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No more of talk where God or angel guest With man, as with his friend, familiar used To sit indulgent, and with him partake Rural repast; permitting him the while Venial discourse unblamed. I now must change Those notes to tragic; foul distrust, and breach Disloyal on the part of man, revolt And disobedience: on the part of Heaven Now alienated, distance and distaste, Anger and just rebuke, and judgment given, That brought into this world a world of woe, Sin and her shadow Death, and Misery, Death's harbinger: sad task! yet argument Not less, but more heroic, than the wrath Of stern Achilles on his foe pursued Thrice fugitive about Troy wall; or rage Of Turnus for Lavinia disespoused; Or Neptune's ire, or Juno's, that so long Perplex'd the Greek, and Cytherea's son; If answerable style I can obtain Of my celestial patroness, who deigns Her nightly visitation unimplored, And dictates to me slumbering, or inspires Easy my unpremeditated verse: Since first this subject for heroic song Pleased me, long choosing and beginning late; Not sedulous by nature to indite Wars, hitherto the only argument Heroic deem'd; chief mastery to dissect With long and tedious havoc fabled knights, In battles feign'd; the better fortitude Of patience and heroic martyrdom Unsung; or to describe races and games, Or tilting furniture, emblazon'd shields, Impresses quaint, caparisons and steeds, Bases and tinsel trappings, gorgeous knights At joust and tournament; then marshall'd feast Served up in hall with sewers and seneschals;

The skill of artifice or office mean,
Not that which justly gives heroic name
To person or to poem. Me, of these
Nor skill'd nor studious, higher argument
Remains; sufficient of itself to raise
That name, unless an age too late, or cold
Climate, or years, damp my intended wing
Depress'd; and much they may, if all be mine,
Not hers, who brings it nightly to my ear.

The sun was sunk, and after him the star
Of Hesperus, whose office is to bring
Twilight upon the earth, short arbiter
'Twixt day and night; and now from end to end
Night's hemisphere had veil'd the horizon round;
When Satan, who late filed before the threats
Of Gabriel out of Eden, now improved
In meditated fraud and malice, bent
On man's destruction, maugre what might hap
Of heavier on himself, fearless return'd.
By night he fled, and at midnight return'd
From compassing the earth; cautious of day,
Since Uriel, regent of the sun, descried
His entrance, and forewarn’d the cherubim
That kept their watch ; thence full of anguish

driven,
The space of seven continued nights he rode
With darkness ; thrice the equinoctial line
He circled; four times oross'd the car of night
From pole to pole, traversing each colour;
On the eighth return'd; and, on the coast averse
From entrance or cherubic watch, by stealth
Found unsuspected way. There was a place,
Now not, though sin, not time, first wrought the

change,
Where Tigris, at the foot of Paradise,
Into a gulf shot underground; till part
Rose up a fountain by the tree of life:
In with the river sunk, and with it rose,

Satan, involved in rising mist; then sought
Where to lie hid: sea he had search'd, and land
From Eden over Pontus, and the pool
Mæotis, up beyond the river Ob;
Downward as far antarctic; and in length,
West from Orontes to the ocean barr'd
At Darien; thence to the land where flows
Ganges and Indus: thus the orb he roam'd
With narrow search; and with inspection deep
Consider'd every creature, which of all
Most opportune might serve his wiles; and found
The serpent subtlest beast of all the field.
Him, after long debate irresolute
Of thoughts revolved, his final sentence chose ;
Fit vessel, fittest imp of fraud, in whom
To enter, and his dark suggestions hide
From sharpest sight; for, in the wily snake
Whatever slights, none would suspicious mark,
As from his wit and native subtlety
Proceeding; which, in other beasts observed,
Doubt might beget of diabolic power
Active within, beyond the sense of brute.
Thus he resolved; but first from inward grief
His bursting passion into plaints thus pour'd :

O earth, how like to heaven, if not preferr'd More justly, seat worthier of gods, as built With second thoughts, reforming what was old! For what God, after better, worse would build ? Terrestrial heaven, danced round by other

heavens That shine, yet bear their bright officious lamps, Light above light, for thee alone, as seems; In thee concentring all their precious beams Of sacred influence! As God in heaven Is centre, yet extends to all; so thou, Centring, receivest from all those orbs: in thee, Not in themselves, all their known virtue appears Productive in herb, plant, and nobler birth

Of creatures animate with gradual life,
Of growth, sense, reason, all summ'd up in man.
With what delight could I have walk'd thee

round,
If I could joy in aught I sweet interchange
Of hill, and valley, rivers, woods, and plains,
Now land, now sea, and shores with forest

crown'd, Rocks, dens, and caves! But I in none of these Find place or refuge; and the more I see Pleasures about me, so much more I feel Torment within me, as from the hateful siege Of contraries : all good to me becomes Bane, and in heaven much worse would be my

state. But neither here seek I, no, nor in heaven Todwell, unless by mastering heaven's Supreme: Nor hope to be myself less miserable By what I seek, but others to make such As I, though thereby worse to me redound: For only in destroying I find ease To my relentless thoughts; and, him destroy'd, Or won to what may work his utter loss, For whom all this was made; all this will soon Follow, as to him link'd in weal or woe: In woe then; that destruction wide may range. To me shall be the glory sole among The infernal powers, in one day to have marr'd What he, Almighty styled, six nights and days Continued making; and who knows how long Before had been contriving? though perhaps Not longer than since I, in one night, freed From servitude inglorious well nigh half The angelic name, and thinner left the throng Of his adorers: he, to be avenged, And to repair his numbers thus impair'd, Whether such virtue spent of old now fail'd More angels to create, if they at least

Are his created; or, to spite us more,
Determined to advance into our room
A creature form'd of earth; and him endow,
Exalted from so base original,
With heavenly spoils, our spoils : what he

decreed,
He effected; man he made, and for him built
Magnificent this world, and earth his seat,
Him lord pronounced; and, O indignity!
Subjected to his service angel-wings,
And flaming ministers to watch ar end
Their earthly charge; of these the vigilance
I dread; and, to elude, thus wrapp'd in mist
Of midnight vapour glide obscure; and pry
In every bush and brake, where hap may find
The serpent sleeping; in whose mazy folds
To hide me, and the dark intent I bring.
O foul descent! that I, who erst contended
With gods to sit the highest, am now constrain'd
Into a beast; and, mix'd with bestial slime,
This essence to incarnate and imbrute,
That to the height of deity aspired!
But what will not ambition and revenge
Descend to? Who aspires, must down as low
As high he soar'd; obnoxious, first or last,
To basest things. Revenge, at first though sweet,
Bitter ere long, back on itself recoils :
Let it; I reck not, so it light well aim'd,
Since higher I fall short, on him who next
Provokes my envy, this new favourite
Of Heaven, this man of clay, son of despite;
Whom, us the more to spite, his Maker raised
From dust: spite then with spite is best repaid.

So saying, through each thicket dank or dry, Like a black mist low creeping, he held on His midnight search, where soonest he might

find The serpent: him fast sleeping soon he found

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