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In silence their bright legions, to the sound
Of instrumental harmony, that breath'd
Heroic ardour to advent'rous deeds,
Under their godlike leaders, in the cause
Of God and his Messiah. On they move
Indissolubly firm; nor obvious hill,
Nor strait'ning vale, nor wood, nor stream, divides 70
Their perfect ranks; for high above the ground
Their march was, and the passive air upbore
Their nimble tread; as when the total kind
Of birds in orderly array on wing

Came summon'd over Eden to receive



At last

Their names of thee: so over many a tract
Of heav'n they march'd, and many a province wide
Tenfold the length of this terrene.
Far in th' horizon to the north appear'd
From skirt to skirt a fiery region, stretch'd
In battailous aspect, and nearer view
Bristled with upright beams innumerable
Of rigid spears, and helmets throng'd, and shields
Various, with boastful argument pourtray'd,
The banded powers of Satan hasting on
With furious expedition; for they ween'd
That self same day, by fight or by surprize,
To win the mount of GOD, and on his throne
To set the envier of his state, the proud
Aspirer; but their thoughts prov'd fond and vain 90
In the mid way. Though strange to us it seem'd



82 Bristled] Virg. Æn. xi. 601. Tum late ferreus hastis horret ager.' Newton.

At first, that angel should with angel war,
And in fierce hosting meet, who wont to meet
So oft in festivals of joy and love
Unanimous, as sons of one great Sire,
Hymning th' eternal Father; but the shout
Of battel now began, and rushing sound
Of onset ended soon each milder thought.
High in the midst exalted as a God
Th' apostate in his sun-bright chariot sat,
Idol of Majesty divine, enclos'd
With flaming Cherubim and golden shields:
Then lighted from his gorgeous throne, for now
Twixt host and host but narrow space was left,
A dreadful interval, and front to front
Presented stood in terrible array
Of hideous length: before the cloudy van,
On the rough edge of battle ere it join'd,
Satan, with vast and haughty strides advanc'd,
Came tow'ring, arm'd in adamant and gold:
Abdiel that sight endur'd not, where he stood
Among the mightiest, bent on highest deeds,
And thus his own undaunted heart explores.

O heav'n! that such resemblance of the Highest
Should yet remain, where faith and realty
Remain not; wherefore should not strength and



There fail where virtue fails, or weakest prove





93 hosting] Johnson has cited this unusual word from Spenser on Ireland. Leading of their own followers to the general hostings.' 105 dreadful interval] 'a needful counterview.' x. 231. Bentl. MS. 25


Where boldest, though to sight unconquerable?
His puissance, trusting in th' Almighty's aid,
I mean to try, whose reason I have try'd
Unsound and false; nor is it aught but just,
That he, who in debate of truth hath won,
Should win in arms, in both disputes alike
Victor though brutish that contest and foul,
When reason hath to deal with force, yet so
Most reason is that reason overcome.


The highth of thy aspiring unoppos'd,

The throne of GOD unguarded, and his side
Abandon'd at the terror of thy power
Or potent tongue; fool, not to think how vain
Against th' Omnipotent to rise in arms;
Who out of smallest things could without end
Have rais'd incessant armies to defeat
Thy folly; or, with solitary hand
Reaching beyond all limit, at one blow
Unaided could have finish'd thee, and whelm'd
Thy legions under darkness: but thou seest
All are not of thy train; there be, who faith
Prefer and piety to God; though then
To thee not visible, when I alone
Seem'd in thy world erroneous to dissent


So pondering, and, from his armed peers Forth stepping opposite, half way he met His daring foe, at this prevention more Incens'd, and thus securely him defied.


Proud, art thou met? thy hope was to have reach'd




From all my sect thou seest; now learn too late How few sometimes may know, when thousands err.

Whom the grand foe, with scornful eye askance, Thus answer'd. Ill for thee, but in wish'd hour 150 Of my revenge, first sought for thou return'st From flight, seditious angel, to receive

Thy merited reward, the first assay

Of this right hand provok'd, since first that tongue
Inspir'd with contradiction durst oppose
A third part of the Gods, in synod met
Their deities to assert, who, while they feel
Vigour divine within them, can allow
Omnipotence to none. But well thou com'st
Before thy fellows, ambitious to win
From me some plume, that thy success may show
Destruction to the rest: this pause between,
(Unanswer'd lest thou boast,) to let thee know,
At first I thought that liberty and heav'n
To heav'nly souls had been all one; but now
I see that most through sloth had rather serve,
Minist'ring spirits, train'd up in feast and song:
Such hast thou arm'd, the minstrelsy of heav'n,
Servility with freedom to contend,

As both their deeds compar'd this day shall prove.

To whom in brief thus Abdiel stern reply'd. 171 Apostate, still thou err'st, nor end will find Of erring, from the path of truth remote: Unjustly thou deprav'st it with the name Of servitude to serve whom God ordains, Or Nature; GOD and Nature bid the same,





When he who rules is worthiest, and excels
Them whom he governs. This is servitude,
To serve th' unwise, or him who hath rebell'd
Against his worthier, as thine now serve thee,
Thy self not free, but to thy self enthrall'd;
Yet leudly dar'st our minist'ring upbraid.
Reign thou in hell thy kingdom, let me serve
In heav'n GOD ever bless'd, and his divine
Behests obey, worthiest to be obey'd;

Yet chains in hell, not realms expect: mean while
From me return'd, as erst thou saidst, from flight,
This greeting on thy impious crest receive.

So saying, a noble stroke he lifted high,

Which hung not, but so swift with tempest fell 190
On the proud crest of Satan, that no sight,
Nor motion of swift thought, less could his shield
Such ruin intercept: ten paces huge



He back recoil'd; the tenth on bended knee
His massy spear upstay'd; as if on earth
Winds under ground or waters, forcing way
Side-long, had push'd a mountain from his seat,
Half sunk with all his pines. Amazement seiz'd
The rebel thrones, but greater rage to see
Thus foil'd their mightiest; ours joy fill'd, and shout,
Presage of victory, and fierce desire



188 greeting] Virg. Æn. ix. 635.

'Bis capti Phryges hæc Rutulis responsa remittunt.' Newton. 189 a noble] v. Beaumont's Psyche, c. vi. st. 90.

'A noble stroke it was.'

197 mountain] Q. Smyrnæus says, that Achilles fell Myxios bugs μáxqw. V. iii. 176. A. Dyce.

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