Page images

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,
Counselled ignoble ease, and peaceful sloth,
Not peace: and after him thus Mammon spake.

"Either to disenthrone the King of Heaven
We war, if war be best, or to regain
Our own right lost: him to unthrone we then
May hope, when everlasting Fate shall yield
To fickle Chance, and Chaos judge the strife
The former * vain to hope argues as vain
The latter:3 for what place can be for us
Within Heaven's bound, unless Heaven's Lord supreme
We overpower? Suppose he should relent,
And publish grace to all on promise made
Of new subjection; with what eyes could we
Stand in his presence humble, and receive
Strict laws imposed, to celebrate his throne
With warbled hymns, and to his Godhead sing
Forced hallelujahs; while he lordly sits
Our envied sovereign, and his altar breathes
Ambrosial odours and ambrosial flowers,
Our servile offerings? This must be our task
In Heaven, this our delight; how wearisome
Eternity so spent in worship paid
To whom we hate! Let us not then pursue
By force impossible, by leave obtained
Unacceptable, though in Heaven, our state
Of splendid vassalage; but rather seek
Our own good from ourselves, and from our own
Live to ourselves, though in this vast recess,
Free, and to none accountable, preferring
Hard liberty before the easy yoke
Of servile pomp. Our greatness will appear
Then most conspicuous, when great things of small,
Useful of hurtful, prosperous of adverse
We can create, and in what place soe'er
Thrive under evil, and work ease out of pain
Through labour and endurance. This deep world
Of darkness do we dread? How oft amidst
Thick clouds and dark doth Heaven's all-ruling Sire
Choose to reside,4 his glory unobscured,

1 i. e. the strife between God and ourselves.
s i. s. to unthrone the King of Heaven.

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;
Shakes his ambrosial curls, and gives the nod,
The stamp of fate, and sanction of the god;
High Heaven with trembling the dread signal took
And all Olympus to the centre shook."—Pope.

Compare Virgil, .ffin. is. :—

"To seal his sacred vow, by Styx he swore,
The lake with liquid pitch, the dreary shore,
And Phlegethon's innavigable flood,
And the black regions of his brother god:
He said; and shook the skies with his imperial nod."


« PreviousContinue »