Page images

Than scorn'd thou didst depart, and to subdue 40
By force, who reason for their law refuse,
Right reason for their law, and for their king
Messiah, who by right of merit reigns.
Go, Michael, of celestial armies prince,
And thou in military prowess next
Gabriel, lead forth to battle these my sons
Invincible, lead forth my armed Saints
By thousands and by millions rang’d for fight,
Equal in number to that godless crew
Rebellious; them with fire and hostile arms 50
Fearless assault, and to the brow of Heav'n
Pursuing, drive them out from God and bliss
Into their place of punishment, the gulf
Of Tartarus, which ready opens wide
His fiery Chaos to receive their fall.

So spake the Sov'reign Voice, and clouds began
To darken all the hill, and smoke to roll
In dusky wreathes, reluctant flames, the sign
Of wrath awak’d, nor with less dread the loud
Ethereal trumpet from on high 'gan blow: 60
At which command the powers militant,
That stood for Heav'n, in mighty quadrate join'd
Of union irresistible, mov'd on
In silence their bright legions, to the sound
Of instrumental harmony, that breath'd
Heroic ardor to advent'rous deeds
Under their God-like leaders, in the cause
Of God and his Messiah. On they move
Indissolubly firm : nor obvious hill,


Nor strait’ning vale, nor wood, nor stream divides
Their perfect ranks; for high above the ground
Their march was, and the passive air upbore
Their nimble tread ; as when the toral kind
Of birds, in orderly array on wing,
Came summon'd over Eden to receive
Their names of thee; so over many a tract
Of Heav’n they march’d, and many a province wide
Tenfold the length of this terrene : at last
Far in th' horizon to the north appear’d
From skirt to skirt a fiery region, stretch'd

In battailous aspéct, and nearer view
Bristled with upright beams innumerable
Of rigid spears, and helmets throng'd, and shields
Various, with boastful argument portray’d,
The banded powers of Satan hasting on
With furious expedition; for they ween'd
That self-same day by fight, or by surprise,
To win the mount of God, and on his throne
To set the envier of his state, the proud
Aspirer, but their thoughts prov'd fond and vain 90
In the mid-way : though strange to us it seem'd
At first, that Angel should with Angel war,
And in fierce hosting meet, who wont to meet
So oft in festivals of joy and love
Unanimous, as sons of one great Sire
Hymning th' eternal Father: but the shout
Of battle now began, and rushing sound
Of onset ended soon each milder thought.
High in the midst, exalted as a God,

Th’ Apostate in his sun-bright chariot sat, 100
Idol of majesty divine, 'inclos'd
With flaming cherubim and golden shields ;
Then lighted from his gorgeous throne, for now
'Twixt host and host but narrow space was left,
A dreadful interval, and front to front
Presented stood in terrible array
Of hideous length: before the cloudy van,
On the rough edge of battle ere it join’d,
Satan with vain and haughty strides advanc'd
Came tow'ring, arm'd in adamant and gold : 110
Abdiel that sight endur'd not, where he stood
Among the mightiest, bent on highest deeds,
And thus his own undaunted heart explores :

O Heav'n! that such resemblance of the Highest
Should yet remain, where faith and reälty
Remain not: wherefore should not strength and might
There fail where virtue fails, or weakest prove
Where boldest, though to sight unconquerable ?
His puissance, trusting in th' Almighty's aid,
I mean to try, whose reason I have try'd
Unsound and false; nor is it aught but just,
That he who in debate of truth hath won,
Should win in arms, in both disputes alike
Victor; though brutish that contést and foul,
When reason hath to do with force, yet so
Most reason is that reason overcome.,

So pondering, and from his armed peers Forth stepping opposite, half way he met His daring foe, at this prevention more


[ocr errors]

Incens'd, and thus securely him defy'd: 130

Proud, art thou met? thy hope was to have reach'd
The height of thy aspiring unoppos’d,
The throne of God unguarded, and his side
Abandon'd at the terror of thy power
Or potent tongue: fool, not to think how vain
Against th' Omnipotent to rise in arms;
Who out of smallest things could without end
Have rais'd incessant arinies 10 defeat
Thy folly; or with solitary hand
Reaching beyond all limii, at one blow 140
Unaided could have finish'd thee, and whelm'd
Thy legions under darkness: but thou seest
All are not of thy train; there be who faith
Prefer, and piery to God, though then
To thee not visible, when I alone
Seem'd in thy world erroneous to dissent
From all: my sect thou seest; now learn, too late,
How few sometimes may know, when thousands err.

Whom the grand foe, with scornful eye askance,
Thus answer'd: Ill for thee, but in wish'd hour 150

my revenge, first sought for thou return’st
From flight, seditious Angel, to receive
Thy merited reward, the first assay
Of this right hand provok’d, since first that tongue '
Inspir’d with contradiction durst oppose
A third part of the Gods, in synod met
Their deities to assert, who, while they feel
Vigour divine within them, can allow
Omnipotence to none. But well thou com'st

[ocr errors]

Before thy fellows, ambitious to win 160 From me some plume, that thy success may show Destruction to the rest : this pause

between (Unanswer'd lest thou boast) to let thee know; At first I thought that Liberty and Heav'n To heav'nly souls had been all one; but now I see that most through sloth had rather serve, Ministring spi'rits, train d up in feast and song ; Such hast thou arm’d, the minstrelsy of Heav'n, Servility with freedom to contend,

169 As both their deeds compar’d this day shall prove.

To whom in brief thus Abdiel stern reply'd: Apostate, still thou errost, nor end wilt find Of erring, from the path of truth remote: Unjustly thou deprav'st it with the name Of servitude, to serve whom God ordains, Or Nature : God and Nature bid the same, When he who rules is worthiest, and excels Them whom he governs. This is servitude, To serve th’unwise, or him who hath rebell'd Against his worthier, as thine now serve thee, 180 Thyself not free, but to thyself inthrallid; Yet lewdly dar’st our ministring upbraid. Reign thou in Hell, thy kingdom ; let me serve In Heav'n God, ever blest, and his divine Behests obey, worthiest to be obey'd ; Yer chains in Hell, not realms expect; mean while From me return’d, as erst thou saidst, from flight, This greeting on thy impious crest receive.

So say’ing, a noble stroke he lifted high,

« PreviousContinue »