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Wand'ring that wat'ry desert. I had hope,
When violence was ceased, and war on earth,
All would have then gone well; peace would have crown'd
With length of happy days the race of man;
But I was far deceived; for now I see
Peace to corrupt no less than war to waste.
How comes it thus ? unfold, celestial guide,
And whether here the race of man will end.
To whom thus Michael. Those whom last thou saw'st
In triumph and luxurious wealth, are they
First seen in acts of prowess emirent
And great exploits, but of true virtue void;
Ww waving spill'd much blood, and done much waste,
Subduing nations, and achieved thereby
Fame in the world, high titles, and rich prey,
Shall change their course to pleasure, ease, and sloth,
Surfeit, and lust, till wantonness and pride
Raise out of friendship hostile deeds in peace.
The conquer'd also and enslaved by war
Shall with their freedom lost all virtue lose
And fear of God, from whom their piety feign'd
In sharp contest of battle found no aid
Against invaders; therefore cool'd in zeal
Thenceforth shall practise how to live secure,
Worldly, or dissolute, on what their lords
Shall leave them to enjoy, for th' earth shall bear
More than enough, that temperance may be tried:
So all shall turn degenerate, all depraved,
Justice and temperance, truth and faith forgot;
One man except, the only son of light
In a dark age, against example good,
Against allurement, custom, and a world
Offended ; fearless of reproach and scorn,
Or violence, he of their wicked ways
Shall them admonish, and before them set
The paths of righteousness, how much more safe
And full of peace, denouncing wrath to come
On their impenitence; and shall return
Of them derided, but of God observed
The one just man alive; by his command
Shall build a wondrous ark, as thou beheld'st,
To save himself and household from amidst
A world devote to universal wreck.
No sooner he with them of man and beast
Select for life shall in the ark be lodged
And shelter'd round, but all the cataracts
Of heav'n set open on the earth shall pour
Rain day and night, all fountains of the deep
Broke up shall heave the ocean to usurp
Beyond all bounds, till inundation rise
Above the highest hills: then shall this mount
Of Paradise by might of waves be moved
Out of his place, push'd by the hornèd flood,
With all his verdure spoild, and trees adrift,
Down the great river to the op'ning gulf,
And there take root, an island salt and bare,
The haunt of seals, and orcs, and sea-mews' clang;
To teach thee that God attributes to place
No sanctity, if none be thither brought
By men who there frequent, or therein dwell.
And now what further shall ensue, behold.
He look'd, and saw the ark hull on the flood,
Which now abated, for the clouds were fled,
Driv'n by a keen north-wind, that blowing diy
Wrinkled the face of deluge, as decay'd ;
And the clear sun on his wide wat’ry glass
Gazed hot, and of the fresh wave largely drew,
As after thirst, which made their flowing shrink
From standing lake to tripping ebb, that stule
With soft foot towards the deep, who now had stopp'd
His sluices, as the heav'n his windows shut.
The ark no more now floats, but seems on ground
Fast on the top of some high mountain fix'd.
And now the tops of hills as rocks appear,
With clamour thence the rapid currents drive
Towards the retreating sea their furious tide.
Forthwith from out the ark a raven flies,
And after him, the surer messenger,
A dove, sent forth once and again to spy
Green tree or ground whereon his foot may light;
The second time returning, in his bill
An olive leaf he brings, pacific sign:
Anon dry ground appears, and from his ark
The ancient sire descends with all his train;
Then with uplifted hands, and eyes devout,
Grateful to heav'n, over his head beholds
A dewy cloud, and in the cloud a bow
Conspicuous with three listed colours gay,
Betok’ning peace from God, and cov'nant new.
Whereat the heart of Adam erst so sad
Greatly rejoiced, and thus his joy broke forth.
O thou, who future things canst represent
As present, heav'nly instructor, I revive
At this last sight, assured that man shall live
With all the creatures, and their seed preserve.
Far less I now lament for one whole world
Of wicked sons destroy'd, than I rejoice
For one man found so perfect and so just,
That God vouchsafes to raise another world
From him, and all his anger to forget.
But say, what mean those colour'd streaks in heav'n,
Distended as the brow of God appeased ?
Or serve they as a flow'ry verge to bind
The fluid skirts of that same wat'ry cloud
Lest it again dissolve and show'r the earth ?
To whom th' archangel. Dext'rously thou aim'st;
So willingly doth God remit His ire,
Though late repenting Him of man depraved,
Grieved at His heart, when looking down He saw
The whole earth fill'd with violence, and all flesh
Corrupting each their way; yet, those removed,
one just man find in His sight,
That He relents, not to blot out mankind,
And makes a covenant never to destroy
The earth again by flood, nor let the sea
Surpass his bounds, nor rain to drown the world
With man therein or beast; but when he brings
Over the earth a cloud, will therein set
His triple-colour'd bow, whereon to look,
And call to mind his cov'nant: day and night,
Seed-time and harvest, heat and hoary frost,
Shall hoid their course, till fire purge all things new,
Both heav'n and earth wherein the just shall dwell
The angel Michael continues from the flood to relate what shall succeed ; thun, in the mention of Abraham, comes by degrees
to explain, who that seva of the woman shall be, which was promised Adam and Eve in the fall; his incarnation, death, resurrection, and ascension ; the state of the church till his second coming. Adam, greatly satisfied, and recomforted by these relations and promises, descends the hill with Michael ; wakens Eve, who all this while had slept, but with gentle dreams composed to quietness of mind and submission. Michael in either hand leads them out of paradise, the fiery sword waving behind them, and the Cherubim taking thoir stations to guard the place.
As one who in his journey bates at noon,
Though bent on speed, so here th' archangel pansed
Betwixt the world destroy'd and world restored,
If Adam aught perhaps might interpose;
Then with transition sweet new speech resumes.
Thus thou hast seen one world begin and end;
And man as from a second stock proceed.
Much thou hast yet to see, but I perceive
Thy mortal sight to fail: objects divine
Must needs impair and weary human sense:
Henceforth what is to come I will relate,
Thou therefore give due audience, and attend.
This second source of men, while yet but few,
And while the dread of judgment past remains
Fresh in their minds, fearing the Deity,
With some regard to what is just and right
Shall lead their lives, and multiply apace,
Labouring the soil, and reaping plenteous crop,
Corn, wine, and oil; and from the herd, or flock,
Oft sacrificing bullock, lamb, or kid,
With large wine-offerings pour'd, and sacred feast,
Shall spend their days in joy unblamed, and dwell
Long time in peace by families and tribes
Under paternal rule; till one shall rise
Of proud ambitious heart, who not content
With fair equality, fraternal state,