« PreviousContinue »
Hurled headlong flaming from the ethereal sky,
With hideous ruin and combustion, down
To bottomless perdition; there to dwell
In adamantine1 chains and penal fire
Who durst defy the Omnipotent to arms
Nine times the space that measures day and night2
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 obdurate pride, and steadfast hate.
At once, as far as angels' ken, he views
The dismal situation, waste and wild:
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
For those rebellious3; 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.
O, 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
Beelzebub.5 To whom the Arch-Enemy,
1 That cannot be broken.
2 As the poem begins before the creation, the poet does not use the terms day and night, definitively, but "the space that measures day and night to mortal men.
3 Spirits (understood).
4 Utter-here used for outer.
5 Beelzebub, or "the Lord of flies," was worshipped at Ekron in Philistia.
And thence in Heaven called Satan1, with bold words
Breaking the horrid silence, thus began:
"If thou beest he; but O, 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 league,
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;
Thát glory never shall his wrath or might
Extort from me. To bow and sue for grace
With suppliant knee, and deify his power3,
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,
1 Satan; in Hebrew, an adversary, power of Him who &c., a Latin
In arms not worse, in foresight much advanced,
We may, with more successful hope, resolve
To wage, by force or guile, eternal war,
Irreconcilable to our grand1 Foe,
Who now triumphs, 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 soon his bold compeer :-
"O Prince, O chief of many throned powers,
That led the embattled Seraphim2 to war
Under thy conduct, and, in dreadful deeds
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,
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 thralls3
By right of war, whate'er his business be,
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
1 See ante, line 29.
2 Seraphim; the Hebrew plural.
3 Thralla bond-servant, a slave.
"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 delight1,
As being the contrary to his2 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.
But see! the angry Victor hath recalled
His ministers of vengeance and pursuit
Back to the gates of Heaven: the sulphurous hail,
Shot after us in storm, o'erblown, hath laid
The fiery surge, that from the precipice
Of Heaven received us falling, and the thunder
Winged 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 the occasion, whether scorn
Or satiate fury yield it from our Foe.
Seest thou yon dreary plain, forlorn and wild,
The seat of Desolation, void of light,
Save what the glimmering of these livid flames
Casts pale and dreadful? Thither let us tend
From off the tossing of these fiery waves;
There rest, if any rest can harbour there;
And re-assembling our afflicted 3 powers,
Consult how we may henceforth most offend
Our Enemy; our own loss how repair;
How overcome this dire calamity;
What re-inforcement 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 blazed; his other parts besides
1 With what force is the character of Satan comprised in these few words! To do good.... a task; to do ill.... sole delight!
2 See ante, line 112.
3 Beaten, struck down.
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,
Titanian2 or earth-born, that warred on Jove;
Briareus3, or Typhon4, whom the den
By ancient Tarsus 5 held; or that sea-beast
Leviathan 6, which God of all his works
Created hugest that swim the ocean stream:
Him, haply, slumbering on the Norway foam,
The pilot of some small night-foundered skiff
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 wishèd morn delays:
So stretched out huge in length the Arch-Fiend lay,
Chained on the burning lake: nor ever thence
Had risen, or heaved his head; but that the will
And high permission of all-ruling Heaven
Left him at large to his own dark designs;
That, with reiterated crimes, he might
Heap on himself damnation, while he sought
Evil to others; and, enraged, might see
How all his malice served but to bring forth
Infinite goodness, grace, and mercy, shown
On man by him seduced; but on himself
Treble confusion, wrath, and vengeance poured.
Forthwith upright he rears from off the pool
His mighty stature; on each hand the flames,
Driven backward, slope their pointing spires, and, rolled
In billows, leave in the midst a horrid vale.
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 burned
With solid, as the lake with liquid fire:
And such appeared in hue, as when the force
Of subterranean wind transports a hill
Typhôn, a giant whom Juno produced by striking the earth.
5 Tarsus, a town of Cilicia in Asia Minor.
Leviathan, a huge sea-animal mentioned in Job, xli. 1.