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What within Eden, or without, was done
Before his memory, as one, whose drought
Yet scarce allayed, still eyes the current stream,
Whose liquid murmur heard, new thirst excites,
Proceeded thus to ask his heavenly guest:
Great things, and full of wonder in our ears,
Far differing from this world, thou hast revealed,
Divine interpreter! by favor sent
Down from the Empyrean, to forewarn
Us timely of what might else have been our loss,
Unknown, which human knowledge could not reach;
For which, to the infinitely Good we owe
Immortal thanks, and his admonishment
Receive, with solemn purpose to observe
Immutably his sovereign will, the end
Of what we are. But since thou hast vouchsafed
Gently, for our instruction, to impart
Things above earthly thought, which yet concerned
Our knowing, as to highest Wisdom seemed,
Deign to descend now lower, and relate
What may no less, perhaps, avail us known:
How first began this Heaven which we behold
Distant so high, with moving fires adorned
Innumerable; and this which yields or fills
All space, the ambient air wide interfused,
Embracing round this florid earth: what cause
Moved the Creator, in his holy rest
Through all eternity, so late to build
In Chaos; and the work begun, how soon
Absolved; if unforbid thou mayst unfold
What we, not to explore the secrets, ask
Of his eternal empire, but the more
To magnify his works, the more we know.
And the great light of day yet wants to run
Much of his race, though steep. Suspense in Heaven,
Held by thy voice, thy potent voice, he hears,
And longer will delay, to hear thee tell
His generation, and the rising birth
Of nature from the unapparent deep:
Or if the star of evening and the moon
Haste to thy audience, night with her will bring
Silence; and sleep, listening to thee, will watch;
Or we can bid his absence, till thy song
End, and dismiss thee ere the morning shine.
Thus Adam his illustrious guest besought;
And thus the godlike Angel answered mild:
This also thy request, with caution asked,
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 received, to answer thy desire
Of knowledge within bounds; beyond, abstain
To ask; nor let thine own inventions hope
Things not revealed, which the invisible King,
Only Omniscient, hath suppressed 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 temperance 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 to call him, brighter once amidst the host
Of Angels, than that star the stars among -
Fell with his flaming legions through the Deep
Into his place, and the great Son returned
Victorious with his saints, the Omnipotent
Eternal Father from his throne beheld
Their multitude, and to his Son thus spake:
At least our envious foe hath failed, who thought
All like himself rebellious; by whose aid
This inaccessible high strength, the seat
Of Deity supreme, us dispossessed,
He trusted to have seized, 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 deemed; 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 raised,
They open to themselves at length the way
Up hither, under long obedience tried,
And Earth be changed 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, uncircumscribed myself
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 the 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 were in Heaven, When such was heard declared the 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 the ungodly from his sight And the habitations of the just; to Him Glory and praise, whose wisdom had ordained 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 appeared, Girt with omnipotence, with radiance crowned Of majesty divine, sapience and love Immense, and all his Father in him shone. About his chariot numberless were poured Cherub and Seraph, Potentates and Thrones; And Virtues, winged Spirits, and Chariots winged From the armory of God; where stand of old Myriads, between two brazen mountains lodged Against a solemn day, harnessed at hand, Celestial equipage; and now come forth, Spontaneous, for within them spirit lived, Attendant on their Lord, Heaven opened 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 viewed the vast immeasurable Abyss
Outrageous as a sea, dark, wasteful, wild
Up from the bottom turned by furious winds
And surging waves, as mountains, to assault
Heaven's height, and with the center mix the pole.
Silence, ye troubled waves, and thou Deep, peace,
Said then the omnific Word, your discord end !
Nor stayed: 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
Followed in bright procession, to behold
Creation, and the wonders of his might.
Then stayed the fervid wheels, and in his hand
He took the golden compasses, prepared
In God's eternal store, to circumscribe
This Universe, and all created things.
One foot he centered, and the other turned
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 unformed and void. Darkness profound
Covered the abyss; but on the watery calm
His brooding wings the Spirit of God outspread,
And vital virtue infused, and vital warmth,
Throughout the fluid mass; but downward purged
The black, tartareous, cold, infernal dregs,
Adverse to life: then founded, then conglobed
Like things to like; the rest to several place
Disparted, and between spun out the air ;
And Earth, self-balanced, on her center hung.
Let there be light, said God; and forthwith light Ethereal, first of things, quintessence pure,