Page images
PDF
EPUB

God's altar to disparage, and displace
For one of Syrian mode, whereon to burn
His odious offerings, and adore the gods

Whom he had vanquish'd. After these appear'd
A crew, who, under names of old renown,
Osiris, Isis, Orus, and their train,

With monstrous shapes and sorceries abused
Fanatic Egypt and her priests, to seek

Their wandering gods disguised in brutish forms
Rather than human. Nor did Israel 'scape
The' infection, when their borrow'd gold composed
The calf in Oreb; and the rebel king

Doubled that sin in Bethel and in Dan,
Likening his Maker to the grazed ox;
Jehovah, who in one night, when he pass'd
From Egypt marching, equalled with one stroke
Both her first-born and all her bleating gods.
Belial came last, than whom a Spirit more lewd
Fell not from Heaven, or more gross to love
Vice for itself; to him no temple stood
Or altar smoked; yet who more oft than he
In temples and at altars, when the priest
Turns atheist; as did Eli's sons, who fill'd
With lust and violence the house of God?
In courts and palaces he also reigns,
And in luxurious cities, where the noise
Of riot' ascends above their loftiest towers,
And injury and outrage: and when night
Darkens the streets, then wander forth the sons
Of Belial, flown with insolence and wine.
Witness the streets of Sodom, and that night
In Gibeah, when the hospitable door
Exposed a matron, to avoid worse rape.
These were the prime in order and in might.

The rest were long to tell, though far renown'd,
The' Ionian Gods, of Javan's issue; held
Gods, yet confess'd later than Heaven and Earth,
Their boasted parents: Titan, Heaven's first-born,
With his enormous brood, and birthright seized
By younger Saturn; he from mightier Jove,
His own and Rhea's son, like measure found:
So Jove usurping reign'd. These first in Crete
And Ida known, thence on the snowy top
Of cold Olympus, ruled the middle air,
Their highest Heaven; or on the Delphian cliff,
Or in Dodona, and through all the bounds
Of Doric land: or who with Saturn old
Fled over Adria to the' Hesperian fields,
And o'er the Celtic roam'd the utmost isles.

All these and more came flocking; but with looks Down-cast and damp; yet such wherein appear'd Obscure some glimpse of joy, to' have found their Chief

Not in despair, to' have found themselves not lost
In loss itself; which on his countenance cast
Like doubtful hue: but he, his wonted pride
Soon recollecting, with high words, that bore
Semblance of worth, not substance, gently raised
Their fainting courage, and dispell'd their fears.
Then straight commands, that at the warlike sound
Of trumpets loud and clarions be uprear'd
His mighty standard: that proud honour claim'd
Azazel as his right, a Cherub tall;

Who forthwith from the glittering staff unfurl'd
The' imperial ensign; which, full high advanced,
Shone like a meteor streaming to the wind,
With gems and golden lustre rich imblazed,
Seraphic arms and trophies: all the while

[ocr errors]

Sonorous metal blowing martial sounds :
At which the universal host up-sent

A shout, that tore Hell's concave, and, beyond,
Frighted the reign of Chaos and old Night.
All in a moment through the gloom were seen
Ten thousand banners rise into the air

With orient colours waving with them rose
A forest huge of spears; and thronging helms
Appear'd, and serried shields in thick array,
Of depth immeasurable: anon they move
In perfect phalanx to the Dorian mood
Of flutes and soft recorders; such as raised
To highth of noblest temper heroes old
Arming to battle; and, instead of rage,
Deliberate valour breathed, firm, and unmoved
With dread of death to flight or foul retreat;
Nor wanting power to mitigate and 'swage
With solemn touches troubled thoughts, and chase
Anguish, and doubt, and fear, and sorrow', and pain,
From mortal or immortal minds. Thus they,
Breathing united force, with fixed thought,
Moved on in silence to soft pipes, that charm'd
Their painful steps o'er the burnt soil: and now
Advanced in view they stand: a horrid front
Of dreadful length and dazzling arms, in guise
Of warriors old with order'd spear and shield;
Awaiting what command their mighty Chief
Had to impose. He through the armed files
Darts his experienced eye, and soon traverse
The whole battalion views; their order due;
Their visages and stature as of Gods:

Their number last he sums. And now his heart
Distends with pride, and hardening in his strength
Glories for never, since created man,

Met such imbodied force, as named with these
Could merit more than that small infantry
Warred on by cranes; though all the giant-brood
Of Phlegra with the' heroic race were join'd
That fought at Thebes and Ilium, on each side
Mix'd with auxiliar Gods; and what resounds
In fable or romance, of Uther's son
Begirt with British and Armoric knights;
And all who since, baptized or infidel,
Jousted in Aspramont, or Montalban,
Damasco, or Marocco', or Trebisond,
Or whom Biserta sent from Afric shore,
When Charlemain with all his peerage
fell
By Fontarabbia. Thus far these beyond
Compare of mortal prowess, yet observed
Their dread Commander: he, above the rest
In shape and gesture proudly eminent,
Stood like a tower: his form had yet not lost
All her' original brightness; nor appear'd
Less than Arch-angel ruin'd, and the' excess
Of glory' obscured: as when the sun, new risen,
Looks through the horizontal misty air

Shorn of his beams: or from behind the moon,
In dim eclipse, disastrous twilight sheds
On half the nations, and with fear of change
Perplexes monarchs. Darken'd so, yet shone
Above them all the' Arch-angel: but his face
Deep scars of thunder had intrench'd; and care
Sat on his faded cheek, but under brows
Of dauntless courage, and considerate pride
Waiting revenge: cruel his eye, but cast
Signs of remorse and passion, to behold
The fellows of his crime, the followers rather,
(Far other once beheld in bliss) condemn'd

For ever now to have their lot in pain:
Millions of Spirits for his fault amerced
Of Heaven, and from eternal splendors flung
For his revolt, yet faithful how they stood,
Their glory wither'd: as when Heaven's fire
Hath scath'd the forest oaks, or mountain pines,
With singed top their stately growth, though bare,
Stands on the blasted heath. He now prepared
To speak; whereat, their doubled ranks they bend
From wing to wing, and half inclose him round
With all his peers: attention held them mute.
Thrice he essay'd, and thrice, in spite of scorn,
Tears, such as angels weep, burst forth: at last
Words, interwove with sighs, found out their way.

"O Myriads of immortal Spirits! O Powers!
Matchless, but with the' Almighty; and that strife
Was not inglorious, though the' event was dire;
As this place testifies, and this dire change
Hateful to utter but what power of mind,
Foreseeing or presaging, from the depth
Of knowledge past or present could have fear'd,
How such united force of Gods, how such
As stood like these, could ever know repulse?
For who can yet believe, though after loss,
That all these puissant legions, whose exile
Hath emptied Heaven, shall fail to re-ascend
Self-raised, and repossess their native seat?
For me, be witness all the host of Heaven,
If counsels different, or danger shunned
By me, have lost our hopes. But he, who reigns
Monarch in Heaven, till then as one secure
Sat on his throne, upheld by old repute,
Consent or custom; and his regal state

Put forth at full, but still his strength conceal'd;

« PreviousContinue »