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Freedom and peace to men : they on the plain
Long had not walk'd, when from the tents behold
A bevy of fair women, richly gay
and wanton dress; to the harp they sung
Soft amorous ditties, and in dance came on:
The men, though grave, eyed them, and let their eyes
Rove without rein, till, in the amorous net
Fast caught, they liked, and each his liking chose :
And now of love they treat, till the evening star,
Love's harbinger, appear'd; then all in heat
They light the nuptial torch, and bid invoke
Hymen, then first to marriage rites invoked ;
With feast and music all the tents resound.
Such happy interview and fair event
Of love and youth not lost, songs, garlands, flowers,
And charming symphonies attach'd the heart
Of Adam, soon inclined to admit delight,
The bent of nature, which he thus express'd :
True opener of mine eyes, prime angel bless'd, Much better seems this vision, and more hope Of peaceful days portends, than those two past; Those were of hate and death, or pain much worse, Ilere nature seems fulfill'd in all her ends.
To whom thus Michael : Judge not what is best By pleasure, though to nature seeming meet, Created, as thou art, to nobler end Holy and pure, conformity divine. Those tents, ihou saw'st so pleasant, were the tents Of wickedness, wherein shall dwell his race Who slew his brother ; studious they appear Of arts that polish life, inventors rare, Unmindful of their Maker, though his Spirit Taught them, but they his gifts acknowledged none. Yet they a beauteous offspring shall beget ; For that fair female troop thou saw'st, that seem'd Of goddesses, so blithe, so smooth, so gay, Yet empty of all good wherein consists Woman's domestic honour and chief praise ; Bred only and completed to the taste Of lustful appetence, to sing, to dance, To dress, and troll the tongue, and roll the eye. To these that sober race of men, whose lives Religious titled them the sons of God, Shall yield up all their virtue, all their fame Ignobly, to the trains and to the smiles Of these fair atheists; and now swim in joy, Erelong to swim at large ; and laugh, for which The world erelong a world of tears must weep.
To whom thus Adam, of short joy bereft : O pity and shame, that they, who to live well Enter'd so fair, should turn aside to tread Paths indirecte or in the midway faint !
But still I see the tenor of man's woe
Holds on the same, from woman to begin.
From man's effeminate slackness it begins,
Said the angel, who should better hold his place
By wisdom and superior gifts received.
But now prepare thee for another scene.
He look'd, and saw wide territory spread
Before him, towns, and rural works between,
Cities of men with lofty gates and towers,
Concourse in arms, fierce faces threatening war,
Giants of mighty bone, and bold emprise ;
Part wield their arms, part curb the foaming steed,
Single, or in array of battle ranged,
Both horse and foot, nor idly mustering stood ;
One way a band select from forage drives
A herd of beeves, fair oxen and fair kine,
From a fat meadow-ground ; or fleecy flock,
Ewes and their bleating lambs, over the plain,
Their booty; scarce with life the shepherds fly,
But call in aid, which makes a bloody fray.
With cruel tournament the squadrons join;
Where cattle pastured late, now scatter'd lies
With carcases and arms, the ensanguined field
Deserted. Others to a city strong
Lay siege, encamp'd, by battery, scale, and mine,
Assaulting ; others from the wall defend
With dart and javelin, stones and sulphurous fire ;
On each hand slaughter and gigantic deeds.
In other part the scepter'd heralds call
To council in the city gates ; anon
Gray-headed men and grave, with warriors mix’d,
Assemble, and harangues are heard ; but soon
In factious opposition ; till at last
Of middle age one rising, eminent
In wise deport, spake much of right and wrong,
Of justice, of religion, truth and peace,
And judgment from above ; him old and young
Exploded, and had seized with violent hands,
Had not a cloud descending snatch'd him thence
Unseen amid the throng: so violence
Proceeded, and oppression, and sword-law,
Through all the plain, and refuge none was found.
Adam was all in tears, and to his guide
Lamenting turn'd full sad : O what are these ?
Death's ministers, not men, who thus deal death
Inhumanly to men, and multiply
Ten thousand-fold the sin of him who slew
His brother ; for of whom such massacre
Make they but of their brethren, men of men ?
But who was that just man, whom had not Heaven
Rescued, had in his righteousness been lost?
To whom thus Michael : These are the product
Of those ill-mated marriages thou saw'st;
Where good with bad were match’d, who of themselves
Abhor to join; and by imprudence mix'd
Produce prodigious births of body or mind.
Such were these giants, men of high renown;
For in those days might only shall be admired,
And valour and heroic virtue call’d.
To overcome in battle, and subaue
Nations, and bring home spoils with infinite
Manslaughter, shall be held the highest pitch
Of human glory, and for glory done
Of triumph to be styled great conquerors,
Patrons of mankind, gods, and sons of gods,
Destroyers rightlier call’d, and plagues of men.
Thus fame shall be achieved, renown on earth,
And what most merits fame in silence hid.
But he, the seventh from thee, whom thou beheld'st
The only righteous in a world perverse,
And therefore hated, therefore so beset
With foes, for daring single to be just,
And utter odious truth, that God would come
To judge them with his saints ; him the Most High
Wrapt in a balmy cloud with winged steeds
Did, as thou saw'st, receive, to walk with God
High in salvation and the climes of bliss,
Exempt from death ; to show thee what reward
Awaits the good, the rest what punishment ;
Which now direct thine eyes and soon behold.
He look'd, and saw the face of things quite changed ;
The brazen throat of war had ceased to roar;
All now was turn'd to jollity and game,
To luxury and riot, feast and dance,
Marrying or prostituting as befell,
Rape or adultery, where passing fair
Allured them; thence from cups to civil broils.
At length a reverend sire among them came,
And of their doings great dislike declared,
And testified against their ways; he oft
Frequented their assemblies, whereso met,
Triumphs, or festivals, and to them preach'd
Conversion and repentance, as to souls
In prison under judgments imminent :
But all in vain : which, when he saw, he ceased
Contending, and removed his tents far off:
Then, from the mountain hewing timber tall,
Began to build a vessel of huge bulk,
Measured by cubit, length, and breadth, and height,
Smear'd round with pitch, and in the side a door
Contrived, and of provisions laid in large
For man and beast : when, lo, a wonder strange!
Of every beast, and bird, and insect small,
Came sevens, and pairs, and enter'd in, as taught
Their order : last, the sire and his three sons
With their four wives; and God made fast the door.
Meanwhile, the south wind rose, and, with black wings
Wide hovering, all the clouds together drove
From under heaven ; the hills to their supply
Vapour, and exhalation, dusk and moist,
Sent up amain. And now the thicken'd sky
Like a dark ceiling stood ; down rush'd the rain
Impetuous, and continued till the earth
No more was seen; the floating vessel swum
Uplifted ; and secure with beaked prow
Rode tilting o'er the waves, all dwellings else
Flood overwhelm'd, and them, with all their pomp,
Deep under water roll’d; sea cover'd sea,
Sea without shore, and in their palaces,
Where luxury late reign'd, sea-monsters whelp'd
And stabled; of mankind, so numerous late,
All left in one small bottom swum embark'd.
How didst thou grieve then, Adam, to behold
The end of all thy offspring, end so sad,
Depopulation! Thee another flood
Of tears and sorrow a flood, thee also drown'd,
And sunk thee as thy sons; till, gently rear'd
By the angel, on thy feet thou stood'st at last,
Though comfortless, as when a father mourns
His children, all in view destroy'd at once ;
And scarce to the angel utteredst thus thy plaint :
O visions ill foreseen! better had I
Lived ignorant of future, so had borne
My part of evil only, each day's lot
Enough to bear ; those now, that were dispensed
The burden of many ages, on me light
At once, by my foreknowledge gaining birth
Abortive, to torment me, ere their being,
With thought that they must be. Let no man seek
Henceforth to be foretold what shall befall
Him or his children ; evil, he may be sure,
Which neither his foreknowing can prevent,
And he the future evil shall no less
In apprehension than in substance feel,
Grievous to bear: but that care now is past,
Man is not whom to warn ; those few escaped
Famine and anguish will at last consume,
Wandering that watery 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 thoa saw'st
In triumph and luxurious wealth, are they
First seen in acts of prowess eminent,
And great exploits, but of true virtue void,
Who, having spilt 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 the 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 heaven 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 horned flood,
With all his verdure spoil'd, and trees adrift,
Down the great river to the opening 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.