Page images
PDF

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,
Perhaps hath spent his shafts, and ceases now
To bellow through the vast and boundless deep.
Let us not slip th’ occasion, whether scorn,
Or satiate fury, yield it from our foe.
Seest thou yon dreary plain, forlorn and wild,
The seat of desolation, void of light,
Save what the glimmering of these livid flames
Casts pale and dreadful ? Thither let us tent
From off the tossing of these fiery waves;
There rest, if any rest can harbour there:
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;
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 beside
Prone on the flood, extending long and large,
Lay floating many a rood; in bulk as huge
As whom the fables name of monstrous size,
Titanian, or Earth-born, that warred on Jove,
Briareos or Typhon, whom the den
By ancient Tarsus held; or that sea beast
Leviathán, which God of all his works
Created hugest that swim th' ocean stream:
Him, haply, slumb'ring on the Norway foam,
The pilot of some small night-foundered skiff
Deeming some island, oft, as seamen tell,
With fixed anchor in his scaly rind
Moors by the side under the lee, while night
Invests the sea, and wished morn delays:
So stretched out huge in length the arch fiendlay,
Chained on the burning lake: nor ever thence
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 crime she might
Heap on himself damnation, while he sought
Evil to others; and, enraged, might see
How all his malice served but to bring forth
Infinite goodness, grace, and mercy, shown
On man by him seduced, but on himself
Treble confusion, wrath, and vengeance poured.
Forthwith upright he rears from off the pool
His mighty stature; on each hand the flames,
Driven backward, slope their pointing spires, and
rolled
In billows, leave i' th' midst a horrid vale.
Then with expanded wings he steers his flight
Aloft, incumbent on the dusky air
That felt unusual weight; till on dry land
He lights, if it were land that ever burned
With solid, as the lake with liquid fire;

And such appeared in hue, as when the force Of subterranean wind transports a hill Torn from Pelorus, or the shattered side Of thundering Ætna, whose combustible And fuelled entrails thence conceiving fire, Sublimed with mineral fury, aid the winds, And leave a singed bottom all involved With stench and smoke: such resting found the sole Of unblest feet. Him followed his next mate, Both glorying to have 'scaped the Stygian flood As gods, and by their own recovered strength, 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 Who now is sovereign can dispose and bid What shall be right: farthest from him is best, Whom reason hath equalled, force hath made supreme Above his equals' Farewell, happy fields, Where joy for ever dwells. Hail, horrors' hail, Infernal world! and thou, profoundest hell, Receive thy new possessors 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. 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: 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, Th' associates and copartners of our loss, Lie thus astonished on th’ 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 Regained in Heaven, or what more lost in hell ?” So Satan spake, and him Beelezebub Thus answered. “Leader of those armies bright, Which but th' Omnipotent none could have foiled: If once they hear that voice, their liveliest pledge Of hope in fears and dangers, heard so oft In worst 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 Groveling and prostrate on yon lake of fire, As we erewhile, astounded and amazed; No wonder, fallen such a pernicious height.” He scarce had ceased, when the superior fiend Was moving toward the shore: his pond’rous shield,

Ethereal temper, massy, large, and round,
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 Fesolé,
Or in Valdarno, to descry new lands,
Rivers or mountains in her spotty globe.
His spear, to equal which the tallest pine
Hewn in Norwegian hills to be the mast
Of some great admiral, were but a wand,
He walked with, to support uneasy steps
Over the burning marle, not like those steps
On Heaven's azure; and the torrid clime
Smote on him sore beside, vaulted with fire:
Nathless he so endured, till on the beach,
Of that inflamed sea he stood, and called
His legions, angel forms, who lay entranced
Thick as autumnal leaves that strew the brooks
In Vallombrosa, where th' Etrurian shades,
High over-arch'd, embower; or scattered sedge
Afloat, when with fierce winds Orion armed
Hath vexed 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
And broken chariot wheels: so thick bestrown,
Abject and lost lay these, covering the flood,
Under amazement of their hideous change.
He called so loud, that all the hollow deep
Of hell resounded. “Princes, potentates,
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
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
His swift pursuers from heaven gates discern
Th' 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 fallen!”
They heard, and were abashed, 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
In which they were, or the fierce pains not feel;
Yet to their general's voice they soon obeyed,
Innumerable. As when the potent rod
Of Amram's son, in Egypt's evil day,
Waved round the coast, up called a pitchy cloud

Of locusts, warping on the eastern wind,
That o'er the realm of impious Pharaoh hung
Like night, and darkened all the land of Nile:
So numberless were those bad angels seen,
Hovering on wing under the cope of hell,
'Twixt upper, nether, and surrounding fires;
Till, as a signal given, th' 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;
A multitude, like which the populous north
Poured never from her frozen loins, to pass
Rhene or the Danaw, when her barb'rous sons
Camelike a deluge on the south, and spread
Beneath Gibraltar to the Lybian sands.
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;
Though of their names in heavenly records now
Be no memorial, blotted out and razed
By their rebellion from the books of life.
Nor had they yet among the sons of Eve
Got them new names, till, wand'ring o'er the earth,
Through God's high suff"rance for the trial of man,
By falsities and lies the greatest part
Of mankind they corrupted to forsake
God their Creator, and th’ invisible
Glory of him that made them to transform
Oft to the image of a brute, adorned
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.
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.
The chief were those, who, from the pit of hell
Roaming to seek their prey on earth, durst six
Their seats long after next the seat of God,
Their altars by his altars; gods adored
Among the nations round; and durst abide
Jehovah thund'ring 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,
And with their darkness durst affront his light.
First, Moloch, horrid king, besmeared with blood
Of human sacrifice, and parents' tears,
Though for the noise of drums andtimbrels loud
Their children's cries unheard, that passed through
fire
To his grim idol. Him the Ammonite
Worshipped 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 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 called, the type of hell. 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, And Eléalé to th’ 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 wo. Yet thence his lustful orgies he enlarged E’en 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 bord'ring flood Of old Euphrates to the brook that parts Egypt from Syrian ground, had general names Of Baalim 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, 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 aisy purposes, 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 Bowed down in battle, sunk before the spear Of despicable foes. With these in troop Came Astoreth, whom the Phoenicians called Astarte, queen of Heav'n, with crescent horns: To whose bright image nightly by the moon 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 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 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 * porch

Ezekiel saw, when, by the vision led, His eye surveyed the dark idolatries Of alienated Judah. Next came one Who mourned in earnest, when the captive ark Maimed his brute image, head and hands lopt off In his own temple, on the grunsel edge, Where he fell flat, and shamed his worshippers. Dagon his name, sea monster, upward man And downward fish: yet had his temple high Reared in Azotus, dreaded through the coast Of Palestine, in Gath and Ascalon, And Accaron, and Gaza's frontier bounds. Him followed Rimmon, whose delightful seat Was fair Damascus, on the fertile banks Of Abbana and Pharphar, lucid streams. He also against the house of God was bold: A leper once he lost, and gained a king, Ahaz, his sottish conqu'ror, 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 Whom he had vanquished. After these appeared 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 Their wandering gods disguised in brutish forms Rather than human. Nor did Israel 'scape Th’ infection, when their borrowed gold composed The calf in Oreb; and the rebel king Doubled that sin in Bethel and in Dan, Likening his Maker to the grazed ox, Jehovah, who in one night, when he passed From Egypt marching, equalled with one stroke Both her first-born and all her bleating gods. Belial came last, than whom a Spirit more lewd 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 filled 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 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. These were the prime in order and in might; The rest were long to tell, though far renowned, Th' Ionian Gods, of Javan's issue; held Gods, yet confessed later than Heaven and Earth, Their boasted parents: Titan, Heaven's first-born, With his enormous brood, and birthright seized By younger Saturn; he from mightier Jove, His own and Rhea's son, like measure sound;

So Jove usurping reigned: these first in Crete
And Ida known, thence on the snowy top
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 Adra to th’ Hesperian fields,
And o'er the Celtic roamed the utmost isles.
All these and more came flocking; but with
looks
Downcast and damp; yet such wherein appeared
Obscure some glimpse of joy, to have found their
chief
Not in despair, to have found themselves not lost
In loss itself; which on his count'nance 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 dispelled their fears.
Then straight commands that at the warlike sound
Of trumpets loud and clarions be upreared
His mighty standard: that proud honour claimed
Azazel as his right, a cherub tall;
Who forthwith from the glittering staff unfurled
Th' 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:
At which the universal host upsent
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,
With orient colours waving: with them rose
A forest huge of spears; and thronging helms
Appeared, and serried shields in thick array,
Of depth immeasurable: anon they move
In perfect phalanx to the Dorian mood
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;
Nor wanting power to mitigate and 'swage
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,
Moved on in silence to soft pipes, that charmed
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 ordered spear and shield,
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;
Their number last he sums. And now his heart
Distends with pride, and, hard'ning, in his
strength
Glories: for never since created man,
Met such embodied force, as, named with these,
Could merit more than that small infantry
Warred on by cranes; though all the giant brood
Of Phlegra with th' heroic race were joined
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.
Begirt with British and Armoric knights;
And all who since, baptized or insidel,
Jousted in Aspramont, or Montalban,
Damasco, or Morocco, or Trebisond,
Or whom Biserta sent from Afric shore,
When Charlemagne 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,
Stood like a tower: his form had not yet lost
All her original brightness, nor appeared
Less than archangel ruined, and the excess
Of glory obscured: as when the sun, new risen,
Looks through the horizontal misty air
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 monarch. Darkened so, yet shone
Above them all th' archangel: but his face
Deep scars of thunder had intrenched, and care
Sat on his faded cheeks, but under brows
Of dauntless courage, and considerate pride
Waiting revenge: cruel his eye, but cast
Signs of remorse and passion to behold
The fellows of his crime, the followers rather,
(Far other once beheld in bliss,) condemned
For ever now to have their lot in pain,
Millions of spirits for his fault amerced
Of Heaven, and from eternal splendours flung
For his revolt, yet faithful how they stood,
Their glory withered: 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
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 assayed, and thrice, in spite of scorn,
Tears, such as angels weep, burst forth! at last
Words, interwove with sighs, found out their way
“O myriads of immortal spirits! O powers
Matchless, but with th' Almighty! and that strife
Was not inglorious, though th' event was dire,
As this place testifies, and this dire change,
Hateful to utter! but what power of mind,
Foreseeing or presaging, from the depth

Of knowledge past or present, could have feared
How such united force of gods, how such
As stood like these, could ever know repulse?
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,
If counsels different, or dangers shunned
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
Put forth at full, but still his strength concealed,
Which tempted our attempt, and wrought our

Henceforth his might we know, and know our
own,
So as not either to provoke, or dread s
New war, provoked our better part remains
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
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
Our first eruption, thither or elsewhere:
For this infernal pit shall never hold
Celestial spirits in bondage, north' abyss
Long under darkness cover. But these thoughts
Full counsel must mature: peace is despaired;
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
Far round illumined hell: highly they raged
Against the Highest, and fierce with grasped arms
Clashed on their sounding shields the din of war,
Hurling defiance toward the vaults of heaven.
There stood a hill not far, whose grisly top
Belched 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 num'rous brigade hastened: as when bands
Of pioneers, with spade and pick-axe armed
Forerun the royal camp, to trench a field,
Or cast a rampart. Mammon led them;
Mammon, the least erected spirit that fell
From heaven; for e'en in heaven his looks and
thoughts
Were always downward bent, admiring more
The riches of heaven's pavement, trodden gold,
Than ought divine or holy else enjoyed

In vision beatific; by him first
Men also, and by his suggestion taught,
Ransacked the centre, and with impious hands
Rifled the bowels of their mother earth
For treasures better hid. Soon had his crew
Opened into the hill a spacious wound,
And digged out ribs of gold. Let none admire
That riches grow in hell; that soil may best
Deserve the precious bane. And here let those,
Who boast in mortal things, and, wond'ring, tell
Of Babel, and the works of Memphian kings,
Learn how their greatest monuments of fame,
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,
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 scummed the bullion
dross:
A third as soon had formed within the ground
A various mould, and from the boiling cells
By strange conveyance filled each hollow nook:
As in an organ, from one blast of wind,
To many a row of pipes the soundboard breathes.
Anon out of the earth a fabric huge
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 they want
Cornice or frieze, with bossy sculptures graven;
The roof was fretted gold. Not Babylon,
Nor great Alcairo, such magnificence
Equalled in all their glories, to enshrine
Belus or Serapis, their gods, or seat
Their kings, when Egypt with Assyria strove
In wealth and luxury. Th' ascending pile
Stood fixed her stately height; and straight the
doors,
Opening their brazen folds, discover wide
Within, her ample spaces, o'er the smooth
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
Admiring entered; and the work some praise,
And some the architect: his hand was known
In Heaven by many a towered structure high,
Where sceptered angels held their residence,
And sat as princes, whom the supreme King
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 called him Mulciber; and how he fell

« PreviousContinue »