Page images

“Of Heav'n receiv'd us falling; and the thunder, 175 “ Wing'd with red lightning and impetuous rage,

“Perhaps hath spent his shafts, and ceases now
“ To bellow through the vast and boundless deep:
“Let us not slip th' occasion, whether scorn,

“ Or satiate fury, yield it from our foe.
180 “Seest thou yon dreary plain, forlorn and wild,

“ The seat of desolation, void of light,
Save what the glimm'ring of these livid flames
“ Casts pale and dreadful? Thither let us tend

“ From off the tossing of these fiery waves; 185 “ There rest, if any rest can harbour there ;

“ And, reassembling our afflicted pow’rs,
“ Consult how we may henceforth most offend
Our enemy-our own loss how repair-
“ How overcome this dire calamity-
“ What re-enforcement we may gain from hope-
“ If not--what resolution from despair."

Thus Satan, talking to his nearest mate,
With head up-lift above the wave, and eyes

That sparkling blaz’d: his other parts besides, 195 Prone on the flood, extended long and large,

Lay floating many a rood; in bulk as huge
As whom the fables name of monstrous size,
Titanian, or Earth-born, that warr'd on Jove,

Briareös, or Typhon, whom the den
200 By ancient Tarsus held; or that sea-beast

Leviathan, which God of all his works
Created hugest that swim the ocean stream:
Him haply slumb’ring on the Norway foam,

The pilot of some small night-founder'd skiff 205 Deeming some island oft, as seamen tell,

With fixed anchor in his scaly rind
Moors by his side under the lee, while night
Invests the sea, and wished morn delays:

So stretch'd out huge in length the Arch-fiend lay, 210 Chain'd on the burning lake: nor ever thence

Had ris'n, or heav'd his head, but that the will

And high permission of all-ruling Heav'n
Left him at large to his own dark designs ;

That with reiterated crimes he might
215 Heap on himself damnation, while he sought

Evil to others; and, enrag'd, might see
How all his malice serv'd but to bring forth
Infinite goodness, grace, and mercy, shown

On man by him seduc'd; but on himself
220 Treble confusion, wrath, and vengeance, pour'd.

Forthwith upright he rears from off the pool
His mighty stature: on each hand the flames,
Driv'n backward, slope their pointing spires, and, roll'd

In billows, leave in the midst a horrid vale:
225 Then with expanded wings he steers his flight

Aloft, incumbent on the dusky air,
That felt unusual weight; till on dry land
He lights,-if it were land that ever burn'd

With solid, as the lake with liquid fire;
230 And such appear'd in hue, as when the force

Of subterranean wind transports a hill
Torn from Pelorus, or the shatter'd side
Of thundering Ætna, whose combustible

And fuelld entrails thence conceiving fire, 235 Sublim'd with mineral fury, aid the winds,

And leave a singed bottom all involv'd
With stench and smoke. Such resting found the sole
Of unblest feet! Him follow'd his next mate;

Both glorying to have ’scap'd the Stygian flood, 240 As Gods, and by their own recover'd strength,

Not by the suff'rance of supernal pow'r.

Is this the region, this the soil, the clime," — Said then the lost archangel," this the seat “ That we must change for Heav'n ?-this mournful

245 “For that celestial light? Be it so, since He,

“ Who now is Sov'reign, can dispose, and bid
“What shall be right! Farthest from him is best,
“Whom reason hath equall’d, force hath made supreme



Above his equals. Farewell, happy fields, 250 “ Where joy for ever dwells ! Hail, horrors ! hail,

“Infernal world! and thou, profoundest Hell,
“Receive thy new possessor !--one who brings
“ A mind not to be chang'd by place or time :
“ The mind is its own place, and in itself
Can make a Heaven of Hell, a Hell of Heaven.
" What matter where, if I be still the same,
And what I should be,-all but less than He
“ Whom thunder hath made greater? Here at least

“We shall be free; th' Almighty hath not built 260 “ Here for his envy ;-will not drive us hence:

“Here we may reign secure; and, in my choice,
“ To reign is worth ambition, though in hell:
“Better to reign in Hell, than serve in Heaven.

“But wherefore let we then our faithful friends, 265 “ The associates and copartners of our loss,

“ Lie thus astonish'd on the oblivious pool,
“ And call them not to share with us their part
“In this unhappy mansion; or once more,

“ With rallied arms, to try what may be yet 270 “Regain'd in Heav'n, or what more lost in Hell?"

So Satan spake, and him Beëlzebub
Thus answer'd:

“ Leader of those armies bright,
" Which but the Omnipotent none could have foil'd!

“ If once they hear that voice,—their liveliest pledge 275 “Of hope in fears and dangers, heard so oft

“In worst extremes, and on the perilous edge
“Of battle when it rag'd, in all assaults
“ Their surest signal,—they will soon resume

New courage and revive; though now they lie 280 “Grov'ling and prostrate on yon lake of fire,

“ As we erewhile, astounded and amaz'd:
“ No wonder, fall’n such a pernicious height!"

He scarce had ceas’d, when the superior fiend

Was moving tow'rd the shore: his pond'rous shield, 285 Ethereal temper, massy, large, and round,

[ocr errors]


Behind him cast: the broad circumference
Hung on his shoulders like the moon, whose orb
Through optic glass the Tuscan artist views

At ev'ning, from the top of Fesolé, 290 Or in Valdarno, to descry new lands,

Rivers, or mountains, in her spotty globe.
His spear,—to equal which the tallest pine,
Hewn on Norwegian hills, to be the mast

Of some great amiral, were but a wand, 295 He walk'd with, to support uneasy steps

Over the burning marle,-not like those steps
On heaven's azure ; and the torrid clime
Smote on him sore besides, vaulted with fire.

Nathless he so endur'd, till on the beach 300 Of that inflamed sea he stood, and callid

His legions, angel forms, who lay entranc'd
Thick as autumnal leaves that strew the brooks
In Vallombrosa, where th' Etrurian shades,

High over-arch'd, imbow'r; or scatter'd sedge 305 Afloat, when with fierce winds Orion arm'd

Hath vex'd the Red-sea coast, whose waves o'erthrew
Busiris and his Memphian chivalry,
While with perfidious hatred they pursu'd

The sojourners of Goshen, who beheld
310 From the safe shore their floating carcasses

And broken chariot-wheels: so thick bestrewn,
Abject and lost lay these, cov’ring the flood,
Under amazement of their hideous change.

He call'd so loud, that all the hollow deep 315 Of Hell resounded:

“ Princes, Potentates, “ Warriors ! the flow'r of heav'n, once yours; now lost, “ If such astonishment as this can seize “ Eternal spirits! Or have ye chos'n this place

“ After the toil of battle to repose
320 “ Your wearied virtue, for the ease you find

“ To slumber here, as in the vales of Heaven?
“ Or in this abject posture have ye sworn


“ To adore the Conqueror? who now beholds

“Cherub and Seraph rolling in the flood
325 “ With scatter'd arms and ensigns; till anon

“ His swift pursuers from Heav'n-gates discern
“ Th' advantage, and, descending, tread us down
“ Thus drooping, or with linked thunderbolts
“ Transfix us to the bottom of this gulf.
Awake!-arise !-or be for ever fall’n !"

They heard, and were abash'd, and up they sprung
Upon the wing; as when men, wont to watch
On duty, sleeping found by whom they dread,

Rouse and bestir themselves ere well awake. 335 Nor did they not perceive the evil plight

In which they were, or the fierce pains not feel;
Yet to their gen'ral's voice they soon obey'd,
Innumerable! As when the potent rod

Of Amram's son, in Egypt's evil day,
340 Wav'd round the coast, up call’d a pitchy cloud

Of locusts, warping on the eastern wind,
That o'er the realm of impious Pharaoh hung
Like night, and darken'd all the land of Nile:

So numberless were those bad angels seen 345 Hov'ring on wing under the cope of hell,

'Twixt upper, nether, and surrounding fires :
Till, at a signal giv'n, th’ uplifted spear
Of their great sultan waving to direct

Their course, in even balance down they light 350 On the firm brimstone, and fill all the plain :

A multitude, like which the populous North
Pour'd never from her frozen loins, to pass
Rhene, or the Danaw, when her barb'rous sons

Came like a deluge on the South, and spread 355 Beneath Gibraltar to the Libyan sands.

Forthwith from ev'ry squadron, and each band,
The heads and leaders thither haste, where stood
Their great commander; godlike shapes, and forms

Excelling human, princely dignities,
360 And Pow'rs that erst in heaven sat on thrones !

« PreviousContinue »