Home  »  Complete Poems Written in English  »  Paradise Lost: The Sixth Book

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


Paradise Lost: The Sixth Book

THE ARGUMENT.—Raphael 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 Heaven’s wide champaign held his way, till Morn,

Waked by the circling Hours, with rosy hand

Unbarred the gates of Light. There is a cave

Within the Mount of God, fast by his Throne,

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 heaven, though darkness there might well

Seem twilight here. And now went forth the Morn

Such as in highest heaven, arrayed in gold

Empyreal; from before her vanished Night,

Shot through with orient beams; when all the pain

Covered with thick embattled squadrons bright,

Chariots, and flaming arms, and fiery steeds,

Reflecting blaze on blaze, first met his view.

War he perceived, war in precinct, and found

Already known what he for news had thought

To have reported. Gladly then he mixed

Among those friendly Powers, who him received

With joy and acclamations loud, that one,

That of so many myriads fallen yet one,

Returned 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 maintained

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—

To stand approved in sight of God, though worlds

Judged thee perverse. The easier conquest now

Remains thee—aided by this host of friends,

Back on thy foes more glorious to return

Than scorned thou didst depart: and to subdue,

By force who reason for their law refuse—

Right reason for their law, and for their King

Messiah, who by right of merit reigns.

Go, Michael, of celestial armies prince,

And thou, in military prowess next,

Gabriel; lead forth to battle these my sons

Invincible; lead forth my armed Saints,

By thousands and by millions ranged 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.’

“So spake the Sovran Voice; and clouds began

To darken all the Hill, and smoke to rowl

In dusky wreaths reluctant flames, the sign

Of wrauth awaked; nor with less dread the loud

Ethereal trumpet from on high gan blow.

At which command the Powers Militant

That stood for Heaven, in mighty quadrate joined

Of union irresistible, moved on

In silence their bright legions to the sound

Of instrumental harmony, that breathed

Heroic ardour to adventurous deeds

Under their godlike leaders, in the cause

Of God and his Messiah. On they move,

Indissolubly firm; nor obvious hill,

Nor straitening vale, nor wood, nor stream, divides

Their perfet ranks; for high above the ground

Their march was, and the passive air upbore

Their nimble tread. As when the total kind

Of birds, in orderly array on wing,

Came summoned over Eden to receive

Their names of thee; so over many a tract

Of Heaven they marched, and many a province wide,

Tenfold the length of this terrene. At last

Far in the horizon, to the north, appeared

From skirt to skirt a fiery region, stretched

In battailous aspect; and, nearer view,

Bristled with upright beams innumerable

Of rigid spears, and helmets thronged, and shields

Various, with boastful argument portrayed,

The banded Powers of Satan hasting on

With furious expedition: for they weened

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 proved fond and vain

In the mid-way; though strange to us it seemed

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,

Hymning the 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,

The Apostat in his sun-bright chariot sat,

Idol of majesty divine, enclosed

With flaming Cherubim and golden shields;

Then lighted from his gorgeous Throne—for now

’Twixt host and host but narrow space was left,

A dreadful interval, and front to front

Presented stood, in terrible array

Of hideous length. Before the cloudy van,

On the rough edge of battle ere it joined,

Satan, with vast and haughty strides advanced,

Came towering, armed in adamant and gold.

Abdiel that sight endured not, where he stood

Among the mightiest, bent on highest deeds,

And thus his own undaunted heart explores:—

“‘O Heaven! that such resemblance of the Highest

Should yet remain, where faith and realty

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 the Almighty’s aid,

I mean to try, whose reason I have tried

Unsound and false; nor is it aught but just

That he who in debate of truth hath won

Should win in arms, in both disputes alike

Victor. Though brutish that contest’ and foul,

When reason hath to deal with force, yet so

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

Incensed, and thus securely him defied:—

“‘Proud, art thou met? Thy hope was to have reached

The highth of thy aspiring unopposed—

The Throne of God unguarded, and his side

Abandoned at the terror of thy power

Or potent tongue. Fool! not to think how vain

Against the Omnipotent to rise in arms;

Who, out of smallest things, could without end

Have raised incessant armies to defeat

Thy folly; or with solitary hand,

Reaching beyond all limit, at one blow,

Unaided could have finished thee, and whelmed

Thy legions under darkness! But thou seest

All are not of thy train; there be who faith

Prefer, and piety to God, though then

To thee not visible when I alone

Seemed in thy world erroneous to dissent

From all: my Sect thou seest; now learn too late

How few sometimes may know when thousands err.’

“Whom the grand Foe, with scornful eye askance,

Thus answered:—’Ill for thee, but in wished hour

Of my revenge, first sought for, thou return’st

From flight, seditious Angel, to receive

Thy merited reward, the first assay

Of this right hand provoked, since first that tongue,

Inspired with contradiction, durst oppose

A third part of the Gods, in synod met

Their deities to assert: who, while they feel

Vigour divine within them, can allow

Omnipotence to none. But well thou com’st

Before thy fellows, ambitious to win

From me some plume, that thy success may show

Destruction to the rest. This pause between

(Unanswered lest thou boast) to let thee know.—

At first I thought that Liberty and Heaven

To heavenly souls had been all one; but now

I see that most through sloth had rather serve,

Ministering Spirits, trained up in feast and song;

Such hast thou armed, the minstrelsy of heaven—

Servility with freedom to contend,

As both their deeds compared this day shall prove.’

“To whom, in brief, thus Abdiel stern replied:—

‘Apostat! still thou err’st, no end wilt find

Of erring, from the path of truth remote.

Unjustly thou deprav’st it with the name

Of servitude, to serve whom God ordains,

Or Nature: God and Nature bid the same,

When he who rules is worthiest, and excels

Them whom he governs. This is servitude—

To serve the unwise, or him who hath rebelled

Against his worthier, as thine now serve thee,

Thyself not free, but to thyself enthralled;

Yet lewdly dar’st our ministering upbraid.

Reign thou in Hell, thy kingdom; let me serve

In Heaven god ever blest, and His Divine

Behests obey, worthiest to be obeyed.

Yet chains in Hell, not realms, expect: meanwhile,

From me returned, as erst thou saidst, from flight,

This greeting on thy impious crest receive.’

“So saying, a noble stroke he lifted high,

Which hung not, but so swift with tempest fell

On the proud crest of Satan that no sight,

Nor motion of swift thought, less could his shield,

Such ruin intercept. Ten paces huge

He back recoiled; the tenth on bended knee

His massy spear upstayed: as if, on earth,

Winds under ground, or waters forcing way,

Sidelong had pushed a mountain from his seat,

Half-sunk with all his pines. Amazement seized

The rebel Thrones, but greater rage, to see

Thus foiled their mightiest; ours joy filled, and shout,

Presage of victory, and fierce desire

Of battle: whereat Michaël bid sound

The Archangel trumpet. Through the vast of Heaven

It sounded, and the faithful armies rung

Hosannah to the Highest; nor stood at gaze

The adverse legions, nor less hideous joined

The horrid shock. Now storming fury rose,

And clamour such as heard in Heaven till now.

Was never; arms on armour clashing brayed

Horrible discord, and the madding wheels

Of brazen chariots raged; dire was the noise

Of conflict; overhead the dismal hiss

Of fiery darts in flaming volleys flew,

And, flying, vaulted either host with fire.

So under fiery cope together rushed

Both battles main with ruinous assault

And inextinguishable rage. All Heaven

Resounded; and, had Earth been then, all Earth

Had to her centre shook. What wonder, when

Millions of fierce encountering Angels fought

On either side, the least of whom could yield

These elements, and arm him with the force

Of all their regions? How much more of power

Army against army numberless to raise

Dreadful combustion warring, and disturb,

Though not destroy, their happy native seat;

Had not the Eternal King Omnipotent

From his strong hold of Heaven high overruled

And limited their might, though numbered such

As each divided legion might have seemed

A numerous host, in strength, each armèd hand

A legion! Led in fight, yet leader seemed

Each warrior single as in chief; expert

When to advance, or stand, or turn the sway

Of battle, open when, and when to close

The ridges of grim war. No thought of flight,

None of retreat, no unbecoming deed

That argued fear; each on himself relied

As only in his arm the moment lay

Of victory. Deeds of eternal fame

Were done, but infinite; for wide was spread

That war, and various: sometimes on firm ground

A standing fight; then, soaring on main wing,

Tormented all the air; all air seemed then

Conflicting fire. Long time in even scale

The battle hung; till Satan, who that day

Prodigious power had shown, and met in arms

No equal, ranging through the dire attack

Of fighting Seraphim confused, at length

Saw where the sword of Michael smote, and felled

Squadrons at once: with huge two-handed sway

Brandished aloft, the horrid edge came down

Wide-wasting. Such destruction to withstand

He hasted, and opposed the rocky orb

Of tenfold adamant, his ample shield,

A vast circumference. At his approach

The great Archangel from his warlike toil

Surceased, and, glad, as hoping here to end

Intestine war in Heaven, the Arch-foe subdued,

Or captive dragged in chains, with hostile frown

And visage all inflamed, first thus began:—

“‘Author of Evil, unknown till thy revolt,

Unnamed in Heaven, now plenteous as thou seest

These acts of hateful strife—hateful to all,

Though heaviest, by just measure, on thyself

And thy adherents—how hast thou disturbed

Heaven’s blessed peace, and into Nature brought

Misery, uncreated till the crime

Of thy rebellion! how hast thou instilled

Thy malice into thousands, once upright

And faithful, now proved false! But think not here

To trouble holy rest; Heaven casts thee out

From all her confines; Heaven, the seat of bliss,

Brooks not the works of violence and war.

Hence, then, and Evil go with thee along,

Thy offspring, to the place of Evil, Hell—

Thou and thy wicked crew! there mingle broils!

Ere this avenging sword begin thy doom,

Or some more sudden vengeance, winged from God,

Precipitate thee with augmented pain.’

“So spake the Prince of Angels; to whom thus

The Adversary:—’Nor think thou with wind

Of airy threats to awe whom yet with deeds

Thou canst not. Hast thou turned the least of these

To flight—or, if to fall, but that they rise

Unvanquished—easier to transact with me

That thou shouldst hope, imperious, and with threats

To chase me hence? Err not that so shall end

The strife which thou call’st evil, but we style

The strife of glory; which we mean to win,

Or turn this Heaven itself into the Hell

Thou fablest; here, however, to dwell free,

If not to reign. Meanwhile, thy utmost force—

And join Him named Almighty to thy aid—

I fly not, but have sought thee far and nigh.’

“They ended parle, and both addressed for fight

Unspeakable; for who, though with the tongue

Of Angels, can relate, or to what things

Liken on earth conspicuous, that may lift

Human imagination to such highth

Of godlike power? for likest gods they seemed,

Stood they or moved, in stature, motion, arms,

Fit to decide the empire of great Heaven.

Now waved their fiery swords, and in the air

Made horrid circles; two broad suns their shields

Blazed opposite, while Expectation stood

In horror; from each hand with speed retired,

Where erst was thickest fight, the Angelic throng,

And left large field, unsafe with the wind

Of such commotion: such as (to set forth

Great things by small) if, Nature’s concord broke,

Among the constellations war were sprung,

Two planets, rushing from aspect’ malign

Of fiercest opposition, in mid sky

Should combat, and their jarring spheres confound.

Together both, with next to Almighty arm

Uplifted imminent, one stroke they aimed

That might determine, and not need repeat

As not of power, at once; nor odds appeared

In might or swift prevention. But the sword

Of Michaël from the armoury of God

Was given him tempered so that neither keen

Nor solid might resist that edge: it met

The sword of Satan, with steep force to smite

Descending, and in half cut sheer; nor stayed,

But, with swift wheel reverse, deep entering, shared

All his right side. Then Satan first knew pain,

And writhed him to and fro convolved; so sore

The griding sword with discontinuous wound

Passed through him. But the ethereal substance closed,

Not long divisible; and from the gash

A stream of nectarous humour issuing flowed

Sanguin, such as celestial Spirits may bleed,

And all his armour stained, erewhile so bright,

Forthwith, on all sides, to his aid was run

By Angels many and strong, who interposed

Defence, while others bore him on their shields

Back to his chariot where it stood retired

From off the files of war: there they him laid

Gnashing for anguish, and despite, and shame

To find himself not matchless, and his pride

Humbled by such rebuke, so far beneath

His confidence to equal God in power.

Yet soon he healed; for Spirits, that live throughout

Vital in every part—not, as frail Man,

In entrails, heart or head, liver or reins—

Cannot but by annihilating die;

Nor in their liquid texture mortal wound

Receive, no more than can the fluid air:

All heart they live, all head, all eye, all ear,

All intellect, all sense; and as they please

They limb themselves, and colour, shape, or size

Assume, as likes them best, condense or rare.

“Meanwhile, in other parts, like deeds deserved

Memorial, where the might of Gabriel fought,

And with fierce ensigns pierced the deep array

Of Moloch, furious king, who him defied,

And at his chariot-wheels to drag him bound

Threatened, nor from the Holy One of Heaven

Refreined his tongue blasphémous, but anon,

Down cloven to the waist, with shattered arms

And uncouth pain fled bellowing. On each wing

Uriel and Raphaël his vaunting foe,

Though huge and in a rock of diamond armed,

Vanquished—Adramelech and Asmadai,

Two potent Thrones, that to be less than Gods

Disdained, but meaner thoughts learned in their flight,

Mangled with ghastly wounds through plate and mail.

Nor stood unmindful Abdiel to annoy

The atheist crew, but with redoubled blow

Ariel, and Arioch, and the violence

Of Ramiel, scorched and blasted, overthrew.

I might relate of thousands, and their names

Eternize here on Earth; but those elect

Angels, contented with their fame in Heaven,

Seek not the praise of men: the other sort,

In might though wondrous and in acts of war,

Nor or renown less eager, yet by doom

Cancelled from Heaven and sacred memory,

Nameless in dark oblivion let them dwell

For strength from truth divided, and from just,

Illaudable, nought merits but dispraise

And ignominy, yet to glory aspires,

Vain-glorious, and through infamy seeks fame:

Therefore eternal silence be their doom!

“And now, their mightiest quelled, the battle swerved,

With many an inroad gored; deformed rout

Entered, and foul disorder; all the ground

With shivered armour strown, and on a heap

Chariot and charioter lay overturned,

And fiery foaming steeds; what stood recoiled,

O’er-wearied, through the faint Satanic host,

Defensive scarce, or with pale fear surprised—

Then first with fear surprised and sense of pain—

Fled ignominious, to such evil brought

By sin of disobedience, till that hour

Not liable to fear, or flight, or pain.

Far otherwise the inviolable Saints

In cubic phalanx firm advanced entire,

Invulnerable, impenetrably armed;

Such high advantages their innocence

Gave them above their foes—not to have sinned,

Not to have disobeyed; in fight they stood

Unwearied, unobnoxious to be pained

By wound, though from their place by violence moved.

“Now Night her course began, and, over Heaven

Inducing darkness, grateful truce imposed,

And silence on the odious din of war.

Under her cloudy covert both retired,

Victor and Vanquished. On the foughten field

Michael and his Angels, prevalent

Encamping, placed in guard their watches round,

Cherubic waving fires: on the other part,

Satan with his rebellious disappeared,

Far in the dark dislodged, and, void of rest,

His Potentates to council called by night,

And in the midst thus undismayed began:—

“‘O now in danger tried, now known in arms

Not to be overpowered, companions dear,

Found worthy not of liberty alone—

Too mean pretence—but, what we more affect,

Honour, dominion, glory and renown;

Who have sustained one day in doubtful fight

(And, if one day, why not eternal days?)

What Heaven’s Lord had powerfullest to send

Against us from about his Throne, and judged

Sufficient to subdue us to his will,

But proves not so: then fallible, it seems,

Of future we may deem him, though till now

Omniscient thought! True is, less firmly armed,

Some disadvantage we endured, and pain—

Till now not known, but, known, as soon contemned;

Since now we find this our empyreal form

Incapable of mortal injury,

Imperishable, and, though pierced with wound,

Soon closing, and by native vigour healed.

Of evil, then, so small as easy think

The remedy: perhaps more valid arms,

Weapons more violent, when next we meet,

May serve to better us and worse our foes,

Or equal what between us made the odds,

In nature none. If other hidden cause

Left them superior, while we can preserve

Unhurt our minds, and understanding sound,

Due search and consultation will disclose,’

“He sat; and in the assembly next upstood

Nisroch, of Principalities the prime.

As one he stood escaped from cruel fight

Sore toiled, his riven arms to havoc hewn,

And, cloudy in aspect’, thus answering spake:—

“‘Deliverer from new Lords, leader to free

Enjoyment of our right as Gods! yet hard

For Gods, and too unequal work, we find

Against unequal arms to fight in pain,

Against unpained, impassive; from which evil

Ruin must needs ensue. For what avails

Valour or strength, though matchless, quelled with pain,

Which all subdues, and makes remiss the hands

Of mightiest? Sense of pleasure we may well

Spare out of life perhaps, and not repine,

But live content—which is the calmest life;

But pain is perfect misery, the worst

Of evils, and, excessive, overturns

All patience. He who, therefore, can invent

With what more forcible we may offend

Our yet unwounded enemies, or arm

Ourselves with like defence, to me deserves

No less than for deliverance what we owe.’

“Whereto, with look composed, Satan replied:—

‘Not uninvented that, which thou aright

Believ’st so main to our success, I bring.

Which of us who beholds the bright surface

Of this ethereous mould whereon we stand—

This continent of spacious Heaven, adorned

With plant, fruit, flower ambrosial, gems and gold—

Whose eye so superficially surveys

These things as not to mind from whence they grow

Deep under ground: materials dark and crude,

Of spirituous and fiery spume, till, touched

With Heaven’s ray, and tempered, they shoot forth

So beauteous, opening to the ambient light?

These in their dark nativity the Deep

Shall yield us, pregnant with infernal flame;

Which, into hollow engines long and round

Thick-rammed, at the other bore with touch of fire

Dilated and infuriate, shall send forth

From far, with thundering noise, among our foes

Such implements of mischief as shall dash

To pieces and o’erwhelm whatever stands

Adverse, that they shall fear we have disarmed

The Thunderer of his only dreaded bolt.

Nor long shall be our labour; yet ere dawn

Effect shall end our wish. Meanwhile revive;

Abandon fear; to strength and counsel joined

Think nothing hard, much less to be despaired.’

“He ended; and his words their drooping cheer

Enlightened, and their languished hope revived.

The invention all admired, and each how he

To be the inventor missed; so easy it seemed,

Once found, which yet unfound most would have thought

Impossible! Yet, haply, of thy race,

In future days, if malice should abound,

Some one, intent on mischief, or inspired

With devilish machination, might devise

Like instrument to plague the sons of men

For sin, on war and mutual slaughter bent.

Forthwith from council to the work they flew;

None arguing stood; innumerable hands

Were ready; in a moment up they turned

Wide the celestial soil, and saw beneath

The originals of Nature in their crude

Conception; sulphurous and nitrous foam

They found, they mingled, and, with subtle art

Concocted and adusted, they reduced

To blackest grain, and into store conveyed.

Part hidden veins digged up (nor hath this Earth

Entrails unlike) of mineral and stone,

Whereof to found their engines and their balls

Of missive ruin; part incentive reed

Provide, pernicious with one touch to fire.

So all ere day-spring, under conscious Night,

Secret they finished, and in order set,

With silent circumspection, unespied.

“Now, when fair Morn orient in Heaven appeared,

Up rose the victor Angels, and to arms

The matin trumpet sung. In arms they stood

Of golden panoply, refulgent host,

Soon banded; others from the dawning hills

Looked round, and scouts each coast light-armèd scour,

Each quarter, to descry the distant foe,

Where lodged, or whither fled, or if for fight,

In motion or in halt. Him soon they met

Under spread ensigns moving nigh, in slow

But firm battalion: back with speediest sail

Zophiel, of Cherubim the swiftest wing,

Came flying, and in mid air aloud thus cried:—

“‘Arm, Warriors, arm for fight! The foe at hand,

Whom fled we thought, will save us long pursuit

This day; fear not his flight; so thick a cloud

He comes, and settled in his face I see

Sad resolution and secure. Let each

His adamantine coat gird well, and each

Fit well his helm, gripe fast his orbèd shield,

Borne even or high; for this day will pour down,

If I conjecture aught, no drizzling shower,

But rattling storm of arrows barbed with fire.’

“So warned he them, aware themselves, and soon

In order, quit of all impediment.

Instant, without disturb, they took alarm,

And onward more embattled: when, behold,

Not distant far, with heavy pace the Foe

Approaching gross and huge, in hollow cube

Training his devilish enginery, impaled

On every side with shadowing squadrons deep,

To hide the fraud. At interview both stood

A while; but suddenly at head appeared

Satan, and thus was heard commanding loud:—

“‘Vanguard, to right and left the front unfold,

That all may see who hate us how we seek

Peace and composure, and with open breast

Stand ready to receive them, if they like

Our overture, and turn not back perverse:

But that I doubt. However, witness Heaven!

Heaven, witness thou anon! while we discharge

Freely our part. Ye, who appointed stand,

Do as you have in charge, and briefly touch

What we propound, and loud that all may hear.’

“So scoffing in ambiguous words, he scarce

Had ended, when to right and left the front

Divided, and to either flank retired;

Which to our eyes discovered, new and strange,

A triple mounted row of pillars laid

On wheels (for like to pillars most they seemed,

Or hollowed bodies made of oak or fir,

With branches lopt, in wood or mountain felled),

Brass, iron, stony mould, had not their mouths

With hideous orifice gaped on us wide,

Portending hollow truce. At each, behind,

A Seraph stood, and in his hand a reed

Stood waving tipt with fire; while we, suspense,

Collected stood within our thoughts amused.

Not long! for sudden all at once their reeds

Put forth, and to a narrow vent applied

With nicest touch. Immediate in a flame,

But soon obscured with smoke, all Heaven appeared,

From those deep-throated engines belched, whose roar

Embowelled with outrageous noise the air,

And all her entrails tore, disgorging foul

Their devilish glut, chained thunderbolts and hail

Of iron globes; which, on the Victor Host

Levelled, with such impetuous fury smote,

That whom they hit none on their feet might stand,

Though standing else as rocks, but down they fell

By thousands, Angel on Archangel rowled,

The sooner for their arms. Unarmed, they might

Have easily, as Spirits, evaded swift

By quick contraction or remove; but now

Foul dissipation followed, and forced rout;

Nor served it to relax their serried files.

What should they do? If on they rushed, repulse

Repeated, and indecent overthrow

Doubled, would render them yet more despised,

And to their foes a laughter—for in view

Stood ranked of Seraphim another row,

In posture to displode their second tire

Of thunder; back defeated to return

They worse abhorred. Satan beheld their plight,

And to his mates thus in derision called:—

“‘O friends, why come not on these victors proud?

Erewhile they fierce were coming; and, when we,

To entertain them fair with open front

And breast (what could we more?), propounded terms

Of composition, straight they changed their minds,

Flew off, and into strange vagaries fell,

As they would dance. Yet for a dance they seemed

Somewhat extravagant and wild; perhaps

For joy of offered peace. But I suppose,

If our proposals once again were heard,

We should compel them to a quick result.’

“To whom thus Belial, in like gamesome mood:

‘Leader, the terms we sent were terms of weight,

Of hard contents, and full of force urged home,

Such as we might perceive amused them all,

And stumbled many. Who receives them right

Had need from head to foot well understand;

Not understood, this gift they have besides—

They shew us when our foes walk not upright.’

“So they among themselves in pleasant vein

Stood scoffing, heightened in their thoughts beyond

All doubt of victory; Eternal Might

To match with their inventions they presumed

So easy, and of his thunder made a scorn,

And all his host derided, while they stood

A while in trouble. But they stood not long;

Rage prompted them at length, and found them arms

Against such hellish mischief fit to oppose.

Forthwith (behold the excellence, the power,

Which God hath in his mighty Angels placed!)

Their arms away they threw, and to the hills

(For Earth hath this variety from Heaven

Of pleasure situate in hill and dale)

Light as the lightning-glimpse they ran, they flew,

From their foundations, loosening to and fro,

They plucked the seated hills, with all their load,

Rocks, waters, woods, and, by the shaggy tops

Uplifting, bore them in their hands. Amaze,

Be sure, and terror, seized the rebel Host,

When coming towards them so dread they saw

The bottom of the mountains upward turned,

Till on those cursed engines’ triple row

They saw them whelmed, and all their confidence

Under the weight of mountains buried deep;

Themselves invaded next, and on their heads

Main promontories flung, which in the air

Came shadowing, and oppressed whole legions armed.

Their armour helped their harm, crushed in and bruised,

Into their substance pent—which wrought them pain

Implacable, and many a dolorous groan,

Long struggling underneath, ere they could wind

Out of such prison, though Spirits of purest light,

Purest at first, now gross by sinning grown.

The rest, in imitation, to like arms

Betook them, and the neighbouring hills uptore;

So hills amid the air encountered hills,

Hurled to and fro with jaculation dire,

That underground they fought in dismal shade:

Infernal noise! war seemed a civil game

To this uproar; horrid confusion heaped

Upon confusion rose. And now all Heaven

Had gone to wrack, with ruin overspread,

Had not the Almighty Father, where he sits

Shrined in his sanctuary of Heaven secure,

Consulting on the sum of things, foreseen

This tumult, and permitted all, advised,

That his great purpose he might so fulfil,

To honour his Anointed Son, avenged

Upon his enemies, and to declare

All power on him transferred. Whence to his Son,

The assessor of his Throne, he thus began:—

“‘Effulgence of my glory, Son beloved,

Son in whose face invisible is beheld

Visibly, what by Deity I am,

And in whose hand what by decree I do,

Second Omnipotence! two days are passed,

Two days, as we compute the days of Heaven,

Since Michael and his Powers went forth to tame

These disobedient. Sore hath been their fight,

As likeliest was when two such foes met armed:

For to themselves I left them; and thou know’st

Equal in their creation they were formed,

Save what sin hath impaired—which yet hath wrought

Insensibly, for I suspend their doom:

Whence in perpetual fight they needs must last

Endless, and no solution will be found.

War wearied hath performed what war can do,

And to disordered rage let loose the reins,

With mountains, as with weapons, armed; which makes

Wild work in Heaven, and dangerous to the main.

Two days are, therefore, passed; the third is thine:

For thee I have ordained it, and thus far

Have suffered, that the glory may be thine

Of ending this great war, since none but thou

Can end it. Into thee such virtue and grace

Immense I have transfused, that all may know

In Heaven and Hell thy power above compare,

And this perverse commotion governed thus,

To manifest thee worthiest to be Heir

Of all things—to be Heir, and to be King

By sacred unction, thy deserved right.

Go, then, thou Mightiest, in thy Father’s might;

Ascend my chariot; guide the rapid wheels

That shake Heaven’s basis; bring forth all my war;

My bow and thunder, my Almighty arms,

Gird on, and sword upon thy puissant thigh;

Pursue these Sons of Darkness, drive them out

From all Heaven’s bounds into the utter Deep;

There let them learn, as likes them, to despise

God, and Messiah his anointed King.’

“He said, and on his Son with rays direct

Shon full. He all his Father full expressed

Ineffably into his face received;

And thus the Filial Godhead answering spake:—

“‘O Father, O Supreme of Heavenly Thrones,

First, Highest, Holiest, Best, thou always seek’st

To glorify thy Son; I always thee,

As is most just. This I my glory account,

My exaltation, and my whole delight,

That thou in me, well pleased, declar’st thy will

Fulfilled, which to fulfil is all my bliss.

Sceptre and power, thy giving, I assume,

And gladlier shall resign when in the end

Thou shalt be all in all, and I in thee

For ever, and in me all whom thou lov’st.

But whom thou hat’st I hate, and can put on

Thy terrors, as I put thy mildness on,

Image of thee in all things: and shall soon,

Armed with thy might, rid Heaven of these rebelled,

To their prepared ill mansion driven down,

To chains of darkness and the undying Worm,

That from thy just obedience could revolt,

Whom to obey is happiness entire.

Then shall thy Saints, unmixed, and from the impure

Far separate, circling thy holy Mount,

Unfeigned halleluiahs to thee sing,

Hymns of high praise, and I among them chief,’

“So said, He, o’er his sceptre bowing, rose

From the right hand of Glory where He sat;

And the third sacred morn began to shine,

Dawning through Heaven. Forth rushed with whirlwind sound

The chariot of Paternal Deity,

Flashing thick flames, wheel within wheel; undrawn,

Itself instinct with spirit, but convoyed

By four cherubic Shapes. Four faces each

Had wondrous; as with stars, their bodies all

And wings were set with eyes; with eyes the wheels

Of beryl, and careering fires between;

Over their heads a crystal firmament,

Whereon a sapphire throne, inlaid with pure

Amber and colours of the showery arch.

He, in celestial panoply all armed

Of radiant Urim, work divinely wrought,

Ascended; at his right hand Victory

Sat eagle-winged; beside him hung his bow,

And quiver, with three-bolted thunder stored;

And from about him fierce effusion rowled

Of smoke and bickering flame and sparkles dire.

Attended with ten thousand Saints,

He onward came; far off his coming shon;

And twenty thousand (I their number heard)

Chariots of God, half on each hand, were seen.

He on the wings of Cherub rode sublime

On the crystallin sky, in saphir throned—

Illustrious far and wide, but by his own

First seen. Them unexpected joy surprised

When the great ensign of Messiah blazed

Aloft, by Angels borne, his Sign in Heaven;

Under whose conduct Michael soon reduced

His army, circumfused on either wing,

Under their Head embodied all in one.

Before him Power Divine his way prepared;

At his command the uprooted hills retired

Each to his place; they heard his voice, and went

Obsequious; Heaven his wonted face renewed,

And with fresh flowerets hill and valley smiled.

“This saw his hapless foes, but stood obdured,

And to rebellious fight rallied their Powers,

Insensate, hope conceiving from despair.

In Heavenly Spirits could such perverseness dwell?

But to convince the proud what signs avail,

Or wonders move the obdurate to relent?

They, hardened more by what might most reclaim,

Grieving to see his glory, at the sight

Took envy, and, aspiring to his highth,

Stood re-imbattled fierce, by force or fraud

Weening to prosper, and at length prevail

Against God and Messiah, or to fall

In universal ruin last; and now

To final battle drew, disdaining flight,

Or faint retreat: when the great Son of God

To all his host on either hand thus spake:—

“‘Stand still in bright array, ye Saints; here stand,

Ye Angels armed; this day from battle rest.

Faithful hath been your warfare, and of God

Accepted, fearless in his righteous cause;

And, as ye have received, so have ye done,

Invincibly. But of this cursed crew

The punishment to other hand belongs;

Vengeance is his, or whose He sole appoints.

Number to this day’s work is not ordained,

Nor multitude; stand only and behold

God’s indignation on these godless poured

By me. Not you, but me, they have despised,

Yet envied; against me is all their rage,

Because the Father, to whom in Heaven supreme

Kingdom and power and glory appertains,

Hath honoured me, according to his will.

Therefore to me their doom he hath assigned,

That they may have their wish, to try with me

In battle which the stronger proves—they all,

Or I alone against them; since by strength

They measure all, of other excellence

Not emulous, nor care who them excels;

Nor other strife with them do I voutsafe.’

“So spake the Son, and into terror changed

His countenance, too severe to be beheld,

And full of wrauth bent on his enemies.

At once the Four spread out their starry wings

With dreadful shade continguous, and the orbs

Of his fierce chariot rowled, as with the sound

Of torrent floods, or of a numerous host.

He on his impious foes right onward drove,

Gloomy as Night. Under his burning wheels

The steadfast Empyrean shook throughout,

All but the Throne itself of God. Full soon

Among them he arrived, in his right hand

Grasping ten thousand thunders, which he sent

Before him, such as in their souls infixed

Plagues. They, astonished, all resistance lost,

All courage; down their idle weapons dropt;

O’er shields, and helms, and helmed heads he rode

Of Thrones and mighty Seraphim prostate,

That wished the mountains now might be again

Thrown on them, as a shelter from his ire.

Nor less on either side tempestuous fell

His arrows, from the fourfold-visaged Four,

Distinct with eyes, and from the living wheels,

Distinct alike with multitude of eyes;

One spirit in them ruled, and every eye

Glared lightning, and shot forth pernicious fire

Among the accursed, that withered all their strength,

And of their wonted vigour left them drained,

Exhausted, spiritless, afflicted, fallen,

Yet half his strength he put not forth, but checked

His thunder in mid-volley; for he meant

Not to destroy, but root them out of Heaven.

The overthrown he raised, and, as a herd

Of goats or timorous flock together thronged,

Drove them before him thunderstruck, pursued

With terrors and with furies to the bounds

And crystal wall of Heaven; which, opening wide,

Rowled inward, and a spacious gap disclosed

Into the wasteful Deep. The monstrous sight

Strook them with horror backward; but far worse

Urged them behind: headlong themselves they threw

Down from the verge of Heaven: eternal wrauth

Burnt after them to the bottomless pit.

“Hell heard the unsufferable noise; Hell saw

Heaven ruining from Heaven, and would have fled

Affrighted; but strict Fate had cast too deep

Her dark foundations, and too fast had bound.

Nine days they fell; confounded Chaos roared,

And felt tenfold confusion in their fall

Through his wild Anarchy; so huge a rout

Incumbered him with ruin. Hell at last,

Yawning, received them whole, and on them closed—

Hell, their fit habitation, fraught with fire

Unquenchable, the house of woe and pain.

Disburdened Heaven rejoiced, and soon repaired

Her mural breach, returning whence it rowled.

Sole victor, from the expulsion of his foes

Messiah his triumphal chariot turned.

To meet him all his Saints, who silent stood

Eye-witnesses of His Almighty acts,

With jubilee advanced; and, as they went,

Shaded with branching palm, each order bright

Sung triumph, and him sung victorious King,

Son, Heir, and Lord, to him dominion given,

Worthiest to reign. He celebrated rode

Triumphant through mid Heaven, into the courts

And temple of his mighty Father throned

On high; who into glory him received,

Where now he sits at the right hand of bliss.

“Thus measuring things in Heaven by things on Earth,

At thy request, and that thou may’st beware

By what is past, to thee I have revealed

What might have else to human race been hid—

The discord which befell, and war in Heaven

Among the Angelic Powers, and the deep fall

Of those too high aspiring who rebelled

With Satan: he who envies now thy state,

Who now is plotting how he may seduce

Thee also from obedience, that, with him

Bereaved of happiness, thou may’st partake

His punishment, eternal misery;

Which would be all his solace and revenge,

As a despite done against the Most High,

Thee once to gain companion of his woe.

But listen not to his temptations; warn

Thy weaker; let it profit thee to have heard,

By terrible example, the reward

Of disobedience. Firm they might have stood,

Yet fell. Remember, and fear to transgress.”