Page images

Half yet

Dismounted, on th' Aleian field I fall
Erroneous, there to wander and forlorn.

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, 25
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,

30 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 35 To rapture, till the savage clamour drown'd Both harp and voice ; nor could the Muse defend

So fail not thou, who thee implores ; For thou art heav'nly, she an empty dream.

Say, Goddess, what ensued when Raphaël, 40 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,

45 Charged not to touch the interdicted tree, If they transgress. and slight that sole command, So easily obey'd amid the choice Of all tastes else to please their appetite, Though wand'ring. He with his consorted Eve 50 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 56

Her son.

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 vo taries of Bacchus, in Rhodope, a mountain of Thrace.

With such confusion : but the evil soon
Driv'n back, redounded as a tlood 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 60
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 memury, 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, 70 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

76 Immortal thanks, and his admonishment Receive with solemn purpose, to observe Immutably his sov'rcign 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 perbaps avail us known: 85
How first began this Heav'n which we behold
Distant so high, with moving fires adorn'd
Innumerable, and this which yields or fills

space, the aimbient air wide interfused
Embracing round this florid Earth ; what cause
Moved the Creator in his holy rest
Through all eternity so late to build
In Chaos, and the work begun, how soon
Absolved, if anforbid 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, 100
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 : 110
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

116 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 120 To ask, nor let thine own inventions hope Things not reveal’d, which th' invisible King, Only omniscient, hath suppress'd in nisht; To none communicable in Earth or Heav'n : Enough is left besides to search and know: 125 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. 130

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 136 Victorious with his saints, th' Omnipotent Eternal Father from his throne beheld

103. Gen. i. 2. 122. Invisible, so in Scripture.

[ocr errors]

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

140 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,

145 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

150 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

155 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. 161 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 165 I send along; ride forth, and bid the deep Within appointed bounds be Hear'n and Earth, Boundless the deep, because I am who fill Infinitude, nor vacuous the space. Though I uncircumscribed myself retire

170 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. Lar, free to follow their former angelic pleasures and wccupations. It has no relation, as Newton supposes, to space

165. Luket 33.

ur room.

So spake th' Almighty, and to what he spake,
His Word, the filial Godhead, gave effect. 176
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, 180
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 185
And th' habitations of the just: to him
Glory and praise, whose wisdom had ordain'd
Good out of evil to create, instead
Of Spirits malign, a better race to bring
Into their vacant room, and thence diffuse 19)
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 th' armoury of God, where stand of old 200
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 205
Her ever-during gates, barmonious 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 211
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,i,

« PreviousContinue »