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Thus Adam his illustrious guest besought;
And thus the godlike angel answer'd mild:
"This also, thy request with caution ask'd,
Obtain; though to recount almighty works
What words or tongue of seraph can suffice,
Or heart of man suffice to comprehend?
Yet what thou canst attain, which best may serve
To glorify the Maker, and infer
Thee also happier, shall not be withheld
Thy hearing; such commission, from above
I have receiv'd, to answer thy desire
Of knowledge within bounds; beyond abstain
To ask, nor let thine own inventions hope
Things not reveal'd, which th' invisible King,
Only omniscient, hath suppress'd in night,
To none communicable in earth or heaven :
Enough is left besides to search and know.
But knowledge is as food, and needs no less
Her temp'rance over appetite, to know
In measure what the mind may well contain:
Oppresses else with surfeit, and soon turns
Wisdom to folly', as nourishment to wind.
"Know then, that after Lucifer from heaven
(So call him, brighter once amidst the host
Of angels than that star the stars among)
Fell with bis flaming legions through the deep
Into his place, and the great Son return'd
Victorious with his saints, th' omnipotent
Eternal Father from his throne beheld
Their multitude, and to his Son thus spake:
"At last our envious foe bath fail'd, who thought
All like himself rebellious, by whose aid
This inaccessible high strength, the seat
Of Deity supreme, us dispossess'd,
He trusted to have seiz'd, and into fraud
Drew many, whom their place knows here no more;
Yet far the greater part have kept, I see,
Their station; heaven yet populous retains
Number sufficient to possess her realms
Though wide, and this high temple to frequent
With ministeries due and solemn rites:
But lest his heart exalt him in the harm
Already done, to have dispeopled heaven,
My damage fondly deem'd, I can repair
That detriment, if such it be to lose
Self-lost, and in a moment will create
Another world, out of one man a race
Of men innumerable, there to dwell,
Not here, till by degrees of merit rais'd
They open to themselves at length the way
Up hither, under long obedience tried,
And earth be chang'd to heaven, and heaven to earth,
One kingdom, joy and union without end,
Meanwhile inhabit lax, ye powers of heaven,
And thou my Word, begotten Son, by thee
This I perform; speak thou, and be it done.
My overshadowing Spirit and might with thee
I send along; ride forth, and bid the deep
Within appointed bounds be heaven and earth,
Boundless the deep, because I am who fill
Infinitude, nor vacuous the space.
Though I, uncircumscrib'd myself, retire,
And put not forth my goodness, which is free
To act or not; necessity and chance
Approach not me, and what I will is fate.'
"So spake th' Almighty, and to what he spake
His Word, the filial Godhead, gave effect.
Immediate are the acts of God, more swift
Than time or motion; but to human ears
Cannot without process of speech be told,
So told as earthly notion can receive.
Great triumph and rejoicing was in heaven,
When such was heard declar'd th' Almighty's will;
Glory they sung to the Most High, good will
To future men, and in their dwellings peace:
Glory to him, whose just avenging ire
Had driven out th' ungodly from his sight,
And the habitations of the just; to him
Glory and praise, whose wisdom hath ordain'd
Good out of evil to create, instead
Of spirits malign, a better race to bring
Into their vacant room, and thence diffuse
His good to worlds and ages infinite.
"So sang the hierarchies; meanwhile the Son
On his great expedition now appear'd,
Girt with omnipotence, with radiance crow.'d
Of majesty divine; sapience and love,
Immense, and all his Father in him shone.
About his chariot numberless were pour'd
Cherub and seraph, potentates and thrones,
And virtues; winged spirits, and chariots wing'd
From th' armoury of God, where stand of old
Myriads between two brazen mountains lodg'd,
Against a solemn day, harness'd at hand,
Celestial equipage! and now came forth
Spontaneous, for within them spirit liv'd,
Attendant on their Lord: heaven open'd wide
Her ever-during gates, harmonious sound!
On golden hinges moving, to let forth
The King of glory, in his powerful Word
And Spirit coming to create new worlds.
On heavenly ground they stood, and from the shore
They view'd the vast immeasurable abyss
Outrageous as a sea, dark, wasteful, wild,
Up from the bottom turn'd by furious winds
And surging waves, as mountains, to assault
Heaven's height, and with the centre mix the pole.
"Silence, ye troubled waves, and thou deep, peace,'
Said then the omnific Word, 'your discord end.'
Nor staid, but, on the wings of cherubim
Uplifted, in paternal glory rode
Far into Chaos, and the world unborn;
For Chaos heard his voice. Him all his train
Follow'd in bright procession to behold
Creation, and the wonders of his might.
Then staid the fervid wheels, and in his hand
He took the golden compasses, prepar'd
In God's eternal store, to circumscribe
This universe, and all created things:
One foot he centred, and the other turn'd
Round through the vast profundity obscure,
And said, Thus far extend, thus far thy bounds,
This be thy just circumference, O world!'
Thus God the heaven created, thus the earth, Matter unform'd and void: darkness profound Cover'd the abyss; but on the wat❜ry calm His brooding wings the Spirit of God outspread, And vital virtue' infus'd, and vital warmth Throughout the fluid mass; but downward purg'd The black, tartareous, cold, infernal dregs, Adverse to life; then founded, then conglob'd Like things to like, the rest to several place Disparted, and between spun out the air: And earth self-balanc'd on her centre hung. "Let there be light!' said God, and forthwith light Ethereal, first of things, quintessence pure, Sprung from the deep, and from her native east To journey through the airy gloom began, Spher'd in a radiant cloud, for yet the sun Was not; she in a cloudy tabernacle Sojourn'd the while.
God saw the light was good;
And light from darkness by the hemisphere
Divided light the day, and darkness night
Thus was the first day even and morn:
Nor pass'd uncelebrated, nor unsung
By the celestial choirs, when orient light
Exhaling first from darkness they beheld;
Birth-day of heaven and earth! with joy and shout
The bollow universal orb they fill'd,
And touch their golden harps, and hymning prais'd God and his works; Creater him they sung,
Both when first evening was, and when first morn.
'Again, God said, 'Let there be firmament
Amid the waters, and let it divide
The waters from the waters!"
The firmament, expanse of liquid pure,
Transparent, elemental air, diffus'd
In circuit to the uttermost convex
Of this great round; partition firm and sure,
The waters underneath from those above
Dividing; for as earth, so he the world
Built on circumfluous waters calm, in wide
Crystalline ocean, and the loud misrule
Of Chaos far remov'd, lest fierce extremes
Contiguous might distemper the whole frame.
And heaven he nam'd the firmament: so even
And morning chorus sung the second day.
"The earth was form'd; but in the womb as yet
Of waters, embryon immature, involv'd,
Appear'd not: over all the face of earth
Main ocean flow'd, not idle, but with warm
Prolific humour soft'ning all her globe,
Fermented the great mother to conceive
Satiate with genial moisture: when God said,
'Be gather'd now ye waters under heaven
Into one place, and let dry land appear!'
Immediately the mountains huge appear
Emergent, and their broad bare backs upheave
Into the clouds, their tops ascend the sky;
So high as heav'd the tumid hills, so low
Down sunk a hollow bottom broad and deep,
Capacious bed of waters: thither they
Hasted with glad precipitance, uproll'd
As drops on dust conglobing from the dry:
Part rise in crystal wall, or ridge direct,
For haste; such flight the great command impress'd
On the swift floods. As armies at the call
Of trumpet (for of armies thou hast heard)
Troop to their standard, so the wat'ry throng,
Wave rolling after wave, where way they found,
If steep, with torrent rapture, if through plain
Soft-ebbing: nor withstood them rock or hill;
But they, or under ground, or circuit wide
With serpent-error wand'ring, found their way,
And on the washy ooze deep channels wore ;
Easy, ere God had bid the ground be dry,
All but within those banks, where rivers now
Stream, and perpetual draw their humid train.
The dry land, earth, and the great receptacle
Of congregated waters, he call'd seas:
And saw that it was good, and said, 'Let the earth
Put forth the verdant grass, herb yielding seed,
And fruit-tree yielding fruit after her kind,
Whose seed is in herself upon the earth!'
He scarce had said, when the bare earth, till then