« PreviousContinue »
Infinite goodness, grace, and mercy shewn,
On Man, by him seduced; but on himself
Treble confusion, wrath, and vengeance pour'd. 220
Forthwith upright he rears from off the pool
His mighty stature; on each hand the flames
Driv'n backward slope their pointing spires, and roll'd
In billows, leave i' th' midst a horrid vale.
Then with expanded wings he steers his flight 225
Aloft, incumbent on the dusky air,
That felt unusual weight; till on dry land
He lights, if it were land that ever burn'd
With solid, as the lake with liquid fire;
And such appear'd in hue, as when the force
Of subterranean wind transports a hill
Torn from Pelorus, or the shatter'd side
Of thund'ring Etna, whose combustible
And fuel'd entrails thence conceiving fire,
Sublimed with min'ral fury, aid the winds,
And leave a singed bottom all involved
With stench and smoke: such resting found the sole
Of unblest feet. Him follow'd his next mate,
Both glorying to have 'scap'd the Stygian flood
As Gods, and by their own recover'd strength,
Not by the suff'rance of Supernal Power.
Is this the region, this the soil, the clime,
Said then the lost Arch-Angel, this the seat
That we must change for heav'n, this mournful gloom
For that celestial light? Be it so, since he
Who now is Sovran can dispose and bid
What shall be right: farthest from him is best,
Whom reason hath equall'd, force hath made supreme
Above his equals. Farewell happy fields,
Where joy for ever 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 Heav'n of Hell, a Hell of Heav'n.
226. Said to be borrowed from Spenser, Book i. Canto 2. 231. Winds is sometimes read instead of wind.
232. Pelorus is a Sicilian promontory now called Capo di Faro, 246. Sovran is abridged from the Italian Sovrano.
254. This sentiment is the great foundation on which the Stoles built their whole system of Ethics.
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; th' 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,
Th' associates and copartners of our loss,
Lie thus astonish'd on th' 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
Regain'd in heav'n, or what more lost in Hell? 270
So Satan spake; and him Beelzebub
Thus answer'd: Leader of those armies bright,
Which but th' Omnipotent none could have foil'd,
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
Grov'ling and prostrate on yon lake of fire,
As we ere while, astounded and amazed,
No wonder, fall'n such a pernicious height.
He scarce had ceased when the superior Fiend Was moving tow'rd the shore; his pond'rous 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 Fesolé, Or in Valdarno, to descry new lands, Rivers, or mountains, on her spotty globe. His spear, to equal which the tallest pine
263. The same sentiment is put by Eschylus into the mouth of Prometheus, and it was the well-known saying of Julius Cæsar, that he would rather be the first man in a village, than the second in Rome.
287. So Homer and Ossian compare the shields of their heroes. 289. Fesole and Valdarno, the one a city, the other a valley, in Tuscany.
Hewn on Norwegian hills, to be the mast
Of some great ammiral, were but a wand,
He walk'd 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 inflamed sea he stood, and call'd
His legions, Angel forms, who lay entranced
Thick as autumnal leaves that strow the brooks
In Vallombrosa, where the Etrurian shades
High over-arch'd imbow'r; or scatter'd sedge
Afloat, when with fierce winds Orion arm'd
Hath vex'd 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 call'd so loud, that all the hollow deep
Of Hell resounded. Princes, Potentates,
Warriors, the flow'r of heav'n, once yours, now lost, If such astonishment as this can seize
Eternal spirits; or have ye chos'n 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
T'adore the conqueror? who now beholds
Cherub and Seraph rolling in the flood
With scatter'd arms and ensigns, till anon
293. Milton here again enlarges on the idea of the great preceding poets, who had given their heroes a pine for their wands
294. Ammiral from the German amiral or the Italian ammiraglio. 303. A famous valley in Tuscany. The name is compounded of vallis and umbra.
305. Orion is the most stormy of the constellations, and, as the Red Sea abounds with sedge, it is here represented as exercising its influence over it.
307. Pharaoh has been supposed to be the same with Busiris, which opinion Milton appears to have held. Chivalry is used in the poets to denote, not only those who fight on horses, but those who go to battle in chariots drawr by them.
His swift pursuers from heav'n gates discern
Th' advantage, and descending tread us down
Thus drooping, or with linked thunderbolts
Transfix us to the bottom of this gulf.
Awake, arise, or be for ever fall'n.
They heard, and were abash'd, 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 gen'ral's voice they soon obey'd
Innumerable. As when the potent rod
Of Amram's son, in Egypt's evil day,
Waved round the coast, up call'd a pitchy cloud 340
Of locusts, warping on the eastern wind,
That o'er the realm of impious Pharaoh hung
Like night, and darken'd all the land of Nile:
So numberless were those bad Angels seen
Hov'ring on wing under the cope of Hell
'Twixt upper, nether, and surrounding fires;
Till, as a signal giv'n, th' uplifted spear
Of their great Sultan waving to direct
Their course, in even balance down they light
On the firm brimstone, and fill all the plain;
A multitude, like which the populous north
Pour'd never from her frozen loins, to pass
Rhene or the Danaw, when her barb'rous sons
Came like a deluge on the south, and spread
Beneath Gibraltar to the Lybian sands.
Forthwith from ev'ry squadron and each band
The heads and leaders thither haste where stood
Their great commander; Godlike shapes and forms
Excelling human, princely dignities,
And Pow'rs that erst in Heaven sat on thrones; 360
Though of their names in heav'nly records now
Be no memorial, blotted out and rased
By their rebellion from the books of life.
329. An allusion is here made to the story of Ajax Oileus, En. i. 44.
363. Instead of book, to answer better to the plural records used before, and to the immense number of angels.
Nor had they yet among the sons of Eve
Got them new names, till wand'ring o'er the earth,
Thro' God's high suff'rance for the trial of man,
By falsities and lies the greatest part
Of mankind they corrupted, to forsake
God their Creator, and th' invisible
Glory of him that made them to transform
Oft to the image of a brute, adorn'd
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
Roused from the slumber, on that fiery couch, [last
At their great emp'ror'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 thund'ring 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, besmear'd with blood
Of human sacrifice, and parents' tears,
Though for the noise of drums and timbrels loud
375. The catalogue of the evil spirits is a great proof both of the art and the imagination of Milton. It is far superior in description, as well as fitness, to those in Homer and Virgil, and forms a part of the poem which could not be removed without great injury to its completeness.
386. God dwelt in a visible glory between the cherubim in the Holy of Holies of the temple on Mount Sion.
392. Moloch has been supposed to be the Saturn of the heathens. The Scriptures say that parents made their children pass through the fire to him, not perhaps in sacrifice always, but as a rite of consecration to him. Rabba was the capital of the Ammonites, and Argob and Basan neighbouring countries. Gehenna, or the valley of Hinnom, near Jerusalem, is made in the New Testament a type of hell, as it was there that a fire was kept up to consume the acrifices offered to this idol.