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Dismounted, on th' Aleian field I fall
Erroneous, there to wander and forlorn.
Half yet remains unsung, but narrower bound
Within the visible diurnal sphere;
Standing on earth, not rapt above the pole,
More safe I sing with mortal voice, unchanged
To hoarse or mute, though fall'n on evil days,
On evil days though fall'n, and evil tongues;
In darkness, and with dangers compass'd round
And solitude; yet not alone, while thou
Visit'st my slumbers nightly, or whed morn
Purples the east: still govern thou my song,
Urania, and fit audience find, though few;
But drive far off the barb'rous dissonance
Of Bacchus and his revellers, the race
Of that wild rout that tore the Thracian bard
In Rhodope, where woods and rocks had ears
To rapture, till the savage clamour drown'd
Both harp and voice; nor could the Muse defend
Her son. So fail not thou, who thee implores ;
For thou art heav'nly, she an empty dream.
Say, Goddess, what ensued when Raphaël,
The affable Arch-Angel, had forewarn'd
Adam, by dire example, to beware
Apostasy, by what befel in Heav'n
To those apostates, lest the like befal
In Paradise to Adam or his race,
Charged not to touch the interdicted tree,
So easily obey'd amid the choice
If they transgress. and slight that sole command,
Of all tastes else to please their appetite,
Though wand'ring. He with his consorted Eve
The story heard attentive, and was fill'd
With admiration and deep muse, to hear
Of things so high and strange, things to their thought So unimaginable as hate in Heav'n,
And war so near the peace of God in bliss
21. Half of the Episode, or Raphael's account.
25. An allusion to the condition of himself in the profligate and irreligious times of Charles the Second, during which blind and neglected, he lived in an obscure retreat, but probably in danger of persecution for his principles.
33. Orpheus, the Thracian bard was torn to pieces by the votaries of Bacchus, in Rhodope, a mountain of Thrace.
With such confusion: but the evil soon
Driv'n back, redounded as a flood on those
From whom it sprung, impossible to mix
With blessedness. Whence Adam soon repeal'd
The doubts that in his heart arose and now
Led on, yet sinless, with desire to know
What nearer might concern him; how this world
Of Heav'n and Earth conspicuous, first began;
When, and whereof created; for what cause
What within Eden or without was done
Before his memory, as one whose drouth
Yet scarce allay'd, still eyes the current stream,
Whose liquid murmur heard new thirst excites,
Proceeded thus to ask his heav'nly guest:
Great things, and full of wonder in our ears,
Far diff'ring from this world, thou hast reveal'd,
Divine interpreter, by favour sent
Down from the empyréan, to forewarn
Us timely' of what might else have been our loss,
Unknown, which human knowledge could not reach:
For which to th' infinitely Good we owe
Immortal thanks, and his admonishment
Receive with solemn purpose, to observe
Immutably his sov'reign will, the end
Of what we are.
But since thou hast vouchsafed 80 Gently for our instruction to impart
Things above earthly thought, which yet concern'd
Our knowing, as to highest wisdom seem'd,
Deign to descend now lower, and relate
What may no less perhaps avail us known:
How first began this Heav'n which we behold
Distant so high, with moving fires adorn'd
Innumerable, and this which yields or fills
All space, the ambient air wide interfused
Embracing round this florid Earth; what cause 90
Moved the Creator in his holy rest
Through all eternity so late to build
In Chaos, and the work begun, how soon
Absolved, if unforbid thou may'st unfold
What we, not to explore the secrets, ask
92. A question often since asked, but well answered by the consideration, that whenever the world had been created there would have been an eternity before its existence.
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; susperse in Heav'n,
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 God-like 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?
Yet what thou canst attain, which best may serve
To glorify the Maker, and infer
Thee also happier, shall not be withheld
Thy hearing; such commission from above
I have received, 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 suppress'd in night;
To none communicable in Earth or Heav'n :
Enough is left besides to search and know:
But knowledge is as food, and needs no less
Her temp'rance 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 Heav'n
(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
Eternal Father from his throne beheld
122. Invisible, so in Scripture.
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 dispossess'd,
He trusted to have seized, and into fraud
Drew many, whom their place knows here no more; Yet far the greater part have kept, I see,
Their station; Heav'n 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 Heav'n,
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 raised,
They open to themselves at length the way
Up hither, under long obedience try'd,
And Earth be changed to Heav'n, and Heav'n to Earth, One kingdom, joy and union without end.
Mean while inhabit lax, ye Pow'rs of Heav'n;
And thou, my Word, begotten Son, by thee
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 Heav'n and Earth,
Boundless the deep, because I am who fill
Infinitude, nor vacuous the space.
Though I uncircumscribed 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.
139. At last. instead of at least, is proposed.
144. Job vii. 10.
160. In allusion probably to the new heaven and new earth before mentioned, and not, as is supposed, to any mere improvement in man.
162. Lax, free to follow their former angelic pleasures and Occupations. It has no relation, as Newton supposes, to space
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 Heav'n,
When such was heard declared th' 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, instead
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 th' armoury of God, where stand of old
Myriads between two brazen mountains lodged
Against a solemn day, harness'd at hand,
Celestial equipage: and now came forth
Spontaneous, for within them Spirit lived,
Attendant on their Lord: Heav'n open'd wide
Her ever-during gates, harmonious sound!
On golden hinges moving, to let forth
The King of Glory in his pow'rful Word
And Spirit coming to create new worlds.
On heav'nly 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 182. God instead of the is proposed by Bentley. 192. Zech. vi, 1.