Page images
PDF
EPUB

Th' Almighty Victor to spend all his rage,
And that must end us ; that must be our cure,

145
To be no more? Sad cure ; for who would lose,
Though full of pain, this intellectual being,
Those thoughts that wander through eternity,
To perish rather, swallow'd up and lost
In wide womb of uncreated night,

150 Devoid of sense and motion ? And who knows, Let this be good, whether our angry Foe Can give it, or will ever? How he can Is doubtful; that he never will is sure. Will he, so wise, let loose at once his ire

153 Belike through impotence, or unaware, To give his enemies their wish, and end Them in his anger, whom his anger saves To punish endless? Wherefore cease we then ? Say they who counsel war, we are decreed, 160 Reserved, and destined, to eternal woe; Whatever doing, what can we suffer more, What can we suffer worse? Is this then worst, Thus sitting, thus consulting, thus in arms? What when we fled amain, pursued and struck 165 With Heav'n's afflicting thunder, and besought The deep to shelter us? This Hell then seem'd A refuge from those wounds: or when we lay Chain'd on the burning lake? That sure was worse. What if the breath that kindled those grim fires, Awaked should blow them into sev'nfold rage, 171 And plunge us in the flames ? Or from above Should intermitted vengeance arm again His red right hand to plague us ? What if all Her stores were open'd, and this firmament 175 Of Hell should spout her cataracts of fire, Impendent horrors, threat’ning hideous fall One day upon our heads; while we perhaps Designing or exhorting glorious war, Caught in a fiery tempest, shall be hurl'd 180 Each on his rock, transfix'd, the sport and prey Of wracking whirlwinds, or for ever sunk 156. Impotence is to be understood as the opposite

of wisdom, or mental weakness.

170. See Isa. XXX. 33. 174. His red right hand, namely God's, whose vengeanco

is personified.

Under yon boiling ocean, wrapt in chains;
There to converse with everlasting groans,
Uprespited, unpitied, unreprieved,

185
Ages of hopeless end? This would be worse.
War therefore, open or conceal'd, alike
My voicc dissuades ; for what can force or guile
With him, or who deceive his mind, whose eye
Views all things atone view? He from Heav'n's height
All these our motions vain, sees and derides : 191
Not more almighty to resist our might
Than wise to frustrate all our plots and wiles.
Shall we then live thus vile, the race of Heav'n
Thus trampled, thus expellid, to suffer here 195
Chains and these torments? Better these than worse,
By my advice : since fate inevitable
Subdues us, and omnipotent decree,
The Victor's will. To suffer, as to do,
Our strength is equal; nor the law unjust 200
That so ordains. This was at first resolved,
If we were wise, against so great a Foe
Contending, and so doubtful what might fall.
I laugh, when those who at the spear are bold
And vent'rous, if that fail them, shrink and fear 205
What yet they know must follow, to endure
Exile or ignominy, or bonds, or pain,
The sentence of their Conqu’ror. This is now
Our doom ; which if we can sustain and bear,
Our Supreme Foe in time may much remit 210
His anger, and perhaps, thus far removed,
Not mind us not offending, satisfy'd
With what is punish'd; whence these raging fires
Will slacken, if his breath stir not their flames.
Our purer essence then will overcome

215 Their noxious vapour, or inured not feel, Or changed at length, and to the place conform'd In temper and in nature, will receive Familiar the fierce heat, and void of pain; This horror will grow mild, this darkness light, 220 Besides what hope the never-ending flight Of future days may bring, what chance, what change

190. See Psalm ii. 4. 220. The word light is an adjective and not a substantive, ne Dr. Bentley supposed. It here means easy to bear.

Worth waiting, since our present lot appears
For bappy though but ill, for ill not worst,
If we procure not to ourselves more woe. 225

Thus Belial, with words cloth'd in reason's garb
Counsel'd ignoble ease and peaceful sloth,
Nnt peace: and after him thus Mammon spake:

Either to disenthrone the King of Heav'n We war, if war be best, or to regain

230 Our own right lost : him to unthrone we then May hope, when everlasting Fate shall yield To fickle Chance, and Chaos judge the strife. The former vain to hope, argues as vain The latter; for what place can be for us

235 Within Heav'n's bound, unless Heav'n's Lord We overpow'r ? Suppose he should relent, (Supreme And publish grace to all, on promise made Of new subjection; with what eyes could we Stand in his presence humble, and receive 240 Strict laws imposed, to celebrate his throne With warbled hymns, and to his Godhead sing Forced hallelujahs, while he lordly sits Our envied Sovereign, and his altar breathes Ambrosial odours and ambrosial flow'rs,

245 Our servile offerings ? This must be our task In Heav'n, this our delight. How wearisome Eternity so spent in worship paid To whom we hate! Let us not then pursue By force impossible, by leave obtain'd

250 Unacceptable, though in Heav'n, our state Of splendid vassalage ; but rather seek Our own good from ourselves, and from our own Live to ourselves, though in this vast recess, Free, and to none accountable, preferring 255 Hard liberty before the easy yoke Of servile pomp.

Our greatness will appear Then most conspicuous, when great things of small, Useful of hurtful, prosp'rous of adverse, We can create, and in what place soe'er. 200 Thrive under evil, and work ease out of pain Through labour and endurance. This deep world Of darkness do we dread ? How oft amidst

269. See the splendid original of this passage, Ps. xviii. 11. 13 and Ps. xcvii. 2.

Thick clouds and dark doth Heav'n's all-ruling Sire Choose to reside, his glory unobscured,

285 And with the majesty of darkness round Covers his throne; from whence deep thunders roar, Must'ring their rage, and Heav'n resembles Hell? As he our darkness, cannot we his light Imitate when we please? This desert soil 270 Wants not her hidden lustre, gems and gold , Nor want we skill or art, from whence to raise Magnificence : and what can Heav'n shew more ? Our torments also may in length of time Become our elements; these piercing fires 275 As soft as now severe, our temper changed Into their temper; which must needs remove The sensible of pain. All things invite To peaceful counsels, and the settled state Of order, how in safety best we may

290 Compose our present evils, with regard Of what we are and where, dismissing quite All thoughts of war. Ye have what I advise.

He scarce had finish'd, when such murmur fill'd Th' assembly, as when hollow rocks retain 285 The sound of blust'ring winds, which all night long Had roused the sea, now with hoarse cadence lull Seafaring men o'erwatch’d, whose bark by chance Or pinnace anchors in a craggy bay After the tempest. Such applause was heard 290 As Mammon ended, and his sentence pleased, Advising peace; for such another field They dreaded worse than Hell: so much the fear Of thunder and the sword of Michaël Wrought still within them; and no less desire

;

295 To found this nether empire, which might rise By policy and long process of time, In emulation opposite to Heav'n : Which when Beëlzebub perceived, than whom, Satan except, none higher sat, with grave 300 Aspéct he rose, and in his rising seem'd A pillar of state : deep on his front engraven Deliberation sat and public care;

278. Sensible is used as a substantive; a Grecian mode of expression. 282. There is sometimes read instead of where.

E

And princely counsel in his face yet shone,
Majestic though in ruin: sage he stood,

800
With Atlantean shoulders fit to bear
The weight of mightiest monarchies; his look
Drew audience and attention still as night
Or summer's noon-tide air, while thus he spake:

Thrones and Imperial Powers, Offspring of Hear'n . Ethereal Virtues ; or these titles now

311 Must we renounce, and changing style be call'd Princes of Hell? for so the popular vote Inclines here to continue, and build up here A growing empire ; doubtless, while we dream, 315 And know not that the King of Heav'n hath doom'd This place our dungeon, not our safe retreat Beyond his potent arm, to live exempt From Heav'n's high jurisdiction, in new league Banded against his throne, but to remain

320 In strictest bondage, though thus far removed, Under th' inevitable curb, reserved His captive multitude: for he, be sure, In height or depth, still first and last will reign Sole King, and of his kingdom lose no part 323 By our revolt; but over Hell extend His empire, and with iron sceptre rule Us here, as with his golden those in Heav'n. What sit we then projecting? peace and war ? War hath determined us, and foil'd with loss 330 Irreparable : terms of peace yet none Vouchsafed or sought: for what peace will be giv'n To us enslaved, but custody severe, And stripes, and arbitrary punishment Inflicted? And what peace can we return, 335 But to our power hostility and hate, Untamed reluctance, and revenge though slow, Yet ever plotting how the Conqu’ror least May reap his conquest, and may least rejoice In doing what we most in suff'ring feel ? 340 Nor will occasion want, nor shall we need With dang'rous expedition to invade Hear'n, whose high walls fear no assault or siege,

327. The io sceptre, is an allusion to Ps. ii. 9. and the golden to Esther 1. 2.

« PreviousContinue »