« PreviousContinue »
Smote on him sore besides, vaulted with fire.
Nathless he so endured, till on the beach
Of that inflamèd sea he stood, and call'd
His legions, Angel forms, who lay entranced,
Thick as autumnal leaves that strow the brooks
In Vallombrosa, where th' Etrurian shades
High overarch'd embower; or scatter'd sedge
Afloat, when with fierce winds Orion arm'd2
Hath vex'd the Red-sea coast, whose waves o'erthrew
Busiris and his Memphian chivalry,
While with perfidious hatred they pursued
The sojourners of Goshen, who beheld
From the safe shore their floating carcases
And broken chariot wheels: so thick bestrown
Abject and lost lay these, covering the flood,
Under amazement of their hideous change.
He call'd so loud, that all the hollow deep
Of hell resounded: Princes, Potentates,
Warriors, the flow'r of heav'n, once yours, now lost,
If such astonishment as this can seize
Eternal spirits; or have ye chosen this place
After the toil of battle to repose
Your wearied virtue, for the ease you find
To slumber here, as in the vales of heav'n?
Or in this abject posture have ye sworn
To adore the conqueror ? who now beholds
Cherub and Seraph rolling in the flood
With scatter'd arms and ensigns, till anon
His swift pursuers from heav'n gates discern
Th' advantage, and descending tread us down
Thus drooping, or with linkèd thunderbolts
Transfix us to the bottom of this gulf.
Awake, arise, or be for ever fall'n.
They heard, and were abash'd, and up they sprung
Upon the wing, as when men wont to watch
On duty, sleeping found by whom they dread,
2 Orion is the constellation_representing an armed warrior. "It was supposed to be attended with stormy
weather. 'Assurgens fluctu nimbosus Orion.' VIR. n. I. 539."-NEWTON.
3 The Pharaoh of Exodus xiv.
Rouse and bestir themselves ere well awake.
Nor did they not perceive the evil plight
In which they were, or the fierce pains not feel;
Yet to their General's voice they soon obey'd,
Innumerable. As when the potent rod
Of Amram's Son, in Ægypt's evil day,
Waved round the coast up call'd a pitchy cloud
Of locusts, warping on the eastern wind,
That o'er the realm of impious Pharaoh hung
Like night, and darken'd all the land of Nile:'
So numberless were those bad angels seen
Hovering on wing under the cope of hell,
"Twixt upper, nether, and surrounding fires;
Till, as a signal given, th' uplifted spear
Of their great Sultan waving to direct
Their course, in even balance down they light
On the firm brimstone, and fill all the plain;
A multitude like which the populous north?
Pour'd never from her frozen loins, to pass
Rhene or the Danaw," when her barbarous sons1
Came like a deluge on the south, and spread
Beneath Gibraltar to the Libyan sands.
Forthwith from ev'ry squadron and each band
The heads and leaders thither haste, where stood
Their great Commander; God-like shapes and forms
Excelling human, Princely Dignities,
2 The "populous north," as the northern parts of the world are observed to be more fruitful of people than the hotter countries. Sir William Temple calls it "the northern hive." "Poured never; a very proper word to express the inundations of these northern nations. "From her frozen loins ;" it is the Scripture expression of children and descendants "coming out of the loins," as Gen. xxxv. 11, "Kings shall come out of thy loins ;" and these are called frozen loins only on account of the coldness of the climate.-NEWTON.
3 "To pass Rhene or the Danaw." He might have said, consistently with his verse, the Rhine or Danube, but he chose the more uncommon names, Rhene, of the Latin, and Danaw, of the
German, both which words are used, too, in Spenser.-NEWTON.
4" When her barbarous sons," &c. They were truly barbarous; for, besides exercising several cruelties, they destroyed all the monuments of learning and politeness wherever they came. "Came like a deluge." Spenser, describing the same people, has the same simile, "Faerie Queen," B. II. cant. 1st. 15:"And overflowed all countries far away, Like Noye's great flood, with their
They were the Goths, and Huns, and Vandals, who overran all the southern provinces of Europe, and, crossing the Mediterranean beneath Gibraltar, landed in Africa, and spread themselves as far as Libya. Beneath Gibraltar means more southward.-NEWTON.
And powers, that erst in heaven sat on thrones;
Though of their names in heavenly records now
Be no memorial, blotted out and razed
By their rebellion from the books of life.1
Nor had they yet among the sons of Eve
Got them new names; till wand'ring o'er the earth,
Through God's high sufferance for the trial of man,
By falsities and lies the greatest part
Of mankind they corrupted to forsake
God their creator, and th' invisible
Glory of him that made them to transform
Oft to the image of a brute, adorn'd
With gay religions full of pomp and gold,
And Devils to adore for Deities:2
Then were they known to men by various names,
And various idols through the heathen world.
Say, Muse, their names then known, who first, who last,
Roused from the slumber on that fiery couch
At their great Emp'ror's call, as next in worth,
Came singly where he stood on the bare strand,
While the promiscuous crowd stood yet aloof ?
The chief were those, who, from the pit of hell
Roaming to seek their prey on earth, durst fix
Their seats long after next the seat of God,"
Their altars by his altar, Gods adored
Among the nations round, and durst abide
Jehovah thund'ring out of Sion, throned
Between the Cherubim; yea, often placed
Within his sanctuary itself their shrines,
Abominations; and with cursed things
His holy rites and solemn feasts profaned,
And with their darkness durst affront his light.
First Moloch, horrid King, besmear'd with blood
Of human sacrifice, and parents' tears,
Though for the noise of drums and timbrels loud
2 Levit. xvii. 7. Psalm cvi. 37. 3 Ezek. viii. 15, 16.
4 The word Moloch means King. H is styled horrid on account of the awful human sacrifices offered to him."
Their children's cries unheard, that past through fire1
To his grim idol. Him the Ammonite
Worshipp'd in Rabba and her wat❜ry plain,
In Argob, and in Basan, to the stream
Of utmost Arnon. Nor content with such
Audacious neighbourhood, the wisest heart
Of Solomon he led by fraud to build
His temple right against the temple of God,
On that opprobrious hill,2 and made his grove
The pleasant valley of Hinnom, Tophet thence
And black Gehenna call'd," the type of hell.1
Next Chemos,5 th' óbscene dread of Moab's sons,
From Aroer to Nebo, and the wild
Of southmost Abarim; in Hesebon
And Heronaim, Seon's realm, beyond
The flow'ry dale of Sibma clad with vines,
And Eleale, to the Asphaltic pool:
Peor his other name, when he enticed
Israel in Sittim, on their march from Nile,
To do him wanton rites, which cost them woe.
Yet thence his lustful orgies he enlarged
Even to that hill of scandal, by the grove-
Of Moloch homicide, lust hard by hate;
Till good Josiah drove them thence to hell.
With these came they, who, from the bord'ring flood
Of old Euphrates to the brook that parts
Egypt from Syrian ground, had general names
Of Baalim and Ashtaroth, those male,
These feminine: for spirits when they please
Can either sex assume, or both; so soft
And uncompounded is their essence pure;
Nor tied or manacled with joint or limb,
Nor founded on the brittle strength of bones,
1 Moloch was represented by an idol of brass sitting on a throne, crowned. Before him was a furnace. His extended arms sloped down to it. Infants placed in his arms fell into the furnace and were consumed.
3 It was called Tophet from toph, a drum, the noise of drums being em
ployed to drown the cries of the poor
babes offered to the idol.
4 So used by our Lord.
5 1 Kings xi. 7.
62 Kings xxiii.
7 Frequently named together in Scripture. They were the sun, Baal; the moon, Astaroth; and the stars; im being the plural termination of the name Baal.
Like cumbrous flesh; but in what shape they choose,
Dilated or condensed, bright or obscure,
Can execute their airy purposes,
And works of love or enmity fulfil.
For those the race of Israel oft forsook
Their living strength, and unfrequented left
His righteous altar, bowing lowly down
To bestial gods; for which their heads as low
Bow'd down in battle, sunk before the spear
Of despicable foes. With these in troop
Came Astoreth, whom the Phoenicians call'd
Astarte, queen of heaven, with crescent horns;
To whose bright image nightly by the moon
Sidonian virgins paid their vows and songs,
In Sion also not unsung, where stood
Her temple on th' offensive mountain, built
By that uxorious king,' whose heart though large,
Beguiled by fair idolatresses, fell
To idols foul. Thammuz came next behind,
Whose annual wound in Lebanon allured
The Syrian damsels to lament his fate
In amorous ditties all a summer's day,
While smooth Adonis from his native rock
Ran purple to the sea, supposed with blood
Of Thammuz yearly wounded: the love-tale
Infected Sion's daughters with like heat,
Whose wanton passions in the sacred porch
Ezekiel saw, when by the vision led
His eyes survey'd the dark idolatries
Of alienated Judah. Next came one
1 Solomon; who built a temple to Astoreth, the moon, on the Mount of Olives.
2 Adonis. See Maundrell's "Travels," p. 34. "We had the fortune to see what may be supposed to be the occasion of that opinion which Lucian relates concerning this river (the Adonis; called by the Turks, Ibrahim Bassa), viz., that this stream, at certain seasons of the year, especially about the feast of Adonis, is of a bloody colour; which the Heathens looked upon as proceeding
from a kind of sympathy in the river for the death of Adonis. Something like this, we saw, actually came to pass; for the water was stained to a surprising redness, and, as we observed in travelling, had discoloured the sea a great way into a reddish hue, occasioned, doubtless, by a sort of minium, or red earth, washed into the river by the violence of the rain, and not by any stain from Adonis' blood."