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Hail, holy Light ! offspring of Heaven first-born ;
Or, of the Eternal co-eternal beam,
May I express thee unblamed ? since God is light,
And never but in unapproached light
Dwelt from eternity; dwelt then in thee,
Bright effluence of bright essence increate.
Or hear'st thou rather, pure ethereal stream,
Whose fountain who shall tell ? before the sun,
Before the Heavens thou wert; and at the voice
Of God, as with a mantle, didst invest
The rising world of waters, dark and deep,
Won from the void and formless infinite.
Thee I revisit now with bolder wing,
Escaped the Stygian pool; though long detain'd
In that obscure sojourn ; while, in my flight,
Through utter and through middle darkness borne,
With other notes, than to the Orphean lyre,
I of Chaos and eternal Night;
Taught, by the heavenly muse, to venture down
The dark descent, and up to re-ascend,
Though hard and rare. Thee I revisit safe,
And feel thy sovereign vital lamp; but thou
Revisit'st not these eyes, that roll in vain
To find thy piercing ray, and find no dawn;
So thick a drop serene hath quench'd their orbs,
Or dim suffusion veil'd. Yet not the more
Cease I to wander, where the muses haunt,
Clear spring, or shady grove, or sunny hill
Smit with the love of sacred song : but chief
Thee, Sion, and the flowery brooks beneath,
That wash thy hallow'd feet and warbling flow
Nightly I visit. Nor, sometimes, forget
Those other two, equallid with me in fate
So were I equallid with them in renown,
Blind Thamyris, and blind Mæonides;
And Tiresias, and Phineus, prophets old ·
Then feed on thoughts, that voluntary move
Harmonious numbers; as the wakeful bird
Sings darkling, and, in shadiest covert hid,
Tunes her nocturnal note. Thus with the year
Seasons return; but not to me returns
Day, or the sweet approach of even or morn,
Or sight of vernal bloom, or summer's rose,
Or flocks, or herds, or human face divine :
But cloud instead, and ever-during dark
Surrounds me, from the cheerful ways of men
Cut off; and, for the book of knowledge fair,
Presented with a universal blank
Of Nature's works, to me expunged and rased ;
And wisdom at one entrance quite shut out.
So much the rather thou, celestial Light,
Shine inward, and the mind through all her powers
Irradiate; there plant eyes; all mist from thence
Purge and disperse, that I may see, and tell
Of things invisible to mortal sight.
Now had the Almighty Father from above,
From the pure empyrean, where he sits
High throned, above all highth, bent down his eye,
His own works, and their works, at once to view.
About him all the Sanctities of Heaven
Stood thick as stars, and from his sight received
Beatitude past utterance: on his right
The radiant image of his glory sat,
His only Son. On earth he first beheld
Our two first parents, yet the only two
Of mankind, in the happy garden placed,
Reaping immortal fruits of joy and love;
Uninterrupted joy, unrivall'd love,
In blissful solitude. He then survey'd
Hell, and the gulf between, and Satan there,
Coasting the wall of Heaven, on this side Night,
In the dun air sublime; and ready now
To stoop, with wearied wings, and willing feet,
On the bare outside of this world, that seem'd
Firm land imbosomed, without firmament,
Uncertain which, in ocean or in air.
Him God beholding, from his prospect high,
Wherein past, present, future he beholds ;
Thus to his only Son, foreseeing, spake.
“ Only begotten Son! seest thou what rage
Transports our adversary? whom no bounds
Prescribed, no bars of Hell, nor all the chains
Heap'd on him there, nor yet the main abyss,
Wide interrupt, can hold ; so bent he seems
On desperate revenge, that shall redound
85 Upon his own rebellious head Through all restraint broke loose, he wings his way Not far off Heaven, in the precincts of light Directly towards the new created world, And man there placed ; with purpose to essay,
90 If him by force he can destroy, or, worse, By some false guile pervert; and shall pervert : For man will hearken to his glozing lies, And easily transgress the sole command, Sole pledge of his obedience; so will fall
95 He and his faithless progeny.—Whose fault ? Whose, but his own ? Ingrate! he had of me, All he could have : I made him just and right, Sufficient to have stood, though free to fall. Such I created all the ethereal powers
100 And Spirits, both them who stood, and them who fail'd; Freely they stood who stood, and fell who fell. Not free, what proof could they have given sincere Of true allegiance, constant faith or love, Where only what they needs must do appear’d, 105 Not what ihey would ? what praise could they receive ? What pleasure I from such obedience paid, When will and reason (reason also is choice) Useless and vain, of freedom both despoil'd, Made passive both, had served necessity, Not me? They, therefore, as to right belong'd So were created ; nor can justly accuse Their Maker, or their making, or their fate, As if predestination over-ruled Their will, disposed by absolute decree,
115 Or high foreknowledge. They themselves decreed Their own revolt, not I; if I foreknew, Foreknowledge had no influence on their fault, Which had no less proved certain, unforeknown. So, without least impulse, or shadow of fate,
120 Or aught by me immutably foreseen, They trespass ; authors to themselves in all, Both what they judge, and what they choose; for so I form’d them free, and free they must remain, Till they enthral themselves : I else must change
125 Their nature, and revoke the high decree Unchangeable, eternal, which ordain'd Their freedom: they themselves ordain'd their fall. The first sort, by their own suggestion fell, Self-tempted, self-depraved. Man falls, deceived 130 By the other first; man therefore shall find grace,
The other none: in mercy and justice both,
Through Heaven and Earth, so shall my glory excel;
But mercy, first and last, shall brightest shine."
Thus while God spake, ambrosial fragrance fill'd
All heaven ; and in the blessed Spirits elect,
Sense of new joy ineffable diffused
Beyond compare the Son of God was seen
Most glorious; in him all his Father shone,
Substantially express'd ; and in his face
Divine compassion visibly appear'd,
Love without end, and without measure grace;
Which uttering thus, he to his Father spake.
“O Father! gracious was that word, which closed
Thy sovereign sentence, that man should find grace;
For which, both Heaven and Earth shall high extol
Thy praises, with the innumerable sound
Ofhymns and sacred songs, where with thy throne,
Encompass'd, shall resound thee ever bless'd.
For should man finally be lost? should man,
Thy creature late so loved, thy youngest son,
Fall circumvented thus by fraud, though join'd
With his own folly ? That be from thee far,
That far be from thee, Father, who art Judge
Of all things made, and judgest only right.
Or, shall the adversary thus obtain
His end, and frustrate thine ? shall he fulfil
His malice, and thy goodness bring to nought?
Or proud return, though to his heavier doom,
Yet with revenge accomplish’d, and to Hell
Draw after him the whole race of mankind,
By him corrupted ? or wilt thou thyself
Abolish thy creation, and unmake
For him, what for thy glory thou hast made ?
So should thy goodness, and thy greatness, both
Be question'd, and blasphemed, without defence."
To whom the great Creator thus replied :
“O Son, in whom my soul hath chief delight !
Son of my bosom! Son, who art alone
My word, my wisdom, and effectual might!
Ali hast thou spoken, as my thoughts are; all
my eternal purpose hath decreed :
Man shall not quite be lost, but saved who will;
Yet not of will in him, but grace in me,
Freely vouchsafed. Once more I will renew
His lapsed powers, though forfeit, and enthrallid
By sin, to foul exorbitant desires :
Upheld by me, yet once more he shall stand,
On even ground, against liis mortal foe;
By me upheld, that he may know how frail
His fallen condition is, and to me owe
All his deliverance, and to none but me.
Some I have chosen of peculiar grace,
Elect above the rest; so is my will:
The rest shall hear me call, and oft be warn'd
Their sinful state; and to appease betimes
The incensed Deity, while offer'd grace
Invites : for I will clear their senses dark,
What may suffice, and soften stony hearts
To pray, repent, and bring obedience due.
To prayer, repentance, and obedience due,
Though but endeavour'd with sincere intent,
Mine ear shall not be slow, inine eye not shut.
And I will place within them, as a guide,
My umpire, Conscience; whom if they will hear,
Light after light, well used, they shall attain ;
And to the end persisting, safe arrive.
This, my long sufferance, and my day of grace,
They who neglect and scorn, shall never taste:
But hard be harden'd, blind be blinded more,
That they may stumble on, and deeper fall;
And none but such from mercy I exclude.
But yet all is not done : man disobeying,
Disloyal, breaks his fealty, and sins
Against the high supremacy of Heaven,
Affecting Godhead, and, so losing all,
To expiate his treason hath nought left,
But to destruction sacred and devote,
He, with his whole posterity, must die;
Die, he or justice must : unless for him,
Some other, able, and as willing, pay
The rigid satisfaction, death for death.
Say, heavenly powers, where shall we find such love?
Which of ye will be mortal, to redeem
Man's mortal crime, and just, the unjust to save?
Dwells in all heaven charity so dear ?"
He ask'd; but all the heavenly quire stood mute,
And silence was in heaven: on man's behalf,
Patron or intercessor, none appear'd;
Much less that durst upon his own head draw
The deadly forfeiture, and ransom set.
And now, without redemption, all mankind
Must have been lost, adjudyed to death and Hell
By doom severe; had not the Son of God,
In whom the fulness dwells of love divine,