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So that no room is here for writers left,
That majesty which thro' thy work doth reign,
At once delight and horror on us seize,
you sing So never flags, but always keeps on wing. Where couldst thou words of such a compass
Whence furnish such a vast expanse of mind? Just Heav'n thee, like Tiresias, to requite, -Rewards with prophecy thy loss of sight.
Well might'st thou scorn thy readers to allure With tinkling rhyme, of thy own sense secure ; While the Town Bays writes all the while and spells,
And, like a pack-horse, tires without his bells:
The poets tag them, we for fashion wear.
This First Book proposes, first, in brief, the whole subject, Man's disobedience, and the loss thereupon of Paradise, wherein he was placed: Then touches the prime cause of his fall, the Serpent, or rather Satan in the ferpent; who revolting from God, and drawing to his side many legions of Angels, was, by the command of God, driven out of Heaven, with all his crew, into the great deep. Which action passed over, poem bastens into the midst of things, presenting Satan with his Angels now fallen into Hell, described here, not in the centre (for Heaven and earth may be supposed as yet not made, certainly not yet accursed) but in a place of utter darkness, fitliest called Chaos: Here Satan with his Angels lying on the burning lake, thunder-struck and astonished, after a certain space recovers, as from confusion, calls up him who next in order and dignity lay by him; they confer of their miserable fall. Satan awakens all his legions, who lay till then in the same manner confounded: They rise, their numbers, array of battle, their chief leaders named, according to the idols known afterwards in Canaan and the countries adjoining. To these Satan directs his speech, comforts them with hope yet of regaining Heaven, but tells them lastly of a new world and new kind of creature to be created, according to an ancient prophecy or report in Heaven; for that Angels were long before this visible creation, was the opinion of many ancient Fathers. To find out the truth of this prophecy, and what to determine thereon, he refers to a full council. What his associates thence attempt. Pandemonium, the palace of Satan, rises, suddenly built out of the deep: The infernal peers there sit in council.
BOOK THE FIRST.
Man's first disobedience, and the fruit
Of that forbidden tree, whose mortal taste
Brought death into the world, and all our woe,
Restore us, and regain the blissful seat,
That shepherd, who first taught the chosen seed
Delight thee more, and Siloa's brook that flow'd
Invoke thy aid to my advent'rous song,
Instruct me, for Thou know'st: Thou from the first
may assert eternal Providence,
And justify the ways of God to Men.
Say first, for Heav'n hides nothing from thy view, Nor the deep tract of Hell; say first what cause Mov'd our grand parents, in that happy state, Favour'd of Heav'n so highly, to fall off From their Creator, and transgress his will For one restraint, lords of the world besides ? Who first seduc'd them to that foul revolt? Th' infernal Serpent; he it was whose guile, Stirr'd up with envy and revenge, deceiv'd The mother of mankind, what time his pride Had cast him out from Heav'n, with all his host Of rebel Angels; by whose aid aspiring
To set himself in glory 'bove his peers,
He trusted to have equall'd the Most High, 40