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This first book proposes, first in brief, the whole subject, man's disobe
dience, and the loss thereupon of Paradise, wherein he was placed ; then touches the prime cause of his fall, the serpent, or rather Satan in the serpent; who, revolting from God, and drawing to his side many legions of Angels, was, by the command of God, driven out of Heaven, with all his crew, into the great deep. Which action passed over, the Poem hastes 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, thunderstruck 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 hope 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.
Of man's first disobedience, and the fruit
In the beginning how the heavens and earth
And chiefly thou, O Spirit! that dost prefer
Say first,-for Heaven hides nothing from thy view, Nor the deep tract of Hell, -say first, what cause Moved our grand parents, in that happy state, Favoured of Heaven so highly, to fall off
The infernal serpent: he it was, whose guile,
40 Who durst defy the Omnipotent to arms.
Nine times the space that measures day and night 50 To mortal men, he with his horrid crew Lay vanquished, rolling in the fiery gulf, Confounded, though immortal. But his doom Reserved him to more wrath; for now the thought Both of lost happiness and lasting pain Torments him. Round he throws his baleful eyes, That witnessed huge affliction and dismay, Mixed with obdúrate pride and steadfast hate. At once, as far as angels ken, he views The dismal situation waste and wild.
60 A dungeon horrible, on all sides round, As one great furnace, flamed; yet from those flames No light, but rather darkness visible Served only to discover sights of woe; Regions of sorrow, doleful shades, where peace And rest can never dwell; hope never comes, That comes to all, but torture without end Still urges, and a fiery deluge, fed With ever-burning sulphur unconsumed. Such place eternal justice had prepared
70 For those rebellious; here their prison ordained In utter darkness; and their portion set As far removed from God and light of heaven, As from the centre thrice to the utmost pole. Oh, how unlike the place from whence they fell ! There the companions of his fall, o'erwhelmed With floods and whirlwinds of tempestuous fire, He soon discerns; and weltering by his side, One next himself in power, and next in crime, Long after known in Palestine, and named
80 Beëlzebub: to whom the arch enemy, And thence in heaven called Satan, with bold words Breaking the horrid silence, thus began :
“If thou beest he--But, oh, how fallen! how changed “From him, who in the happy realms of light, “ Clothed with transcendent brightness, didst outshine
Myriads, though bright! If he, whom mutual leagu “ United thoughts and counsels, equal hope
“ And hazard in the glorious enterprise, “ Joined with me once, now misery hath joined “ In equal ruin; into what pit thou seest, “From what height fallen: so much the stronger proved “He with his thunder; and till then who knew “ The force of those dire arms? Yet not for those, “ Nor what the potent Victor in his rage “ Can else inflict, do I repent, or change, —
Though changed in outward lustre,—that fixed mind “ And high disdain from sense of injured merit, “ That with the Mightiest raised me to contend, “ And to the fierce contention brought along “ Innumerable force of spirits armed, “ That durst dislike his reign; and, me preferring, “ His utmost power with adverse power opposed “ In dubious battle on the plains of Heaven, “And shook his throne. What though the field be lost? “ All is not lost; the unconquerable will, “ And study of revenge, immortal hate, “ And courage never to submit or yield, " And what is else not to be overcome, “ That glory never shall his wrath, or might, • Extort from me.
To bow and sue for grace “ With suppliant knee, and deify his power, " Who from the terror of this arm so late “ Doubted his empire,—that were low indeed! “ That were an ignominy and shame beneath “ This downfall! since, by fate, the strength of gods “ And this empyreal substance cannot fail ; “Since, through experience of this great event, “ In arms not worse, in foresight much advanced, “We may, with more successful hope, resolve “ To wage, by force or guile, eternal war, “ Irreconcileable to our grand Foe, “ Who now triúmphs, and in the excess of joy “ Sole reigning holds the tyranny of Heaven.
So spake the apostate angel, though in pain, Vaunting aloud, but racked with deep despair : And him thus answered so:n his bold compeer:
“O Prince! O chief of many thronèd Powers!
" That led the embattled Seraphim to war “ Under thy conduct, and, in dreadful deeds 130 “ Fearless, endangered Heaven's perpetual King, “ And put to proof his high supremacy, “ Whether upheld by strength, or chance, or fate: " Too well I see and rue the dire event, " That with sad overthrow and foul defeat “ Hath lost us Heaven; and all this mighty host “ In horrible destruction laid thus low, “ As far as gods and heavenly essences “ Can perish: for the mind and spirit remains “ Invincible, and vigour soon returns,
140 “ Though all our glory extinct, and happy state “ Here swallowed up in endless misery. “But what if he our Conqueror, (whom I now “ Of force believe almighty, since no less " Than such could have o'erpowered such force as ours) “ Have left us this our spirit and strength entire,
· Strongly to suffer and support our pains? “ That we may so suffice his vengeful ire; “ Or do him mightier service, as his thralls “ By right of war, whate'er his business be, 150 “ Here in the heart of Hell to work in fire, “ Or do his errands in the gloomy deep? “ What can it then avail, though yet we feel
Strength undiminished, or eternal being, “ To undergo eternal punishment?”
Whereto with speedy words the Arch-fiend replied: “ Fallen Cherub! to be weak is miserable,
Doing or suffering: but of this be sure, “ To do aught good never will be our task, “ But ever to do ill our sole delight;
160 “ As being the contrary to his high will, “ Whom we resist. If then his providence “ Out of our evil seek to bring forth good, “ Our labour must be to pervert that end, “ And out of good still to find means of evil: “ Which oft-times may succeed, so as perhaps “ Shall grieve him, if I fail not, and disturb “ His inmost counsels from their destined aim.