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Messiah was declar'd in sight of heaven,
The mountain of the congregation call'd;
For thither he assembled all his train,
Pretending so commanded to consult
About the great reception of their king,
Thither to come, and with calumnious art
Of counterfeited truth thus held their ears.
Thrones, dominations, princedoms, virtues,
If these magnific titles yet remain
Not merely titular, since by decree
Another now hath to himself ingross'd
All power, and us eclips'd under the name
Of king ancinted, for whom all this haste
Of midnight march and hurry'd meeting here,
This only to consult how we may best
With what may be devis'd of honours new
Receive him, coming to receive from us
Knee-tribute yet unpaid, prostration vile;
Too much to one, but double how endur'd,
To one and to his image now proclaim'd!
But what if better counsels might erect
Our minds, and teach us to cast off this yoke?
Will ye submit your necks, and choose to bend
The supple knee? ye will not, if I trust
To know ye right, or if ye know yourselves
Natives and sons of heaven, possest before
By none, and if not equal all, yet free,
788 knee] Shakesp. Richard II. act i. scene iv.
'And had the tribute of his supple knee.' Todd
Equally free; for orders and degrees
Jar not with liberty, but well consist.
Who can in reason then or right assume
Monarchy over such as live by right
His equals, if in power and splendour less,
In freedom equal? or can introduce
Law and edict on us, who without law
Err not? much less for this to be our Lord,
And look for adoration to th' abuse
Of those imperial titles, which assert
Our being ordain'd to govern, not to serve!
Thus far his bold discourse without control
Had audience, when among the seraphim
Abdiel, than whom none with more zeal ador'd 805
The Deity, and divine commands obey'd,
Stood up, and in a flame of zeal severe
The current of his fury thus oppos'd.
O argument blasphemous, false, and proud!
Words which no ear ever to hear in heaven
799 much less] This passage is considered as one of the most difficult in Milton. Bentley, Pearce, Richardson, Greenwood, Warburton, and Newton, have given their different interpretations. 1 differ from them, as they carry back the force of 'much less' to what has past. I consider one argument concluded at 'err not,' and that 'much less,' beginning a new one, looks forward; and I thus explain it: 'Much less reason has he to be called our Lord, and consequently to look for adoration from us, when it must be at the expense, or abuse of those imperial titles which in themselves assert our own sovereignty, and our consequent immunity from servitude.' He alludes to the titles given the angels. Thrones, dominations, princedoms,' &c. this argument Abdiel answers, v. 831. I trust that this explanation will be considered as satisfactory.
799 for this] for. This. Iste. Bentl. MS.
Expected, least of all from thee, ingrate,
In place thyself so high above thy peers.
Canst thou with impious obloquy condemn
The just decree of GOD, pronounc'd and sworn,
That to his only Son, by right endu'd
With regal sceptre, every soul in heaven
Shall bend the knee, and in that honour due
Confess him rightful king? unjust thou say'st,
Flatly unjust, to bind with laws the free,
And equal over equals to let reign,
One over all with unsucceeded power.
Shalt thou give law to GOD? shalt thou dispute
With him the points of liberty, who made
Thee what thou art, and form'd the pow'rs of heaven
Such as he pleas'd, and circumscrib'd their being?
Yet by experience taught we know how good,
And of our good, and of our dignity
How provident he is, how far from thought
To make us less, bent rather to exalt
Our happy state under one head more near
United. But to grant it thee unjust,
That equal over equals monarch reign:
Thyself though great and glorious dost thou co
Or all angelic nature join'd in one,
Equal to him begotten Son, by whom
As by his word the mighty Father made
All things, ev'n thee, and all the spirits of heaven
By him created in their bright degrees,
Crown'd them with glory, and to their glory nam'd
Thrones, dominations, princedoms, virtues, powers,
Essential powers; nor by his reign obscur'd,
But more illustrious made, since he the head
One of our number thus reduc'd becomes;
His laws our laws, all honour to him done
Returns our own? Cease then this impious rage,
And tempt not these; but hasten to appease
Th' incensed Father, and th' incensed Son,
While pardon may be found in time besought.
So spake the fervent angel; but his zeal
None seconded, as out of season judg'd,
Or singular and rash; whereat rejoic'd
Th' Apostate, and more haughty thus reply'd.
That we were form'd then say'st thou? and the
Of secondary hands, by task transferr'd
From Father to his Son? strange point and new! Doctrine which we would know whence learn'd:
When this creation was? remember'st thou
Thy making, while the Maker gave thee being?
We know no time when we were not as now;
Know none before us, self-begot, self-rais'd
By our own quick'ning power, when fatal course
Had circled his full orb, the birth mature
Of this our native heaven, ethereal sons.
Our puissance is our own, our own right hand
Shall teach us highest deeds, by proof to try
Who is our equal: then thou shalt behold
Whether by supplication we intend
Address, and to begirt th' Almighty throne
Beseeching or besieging. This report,
These tidings carry to th' anointed king;
And fly, ere evil intercept thy flight.
He said, and, as the sound of waters deep, Hoarse murmur echo'd to his words applause Through the infinite host; nor less for that The flaming seraph fearless, though alone Encompass'd round with foes, thus answer'd bold. O alienate from GOD, O spirit accurst, Forsaken of all good, I see thy fall Determin'd, and thy hapless crew involv'd In this perfidious fraud, contagion spread Both of thy crime and punishment. Henceforth No more be troubled how to quit the yoke Of GOD'S MESSIAH; those indulgent laws Will not be now vouchsaf'd, other decrees Against thee are gone forth without recall: That golden sceptre which thou didst reject Is now an iron rod, to bruise and break Thy disobedience. Well thou didst advise ; Yet not for thy advice or threats I fly These wicked tents devoted, lest the wrath
869 Beseeching] See Heywood's Spider and Flie, p. 376.
'Myne answere is, not a harnes cap-a-pie
Besieging (stead of beseeching).'
875 flaming] Each flaming seraph.'
v. Beaumont's Psyche, c. xxix. st. 184. 888 Thy disobedience] Thee disobedient, v. 2. 702, b. 139, b. 687. Bentl. MS.
890 lest] The construction is deficient. Pearce would understand, 'but I fly' before 'lest.' Bentley proposes reading,
"These wicked tents devote, but lest the wrath,' &c. Newton.