Page images
PDF
EPUB

BOOK THE SIXTH.

THE ARGUMENT. Baphael continues to relate how Michael and Gabriel were sent forth to battle

against Satan and his Angels. The first fight described : Satan and his powers retire under night: He calls a council, invents devilish engines, which in the second day's fight put Michael and his Angels to some disorder ; but they at length pulling up mountains overwhelmed both the force and machines of Satan : yet the tumult not so ending, God on the third day sends Messiah his son, for whom he had reserved the glory of that victory: He in the power of his Father coming to the place, and causing all his legions to stand still on either side, with his chariot and thunder driving into the midst of his enemies, pursues them unable to resist towards the wall of Heaven; which opening, they leap down with horror and confusion into the place of punishment prepared for them in the deep : Messiah returns with triumph to his Father.

ALL night the dreadless Angel unpursued
Through Heav'n's wide champain held his way; till

morn,
Wak'd by the circling hours, with rosy hand
Unbarr'd the gates of light. There is a cave
Within the mount of God, fast by his throne, 5
Where light and darkness in perpetual round
Lodge and dislodge by turns, which makes through

Heaven Grateful vicissitude, like day and night; Light issues forth, and at the other door Obsequious darkness enters, till her hour To veil the Heav'n, though darkness there might well Scem twilight here : and now went forth the morn

10

Such as in highest Heav'n, array'd in gold
Empyreal; from before her vanish'd night,
Shot through with orient beams; when all the plain
Cover'd with thick embattled squadrons bright, 16
Chariots and faming arms, and fiery steeds
Reflecting blaze on blaze, first met his view:
War he perceiv’d, war in procinct, and found
Already known what he for news had thought
To have reported : gladly then he mix'd
Among those friendly pow'rs, who him receiv'd
With joy and acclamations loud, that one,
That of so many myriads fall'n, yet one
Return'd not lost : On to the sacred hill
They led him high applauded, and present
Before the seat supreme; from whence a voice
From midst a golden cloud thus mild was heard.

SERVANT of God, well done, well hast thou fought The better fight, who single hast maintain'd .

30 Against revolted multitudes the cause Of truth, in word mightier than they in arms; And for the testimony of truth hast borne Universal reproach, far worse to bear Than violence; for this was all thy' care

35 To stand approv'd in sight of God, though worlds Judg'd thee perverse : the easier conquest now Remains thee, aided by this host of friends, Back on thy foes more glorious to return Than scorn'd thou didst depart, and to subdue By force, who reason for their law refuse, Right reason for their law, and for their king

40

50

Messiah, who by right of merit reigns.
Go Michael of celestial armies prince,
And thou in military prowess next

45
Gabriel, lead forth to battle these my sons
Invincible, lead forth my armed Saints
By thousands and by millions rang'd for fight,
Equal in number to that Godless crew
Rebellious; them with fire and hostile arms
Fearless assault, and to the brow of Heaven
Pursuing drive them out from God and bliss
Into their place of punishment, the gulf
Of Tartarus, which ready opens wide
His fiery Chaos to receive their fall.

55 So spake the sov'reign voice, and clouds began To darken all the hill, and smoke to roll In dusky wreathes, reluctant flames, the sign Of wrath awak'd; nor with less dread the loud Ethereal trumpet from on high 'gan blow;

60 At which command the Powers militant, T'hat stood for Heav'n, in mighty quadrate join'd Of union irresistible, mov'd on In silence their bright legions, to the sound Of instrumental harmony, that breath'd

65 Heroic ardour to advent'rous deeds Under their God-like leaders, in the cause Of God and his Messiah. On they move Indissolubly firm : nor obvious hill, Nor strait'ning vale, nor wood, nor stream divides 70 Their perfect ranks; for high above the ground Their march was, and the passive air upbore

85

Their nimble tread; as when the total kind
Of birds, in orderly array on wing
Came summon'd over Eden to receive

75
Their names of thee; so over many a tract
Of Heav'n they march'd, and many a province wide
Tenfold the length of this terrene : at last
Far in th’horizon to the north-appear'd
From skirt to skirt a fiery region stretch'd

80 In battailous aspect, and nearer view Bristled with upright heams innumerable Of rigid spears, and helmets throng'd, and shields Various, with boastful argument portray'd, The banded Pow'rs of Satan hasting on With furious expedition : for they ween'd That self-same day by fight, or by surprise, To win the mount of God, and on his throne To set the envier of his state, the proud Aspirer, but their thoughts prov'd fond and vain In the mid way : though strange to us it seem'd At first, that Angel should with Angel war, And in fierce hosting meet, who wont to meet So oft in festivals of joy and love Unanimous, as sons of one great Sire

95 Hymning th' eternal Father : but the shout Of battle now began, and rushing sound Of onset ended soon each milder thought. High in the midst exalted as a God Th’ Apostate in his sun-bright chariot sat, Idol of majesty divine, inclos'd With flaming Cherubim and golden shields;

90

100

IIO

Then lighted from his gorgeous throne, for now "Twixt host and host but narrow space was left, A dreadful interval, and front to front

105 Presented stood in terrible array Of hideous length : before the cloudy van, On the rough edge of battle ere it join'd, Satan with vast and haughty strides advanc'd Came tow'ring, arm’d in adamant and gold : Abdiel that sight indur'd not, where he stood Among the mightiest, bent on highest deeds, And thus his own undaunted heart explores.

O Heav'n! that such resemblance of the Highest Should yet remain, where faith and realty

115 Remain not : wherefore should not strength and might There fail where virtue fails, or weakest prove Where boldest, though to sight unconquerable ? His puissance, trusting in th’Almighty's aid, I mean to try, whose reason I have try'd Unsound and false; nor is it ought but just, That he who in debate of truth hath won, Should win in arms, in both disputes alike Victor; though brutish that contést and foul, When reason hath to deal with force, yet so 125 Most reason is that reason overcome.

So pondering, and from his armed peers Forth stepping opposite, half way he met His daring foe, at this prevention more Incens’d, and thus securely him defy'd.

130 Proud art thou met ? thy hope was to have reach'd The height of thy aspiring unoppos’d,

120

« PreviousContinue »