« PreviousContinue »
And stabled : of mankind, so numerous late,
All left, in one small bottom swum imbarked.
How didst thou grieve then, Adam, to behold
The end of all thy offspring, end so sad,
Depopulation! Thee another flood,
Of tears and sorrow a flood, thee also drowned,
And sunk thee as thy sons; till, gently reared
By the Angel, on thy feet thou stood’st at last,
Though comfortless; as when a father mourns
His children, all in view destroyed at once;
And scarce to the Angel utter'dst thus thy plaint.
O visions ill foreseen! Better had I
Lived ignorant of future ! so had borne
My part of evil only, each day's lot
Enough to bear; those now, that were dispensed
The burden of many ages, on me light
At once, by my foreknowledge gaining birth
Abortive, to torment me ere their being,
With thought that they must be. Let no man seek
Henceforth to be foretold, what shall befall
Him or his children; evil he may be sure,
Which neither his foreknowing can prevent ;
And he the future evil shall no less
In apprehension than in substance feel,
Grievous to bear : but that care now is past,
Man is not whom to warn : those few escaped
Famine and anguish will at last consume,
Wandering that watery desert: I had hope,
When violence was ceased, and war on earth,
All would have then gone well ; peace would have
With length of happy days the race of Man ;
But I was far deceived; for now I see
Peace to corrupt no less than war to waste.
How comes it thus ? unfold, celestial Guide !
And whether here the race of Man will end.
• To whom thus Michael. Those, whom last thou
In triumph and luxurious wealth, are they
First seen in acts of prowess eminent
And great exploits, but of true virtue void;
Who, having spilt much blood, and done much waste,
Subduing nations, and achieved thereby
Fame in the world, high titles, and rich prey ;
Shall change their course to pleasure, ease, and sloth,
Surfeit, and lust; till wantonness and pride
Raise out of friendship hostile deeds in peace.
The conquered also, and enslaved by war,
Shall, with their freedom lost, all virtue lose,
And fear of God; from whom their piety feigned
In sharp contést of battle found no aid
Against invaders; therefore, cooled in zeal,
Thenceforth shall practise how to live secure,
Worldly or dissolute, on what their lords
Shall leave them to enjoy; for the earth shall bear
More than enough, that temperance may be tried :
So all shall turn degenerate, all depraved;
Justice and temperance, truth and faith, forgot ;
One man except, the only son of light
In a dark age, against example good,
Against allurement, custom, and a world
Offended : fearless of reproach and scorn,
Or violence, he of their wicked ways
Shall them admonish; and before them set
The paths of righteousness, how much more safe
And full of peace; denouncing wrath to come
On their impenitence; and shall return
Of them derided : but, of God observed,
The one just man alive, by his command
Shall build a wonderous ark, as thou beheld'st,
To save himself and household, from amidst
A world devote to universal wreck.
No sooner he, with them of man and beast
Select for life, shall in the ark be lodged
And sheltered round, but all the cataracts
Of Heaven set open, on the Earth shall pour
Rain, day and night; all fountains of the deep
shall heave the ocean to usurp Beyond all bounds; till inundation rise Above the highest hills : then shall this mount Of Paradise, by might of waves, be moved Out of his place, pushed by the horned flood, With all his verdure spoiled, and trees adrift, Down the great river to the opening gulf, And there take root, an island salt and bare, The haunt of seals, and orcs, and sea-mews' clang : To teach thee that God attributes to place No sanctity, if none be thither brought By men who there frequent, or therein dwell. And now, what further shall ensue, behold.
He looked, and saw the ark hull on the flood, Which now abated; for the clouds were fled, Driven by a keen north-wind, that, blowing dry,
Wrinkled the face of deluge, as decayed ;
And the clear sun on his wide watery glass
Gazed hot, and of the fresh wave largely drew,
As after thirst; which made their flowing shrink
From standing lake to tripping ebb; that stole
With soft foot towards the deep; who now had stopped
His sluices, as the Heaven his windows shut.
The ark no more now floats, but seems on ground,
Fast on the top of some high mountain fixed.
And now the tops of hills, as rocks, appear :
With clamour thence the rapid currents drive,
Towards the retreating sea, their furious tide.
Forthwith from out the ark a raven flies,
And after him (the surer messenger)
A dove, sent forth once and again, to spy
Green tree or ground, whereon his foot may light:
The second time returning, in his bill
An olive-leaf he brings, pacifick sign !
Anon dry ground appears, and from his ark
The ancient sire descends, with all his train :
Then with uplifted hands, and eyes devout,
Grateful to Heaven, over his head beholds
A dewy cloud, and in the cloud a bow
Conspicuous with three listed colours gay,
Betokening peace from God, and covenant new :
Whereat the heart of Adam, erst so sad,
Greatly rejoiced, and thus his joy. broke forth.
O thou, who future things canst represent
As present, heavenly Instructor ! I revive
At this last sight; assured that Man shall live,
With all the creatures, and their seed preserve.
Far less I now lament for one whole world
Of wicked sons destroyed, than I rejoice
For one man found so perfect, and so just,
That God vouchsafes to raise another world
From him, and all his anger to forget.
what mean those coloured streaks in Heaven
Distended, as the brow of God appeased ?
Or serve they, as a flowery verge, to bind
The fluid skirts of that same watery cloud,
Lest it again dissolve, and shower the earth?
To whom the Arch-Angel. Dexterously thou aim'st; So willingly doth God remit his ire, Though late repenting him of Man depraved; Grieved at his heart, when looking down he saw The whole earth filled with violence, and all Aesh Corrupting each their way; yet, those removed, Such grace shall one just man find in his sight, That he relents, not to blot out mankind; And makes a covenant never to destroy The earth again by flood; nor let the sea Surpass his bounds; nor rain to drown the world, With man therein or beast; but, when he brings Over the earth a cloud, will therein set His triple-coloured bow, whereon to look, And call to mind his covenant : day and night, Seed-time and harvest, heat and hoary frost, Shall hold their course; till fire purge all things new. Both Heaven and Earth, wherein the just shall dwell.
END OF THE ELEVENTH BOOK.