« PreviousContinue »
Embracing round this florid earth; what cause
Mov'd the Creator in his holy rest
Through all eternity so late to build
In chaos, and the work begun, how soon
Absolv'd, if unforbid thou may'st 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 ev'ning and the moon
Haste to thy audience, Night with her will bring 105
Silence, and Sleep list'ning 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 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?
90 florid] Globous. Bentl. MS.
99 heaven] In the first edition there was no comma after 'heaven ;' Pearce altered the punctuation.
103 unapparent] dogaτos. Bentl. MS.
108 End] for ending dismiss thee;' so ii. 917, 'Stood, and look'd' for 'standing look'd.' Todd.
Yet what thou canst attain, which best may serve 115 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 supprest 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 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 return'd
Victorious with his saints, th' omnipotent
123 night] Hor. Od. iii. 29. 29.
'Prudens futuri temporis exitum
Caliginosa nocte premit Deus.' Thyer. 129 surfeit] See Davenant's Gondibert, c. viii. st. 22. 'For though books serve as diet of the mind, If knowledge early got, self-value breeds, By false digestion it is turn'd to wind, And what should nourish on the eater feeds.'
Eternal Father from his throne beheld
Their multitude, and to his Son thus spake.
At least our envious foe hath fail'd, who thought All like himself rebellious, by whose aid This inaccessible high strength, the seat Of deity supreme, us dispossest,
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 try'd,
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
139 least] Mr. Thyer saith, That I do not like taking liberties with the text, or I should read "at last."'
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 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 th' ungodly from his sight And th' habitations of the just; to him Glory and praise, whose wisdom had ordain'd Good out of evil to create, in stead
173 fate] Todd has quoted Plato's Timeus, ed. Serrani, vol. iii. p. 41. Bentley cites Lucan, v. ver. 91. Jortin, Statii Theb. i. 212. Thyer, Claud. de R. Pros. ii. 306. and Tasso Gier. Lib. iv. 17.
'Sia destin cio, ch' io voglio.'
182 the] Bentley reads 'to God most high,' which Newton approves.
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. Mean while the Son
On his great expedition now appear'd,
Girt with omnipotence, with radiance crown'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 the armoury of GoD, where stand of old 200
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 highth, and with the centre mix the pole.
214 And] Newton would read 'In surging waves;' it seems better, says Todd, as the Doctor observes, to say of the sea,'in surging waves,' than 'by.'