Page images

First from the ancient world those giants came
With many a vain exploit, though then renown'd:
The builders next of Babel on the plain
Of Sennaar, and still with vain design
New Babels, had they wherewithal, would build :
Others came single; he who to be deem'd
A God, leap'd fondly into Etna flames,
Empedocles; and he who to enjoy
Plato's Elysium leap'd into the sea,
Cleombrotus; and many more too long,
Embryoes and idiots, eremits and friars,


White, black, and grey, with all their trumpery. 475
Here pilgrims roam, that stray'd so far to seek
In Golgotha him dead, who lives in heaven;
And they who to be sure of paradise


Dying put on the weeds of Dominic,
Or in Franciscan think to pass disguis'd;
They pass the planets seven, and pass the fix'd,
And that crystalline sphere whose balance weighs

473 too long] Bentley thinks that a line is here omitted; and Dr. Pearce agrees with him: but it does not appear to me necessary. I would read the verse

'Cleombrotus, and many more (too long:)

still I think the passage would read better thus transposed: 'Cleombrotus, and many more, too long.

Here Pilgrims roam that stray'd so far to seek

Or in Franciscan think to pass disguis'd:

Embryos, and idiots, eremites and friars,

White, black, and grey, with all their trumpery.'

[ocr errors]

475 White] Carmelites, Dominicans, and Franciscans. So Ariosto Orl. Fur. xiv. 68. Frati, bianchi, neri, e bigi.' Ad. xliii. st. 175. Todd.


The trepidation talk'd, and that first mov'd:
And now Saint Peter at heav'n's wicket seems
To wait them with his keys, and now at foot
Of heaven's ascent they lift their feet, when, lo!
A violent cross wind from either coast
Blows them transverse ten thousand leagues awry
Into the devious air: then might ye see

Cowls, hoods, and habits with their wearers tost 490
And flutter'd into rags; then reliques, beads,
Indulgences, dispenses, pardons, bulls,
The sport of winds: all these upwhirl'd aloft
Fly o'er the backside of the world far off,
Into a limbo large and broad, since call'd
The Paradise of fools, to few unknown
Long after, now unpeopled, and untrod.

All this dark globe the fiend found as he pass'd,
And long he wander'd, till at last a gleam
Of dawning light turn'd thitherward in haste
His travel'd steps; far distant he descries,
Ascending by degrees magnificent
Up to the wall of heaven, a structure high,
At top whereof, but far more rich appear'd
The work as of a kingly palace gate,
With frontispiece of diamond and gold
Imbellish'd; thick with sparkling orient gems
The portal shone, inimitable on earth
By model or by shading pencil drawn.

493 sport] Virg. Æn. vi. 75. Ludibria ventis.' Hume.




507 orient] Petrarch Trionfo della morte, ii. 'Di gemme orientali incoronata.' Todd.

The stairs were such as whereon Jacob saw
Angels ascending and descending, bands
Of guardians bright, when he from Esau fled
To Padan-Aram in the field of Luz,
Dreaming by night under the open sky,
And waking cried, This is the gate of heaven.
Each stair mysteriously was meant, nor stood
There always, but drawn up to heaven sometimes
Viewless; and underneath a bright sea flow'd
Of jasper, or of liquid pearl, whereon

Who after came from earth sailing arriv'd,
Wafted by angels, or flew o'er the lake,
Rapt in a chariot drawn by fiery steeds.
The stairs were then let down, whether to dare
The fiend by easy ascent, or aggravate
His sad exclusion from the doors of bliss:
Direct against which open'd from beneath,
Just o'er the blissful seat of paradise,

A passage down to th' earth, a passage wide,
Wider by far than that of after-times





Over mount Sion, and, though that were large, 530

Over the Promis'd Land to God so dear,

By which, to visit oft those happy tribes,
On high behests his angels to and fro

Pass'd frequent, and his eye with choice regard,
From Paneas, the fount of Jordan's flood,

To Beërsaba, where the Holy Land

Borders on Egypt and the Arabian shore :


So wide the op'ning seem'd, where bounds were set

To darkness, such as bound the ocean wave.
Satan from hence now on the lower stair,
That scal'd by steps of gold to heaven-gate,
Looks down with wonder at the sudden view
Of all this world at once. As when a scout,
Through dark and desart ways with peril gone
All night, at last by break of cheerful dawn
Obtains the brow of some high-climbing hill,
Which to his eye discovers unaware
The goodly prospect of some foreign land
First-seen, or some renown'd metropolis,
With glistering spires and pinnacles adorn'd,
Which now the rising sun gilds with his beams:
Such wonder seiz'd, though after heaven seen,
The spirit malign; but much more envy seiz'd
At sight of all this world beheld so fair.




Round he surveys, (and well might, where he stood
So high above the circling canopy

Of night's extended shade,) from eastern point
Of Libra to the fleecy star that bears
Andromeda far off Atlantic seas

Beyond th' horizon: then from pole to pole

He views in breadth, and without longer pause
Down right into the world's first region throws
His flight precipitant, and winds with ease

546 climbing] Drayton's Barons Warres, c. ii. st. 14.
"There riseth up an easie climbing hill.' Todd.



554 At sight] Quod tandem spectaculum fore putamus, cum totam terram contueri licebit? Cic. Tusc. Disp. i. 19.

Through the pure marble air his oblique way
Amongst innumerable stars, that shone


Stars distant, but nigh hand seem'd other worlds;
Or other worlds they seem'd, or happy isles,
Like those Hesperian gardens fam'd of old,
Fortunate fields, and groves, and flow'ry vales,
Thrice happy isles; but who dwelt happy there 570
He stay'd not to enquire: above them all
The golden sun in splendor likest heaven
Allur'd his eye: thither his course he bends
Through the calm firmament; (but up or down,
By centre or eccentric, hard to tell,
Or longitude,) where the great luminary,
Aloof the vulgar constellations thick,
That from his lordly eye keep distance due,
Dispenses light from far; they as they move
Their starry dance in numbers that compute
Days, months, and years, towards his all-cheering

Turn swift their various motions, or are turn'd
By his magnetic beam, that gently warms
The universe, and to each inward part
With gentle penetration, though unseen,
Shoots invisible virtue even to the deep;
So wond'rously was set his station bright.

564 marble air] 'Strikes thro' the marble skies.'




See Marino's Sl. of the Innocents, p. 75. Transl. 564 oblique] Drayton uses this word with the accent on the first syllable. Polyllb. Song xvi.

'Then in his óblique course, the lusty straggling street.'


« PreviousContinue »