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Yet what thou canst attain, which best may serve
To glorify the Maker, and infer
Thee also happier, shall not be withheld
Thy hearing; such commission from above
I have received, to answer thy desire
Of knowledge within bounds; beyond, abstain
To ask; nor let thine own inventions hope
Things not reveal'd, which the invisible King,
Only omniscient, hath suppress’d in night,
To none communicable in earth or heaven:
Enough is left besides to search and know;
But knowledge is as food, and needs no less
Her temperance over appetite, to know
In measure what the mind may well contain;
Oppresses else with surfeit, and soon turns
Wisdom to folly, as nourishment to wind.
“Know then, that, after Lucifer from heaven (So call him, brighter once amidst the host Of angels, than that star the stars among)' Fell with his flaming legions through the deep Into his place, and the great Son return’d Victorious with his saints, the Omnipotent Eternal Father from his throne beheld Their multitude, and to his Son thus spake: “At least our envious foe hath fail'd, who
All like himself rebellious; by whose aid
This inaccessible high strength, the seat
Of Deity supreme, us dispossessid,
He trusted to have seized, and into fraud
Drew many, whom their place knows here no m.
Yet far the greater part have kept, I see,
Their station; heaven, yet populous, retains
Number sufficient to possess her realms
Though wide, and this high temple to frequent
With ministeries due, and solemn rites:
But, lest his heart exalt him in the harm
Already done, to have dispeopled heaven,
My damage fondly deem'd, I can repair
That detriment, if such it be, to lose
Self-lost; and in a moment will create
Another world, out of one man a race
Of men innumerable, there to dwell,
Not here; till by degrees of merit raised,
They open to themselves at length the way
Up hither, under long obedience tried;
And earth be changed to heaven, and heaven to earth,
One kingdom, joy and union without end.
Meanwhile, inhabit lax, ye powers of heaven;
And thou, my Word, begotten Son, by thee
This I perform; speak thou, and be it done!
My overshadowing Spirit and might with thee
I send along; ride forth, and bid the deep
Within appointed bounds be heaven and earth;
Boundless the deep, because I Am, who fill
Infinitude; nor vacuous the space,
Though I, uncircumscribed myself, retire,
And put not forth my goodness, which is free
To act or not; necessity and chance
Approach not me, and what I will is fate.'
“So spake the Almighty, and to what he spake, His Word, the filial Godhead, gave effect.
Immediate are the acts of God, more swift
Than time or motion; but to human ears
Cannot without procéss of speech be told,
So told as earthly notion can receive.
Great triumph and rejoicing were in heaven,
When such was heard declared the Almight
Glory they sung to the Most High, good-will
To future men, and in their dwellings peace
Glory to him, whose just avenging ire
Had driven out the ungodly from his sight
And the habitations of the just; to him
Glory and praise, whose wisdom had ordaii
Good out of evil to create; instead
Of spirits malign, a better race to bring
Into their vacant room, and thence diffus
His good to worlds and ages infinite.
“So sang the hierarchies: meanwhil, the Son
On his great expedition now appear'd,
Girt with omnipotence, with radiance own’d
Of majesty divine: sapience and love
Immense, and all his Father in him shone.
About his chariot numberless were pour’d
Cherub and seraph, potentates and thrones,
And virtues, winged spirits, and chariots wing'd
From the armoury of God; where stand of old
Myriads, between two brazen mountains lodged
Against a solemn day, harness'd at hand,
Celestial equipage; and now came forth,
Spontaneous, for within them spirit lived,
Attendant on their Lord: heaven open'd wide
Her ever-during gates, harmonious sound!
On golden hinges moving, to let forth
The King of Glory, in his powerful Word
And Spirit, coming to create new worlds.
On heavenly ground they stood; and from the shore
They view'd the vast immeasurable abyss,
Outrageous as a sea, dark, wasteful, wild,
Up from the bottom turn’d by furious winds
And surging waves, as mountains, to assault
Heaven's height, and with the centre mix the pole.
“Silence, ye troubled waves, and thou deep,
Said then the omnific Word : ‘your discord end !
Nor stay'd; but on the wings of cherubim
Uplifted, in paternal glory rode
Far into Chaos, and the world unborn;
For Chaos heard his voice: him all his train
Follow'd in bright procession, to behold
Creation, and the wonders of his might.
Then stay'd the fervid wheels, and in his hand
He took the golden compasses, prepared
In God's eternal store, to circumscribe
This universe, and all created things:
One foot he centred, and the other turn'd
Round through the vast profundity obscure ;
And said, “Thus far extend, thus far thy bounds,
This be thy just circumference, O world!
Thus God the heaven created, thus the earth,
Matter unform’d and void: darkness profound
Cover'd the abyss; but on the watery calm
His brooding wings the Spirit of God outspread,