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John Milton. (1608–1674). Complete Poems.
The Harvard Classics. 1909–14.


Paradise Lost: The First Book

THE ARGUMENT.—This First Book proposes, first in brief, the whole subject—Man’s disobedience, and the loss thereupon of Paradise, wherein he was placed: then touches the prime cause of his fall—the Serpent, or rather Satan in the Serpent; who, revolting from God, and drawing to his side many legions of Angels, was, by the command of God, driven out of Heaven, with all his crew, into the great Deep. Which action passed over, the Poem hastes into the midst of things; presenting Satan, with his Angels, now fallen into Hell—described here not in the Centre (for heaven and earth may be supposed as yet not made, certainly not yet accursed), but in a place of utter darkness, fitliest called Chaos. Here Satan, with his Angels lying on the burning lake, thunderstruck and astonished after a certain space recovers, as from confusion; calls up him who, next in order and dignity, lay by him: they confer of their miserable fall. Satan awakens all his legions, who lay till then in the same manner confounded. They rise: their numbers; array of battle; their chief leaders named, according to the idols known afterwards in Canaan and the countries adjoining. To these Satan directs his speech; comforts them with hope yet of regaining Heaven; but tells them, lastly, of a new world and new kind of creature to be created, according to an ancient prophecy, or report, in Heaven—for that Angels were long before this visible creation was the opinion of many ancient Fathers. To find out the truth of this prophecy, and what to determine thereon, he refers to a full council. What his associates thence attempt. Pandemonium, the palace of Satan, rises, suddenly built out of the Deep: the infernal Peers there sit in council.

OF MAN’S first disobedience, and the fruit

Of that forbidden tree whose mortal taste

Brought death into the World, and all our woe,

With loss of Eden, till one greater Man

Restore us, and regain the blissful Seat,

Sing, Heavenly Muse, that, on the secret top

Of Oreb, or of Sinai, didst inspire

That Shepherd who first taught the chosen seed

In the beginning how the heavens and earth

Rose out of Chaos: or, if Sion hill

Delight thee more, and Siloa’s brook that flowed

Fast by the oracle of God, I thence

Invoke thy aid to my adventrous song,

That with no middle flight intends to soar

Above the Aonian mount, while it pursues

Things unattempted yet in prose or rhyme.

And chiefly Thou, O Spirit, that dost prefer

Before all temples the upright heart and pure,

Instruct me, for Thou know’st; Thou from the first

Wast present, and, with mighty wings outspread,

Dove-like sat’st brooding on the vast Abyss,

And mad’st it pregnant: what in me is dark

Illumine, what is low raise and support;

That, to the highth of this great argument,

I may assert Eternal Providence,

And justify the ways of God to men.

Say first—for Heaven hides nothing from thy view,

Nor the deep tract of Hell—say first what cause

Moved our grand Parents, in that happy state,

Favoured of Heaven so highly, to fall off

From their Creator, and transgress his will

For one restraint, lords of the World besides.

Who first seduced them to that foul revolt?

The infernal Serpent; he it was whose guile,

Stirred up with envy and revenge, deceived

The mother of mankind, what time his pride

Had cast him out from Heaven, with all his host

Of rebel Angels, by whose aid, aspiring

To set himself in glory above his peers,

He trusted to have equalled the Most High,

If he opposed, and, with ambitious aim

Against the throne and monarchy of God,

Raised impious war in Heaven and battle proud,

With vain attempt. Him the Almighty Power

Hurled headlong flaming from the ethereal sky,

With hideous ruin and combustion, down

To bottomless perdition, there to dwell

In adamantine chains and penal fire,

Who durst defy the Omnipotent to arms.

Nine times the space that measures day and night

To mortal men, he, with his horrid crew,

Lay vanquished, rowling in the fiery gulf,

Confounded, though immortal. But his doom

Reserved him to more wrath; for now the thought

Both of lost happiness and lasting pain

Torments him: round he throws his baleful eyes,

That witnessed huge affliction and dismay,

Mixed with obdurate pride and steadfast hate.

At once, as far as Angel’s ken, he views

The dismal situation waste and wild.

A dungeon horrible, on all sides round,

As one great furnace flamed; yet from those flames

No light; but rather darkness visible

Served only to discover sights of woe,

Regions of sorrow, doleful shades, where peace

And rest can never dwell, hope never comes

That comes to all, but torture without end

Still urges, and a fiery deluge, fed

With ever-burning sulphur unconsumed.

Such place Eternal Justice had prepared

For those rebellious; here their prison ordained

In utter darkness, and their portion set,

As far removed from God and light of Heaven

As from the centre thrice to the utmost pole.

Oh how unlike the place from whence they fell!

There the companions of his fall, o’erwhelmed

With floods and whirlwinds of tempestuous fire,

He soon discerns; and, weltering by his side,

One next himself in power, and next in crime,

Long after known in Palestine, and named

Beëlzebub. To whom the Arch-Enemy,

And thence in Heaven called Satan, with bold words

Breaking the horrid silence, thus began:—

“If thou beest he—but Oh how fallen! how changed

From him!—who, in the happy realms of light,

Clothed with transcendent brightness, didst outshine

Myriads, though bright—if he whom mutual league,

United thoughts and counsels, equal hope

And hazard in the glorious enterprise,

Joined with me once, now misery hath joined

In equal ruin; into what pit thou seest

From what highth fallen: so much the stronger proved

He with his thunder: and till then who knew

The force of those dire arms? Yet not for those,

Nor what the potent Victor in his rage

Can else inflict, do I repent, or change,

Though changed in outward lustre, that fixed mind,

And high disdain from sense of injured merit,

That with the Mightiest raised me to contend,

And to the fierce contention brought along

Innumerable force of Spirits armed,

That durst dislike his reign, and, me preferring,

His utmost power with adverse power opposed

In dubious battle on the plains of Heaven,

And shook his throne. What though the field be lost?

All is not lost—the unconquerable will,

And study of revenge, immortal hate,

And courage never to submit or yield:

And what is else not to be overcome.

That glory never shall his wrath or might

Extort from me. To bow and sue for grace

With suppliant knee, and deify his power

Who, from the terror of this arm, so late

Doubted his empire—that were low indeed;

That were an ignominy and shame beneath

This downfall; since, by fate, the strength of Gods,

And this empyreal substance, cannot fail;

Since, through experience of this great event,

In arms not worse, in foresight much advanced,

We may with more successful hope resolve

To wage by force or guile eternal war,

Irreconcilable to our grand Foe,

Who now triumphs’, and in the excess of joy

Sole reigning holds the tyranny of Heaven.”

So spake the apostate Angel, though in pain,

Vaunting aloud, but racked with deep despair;

And him thus answered soon his bold Compeer;—

“O Prince, O Chief of many thronèd Powers

That led the embattled Seraphim to war

Under thy conduct, and, in dreadful deeds

Fearless, endangered Heaven’s perpetual King,

And put to proof his high supremacy,

Whether upheld by strength, or chance, or fate!

Too well I see and rue the dire event

That, with sad overthrow and foul defeat,

Hath lost us Heaven, and all this mighty host

In horrible destruction laid thus low,

As far as Gods and Heavenly Essences

Can perish: for the mind and spirit remains

Invincible, and vigour soon returns,

Though all our glory extinct, and happy state

Here swallowed up in endless misery.

But what if He our Conqueror (whom I now

Of force believe Almighty, since no less

Than such could have o’erpowered such force as ours)

Have left us this our spirit and strength entire,

Strongly to suffer and support our pains,

That we may so suffice his vengeful ire,

Or do him mightier service as his thralls

By right of war, whate’er his business be,

Here in the heart of Hell to work in fire,

Or do errands in the gloomy Deep?

What can it then avail though yet we feel

Strength undiminished, or eternal being

To undergo eternal punishment?”

Whereto with speedy words the Arch-Fiend replied:—

“Fallen Cherub, to be weak is miserable,

Doing or suffering: but of this be sure—

To do aught good never will be our task,

But ever to do ill our sole delight,

As being the contrary to His high will

Whom we resist. If then His providence

Out of our evil seek to bring forth good,

Our labour must be to pervert that end,

And out of good still to find means of evil;

Which ofttimes may succeed so as perhaps

Shall grieve him, if I fail not, and disturb

His inmost counsels from their destined aim.

But see! the angry Victor hath recalled

His ministers of vengeance and pursuit

Back to the gates of Heaven: the sulphurous hail,

Shot after us in storm, o’erblown hath laid

The fiery surge that from the precipice

Of Heaven received us falling; and the thunder,

Winged with red lightning and impetuous rage,

Perhaps hath spent his shafts, and ceases now

To bellow through the vast and boundless Deep.

Let us not slip the occasion, whether scorn

Or satiate fury yield it from our Foe.

Seest thou yon dreary plain, forlorn and wild,

The seat of desolation, void of light,

Save what the glimmering of these livid flames

Casts pale and dreadful? Thither let us tend

From off the tossing of these fiery waves;

There rest, if any rest can harbour there;

And, re-assembling our afflicted powers,

Consult how we may henceforth most offend

Our Enemy, our own loss how repair,

How overcome this dire calamity,

What reinforcement we may gain from hope,

If not what resolution from despair.”

Thus Satan, talking to his nearest Mate,

With head uplift above the wave, and eyes

That sparkling blazed; his other parts besides

Prone on the flood, extended long and large,

Lay floating many a rood, in bulk as huge

As whom the fables name of monstrous size,

Titanian or Earth-born, that warred on Jove,

Briareos or Typhon, whom the den

By ancient Tarsus held, or that sea-beast

Leviathan, which God of all his works

Created hugest that swim the ocean-stream.

Him, haply slumbering on the Norway foam,

The pilot of some small night-foundered skiff,

Deeming some island, oft, as seamen tell,

With fixèd anchor in his scaly rind,

Moors by his side under the lee, while night

Invests the sea, and wishèd morn delays.

So stretched out huge in length the Arch-Fiend lay,

Chained on the burning lake; nor ever thence

Had risen, or heaved his head, but that the will

And high permission of all-ruling Heaven

Left him at large to his own dark designs,

That with reiterated crimes he might

Heap on himself damnation, while he sought

Evil to others, and enraged might see

How all his malice served but to bring forth

Infinite goodness, grace, and mercy, shewn

On Man by him seduced, but on himself

Treble confusion, wrath, and vengeance poured.

Forthwith upright he rears from off the pool

His mighty stature; on each hand the flames

Driven backward slope their pointing spires, and, rowled

In billows, leave i’ the midst a horrid vale.

Then with expanded wings he steers his flight

Aloft, incumbent on the dusky air,

That felt unusual weight; till on dry land

He lights—if it were land that ever burned

With solid, as the lake with liquid fire,

And such appeared in hue as when the force

Of subterranean wind transports a hill

Torn from Pelorus, or the shattered side

Of thundering Ætna, whose combustible

And fuelled entrails, thence conceiving fire,

Sublimed with mineral fury, aid the winds,

And leave a singèd bottom all involved

With stench and smoke. Such resting found the sole

Of unblest feet. Him followed his next Mate;

Both glorying to have scaped the Stygian flood

As gods, and by their own recovered strength,

Not by the sufferance of supernal power.

“Is this the region, this the soil, the clime,”

Said then the lost Archangel, “this the seat

That we must change for Heaven?—this mournful gloom

For that celestial light? Be it so, since He

Who now is sovran can dispose and bid

What shall be right: fardest from Him is best,

Whom reason hath equalled, force hath made supreme

Above his equals. Farewell, happy fields,

Where joy forever dwells! Hail, horrors! hail,

Infernal World! and thou, profoundest Hell,

Receive thy new possessor—one who brings

A mind not to be changed by place or time.

The mind is its own place, and in itself

Can make a Heaven of Hell, a Hell of Heaven.

What matter where, if I be still the same,

And what I should be, all but less than he

Whom thunder hath made greater? Here at least

We shall be free; the Almighty hath not built

Here for his envy, will not drive us hence:

Here we may reign secure; and, in my choice,

To reign is worth ambition, though in Hell:

Better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven.

But wherefore let we then our faithful friends,

The associates and co-partners of our loss,

Lie thus astonished on the oblivious pool,

And call them not to share with us their part

In this unhappy mansion, or once more

With rallied arms to try what may be yet

Regained in Heaven, or what more lost in Hell?”

So Satan spake; and him Beëlzebub

Thus answered:—“Leader of those armies bright

Which, but the Omnipotent, none could have foiled!

If once they hear that voice, their liveliest pledge

Of hope in fears and dangers—heard so oft

In worst extremes, and on the perilous edge

Of battle, when it raged, in all assaults

Their surest signal—they will soon resume

New courage and revive, though now they lie

Grovelling and prostrate on yon lake of fire,

As we erewhile, astounded and amazed;

No wonder, fallen such a pernicious highth!”

He scarce had ceased when the superior Fiend

Was moving toward the shore; his ponderous shield,

Ethereal temper, massy, large, and round,

Behind him cast. The broad circumference

Hung on his shoulders like the moon, whose orb

Through optic glass the Tuscan artist views

At evening, from the top of Fesolè,

Or in Valdarno, to descry new lands,

Rivers, or mountains, in her spotty globe.

His spear—to equal which the tallest pine

Hewn on Norwegian hills, to be the mast

Of some great Ammiral, were but a wand—

He walked with, to support uneasy steps

Over the burning marle, not like those steps

On Heaven’s azure; and the torrid clime

Smote on him sore besides, vaulted with fire.

Nathless he so endured, till on the beach

Of that inflamèd sea he stood, and called

His legions—Angel Forms, who lay entranced

Thick as autumnal leaves that strow the brooks

In Vallombrosa, where the Etrurian shades

High over-arched imbower; or scattered sedge

Afloat, when with fierce winds Orion armed

Hath vexed the Red-Sea coast, whose waves o’erthrew

Busiris and his Memphian chivalry,

While with perfidious hatred they pursued

The sojourners of Goshen, who beheld

From the safe shore their floating carcases

And broken chariot-wheels. So thick bestrown,

Abject and lost, lay these, covering the flood,

Under amazement of their hideous change.

He called so loud that all the hollow deep

Of Hell resounded:—“Princes, Potentates,

Warriors, the Flower of Heaven—once yours; now lost,

If such astonishment as this can seize

Eternal Spirits! Or have ye chosen this place

After the toil of battle to repose

Your wearied virtue, for the ease you find

To slumber here, as in the vales of Heaven?

Or in this abject posture have ye sworn

To adore the Conqueror, who now beholds

Cherub and Seraph rowling in the flood

With scattered arms and ensigns, till anon

His swift pursuers from Heaven-gates discern

The advantage, and, descending tread us down

Thus drooping, or with linkèd thunderbolts

Transfix us to the bottom of this gulf?—

Awake, arise, or be for ever fallen!”

They heard, and were abashed, and up they sprung

Upon the wing, as when men wont to watch,

On duty sleeping found by whom they dread,

Rouse and bestir themselves ere well awake.

Nor did they not perceive the evil plight

In which they were, or the fierce pains not feel;

Yet to their General’s voice they soon obeyed

Innumerable. As when the potent rod

Of Amram’s son, in Egypt’s evil day,

Waved round the coast, up-called a pitchy cloud

Of locusts, warping on the eastern wind,

That o’er the realm of impious Pharaoh hung

Like Night, and darkened all the land of Nile;

So numberless were those bad Angels seen

Hovering on wing under the cope of Hell,

’Twixt upper, nether, and surrounding fires;

Till, as a signal given, the uplifted spear

Of their great Sultan waving to direct

Their course, in even balance down they light

On the firm brimstone, and fill the plain:

A multitude like which the populous North

Poured never from her frozen loins to pass

Rhene or the Danaw, when her barbarous sons

Came like a deluge on the South, and spread

Beneath Gibraltar to the Libyan sands.

Forthwith, from every squadron and each band,

The heads and leaders thither haste where stood

Their great Commander—godlike Shapes, and Forms

Excelling human; princely Dignities;

And powers that erst in Heaven sat on thrones,

Though of their names in Heavenly records now

Be no memorial, blotted out and rased

By their rebellion from the Books of Life.

Nor had they yet among the sons of Eve

Got them new names, till, wondering o’er the earth,

Through God’s high sufferance for the trial of man,

By falsities and lies the greatest part

Of mankind they corrupted to forsake

God their Creator, and the invisible

Glory of Him that made them to transform

Oft to the image of a brute, adorned

With gay religions full of pomp and gold,

And devils to adore for deities:

Then were they known to men by various names,

And various idols through the heathen world.

Say, Muse, their names then known, who first, who last,

Roused from the slumber on that fiery couch,

At their great Emperor’s call, as next in worth

Came singly where he stood on the bare strand,

While the promiscuous crowd stood yet aloof.

The chief were those who, from the pit of Hell

Roaming to seek their prey on Earth, durst fix

Their seats, long after, next the seat of God,

Their altars by His altar, gods adored

Among the nations round, and durst abide

Jehovah thundering out of Sion, throned

Between the Cherubim; yea, often placed

Within His sanctuary itself their shrines,

Abominations; and with cursed things

His holy rites and solemn feasts profaned,

And with their darkness durst affront His light.

First, Moloch, horrid King, besmeared with blood

Of human sacrifice, and parents’ tears;

Though, for the noise of drums and timbrels loud,

Their children’s cries unheard that passed through fire

To his grim idol. Him the Ammonite

Worshiped in Rabba and her watery plain,

In Argob and in Basan, to the stream

Of utmost Arnon. Nor content with such

Audacious neighbourhood, the wisest heart

Of Solomon he led by fraud to build

His temple right against the temple of God

On that opprobrious hill, and made his grove

The pleasant valley of Hinnom, Tophet thence

And black Gehenna called, the type of Hell.

Next Chemos, the obscene dread of Moab’s sons,

From Aroar to Nebo and the wild

Of southmost Abarim; in Hesebon

And Horonaim, Seon’s realm, beyond

The flowery dale of Sibma clad with vines,

And Elealè to the Asphaltick Pool:

Peor his other name, when he enticed

Israel in Sittim, on their march from Nile,

To do him wanton rites, which cost them woe.

Yet thence his lustful orgies he enlarged

Even to that hill of scandal, by the grove

Of Moloch homicide, lust hard by hate,

Till good Josiah drove them thence to Hell.

With these came they who, from the bordering flood

Of old Euphrates to the brook that parts

Egypt from Syrian ground, had general names

Of Baalim and Ashtaroth—those male,

These feminine. For Spirits, when they please,

Can either sex assume, or both; so soft

And uncompounded is their essence pure,

Not tied or manacled with joint or limb,

Nor founded on the brittle strength of bones,

Like cumbrous flesh; but, in what shape they choose,

Dilated or condensed, bright or obscure,

Can execute their aery purposes,

And works of love or enmity fulfil.

For those the race of Israel oft forsook

Their Living Strength, and unfrequented left

His righteous altar, bowing lowly down

To bestial gods; for which their heads, as low

Bowed down in battle, sunk before the spear

Of despicable foes. With these in troop

Came Astoreth, whom the Phoenicians called

Astarte, queen of heaven, with cresent horns;

To whose bright image nightly by the moon

Sidonian virgins paid their vows and songs;

In Sion also not unsung, where stood

Her temple on the offensive mountain, built

By that uxorious king whose heart, though large,

Beguiled by fair idolatresses, fell

To idols foul. Thammuz came next behind,

Whose annual wound in Lebanon allured

The Syrian damsels to lament his fate

In amorous ditties all a summer’s day,

While smooth Adonis from his native rock

Ran purple to the sea, supposed with blood

Of Thammuz yearly wounded: the love-tale

Infected Sion’s daughters with like heat,

Whose wanton passions in the sacred porch

Ezekiel saw, when, by the vision led,

His eye surveyed the dark idolatries

Of alienated Judah. Next came one

Who mourned in earnest, when the captive Ark

Maimed his brute image, head and hands lopt off,

In his own temple, on the grunsel-edge,

Where he fell flat and shamed his worshipers:

Dagon his name, sea-monster, upward man

And downward fish; yet had his temple high

Reared in Azotus, dreaded through the coast

Of Palestine, in Gath and Ascalon,

And Accaron and Gaza’s frontier bounds.

Him followed Rimmon, whose delightful seat

Was fair Damascus, on the fertile banks

Of Abbana and Pharphar, lucid streams.

He also against the house of God was bold:

A leper once he lost, and gained a king—

Ahaz, his sottish conqueror, whom he drew

God’s altar to disparage and displace

For one of Syrian mode, whereon to burn

His odious offerings, and adore the gods

Whom he had vanquished. After these appeared

A crew who, under names of old renown—

Osiris, Isis, Orus, and their train—

With monstrous shapes and sorceries abused

Fanatic Egypt and her priests to seek

Their wandering gods disguised in brutish forms

Rather than human. Nor did Israel scape

The infection, when their borrowed gold composed

The calf in Oreb; and the rebel king

Doubled that sin in Bethel and in Dan,

Likening his Maker to the grazèd ox—

Jehovah, who, in one night, when he passed

From Egypt marching, equalled with one stroke

Both her first-born and all her bleating gods.

Belial came last; than whom a Spirit more lewd

Fell not from Heaven, or more gross to love,

Vice for itself. To him no temple stood

Or altar smoked; yet who more oft than he

In temples and at altars, when the priest

Turns atheist, as did Eli’s sons, who filled

With lust and violence the house of God?

In courts and palaces he also reigns,

And in luxurious cities, where the noise

Of riot ascends above their loftiest towers,

And injury and outrage; and, when night

Darkens the streets, then wander forth the sons

Of Belial, flown with insolence and wine.

Witness the streets of Sodom, and that night

In Gibeah, when the hospitable door

Exposed a matron, to avoid worse rape.

These were the prime in order and in might:

The rest were long to tell; though far renowned

The Ionian gods—of Javan’s issue held

Gods, yet confessed later than Heaven and Earth,

Their boasted parents;—Titan, Heaven’s first-born,

With his enormous brood, and birthright seized

By younger Saturn: he from mightier Jove,

His own and Rhea’s son, like measure found;

So Jove unsurping reigned. These, first in Crete

And Ida known, thence on the snowy top

Of cold Olympus ruled the middle air,

Their highest heaven; or on the Delphian cliff,

Or in Dodona, and through all the bounds

Of Doric land; or who with Saturn old

Fled over Adria to the Hesperian fields,

And o’er the Celtic roamed the utmost Isles.

All these and more came flocking; but with looks

Downcast and damp; yet such wherein appeared

Obscure some glimpse of joy to have found their Chief

Not in despair, to have found themselves not lost

In loss itself; which on his countenance cast

Like doubtful hue. But he, his wonted pride

Soon recollecting, with high words, that bore

Semblance of worth, nor substance, gently raised

Their fainting courage, and dispelled their fears:

Then straight commands that, at the war-like sound

Of trumpets loud and clarions, be upreared

His mighty standard. That proud honour claimed

Azazel as his right, a Cherub tall:

Who forthwith from the glittering staff unfurled

The imperial ensign; which, full high advanced,

Shon like a meteor streaming to the wind,

With gems and golden lustre rich imblazed,

Seraphic arms and trophies; all the while

Sonorous metal blowing martial sounds:

At which the universal host up-sent

A shout that tore Hell’s concave, and beyond

Frighted the reign of Chaos and old Night.

All in a moment through the gloom were seen

Ten thousand banners rise into the air,

With orient colours waving: with them rose

A forest huge of spears; and thronging helms

Appeared, and serried shields in thick array

Of depth immeasurable. Anon they move

In perfect phalanx to the Dorian mood

Of flutes and soft recorders—such as raised

To highth of noblest temper heroes old

Arming to battle, and instead of rage

Deliberate valour breathed, firm, and unmoved

With dread of death to flight or foul retreat;

Nor wanting power to mitigate and swage

With solemn touches troubled thoughts, and chase

Anguish and doubt and fear and sorrow and pain

From mortal or immortal minds. Thus they,

Breathing united force with fixed thought,

Moved on in silence to soft pipes that charmed

Their painful steps o’er the burnt soil. And now

Advanced in view they stand—a horrid front

Of dreadful length and dazzling arms, in guise

Of warriors old, with ordered spear and shield,

Awaiting what command their mighty Chief

Had to impose. He through the armed files

Darts his experienced eye, and soon traverse

The whole battalion views—their order due,

Their visages and stature as of Gods;

Their number last he sums. And now his heart

Distends with pride, and, hardening in his strength,

Glories: for never, since created Man,

Met such imbodied force as, named with these,

Could merit more than that small infantry

Warred on by cranes—though all the giant brood

Of Phlegra with the heroic race were joined

That fought at Thebes and Ilium, on each side

Mixed with auxiliar gods; and what resounds

In fable or romance of Uther’s son,

Begirt with British and Armoric knights;

And all who since, baptized or infidel,

Jousted in Aspramont, or Montalban,

Damasco, or Marocco, or Trebisond,

Or whom Biserta sent from Afric shore

When Charlemain with all his peerage fell

By Fontarabbia. Thus far these beyond

Compare of mortal prowess, yet observed

Their dread Commander. He, above the rest

In shape and gesture proudly eminent,

Stood like a tower. His form had yet not lost

All her original brightness, nor appeared

Less than Archangel ruined, and the excess

Of glory obscured: as when the sun new-risen

Looks through the horizontal misty air

Shorn of his beams, or, from behind the moon,

In dim eclipse, disastrous twilight sheds

On half the nations, and with fear of change

Perplexes monarchs. Darkened so, yet shon

Above them all the Archangel: but his face

Deep scars of thunder had intrenched, and care

Sat on his faded cheek, but under brows

Of dauntless courage, and considerate pride

Waiting revenge. Cruel his eye, but cast

Signs of remorse and passion, to behold

The fellows of his crime, the followers rather

(Far other once beheld in bliss), condemned

For ever now to have their lot in pain—

Millions of Spirits for his fault amerced

Of Heaven, and from eternal splendours flung

For his revolt—yet faithful how they stood,

Their glory withered; as, when heaven’s fire

Hath scathed the forest oaks or mountain pines,

With singèd top their stately growth, though bare,

Stands on the blasted heath. He now prepared

To speak; whereat their doubled ranks they bend

From wing to wing, and half enclose him round

With all his peers: Attention held them mute.

Thrice he assayed, and thrice, in spite of scorn,

Tears, such as Angels weep, burst forth: at last

Words interwove with sighs found out their way:—

“O myriads of immortal Spirits! O Powers

Matchless, but with the Almighty!—and that strife

Was not inglorious, though the event was dire,

As this place testifies, and this dire change,

Hateful to utter. But what power of mind,

Foreseeing or presaging, from the depth

Of knowledge past or present, could have feared

How such united force of gods, how such

As stood like these, could ever know repulse?

For who can yet believe, though after loss,

That all these puissant legions, whose exile

Hath emptied Heaven, shall fail to reascend,

Self-raised, and re-possess their native seat?

For me, be witness all the host of Heaven,

If counsels different, or danger shunned

By me, have lost our hopes. But he who reigns

Monarch in Heaven till then as one secure

Sat on his throne, upheld by old repute,

Consent or custom, and his regal state

Put forth at full, but still his strength concealed—

Which tempted our attempt, and wrought our fall.

Henceforth his might we know, and know our own,

So as not either to provoke, or dread

New war provoked: our better part remains

To work in close design, by fraud or guile,

What force effected not; that he no less

At length from us may find, Who overcomes

By force hath overcome but half his foe.

Space may produce new Worlds; whereof so rife

There went a fame in Heaven that He ere long

Intended to create, and therein plant

A generation whom his choice regard

Should favour equal to the Sons of Heaven.

Thither, if but to pry, shall be perhaps

Our first eruption—thither, or elsewhere;

For this infernal pit shall never hold

Cælestial Spirits in bondage, nor the Abyss

Long under darkness cover. But these thoughts

Full counsel must mature. Peace is despaired;

For who can think submission? War, then, war

Open or understood, must be resolved.”

He spake; and, to confirm his words, out-flew

Millions of flaming swords, drawn from the thighs

Of mighty Cherubim; the sudden blaze

Far around illumined Hell. Highly they raged

Again the Highest and fierce with graspèd arms

Clashed on their sounding shields the din of war,

Hurling defiance toward the vault of Heaven.

There stood a hill not far, whose griesly top

Belched fire and rowling smoke; the rest entire

Shown with a glossy scurf—undoubted sign

That in his womb was hid metallic ore,

The work of sulphur. Thither, winged with speed,

A numerous brigad hastened: as when bands

Of pioners, with spade and pickaxe armed,

Forerun the royal camp, to trench a field,

Or cast a rampart. Mammon led them on—

Mammon, the least erected Spirit that fell

From Heaven; for even in Heaven his looks and thoughts

Were always downward bent, admiring more

The riches of Heaven’s pavement, trodden gold,

Than aught divine or holy else enjoyed

In vision beatific. By him first

Men also, and by suggestion taught

Ransacked the Centre, and with impious hands

Rifled the bowels of their mother Earth

For treasures better hid. Soon had his crew

Opened into the hill a spacious wound,

And digged out ribs of gold. Let none admire

That riches grow in Hell: that soil may best

Deserve the pretious bane. And here let those

Who boast in mortal things, and wondering tell

Of Babel and the works of Memphian kings,

Learn how their greatest monuments of fame,

And strength, and art, are easily outdone

By Spirits reprobate, and in an hour

What in an age they, with incessant toil

And hands innumerable, scarce perform.

Nigh on the plain, in many cells prepared,

That underneath had veins of liquid fire

Sluiced from the lake, a second multitude

With wondrous art founded the massy ore,

Severing each kind, and scummed the bullion-dross.

A third as soon had formed within the ground

A various mould, and from the boiling cells

By strange conveyance filled each hollow nook;

As in an organ, from one blast of wind,

To many a row of pipes the sound-board breathes.

Anon out of the earth a fabric huge

Rose like an exhalation, with the sound

Of dulcet symphonies and voices sweet—

Built like a temple, where pilasters round

Were set, and Doric pillars overlaid

With golden architrave; nor did there want

Cornice or frieze, with bossy sculptures graven:

The roof was fretted gold. Not Babilon

Nor great Alcairo such magnificence

Equalled in all their glories, to inshrine

Belus or Serapis their gods, or seat

Their kings, when Ægypt with Assyria strove

In wealth and luxury. The ascending pile

Stood fixed her stately highth; and straight the doors

Opening their brazen folds, discover, wide

Within, her ample spaces o’er the smooth

And level pavement: from the arched roof,

Pendent by subtle magic, many a row

Of starry lamps and blazing cressets, fed

With naphtha and asphaltus, yielded light

As from a sky. The hasty multitude

Admiring entered; and the work some praise,

And some the Architect. His hand was known

In Heaven by many a towered structure high,

Where sceptred Angels held their residence,

And sat as Princes, whom the supreme King

Exalted to such power, and gave to rule,

Each in his hierarchy, the Orders bright.

Nor was his name unheard or unadored

In ancient Greece; and in Ausonian land

Men called him Mulciber; and how he fell

From Heaven they fabled, thrown by angry Jove

Sheer o’er the crystal battlements: from morn

To noon he fell, from noon to dewy eve,

A summer’s day, and with the setting sun

Dropt from the zenith, like a falling star,

On Lemnos, the Ægæan isle. Thus they relate,

Erring; for he with this rebellious rout

Fell long before; nor aught availed him now

To have built in Heaven high towers; nor did he scape

By all his engines, but was headlong sent,

With his industrious crew, to build in Hell.

Meanwhile the wingèd Haralds, by command

Of sovran power, with awful ceremony

And trumpet’s sound, throughout the host proclaim

A solemn council forthwith to be held

At Pandæmonium, the high capital

Of Satan and his peers. Their summons called

From every band and squarèd regiment

By place or choice the worthiest: they anon

With hundreds and with thousands trooping came

Attended. All access was thronged; the gates

And porches wide, but chief the spacious hall

(Though like a covered field, where champions bold

Wont ride in armed, and at the Soldan’s chair

Defied the best of Panim chivalry

To mortal combat, or career with lance),

Thick swarmed, both on the ground and in the air,

Brushed with the hiss of rustling wings. As bees

In spring-time, when the Sun with Taurus rides,

Pour forth their populous youth about the hive

In clusters; they among fresh dews and flowers

Fly to and fro, or on the smoothèd plank,

The suburb of their straw-built citadel,

New rubbed with balm, expatiate, and confer

Their state-affairs: so thick the aerie crowd

Swarmed and were straitened; till, the signal given,

Behold a wonder! They but now who seemed

In bigness to surpass Earth’s giant sons,

Now less than smallest dwarfs, in narrow room

Throng numberless—like that pygmean race

Beyond the Indian mount; or faery elves,

Whose midnight revels, by a forest-side

Or fountain, some belated peasant sees,

Or dreams he sees, while overhead the Moon

Sits arbitress, and nearer to the Earth

Wheels her pale course: they, on their mirth and dance

Intent, with jocond music charm his ear;

At once with joy and fear his heart rebounds.

Thus incorporeal Spirits to smallest forms

Reduced their shapes immense, and were at large,

Though without number still, amidst the hall

Of that infernal court. But far within,

And in their own dimensions like themselves,

The great Seraphic Lords and Cherubim

In close recess and secret conclave sat,

A thousand demi-gods on golden seats,

Frequent and full. After short silence then,

And summons read, the great consult began.