Page images

To set himself in glory 'bove his peers,
He trusted to have equall'd the Most High,
If he opposed; and with ambitious aim
Against the throne and monarchy of God,
Raised impious war in Heav'n, and battle proud
With vain attempt. Him the Almighty Power
Hurl'd headlong flaming from th' ethereal sky,
With hideous ruin and combustion, down
To bottomless perdition; there to dwell
In adamantine chains and penal fire,
Who durst defy th' Omnipotent to arms.




Nine times the space that measures day and night 50
To mortal men, he with his horrid crew
Lay vanquish'd, rolling 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 witness'd huge affliction and dismay,
Mix'd with obdurate pride and steadfast hate:
At once, as far as angels' 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 pris'n ordain'd


In utter darkness, and their portion set
As far removed from God and light of heaven,
As from the centre thrice to th' utmost pole.

44. This whole description of the fall of the angels and of the infernal abyss is conceived in the noblest style of poetry; the flaming, rushing fall of the apostate angels, and the dark but fiery prison which received them, are perhaps the most sublime pictures which the human imagination ever produced.

74. It is a curious observation, that Homer places Hell as far beneath the earth as Heaven is above it; Virgil makes it twice as distant, and Milton here thrice as far.

O how unlike the place from whence they fell!
There the companions of his fall, o'erwhelm'd
With floods and whirlwinds of tempestuous fire,
He soon discerns, and welt'ring by his side
One next himself in power, and next in crime,
Long after known in Palestine, and named
Beelzebub. To whom th' Arch-Enemy,



And thence in Heav'n call'd Satan, with bold words Breaking the horrid silence thus began:


If thou beest he; but O how fallen! how changed
From him who, in the happy realms of light
Cloth'd 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,

Join'd with me once, now misery hath join'd
In equal ruin: into what pit thou seest



From what height fall'n, 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 fix'd 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 arm'd,

That durst dislike his reign, and me preferring,


His utmost pow'r with adverse pow'r opposed

In dubious battle on the plains of Heav'n,

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

All is not lost; th' 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



81. Beelzebub, or the Lord of Flies, was worshipped at Ekron, 2 Kings, i. 2. see also Matt. xii. 24.

82. Satan in Hebrew means an enemy.

84. The first speech of Satan is very noble, and the abrupt manner of its commencement is powerfully striking. Imitations have been pointed out in this passage, of Isaiah xiv. Virgil, Æn. ii. 274. and Homer, Odyss. vi. 110. Others have also been remarked of Eschylus, Tasso, &c. but they seem to me to liave been coincidences rather than imitations.

Extort from me. To bow and sue for grace
With suppliant knee, and deify his pow'r,
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,
Irreconcileable to our grand foe,


Who now triumphs, and in th' excess of joy
Sole reigning holds the tyranny of heav'n.

So spake th' apostate Angel, though in pain,
Vaunting aloud, but rack'd with deep despair :
And him thus answer'd soon his bold compeer.

O Prince, O Chief of many throned powers 1
That led th' embattled Seraphim to war
Under thy conduct, and in dreadful deeds
Fearless, endanger'd heav'n'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 heav'n, and all this mighty host

In horrible destruction laid thus low,

As far as Gods and heav'nly essences
Can perish for the mind and spirit remains
Invincible, and vigour soon returns,


Though all our glory extinct, and happy state
Here swallow'd up in endless misery.
But what if he our conqu'ror (whom I now
Of force believe almighty, since no less

Than such could have o'erpower'd such force as ours) Have left us this our spirit and strength entire 146 Strongly to suffer and support our pains,

That we may so suffice his vengeful ire,

116. Satan expresses by the word fate, his high and proud belief in the original and underived existence as well as immortality of the angels. Here is an admirable attention to the minutest circumstances which might develope the character of the fallen spirit evident throughout the speech, and the reader's attention cannot be too strongly directed to its examination.

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 his errands in the gloomy deep;
What can it then avail, though yet we feel
Strength undiminish'd, or eternal being
To undergo eternal punishment?



Whereto with speedy words th' Arch-Fiend reply'd:
Fall'n 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 oft-times 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 recall'd
His ministers of vengeance and pursuit




Back to the gates of Heav'n; the sulph'rous hail
Shot after us in storm, o'erblown hath laid
The fiery surge, that from the precipice

Of Heav'n received us falling; and the thunder, Wing'd with red lightning and impetuous rage, 175 Perhaps hath spent his shafts, and ceases now

To bellow through the vast and boundless deep,
Let us not slip th' 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 glimm'ring 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,


170. Dr. Bentley has pointed out a contradiction between this passage and one in the sixth book. It is here said that the good angels pursued the fallen ones down to hell; in the other place, It is asserted, that the Messiah alone expelled them from heaven. The variation has been accounted for by the account being given by different relators-The one by the discomfited Satan, the other by the angel Raphael.

And reassembling 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 warr'd on Jove,
Briareos, or Typhon, whom the den
By ancient Tarsus held, or that sea-beast
Leviathan, which God of all his works
Created Ługest that swim the ocean stream;
Him haply slumb'ring on the Norway foam
The pilot of some small night-founder'd skiff
Deeming some island, oft, as seamen tell,
With fixed anchor in his scaly rind




Moors by his side under the lee, while night

Invests the sea, and wished morn delays:

So stretch'd out huge in length the Arch-Fiend lay
Chain'd on the burning lake, nor ever thence
Had ris'n or heaved his head, but that the will


And high permission of all-ruling Heav'n
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


196. Virgil describes the bulk of one of the giants in the same manner. Æn. vi. 596.

199. Typhon or Typhoeus was one of the rebel giants, and Imprisoned by Jupiter under Mount Etna, or, as others say, in a cave near Tarsus, a city in Cilicia.

201. It has been questioned whether Milton supposed the Leviathan to be a whale or a crocodile. It is most probable his ima gination made him content with the description of this animal given in Job, and that his critical industry was not at all engaged In settling the question.

204. Bentley has given a curious instance of his utter want of poetical feeling in proposing to change this epithet nightfoundered into nigh-foundered.

209. This verse, by its laboured length, well expresses the idea of Satan & immense bulk.

« PreviousContinue »