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Ages of hopeless end? this would be worse.
War, therefore, open or concealed, alike
My voice dissuades; for what can force or guile
With him, or who deceive his mind, whose eye
Views all things at one view? he from Heaven's height
All these our motions vain sees and derides;1
Not more almighty to resist our might
Than wise to frustrate all our plots and wiles.
Shall we then live thus vile, the race of Heaven
Thus trampled, thus expelled to suffer here
Chains and these torments? Better these than worse
By my advice; since fate inevitable
Subdues us, and omnipotent decree,
The victor's will. To suffer, as to do,
Our strength is equal,2 nor the law unjust
That so ordains; this was at first resolved
If we were wise, against so great a foe
Contending, and so doubtful what might fall.
I laugh, when those who at the spear are bold
And venturous, if that fail them, shrink and fear
What yet they know must follow, to endure
Exile, or ignominy, or bonds, or pain,
The sentence of their conqueror; this is now
Our doom; which if we can sustain and bear,
Our supreme foe in time may much remit
His anger, and perhaps thus far removed
Not mind us not offending, satisfied
With what is punished; whence these raging fires
Will slacken, if his breath stir not their flames.
Our purer essence then will overcome
Their noxious vapour, or inured not feel,
Or changed at length and to the place conformed
In temper and in nature, will receive
Familiar the fierce heat, and void of pain;
This horror will grow mild, this darkness light,
Besides what hope the never-ending flight
Of future days may bring, what chance, what change
Worth waiting, since our present lot appears
For happy though but ill, for ill not worst,
If we procure not to ourselves more woe."
1 See Psalm ii. 4.
2 Et facere, et pati. So Mucins Scaevola boasted that he was a Roman, and knew as well how to suffer as to act. Et facere et pati fortia Komanum est. Liv. ii. 11.—Newlon.
Thus Belial, with words clothed in reason's garh,
"Either to disenthrone the King of Heaven
1 i. e. the strife between God and ourselves.
3 i. e. to regain our lost rights.
4 Ct Psalm xviii. 11—13, and xcvii. 2.
And with the majesty of darkness round
Covers his throne; from whence deep thunders roar
Mustering their rage, and Heaven resembles Hell?
As he our darkness, cannot we his light
Imitate when we please? This desert soil
Wants not her hidden lustre, gems and gold;
Nor want we skill or art, from whence to raise
Magnificence; and what can Heaven show more?
Our torments also may in length of time
Become our elements, these piercing fires
As soft as now severe, our temper changed
Into their temper; which must needs remove
The sensible1 of pain. All things invite
To peaceful counsels, and the settled state
Of order, how in safety best we may
Compose our present evils, with regard
Of what we are and where,2 dismissing quite
All thoughts of war. Ye have what I advise."
He scarce had finished, when such murmur filled The assembly, as when hollow rocks retain The sound of blustering winds, which all night long Had roused the sea, now with hoarse cadence lull Seafaring men o'erwatched, whose bark by chance Or pinnace anchors in a craggy bay After the tempest: such applause was heard As Mammon ended, and his sentence pleased, Advising peace; for such another field They dreaded worse than Hell, so much the fear Of thunder and the sword of Michael Wrought still within them; and no less desire To found this nether empire, which might rise By policy, and long process of time, In emulation opposite to Heaven. Which when Beelzebub perceived, than whom, Satan except, none higher sat, with grave Aspect he rose, and in his rising seemed A pillar of state ;* deep on his front engraven Deliberation sat and public care;
1 I. e. sense, sensation.
2 Some editions read " were."
1 Compare Virgil, JEn. x. 96 sq.
* Ct Shakspeare, 2 Hen. VI., act i. :—
"Brave peers of England, pillars of the state,"
And princely counsel in his face yet shone,
Majestic though in ruin; sage he stood
With Atlantean1 shoulders lit to bear
The weight of mightiest monarchies; his look
Drew audience and attention still as night
Or summer's noontide2 air, while thus he spake:
"Thrones and imperial powers, offspring of Heaven, Ethereal virtues! or these titles now Must we renounce, and, changing style, he called Princes of Hell? for so the popular vote Inclines, here to continue, and build up here A growing empire; doubtless; while we dream, And know not that the King of Heaven hath doomed This place our dungeon, not our safe retreat Beyond his potent arm, to live exempt From Heaven's high jurisdiction, in new league Banded against his throne, but to remain In strictest bondage, though thus far removed, Under the inevitable curb, reserved His captive multitude; for he, be sure, In height or depth, still first and last will reign Sole king, and of his kingdom lose no part By our revolt, but over Hell extend His empire, and with iron sceptre 8 rule Us here, as with his golden those in Heaven. What sit we then projecting peace and war? War hath determined us, and foiled with loss Irreparable; terms of peace yet none Vouchsafed or sought; for what peace will be given To us enslaved, but4 custody severe, And stripes, and arbitrary punishment Inflicted? and what peace can we return, But to our power hostility and hate, Untamed reluctance, and revenge though slow, Yet ever plotting how the Conqueror least
1 Alluding to the fable of Atlas bearing Heaven on his shoulders. Cf. Eurip., Ion. i.
3 "Noontide" is the same as "noontime," when in hot countries there is hardly a breath of wind stirring, and men and beasts, by reason of the intense heat, retire to shade and rest. This is the custom of Italy particularly, where our author lived some time.— New'.on.
3 Cf. Ps. ii. 9.
* i. e. save, except.
May reap his conquest, and may least rejoice
In doing what we most in suffering feel?
Nor will occasion want, nor shall we need
With dangerous expedition to invade
Heaven, whose high walls fear no assault or siege,
Or ambush from the deep. What if we find
Some easier enterprise? There is a place
(If ancient and prophetic fame in Heaven
Err not), another world, the happy seat
Of some new race called Man, about this time
To be created like to us, though less
In power and excellence, but favoured more
Of him who rules above; so was his will
Pronounced among the gods, and by an oath,
That shook Heaven's whole circumference,1 confirmed.
Thither let us bend all our thoughts, to learn
What creatures there inhabit, of what mould
Or substance, how endued, and what their power,
And where their weakness, how attempted best,
By force or subtlety. Though Heaven be shut,
And Heaven's high arbitrator sit secure
In his own strength, this place may lie exposed,
The utmost border of his kingdom, left
To their defence who hold it: here, perhaps,
Some advantageous act may be achieved
By sudden onset, either with Hell-fire
To waste his whole creation, or possess
All as our own, and drive, as we were driven,
The puny habitants; or if not drive,
Seduce them to our party, that their God
1 From Homer, II. 1:—
"He spoke, and awful bends his sable brows;
Compare Virgil, .ffin. is. :—
"To seal his sacred vow, by Styx he swore,