Verse > Anthologies > The World’s Best Poetry > Vol. VIII. National Spirit
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Bliss Carman, et al., eds.  The World’s Best Poetry.
Volume VIII. National Spirit.  1904.
 
III. War
Battle of the Angels
John Milton (1608–1674)
 
From “Paradise Lost,” Book VI.

THE ARRAY
                    NOW went forth the morn,
Such as in highest heaven, arrayed in gold
Empyreal; from before her vanished night,
Shot through with orient beams; when all the plain
Covered with thick embattled squadrons bright,        5
Chariots, and flaming arms, and fiery steeds,
Reflecting blaze on blaze, first met his view.
*        *        *        *        *
The apostate in his sun-bright chariot sat,
Idol of majesty divine, enclosed
With flaming cherubim, and golden shields;        10
Then lighted from his gorgeous throne, for now
’Twixt host and host but narrow space was left,
A dreadful interval, and front to front
Presented stood in terrible array
Of hideous length: before the cloudy van,        15
On the rough edge of battle ere it joined,
Satan, with vast and haughty strides advanced,
Came towering, armed in adamant and gold.
 
THE CONFLICT
                    Michael bid sound
The archangel trumpet; through the vast of heaven        20
It sounded, and the faithful armies rung
Hosanna to the Highest: nor stood at gaze
The adverse legions, nor less hideous joined
The horrid shock. Now storming fury rose,
And clamor, such as heard in heaven till now        25
Was never; arms on armor clashing brayed
Horrible discord, and the madding wheels
Of brazen chariots raged; dire was the noise
Of conflict; overhead the dismal hiss
Of fiery darts in flaming volleys flew,        30
And flying vaulted either host with fire.
So under fiery cope together rushed
Both battles main, with ruinous assault
And inextinguishable rage. All heaven
Resounded; and had earth been then, all earth        35
Had to her centre shook.
*        *        *        *        *
                    Deeds of eternal fame
Were done, but infinite: for wide was spread
That war, and various: sometimes on firm ground
A standing fight, then, soaring on main wing,        40
Tormented all the air; all air seemed then
Conflicting fire.
*        *        *        *        *
Forthwith (behold the excellence, the power
Which God hath in his mighty angels placed!)
Their arms away threw, and to the hills        45
(For earth hath this variety from heaven,
Of pleasures situate in hill and dale),
Light as the lightning glimpse they ran, they flew,
From their foundations loosening to and fro,
They plucked the seated hills, with all their load,        50
Rocks, waters, woods, and by the shaggy tops
Uplifting bore them in their hands: amaze,
Be sure, and terror, seized the rebel host,
When coming towards them so dread they saw
The bottom of the mountains upward turned,        55
.    .    .    .    and on their heads
Main promontories flung, which in the air
Came shadowing, and oppressed whole legions armed;
Their armor helped their harm, crushed in and bruised
Into their substance pent, which wrought them pain        60
Implacable, and many a dolorous groan;
Long struggling underneath, ere they could wind
Out of such prison, though spirits of purest light,
Purest at first, now gross by sinning grown.
The rest, in imitation, to like arms        65
Betook them, and the neighboring hills uptore:
So hills amid the air encountered hills,
Hurled to and fro with jaculation dire,
That underground they fought in dismal shade;
Infernal noise! war seemed a civil game        70
To this uproar; horrid confusion heaped
Upon confusion rose.
 
THE VICTOR
So spake the Son, and into terror changed
His countenance too severe to be beheld,
And full of wrath bent on his enemies.        75
At once the Four spread out their starry wings
With dreadful shade contiguous, and the orbs
Of his fierce chariot rolled, as with the sound
Of torrent floods, or of a numerous host.
He on his impious foes right onward drove,        80
Gloomy as night: under his burning wheels
The steadfast empyrean shook throughout.
All but the throne itself of God. Full soon
Among them he arrived; in his right hand
Grasping ten thousand thunders, which he sent        85
Before him, such as in their souls infixèd
Plagues: they, astonished, all resistance lost,
All courage; down their idle weapons dropt;
O’er shields, and helms, and helmèd heads he rode
Of thrones and mighty seraphim prostráte,        90
That wished the mountains now might be again
Thrown on them, as a shelter from his ire.
Nor less on either side tempestuous fell
His arrows, from the fourfold-visaged Four
Distinct with eyes, and from the living wheels        95
Distinct alike with multitude of eyes;
One spirit in them ruled; and every eye
Glared lightning, and shot forth pernicious fire
Among the accursed, that withered all their strength,
And of their wonted vigor left them drained,        100
Exhausted, spiritless, afflicted, fallen.
Yet half his strength he put not forth, but checked
His thunder in mid volley; for he meant
Not to destroy, but root them out of heaven:
The overthrown he raised, and as a herd        105
Of goats or timorous flock together thronged,
Drove them before him thunderstruck, pursued
With terrors and with furies, to the bounds
And crystal wall of heaven; which, opening wide,
Rolled inward, and a spacious gap disclosed        110
Into the wasteful deep: the monstrous sight
Struck them with horror backward, but far worse
Urged them behind: headlong themselves they threw
Down from the verge of heaven; eternal wrath
Burnt after them to the bottomless pit.        115
 
 
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