Page images


The first book proposes, first in brief, the whole sub

ject, Man's disobedience, and the loss thereupon of Paradise wherein he wus placed: Then touches the prime cause of his full,the Serpent or rather Satan in the Serpent; who, revolting from God, and drawing to his side many legions of angels, was, by the com vand of God, driven out of Heaven with all his crew, into the great deep. Whih action passed over, the poem hastens into the midst of thing's, presenting Satan and his angels now falling into llell described here, not in the center (for Heaven and Earth may be supposed as yet not made, certuinly not yet accursed) but in a place of utter darkness, fitliest called Chaos : here Satun with his angeis lying on the burning lake, thunder-struck and astonished, after a certain space recovers, us from confusion, calls up him who next in order and dignity lay by him: they confer of their miserable fall; Satan awakeñs 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 nero 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 that 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.



OF man's first disobedience, and the fruit
Of that forbidden tree, whose mortal taste
Brought death into the world, and all our woe,
With loss of Eden, till one greater Man
Restore us, and regain the blissful seat,

Sing, heav'nly Muse, that on the secret top
Of Oreb, or of Sinai, didst inspire
That shepherd, who first taught the chosen seed,
In the beginning how the heaven and earth
Rose out of Chaos : or, if Sion hill
Delight thee more, and Siloa's brook that flow'd
Fást by the oracle of God; I thence
Invoke thy aid to my adventurous song,
That with no middle flight intends to soar

[ocr errors]

Above the Aonian mount, while it pursues
Things unattempted yet in prose or rhyme.

And chiefly thou, O Spirit, that dost prefer
Before all temples the upright heart and pure,
Instruct me, for thou know'st; thou from the first
Wast present, and with mighty wings outspread
Dove-like sat'st brooding on the vast abyss,
And mad’st it pregnant: what in me is dark,
Illumine; what is low, raise and support;
That to the height of this great argument
I may assert eternal Providence,
And justify the ways of God to men.

Say first, for heaven hides nothing from thy view,
Nor the deep tract of hell: say first what cause
Mor'd our grand parents, in that happy state,
Favour'd of heaven so highly, to fall off
From their Creator, and transgress his will
For one restraint, lords of the world beside?
Who first seduc'd them to that foul revolt?
The 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 heaven, with all his host
Of rebel-Angels; by whose aid, aspiring
To set himself in glory, above his peers, ,
He trusted to have equall'd the Most High,
If he oppos'd; and, with ambitious aim
Against the throne and monarchy of God,


Rais'd impious war in heaven, and battle proud,
With vain attempt. Him the Almighty Power
Hurl'd headlong flaming from the etherial sky,
With hideous ruin and combustion, down
To bottomless perdition, there to dwell
In adamantine chains and penal fire,
Who durst defy the Omnipotent to arms.
Nine times the space that measures day and night
To mortal men, he with his horrid crew
Lay vanquish'd, rolling in the fiery gulf,
Confounded, though immortal; but his doom
Reserv'd him to more wrath; for now the thought
Both of lost happiness, and lasting pain
Torments him: Round he throws his baleful

That witness'd huge affliction and dismay,
Mix'd with obdurate pride and stedfast hate :
At once, as far as angels ken, he views
The dismal situation waste and wild ;
A dungeon horrible on all sides round
As one great furnace flam’d: yet from those flames
No light, but rather darkness visible
Serv'd only to discover sights of woe,
Regions of sorrow, doleful shades, where peace
And rest can never dwell; hope never comes
That comes to all; but torture without end
Still urges, and a fiery deluge, fed
With ever burning sulphur unconsum’d:
Such place eternal justice had prepar'd

72m For those rebellious; here their prison ordain'd In utter darkness, and their portion set As far remoy'd from God and light of heaven As from the center thrice to the utmost pole. O, how unlike the place from whence they fell! There the companions of his fall, o'erwhelm'd With floods and whirlwinds of tempestuous fire, He soon discerns, and, weltering by his side, One next himself in power, and next in crime, Long after known in Palestine, and nam'd Beëlzebub. To whom the Arch Enemy, And thence in heaven call’d Satan, with bold worde Breaking the horrid silence, thus began :

If thou beest he; But 0, how fallen! how chang'd From him, who in the happy realms of light, Cloth’d with transcendent brightness, didst outshine Myriad's though bright! if he whom mutual league, United thoughts and counsels, equal hope And hazard in the glorious enterprise, Join'd with me once, now misery hath join'd In equal ruin ! into what pit thou seest, From what highth fallen; so much the stronger prov'd He with his thunder: and till then who knew The force of those dire arms ? yet not for those, Nor what the potent victor in his rage Can else ir:flict, do I repent, or change, (Though chang’d in outward lustre) that fix'd mind, And high disdain from sense of injur'd merit,

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »