Page images
PDF
EPUB

So spake the Cherub, and his grave rebuke,
Severe in youthful beauty, added grace
Invincible: abash'd the devil stood,
And felt how awful goodness is, and saw
Virtue in her shape how lovely, saw, and pined
His loss; but chiefly to find here observed
His lustre visibly impair’d; yet seem'd
Undaunted. If I must contend, said he,
Best with the best, the sender not the senty
Or all at once; more glory will be won,
Or less be lost. Thy fear, said Zephon bold,
Will save us trial what the least can do
Single against thee wicked, and thence weak.

The fiend replied not, overcome with rage;
But like a proud steed rein'd went haughty on,
Champing his iron curb: to strive or fly
He held it vain; awe from above had quell'd
His heart, not else dismay'd. Now drew they nigh
The western point, where those half-rounding guards
Just met, and closing stood in squadron join'd,
Awaiting next command. To whom their chief
Gabriel from the front thus call’d aloud.

O friends, I hear the tread of nimble feet
Hasting this way, and now by glimpse discern
Ithuriel and Zephon through the shade,
And with them comes a third of regal port,
But faded splendour wan; who by his gait
And fierce demeanour seems the prince of hell,
Nor likely to part hence without contest:
Stand firm, for in his look defiance lours.

He scarce had ended, when those two approach'd,
And brief related whom they brought, where found,
How busied, in what form and posture couch'd.
To whom with stern regard thus Gabriel spake.

Why hast thou, Satan, broke the bounds prescribed To thy transgressions, and disturbid the charge Of others, who approve not to transgress By thy example, but have power and right To question thy bold entrance on this place, Employd, it seems, to violate sleep, and those

1

Whose dwelling God hath planted here in bliss ?

To whom thus Satan with contemptuous brow.
Gabriel, thou hadst in heav'n th' esteem of wise,
And such I held thee; but this question ask'd
Puts me in doubt. Lives there who loves his pain P
Who would not, finding way, break loose from hell,
Though thither doom'd ? thou wouldst thyself, no doubt,
And boldly venture to whatever place
Farthest from pain, where thou might'st hope to change
Torment with ease, and soonest recompense
Dole with delight, which in this place I sought:
To thee no reason, who know'st only good,
But evil hast not tried : and wilt object
His will who bound us ? let Him surer bar
His iron gates, if He intends our stay
In that dark durance: thus much what was ask'd.
T'he rest is true; they found me where they say;
But that implies not violence or harm.

Thus he in scorn. The warlike angel moved,
Disdainfully half smiling, thus replied.
O loss of one in heav'n to judge of wise,
Since Satan fell, whom folly overthrew,
And now returns him from his prison scaped,
Gravely in doubt whether to hold them wise
Or not, who ask what boldness brought him hither
Unlicensed from his bounds in hell prescribed :
So wise he judges it to fly from pain
However, and to scape his punishment.
So judge thou still, presumptuous, till the wrath,
Which thou incurr'st by flying, meet thy flight
Sevenfold, and scourge that wisdom back to hell,
Which taught thee yet no better, that no pain
Can equal anger infinite provoked.
But wherefore thon alone? wherefore with thee
Came not all hell broke loose? is pain to them
Less pain, less to be fled, or thou than they
Less hardy to endure? courageons chief,
The first in flight from pain, hadst thou alleged
To thy deserted host this cause of flight,
Thou surely hadst not come sule fugitive.

To which the fiend thus answer'd, frowning stern,
Not that I less endure, or shrink from pain,
Insulting angel, well thon know'st I stood
Thy fiercest, when in battle to thy aid
The blasting vollied thunder mai?? all speed,
And seconded thy else not dreaded spear.
But still thy words at random, as before,
Argue thy inexperience what behoves
From hard assays and ill successes past
A faithful leader, not to hazard all
Through ways of danger by himself untried
I therefore, I alone first undertook
To wing the desolate abyss, and spy
This new created world, whereof in hell
Fame is not silent, here in hope to find
Better abode, and my afflicted Powers
To settle here on earth, or in mid air;
Though for possession put to try once more
What thon and thy gay legions dare against;
Whose easier business were to serve their Lord
High up ingheav'n, with songs to hymn his throne,
And practised distances to cringe, not fight.

To whom the warrior angel soon replied.
To say and straight unsay, pretending first
Wise to fly pain, professing next the spy,
Argues no leader, but a liar traced.
Satan, and couldst thou faithful add ? O name,
O sacred name of faithfulness profaned !
Faithful to whom ? to thy rebellious crew ?
Army of fiende, fit body to fit head:
Was this your discipline and faith engaged,
Your military obedience, to dissolve
Allegiance to th' acknowledged Power supreme ?
And thou sly hypocrite, who now wouldst seem
Patron of liberty, who more than thou
Once fawn'd, and cring d, and servilely adored
Heav'n's awful Monarch P wherefore but in hope
To dispossess him, and thyself to reign ?
But mark what I arreed thee now; Avaunt;
Fly thither whence thou fledst: if from this hour

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

Within these hallow'd limits thou appear,
Back to th' infernal pit I drag thee chain'd,
And seal thee so,' as henceforth not to scorn
The facile gates of hell too atly barr'd.

So threaten'd he: but Satan to no threats
Gave heed, but waxing more in rage replied.

Then, when I am thy captive talk of chains,
Proud limitary Cherub; but ere then
Far hea:ier load thyself expect to feel
From my prevailing arm; though heaven's King
Ride on thy wings, and thou with thy compeers,
Used to the yoke, draw'st his triumphant wheels
In progress through the road of heav'n star-paved.

While thus he spake, th' angelic squadron bright
Turn'd fiery red, sharp'ning in moonèd horns
Their phalanx, and began to hem him round
With ported spears, as thick as when a field
Of Ceres, ripe for harvest, waving bends
Her bearded grove of ears, which way the wind
Sways them; the careful ploughman doubting standa,
Lest on the threshing floor his hopeful sheaves
Prove chaff. On the other side Satan alarm’d,
Collecting all his might, dilated stood,
Like Teneriff or Atlas unremoved :
His stature reach'd the sky, and on his crest
Sat horror plumed; nor wanted in his grasp
What seem'd both spear and shield. Now dreadful deeds
Might have ensued, nor only Paradise
In this commotion, but the starry cope
Of heav'n perhaps, or all the elements
At least had gone to wrack, disturb'd and torn
With violence of this conflict, had not soon
Th’ Eternal to prevent such horrid fray
Hung forth in heav'n his golden scales, yet seen
Betwixt Astrea and the Scorpion sign,

i Rer, XX. 3.
? Ezek. i. x. and xi. 29.

The constellation Libra This image of the Deity weighing the fates of the combatants is found both in HrimerXXIL “Iliad "--and in Virgil, who re

prenents Jupiter as weighing the fates of Turnug and Æneas. - ADDISON. In Homer and Virgil the combatants are weighed one against another, but here Satan only is weighed ; in one scale the consequence of his retreating, in the other

Wherein all things created first he weigh'd,
The pendulous round earth with balanced air
In counterpoise; now ponders all events,
Battles, and realms: in these he put two weights,
The sequel each of parting and of fight;
The latter quick up flew and kick'd the beam:
Which Gabriel spying thus bespake the fiend.

Satan, I know thy strength, and thou know'st mine:
Neither our own but given ; what folly then
To boast what arms can do, since thine no more
Than heav'n permits, nor mine, though doubled now
To trample thee as mire? for proof look up,
And read thy lot in yon

celestial sign,
Where thou art weigh’d,' and shown how light, how weak,
If thou resist. The fiend look'd up, and knew
His mounted scale aloft: nor more; but fled
Murmuring, and with him fled the shades of night.

of his fighting. And there is this further
improvement, that, as in Homs and
Virgil the fates are weighed to satisfy
Jupiter himself, it is here done to satisfy

only the contending parties for Sataa to read his own destiny !"--NEWTON,

i Dan. V. 87.

« PreviousContinue »