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Dove-like satst brooding1 on the vast abyss,
Say first, for Heaven hides nothing from thy view,
1 From Genesis i. 2, "And the Spirit of God brooded upon the waters" (Hebrew).
As one great furnace flamed, yet from those flames
No light, hut rather darkness visible1
Served only to discover sights of woe,
Regions of sorrow, doleful shades, where peace
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
For those rebellious, here their prison ordained
In utter8 daikness, and their portion set
As far removed from God and light of Heaven,
As from the centre thrice to the utmost pole.3
Oh, how unlike the place from whence they fell!
There the companions of his fall, o'erwhelmed
With floods and whirlwinds of tempestuous fire,
1 Milton seems to have used these words to signify gloom: absolute darkness is, strictly speaking, invisible; but where there is a gloom only, there is so much light remaining as serves to show that there are objects, and yet that those objects cannot be distinctly seen. In this sense Milton seems to use the strong and bold expression, darkness visible.—Pearce.
Seneca has a like expression, speaking of the Grotto of Pausilypo, Senec. Epist. lvii. Nihil illo carcere longius, nihil illis faucibus obscurius, quae nobis praestant, non ut per tenebras videamus, sed ut ipsa*. And, as Mons. Voltaire observes, Antonio de Solis,.in his excellent History of Mexico, has ventured on the same thought, when speaking of the place wherein Montezuma was wont to consult liis deities; "It was a large dark subterraneous vault, says he, where some dismal tapers afforded just light enough to see the obscurity." See his Essay on Epic Poetry, p. 44. So, too, Spenser, F. Q. i. 1.14.
"A little glooming light, much like a shade."—Newton.
2 Dr. Bentley reads outer here, and in many other places of this poem, because it is in scripture, roffKoroc To IZtliTtpov; but utter and outer are both the same word, differently spelled and pronounced. Milton, in the argument of this book, says, in a place of utter darkness, and nowhere throughout the poem does the poet use outer.—Pearce.
Spenser justifies the present reading by frequently using the word utter for outer, as in Faerie Queen, b. ii. cant. ii. st. 34—
"And inly grieve, as doth an hidden moth
3 i. e. thrice as far as it is from the centre of the earth (which is the centre of the world according to Milton's system, ix. 103, x. 671) to the pole of the world; for it is the pole of the universe, far beyond the pole of the earth, which is here called the "utmost pole."—Newton.
He soon discerns, and weltering by his side
One next himself in power, and next in crime,
Long after known in Palestine, and named
Beelzebub.1 To whom the Arch-Enemy,
And thence in Heaven called Satan,2 with bold words
Breaking the horrid silence thus began.
"If thou beest he; but oh, how fallen! how changed From him, who in the happy realms of light 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, Joined with me once, now misery hath joined In3 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 Can else inflict, do I repent or change, Though changed in outward lustre, that fixed mind, And high disdain from sense of injured merit, That with the mightiest raised me to contend, And to the fierce contention brought along Innumerable force of spirits armed, 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? 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 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
1 The lord of'flies, an idol worshipped at Ecron, a city of the Philistines, 2 Kings i. 2. He is called " prince of the devils," Matt. xii. 24, therefore deservedly here made second to Satan himself.—Hume.
2 Satan, in Hebrew, means an enemy.
8 Rather, " and equal rain," as Bentley reads.