« PreviousContinue »
This First Book proposes, first in brief, the whole subject,
action passed over, the poem hastens into the midst of things, presenting Satan with his Angels now fallen into Hell, described here, not in the Centre, (for heaven and earth may be supposed as yet not made, certainly not yet accursed,) but in a place of utter darkness, fitliest called Chaos: here Satan, with his Angels lying on the burning lake, thunder-struck and astonished, after a certain space recovers, as from confusion, calls up him who next in order and dignity lay by him ; they confer of their miserable fall. Satan awakens all his legions, who lay till then in the same manner confounded; they rise, their numbers, array of battle, their chief leaders named, according to the idols known afterwards in Canaan and the countries adjoining. To these Satan directs his speech, comforts them with hopes yet of regaining Heaven, but tells them lastly of a new world and new kind of creature to be created, according to an ancient prophecy or report in Heaven; for that Angels were long before this visible creation, was the opinion of many ancient Fathers. To find out the truth of
this prophecy, and what to determine thereon, he refers to a full council. What his associates thence attempt. Pandemonium the palace of Satan rises, suddenly built out of the Deep: the infernal Peers there sit in council.
F Man's first disobedience and the fruit
woe, With loss of Eden, till one greater Man Restore us and regain the blissful seat, Sing, heavenly Muse, that, on the secret top Of Oreb or of Sinai, didst inspire That shepherd, who first taught the chosen seed In the beginning how the heavens and earth Rose out of Chaos. Or, if Sion hill Delight thee more, and Siloa's brook that flowed Fast by the oracle of God, I thence Invoke thy aid to my adventrous song, That with no middle flight intends to soar Above the Aonian mount, while it pursues Things unattempted yet in prose or rime.
And chiefly thou, O Spirit, that dost prefer Before all temples the upright heart and pure, Instruct me, for thou knowest; thou from the first Wast present, and, with mighty wings outspread, 20 Dovelike satest brooding on the vast Abyss, And madest it pregnant. What in me is dark Illumine, what is low raise and support; That, to the highth of this great argument, I may assert eternal Providence, And justify the ways of God to men.
Say first—for Heaven hides nothing from thy view, Nor the deep tract of Hell—say first what cause