Page images

One day upon our heads; while we, perhaps
Designing or exhorting glorious war,
Caught in a fiery tempest shall be hurl'd
Each on his rock transfix'd, the sport and prey
Of racking whirlwinds; or for ever sunk
Under yon boiling ocean, wrapt in chains;
There to converse with everlasting groans,
Unrespited, unpitied, unreprieved,
Ages of hopeless end ? this would be worse.
War therefore, open or conceal’d, alike
My voice dissuades; for what can force or guile
With him, or who deceive his mind, whose eye
Views all things at one view ? He from heav’n’s highth
All these our motions vain sees and derides;
Not more almighty to resist our might,
Than wise to frustrate all our plots and wiles.
Shall we then live thus vile, th' race of heav'n,
Thus trampled, thus expell’d, to suffer here
Chains and these torments ? better these than worse
By my advice; since fate inevitable
Subdues us, and omnipotent decree,
The victor's will. To suffer, as to do,
Our strength is equal, nor the law unjust
That so ordains : this was at first resolved,
If we were wise, against so great a foe
Contending, and so doubtful what might fall.
I laugh, when those, who at the spear are bold
And vent'rous, if that fail them, shrink and fear
What yet they know must follow, to endure
Exile, or ignominy, or bonds, or pain,
The sentence of their conqueror : this is now
Our doom; which if we can sustain and bear,
Our supreme foe in time may much remit
His anger, and perhaps thus far removed
Not mind us not offending, satisfied
With what is punish'd: whence these raging fires
Will slacken, if his breath stir not their flames.
Our purer essence then will overcoine
Their noxious vapour, or enured not feel;
Or changed at length, and to the place conform'd

[ocr errors]

In temper and in nature, will receive
Familiar the fierce heat, and void of pain;
This horror will grow mild, this darkness light:
Besides what hope the never-ending flight
Of future days may bring, what chance, what change
Worth waiting, since our present lot appears
For happy though but ill, for ill not worst,
If we procure not to ourselves more woe.

Thus Belial with words cloth'd in reason's garb
Counsell'd ignoble ease, and peaceful sloth,
Not peace: and after him thus Mammon spake.

Either to disenthrone the King of heav'n
We war, if war be best, or to regain
Our own right lost: Him to unthrone we then
May hope, when everlasting Fate shall yield
To fickle Chance, and Chaos judge the strife:
The former vain to hope argues as vain
The latter : for what place can be for us
Within heav'n's bound, unless heav'n's Lord supreme
We overpower ? suppose He should relent
And publish grace to all, on promise made
Of new subjection; with what eyes could we
Stand in his presence humble, and receive
Strict laws imposed, to celebrate his throne
With warbled hymns, and to his Godhead sing
Forced hallelujahs; while he lordly sits
Our envied Sov’reign, and his altar breathes
Ambrosial odours and ambrosial flowers,
Our servile offerings? This must be our task
In heav'n, this our delight; how wearisome
Eternity so spent in worship paid
To whom we hate! Let us not then pursue
By force impossible, by leave obtain'd
Unacceptable, though in heav'n, our state
Of splendid vassalage, but rather seek
Our own good from ourselves, and from our own
Live to ourselves, though in this vast recess,
Free, and to none accountable, preferring
Hard liberty before the easy yoke
Of servile pomp. Our greatness will appear


Then most conspicuous, when great things of small,
Useful of hurtful, prosperous of adverse, ":
We can create; and in what place so e'er : 1
Thrive under evil, and work ease out of pain
Through labour and endurance, This deep world
Of darkness do we dread ? how oft amidst
Thick clouds and dark doth heav'n's all-ruling Sire
Choose to reside, his glory unobscured,
And with the majesty of darkness round
Covers his throne;' from whence deep thunders roar
Must'ring their rage, and heav'n resembles hell ?
As He our darkness, cannot we His light
Imitate when we please ? this desert soil
Wants not her hidden lustre, gems and gold; }
Nor want we skill or art, from whence to raise
Magnificence; and what can heav'n shew more ?
Our torments also may in length of time

Become our elements, these piercing fires
W.. Aş soft as now severe, our temper changed

Into their temper; which must needs remove
The sensible of pain. All things invite
To peaceful counsels, and the settled state re
Of order, how in safety best we may
Compose our present evils, with regard
Of what we are and were, dismissing quite
All thoughts of war. Ye have what I advise.

He scarce had finish'd, when such murmur fill'd
Th' assembly, as when hollow rocks retain
The sound of blustering winds, which all night long
Had roused the sea, now with hoarse cadence lull-
Sea-faring men o'er watch'd, whose bark by chance
Or pinnace anchors in a craggy bay
After the tempest: such applause was heard
As Mammon ended, and his sentence pleased,
Advising peace : for such another field
They dreaded worse than hell: so much the fear
Of thunder and the sword of Michael.

[ocr errors]

1 Psalm xviii. 11–13; xcvii. 2.

Wrought still within them; and no less desire
To found this nether empire, which might rise,
By policy and long process of time,
In emulation opposite to heav'n.
Which when Beëlzebub perceived, than whom,
Satan except, none higher sat, with grave
Aspect he rose, and in his rising seem'd
A pillar of state : deep on his front engraven
Deliberation sat and public care;
And princely counsel in his face yet shone,
Majestic though in ruin : sage he stood,
With Atlantean shoulders fit to bear
The weight of mightiest monarchies; his look
Drew audience and attention still as night
Or summer's noon-tide air, while thus he spakė.

Thrones and imperial Powers, offspring of heav'n,
Ethereal Virtues; or these titles now
Must we renounce, and changing style be calld
Princes of hell? for so the popular vote
Inclines, here to continue, and build

here A growing empire. Doubtless; while we dream, And know not that the King of heav'n hath doom'd This place our dungeon, not our safe retreat Beyond his potent arm, to live exempt From heave'n's high jurisdiction, in new league Banded against his throne, but to remain In strictest bondage, though thus far. removed, Under the inevitable curb, resery'd His captive multitude : for he, be sure, In highth or depth, still first and last will reign, Sole King, and of his kingdom lose no part By our revolt, but over hell extend His empire, and with iron sceptre rule,? Us here, as with his golden those in heav'n. What sit we then projecting peace and war? War hath determined us, and foil'd with loss Irreparable; terms of peace yet none



1 Atlas was fabled to have held the heavens on his shoulders, 2 Psalm ii. 9.

Vouchsafed or sought; for what peace will be giv'n
To us enslaved, but custody severe,
And stripes, and arbitrary punishment
Inflicted ? and what peace can we return,
But to our power hostility and hate,
Untamed reluctance, und revenge, though slow,
Yet ever plotting how the conqueror least
May reap his conquest, and may least rejoice
In doing what we most in suffering feel?
Nor will occasion want, nor shall we need
With dangerous expedition to invade
Heav'n, whose high walls fear no assault, or siege,
Or ambush from the deep. What if we find
Some easier enterprize? There is a place,
(If ancient and prophetic fame in heav'n
Err not,) another world, the happy seat
Of some new race callid Man, about this time
To be created like to us, though less
In power and excellence, but favour'd more
Of Him who rules above; so was His will
Pronounced among the Gods, and by an oath,
That shook heav'n's whole circumference, confirm'd.
Thither let us bend all our thoughts, to learn
What creatures there inhabit, of what mould
Or substance, how endued, and what their power,
And where their weakness, how attempted best,
By force or subtilty. Though heav'n be shut,
And heav'n's high Arbitrator sit secure
In his own strength, this place may lie exposed,
The utmost border of his kingdom, left
To their defence who hold it: here perhaps
Some advantageous act may be achieved
By sudden onset, either with hell fire
To waste his whole creation, or possess
All as our own, and drive as we were driven

habitants; or if not drive,
Seduce them to our party, that their God
May prove their foe, and with repenting hand
Abolish his own works. This would surpass
Common revenge, and interrupt his joy

« PreviousContinue »