Page images


Angels ascending and descending, bands
Of guardians bright, when he from Esau fled
To Padan-Aram, in the field of Luz,
Dreaming by night under the open sky,
And waking cry'd, This is the gate of Heav'n.
Each stair mysteriously was meant, nor stood
There always, but drawn up to Heav'n some-

Viewless; and underneath a bright sea flow'd
Of jasper, or of liquid pearl, whereon

Who after came from earth, sailing arriv'd, 520
Wafted by Angels, or flew o'er the lake
Rapt in a chariot drawn by fiery steeds.
The stairs were then let down, whether to dare
The Fiend by easy 'scent, or aggravate
His sad exclusion from the doors of bliss: 525
Direct against which open'd from beneath,
Just o'er the blissful seat of Paradise,

A passage down to th' Earth, a passage wide,
Wider by far than that of after-times

Over mount Sion, and, though that were large,
Over the Promis'd Land to God so dear,


By which, to visit oft those happy tribes,
On high behests his Angels to and fro
Pass'd frequent, and his eye with choice regard
From Paneas the fount of Jordan's flood

To Beërsaba, where the Holy Land
Borders on Egypt and th' Arabian shore:


So wide the op'ning seem'd, where bounds

were set

To darkness, such as bound the ocean wave.

Satan from hence, now on the lower stair 540
That scal'd by steps of gold to Heaven gate,
Looks down with wonder at the sudden view
Of all this world at once. As when a scout
Through dark and desart ways with peril gone
All night, at last by break of cheerful dawn 545
Obtains the brow of some high-climbing hill,
Which to his eye discovers unaware

The goodly prospect of some foreign land
First seen, or some renown'd metropolis
With glist'ring spires and pinnacles adorn'd, 550
Which now the rising Sun gilds with his beams:
Such wonder seiz'd, though after Heaven seen,
The Spirit malign, but much more envy seiz'd
At sight of all this world beheld so fair.
Round he surveys (and well might, where he

So high above the circling canopy


Of Night's extended shade) from eastern point Of Libra to the fleecy star that bears Andromeda far off Atlantic seas

Beyond th' horizon; then from pole to pole 560 He views in breadth, and without longer pause Down right into the world's first region throws His flight precipitant, and winds with ease Through the pure marble air his oblique way Amongst innumerable stars, that shone 565 Stars distant, but nigh hand seem'd other worlds; Or other worlds they seem'd, or happy isles, Like those Hesperian gardens fam'd of old,


Fortunate fields, and groves, and flow'ry vales,
Thrice happy isles; but who dwelt happy there
He stay'd not to enquire: above them all 571
The golden Sun, in splendor likest Heav'n,
Allur'd his eye: thither his course he bends
Through the calm firmament (but up or down,
By centre, or eccentric, hard to tell,
Or longitude) where the great luminary
Aloof the vulgar constellations thick,
That from his lordly eye keep distance due,
Dispenses light from far; they as they move
Their starry dance in numbers that compute 580
Days, months, and years, tow'rds his all-cheering


Turn swift their various motions, or are turn'd
By his magnetic beam, that gently warms
The universe, and to each inward part
With gentle penetration, though unseen,
Shoots invisible virtue ev'n to the deep;
So wondrously was set his station bright.
There lands the Fiend, a spot like which perhaps
Astronomer in the Sun's lucent orb

Through his glaz'd optic tube yet never saw. 590
The place he found beyond expression bright,
Compar'd with aught on earth, metal or stone;
Not all parts like, but all alike inform'd

With radiant light, as glowing iron with fire;
If metal, part seem'd gold, part silver clear; 595
If stone, carbuncle most, or chrysolite,
Ruby or topaz, to the twelve that shone
In Aaron's breast-plate, and a stone besides

Imagin'd rather oft than elsewhere seen,

That stone, or like to that which here below 600 Philosophers in vain so long have sought,

In vain though by their pow'rful art they bind Volatile Hermes, and call up unbound


In various shapes old Proteus from the sea,
Drain'd through a limbec to his native form. 605
What wonder then if fields and regions here
Breathe forth Elixir pure, and rivers run
Potable gold, when with one virtuous touch
Th' arch-chemic Sun, so far from us remote,
Produces with terrestrial humour mix'd,
Here in the dark so many precious things
Of colour glorious and effect so rare?
Here matter new to gaze, the Devil met
Undazzled; far and wide his eye commands;
For sight no obstacle found here, nor shade, 615
But all sunshine, as when his beams at noon
Culminate from th' equator, as they now

Shot upward still direct, whence no way round
Shadow from body opaque can fall; and th' air
No where so clear, sharpen'd his visual ray 620
To objects distant far, whereby he soon
Saw within ken a glorious Angel stand,
The same whom John saw also in the Sun.
His back was turn'd, but not his brightness hid:
Of beaming sunny rays a golden tiar


Circled his head, nor less his locks behind Illustrious on his shoulders fledge with wings Lay waving round. On some great charge em


He seem'd, or fix'd in cogitation deep.

Glad was the Sp'rit impure, as now in hope 630 To find who might direct his wand'ring flight To Paradise, the happy seat of Man,


His journey's end, and our beginning woe.
But first he casts to change his proper shape,
Which else might work him danger or delay :
And now a stripling Cherub he appears,
Not of the prime, yet such as in his face
Youth smil'd celestial, and to ev'ry limb
Suitable grace diffus'd: so well he feign'd.
Under a coronet his flowing hair


In curls on either cheek play'd; wings he wore

Of many a colour'd plume, sprinkl'd with gold;
His habit fit for speed succinct, and held
Before his decent steps a silver wand.

He drew not nigh unheard: the Angel bright,
Ere he drew nigh, his radiant visage turn'd, 646
Admonish'd by his ear, and straight was known
Th' Arch-Angel Uriel, one of the seven

Who in God's presence, nearest to his throne,
Stand ready at command, and are his eyes 650
That run through all the Heav'ns, or down to
th' Earth

Bear his swift errands over moist and dry,
O'er sea and land: him Satan thus accosts:

Uriel, for thou of those sev'n Sp'rits that stand In sight of God's high throne, gloriously bright, The first art wont his great authentic will 656 Interpreter through highest Heav'n to bring, Where all his sons thy embassy attend;

« PreviousContinue »