Page images


[ocr errors]

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, unchang'd
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 when morn
Purples the east ; still govern thou my song,
Urania, and fit audience find, though few.
But drive far off the barbarous dissonance
Of Bacchus and his revelers, 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

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

Say Goddess, what ensu'd when Raphaël,
The affable Arch-Angel, had forewarn'd.
Adam by dire example to beware
Apostasy, by what befel in Heaven
To those apostates, lest the like befall
In Paradise to Adam or his race,

not to touch the interdicted tree,
If they transgress, and slight that sole coinmand,
So easily obey'd amid the choice
Of all tastes else to please their appetite,

Her son.



Though wand'ring. He with his consorted Eve
The story heard attentive, and was fillid
With admiration and deep muse, to hear
Of things so high and strange, things to their thought
So unimaginable as hate in Heaven,
And war so near the peace of God in bliss

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

66 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 drought 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 differing 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 lunmutably his sov'reign will, the end






Of what we are. But since thou hast vouchsaf'd 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 interfus'd
Embracing round this florid earth, what cause
Mov'd the Creator in his holy rest
Through all eternity so late to build
In Chaos, and the work begun, how soon
Absolv'd, if unforbid thou may'st unfold
What we, not to explore the secrets ask

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 ; suspense in Heaven,
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 evening and the moon
Haste to thy audience, night with her will bring 105
Silence, and sleep list'ning to thee will watch,
Or can we bid his absence, till thy song
End, and dismiss thee ere the morning shine.

Thus Adam his illustrious guest besought :


[ocr errors]


And thus the Godlike 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 115
To glorify the Maker, and infer
Thee also happier, shall not be withheld
Thy hearing, such commission from above
I have receiv'd, 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 Heaven :
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
Or 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 Heaven
(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
Their multitude, and to his Son thus spake.

At least our envious foe hath fail'd, who thought

AN like himself rebellious, by whose aid

140 This inacccessible high strength, the seat Of deity supreme, us dispossessid, He trusted to have seiz'd, 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 Already done, to have dispeopled Heaven, 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 rais'd They open to themselves at length the way Up hither, under long obedience try'd, And Earth be chang'd to Heav'n, and Heav'n to Earth, One kingdom, joy and union without end. 161 Meanwhile inhabit lax, ye Pow'rs of Heaven, And thou my word, begotten Son, by thee This I perform, speak thou, and be it done : My overshadowing Spi'rit and might with thee 165 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 vạcuous the space.

« PreviousContinue »