourishing works of peace destroy;        80
Then swell with pride, and must be titled gods,
Great benefactors of mankind, deliverers,
Worshipp’d with temple, priest, and sacrifice!
One is the son of Jove, of Mars the other;
Till conqueror Death discover them scarce men,        85
Rolling in brutish vices and deform’d,
Violent or shameful death their due reward.
But if there be in glory aught of good,
It may by means far different be attain’d,
Without ambition, war, or violence;        90
By deeds of peace, by wisdom eminent,
By patience, temperance: I mention still
Him, whom thy wrongs, with saintly patience borne,
Made famous in a land and times obscure;
Who names not now with honour patient Job?        95
Poor Socrates (who next more memorable?)
By what he taught, and suffer’d for so doing,
For truth’s sake suffering death, unjust, lives now
Equal in fame to proudest conquerors.
Yet if for fame and glory aught be done,        100
Aught suffer’d; if young African for fame
His wasted country freed from Punic rage;
The deed becomes unpraised, the man at least,
And loses, though but verbal, his reward:
Shall I seek glory then, as vain men seek,        105
Oft not deserved? I seek not mine, but his
Who sent me; and thereby witness whence I am.’
  To whom the tempter murmuring thus replied:
‘Think not so slight of glory; therein least
Resembling thy great Father: he seeks glory,        110
And for his glory all things made, all things
Orders and governs; nor content in heaven
By all his angels glorified, requires
Glory from men, from all men, good or bad,
Wise or unwise, no difference, no exemption;        115
Above all sacrifice, or hallow’d gift,
Glory he requires, and glory he receives,
Promiscuous from all nations, Jew or Greek,
Or barbarous, nor exception hath declared;
From us, his foes pronounced, glory he exacts.’        120
  To whom our Saviour fervently replied:
‘And reason; since his word all things produced,
Though chiefly not for glory as prime end,
But to shew forth his goodness, and impart
His good communicable to every soul        125
Freely; of whom what could he less expect
Than glory and benediction, that is, thanks,
The slightest, easiest, readiest recompense
From them who could return him nothing else,
And, not returning that, would likeliest render        130
Contempt instead, dishonour, obloquy?
Hard recompense, unsuitable return,
For so much good, so much beneficence!
But why should man seek glory, who of his own
Hath nothing, and to whom nothing belongs        135
But condemnation, ignominy, and shame?
Who for so many benefits received,
Turn’d recreant to God, ingrate and false,
And so of all true good himself despoil’d;
Yet, sacrilegious, to himself would take        140
That which to God alone of right belongs:
Yet so much bounty is in God, such grace,
That who advance his glory, not their own,
Them he himself to glory will advance.’
  So spake the Son of God; and here again        145
Satan had not to answer, but stood struck
With guilt of his own sin; for he himself,
Insatiable of glory, had lost all;
Yet of another plea bethought him soon:
  ‘Of glory, as thou wilt,’ said he, ‘so deem;        150
Worth or not worth the seeking, let it pass.
But to a kingdom thou art born, ordain’d
To sit upon thy father David’s throne,
By mother’s side thy father; though thy right
Be now in powerful hands, that will not part        155
Easily from possession won with arms:
Judea now and all the promised land,
Reduced a province under Roman yoke,
Obeys Tiberius; nor is always ruled
With temperate sway; oft have they violated        160
The temple, oft the law, with foul affronts,
Abominations rather, as did once
Antiochus: and think’st thou to regain
Thy right by sitting still, or thus retiring?
So did not Maccabeus: he indeed        165
Retired unto the desert, but with arms;
And o’er a mighty king so oft prevail’d,
That by strong hand his family obtain’d,
Though priests, the crown, and David’s throne usurp’d,
With Modin and her suburbs once content.        170
If kingdom move thee not, let move thee zeal
And duty; and zeal and duty are not slow,
But on occasion’s forelock watchful wait:
They themselves rather are occasion best;
Zeal of thy Father’s house, duty to free        175
Thy country from her heathen servitude.
So shalt thou best fulfil, best verify
The prophets old, who sung thy endless reign;
The happier reign, the sooner it begins:
Reign then; what canst thou better do the while?’        180
  To whom our Saviour answer thus returned:
‘All things are best fulfill’d in their due time:
And time there is for all things, Truth hath said,
If of my reign prophetic writ hath told,
That it shall never end, so, when begin,        185
The Father in his purpose hath decreed;
He in whose hand all times and seasons roll.
What if he hath decreed that I shall first
Be tried in humble state, and things adverse,
By tribulations, injuries, insults,        190
Contempts, and scorns, and snares, and violence,
Suffering, abstaining, quietly expecting,
Without distrust or doubt, that he may know
What I can suffer, how obey? Who best
Can suffer, best can do; best reign, who first        195
Well hath obey’d; just trial, ere I merit
My exaltation without change or end.
But what concerns it thee, when I begin
My everlasting kingdom? Why art thou
Solicitous? What moves thy inquisition?        200
Know’st thou not that my rising is thy fall,
And my promotion will be thy destruction?’
  To whom the tempter, inly rack’d, replied:
‘Let that come when it comes; all hope is lost
Of my reception into grace: what worse?        205
For where no hope is left, is left no fear:
If there be worse, the expectation more
Of worse torments me than the feeling can.
I would be at the worst: worst is my port,
My harbour, and my ultimate repose;        210
The end I would attain, my final good.
My error was my error, and my crime
My crime; whatever, for itself condemn’d,
And will alike be punish’d, whether thou
Reign, or reign not; though to that gentle brow        215
Willingly could I fly, and hope thy reign,
From that placid aspect and meek regard,
Rather than aggravate my evil state,
Would stand between me and thy Father’s ire
(Whose ire I dread more than the fire of hell),        220
A shelter, and a kind of shading cool
Interposition, as a summer’s cloud.
If I then to the worst that can be haste,
Why move thy feet so slow to what is best,
Happiest both to thyself and all the world,        225
That thou, who worthiest art, shouldst be their king?
Perhaps thou linger’st, in deep thoughts detain’d
Of the enterprise so hazardous and high!
No wonder; for though in thee be united
What of perfection can in man be found,        230
Or human nature can receive, consider,
Thy life hath yet been private, most part spent
At home, scarce view’d the Galilean towns,
And once a year Jerusalem, few days’
Short sojourn; and what thence couldst thou observe?        235
The world thou hast not seen, much less her glory,
Empires, and monarchs, and their radiant courts,
Best school of best experience, quickest insight
In all things that to greatest actions lead.
The wisest, unexperienced, will be ever        240
Timorous and loath; with novice modesty
(As he who, seeking asses, found a kingdom),
Irresolute, unhardy, unadventurous:
But I will bring thee where thou soon shalt quit
Those rudiments, and see before thine eyes        245
The monarchies of the earth, their pomp and state;
Sufficient introduction to inform
Thee, of thyself so apt, in regal arts,
And regal mysteries; that thou may’st know
How best their opposition to withstand.’        250
  With that (such power was given him then) he took
The Son of God up to a mountain high.
It was a mountain at whose verdant feet
A spacious plain, outstretch’d in circuit wide,
Lay pleasant: from his side two rivers flow’d,        255
The one winding, the other straight, and left between
Fair champaign with less rivers interveined,
Then meeting join’d their tribute to the sea:
Fertile of corn the glebe, of oil, and wine;
With herds the pastures throng’d, with flocks the hills;        260
Huge cities and high-tower’d, that well might seem
The seats of mightiest monarchs; and so large
The prospect was, that here and there was room
For barren desert, fountainless and dry.
To this high mountain-top the tempter brought        265
Our Saviour, and new train of words began.
  ‘Well have we speeded, and o’er hill and dale,
Forest and field and flood, temples and towers,
Cut shorter many a league; here thou behold’st
Assyria, and her empire’s ancient bounds,        270
Araxes and the Caspian lake; thence on
As far as Indus east, Euphrates west,
And oft beyond: to south the Persian bay,
And, inaccessible, the Arabian drought:
Here Nineveh, of length within her wall        275
Several days’ journey, built by Ninus old,
Of that first golden monarchy the seat,
And seat of Salmanassar, whose success
Israel in long captivity still mourns;
There Babylon, the wonder of all tongues,        280
As ancient, but rebuilt by him who twice
Judah and all thy father David’s house
Led captive, and Jerusalem laid waste,
Till Cyrus set them free; Persepolis,
His city, there thou seest, and Bactra there;        285
Ecbatana her structure vast there shews,
And Hecatompylos her hundred gates;
There Susa by Choaspes, amber stream,
The drink of none but kings; of later fame,
Built by Emathian or by Parthian hands,        290
The great Seleucia, Nisibis, and there
Artaxata, Teredon, Ctesiphon,
Turning with easy eye, thou may’st behold.
All these the Parthian (now some ages past,
By great Arsaces led, who founded first        295
That empire) under his dominion holds,
From the luxurious kings of Antioch won.
And just in time thou com’st to have a view
Of his great power; for now the Parthian king
In Ctesiphon, hath gather’d all his host        300
Against the Scythian, whose incursions wild
Have wasted Sogdiana: to her aid
He marches now in haste; see, though from far,
His thousands, in what martial equipage
They issue forth, steel bows and shafts their arms,        305
Of equal dread in flight or in pursuit;
All horsemen, in which fight they most excel;
See how in warlike muster they appear,
In rhombs, and wedges, and half-moons, and wings.’
  He look’d, and saw what numbers numberless        310
The city-gates out-pour’d, light-armed troops,
In coats of mail and military pride;
In mail their horses clad, yet fleet and strong,
Prancing their riders bore, the flower and choice
Of many provinces from bound to bound;        315
From Arachosia, from Candaor east,
And Margiana, to the Hyrcanian cliffs
Of Caucasus, and dark Iberian dales;
From Atropatia, and the neighbouring plains
Of Adiabene, Media, and the south        320
Of Susiana, to Balsara’s haven.
He saw them in their forms of battle ranged,
How quick they wheel’d, and flying behind them shot
Sharp sleet of arrowy showers against the face
Of their pursuers, and overcame by flight;        325
The field all iron cast a gleaming brown:
Nor wanted clouds of foot, nor on each horn
Cuirassiers all in steel for standing fight,
Chariots, or elephants indorsed with towers
Of archers; nor of labouring pioneers        330
A multitude, with spades and axes arm’d
To lay hills plain, fell woods, or valleys fill,
Or where plain was, raise hill, or overlay
With bridges rivers proud, as with a yoke:
Mules after these, camels, and dromedaries,        335
And waggons, fraught with utensils of war,
Such forces met not, nor so wide a camp,
When Agrican with all his northern powers
Besieged Albracca, as romances tell,
The city of Gallaphrone, from thence to win        340
The fairest of her sex, Angelica
His daughter, sought by many prowest knights,
Both Paynim, and the peers of Charlemain.
Such and so numerous was their chivalry.
*        *        *        *        *
 
 
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