Page images
PDF
EPUB

And dictates to me slumb'ring; or inspires

Easy my unpremeditated verse;
25 Since first this subject for heroic song

Pleas'd me, long choosing, and beginning late;
Not sedulous by nature to indite
Wars, hitherto the only argument

Heroic deem'd ; chief mast'ry to dissect
30 With long and tedious havoc fabled knights,

In battles feign'd; (the better fortitude
Of patience, and heroic martyrdom,
Unsung ;) or, to describe races and games,

Or tilting furniture, emblazon'd shields, 35 Impresses quaint, caparisons and steeds,

Bases and tinsel trappings, gorgeous knights
At joust and tournament; then marshall'd feast,
Serv'd up in hall with sewers and seneshals;

The skill of artifice, or office mean!
40 Not that which justly gives heroic name

To person, or to poem. Me, of these
Nor skill'd nor studious, higher argument
Remains; sufficient of itself to raise

That name, unless an age too late, or cold 45 Climate, or years, damp my intended wing

Depress'd; and much they may if all be mine,
Not hers who brings it nightly to my ear.

The sun was sunk, and, after him, the star Of Hesperus, whose office is to bring 50 Twilight upon the earth, short arbiter

'Twixt day and night: and now, from end to end, Night's hemisphere had veil'd th' horizon round; When Satan, who late fled before the threats

Of Gabriel out of Eden, now improv'd 55 In meditated fraud and malice,-bent

On man's destruction, maugre what might hap
Of heavier on himself, fearless return'd.
By night he fled, and at midnight return'd
From compassing the earth; cautious of day,

60 Since Uriel, regent of the sun, descried

His entrance, and forewarn'd the Cherubim
That kept their watch; thence, full of anguish, driv'n,
The space of seven continu'd nights he rode

With darkness; thrice the equinoctial line
65 He circled; four times cross'd the car of night

From pole to pole, travérsing each colure;
On the eighth return'd; and, on the coast averse
From entrance or Cherubic watch, by stealth

Found unsuspected way. There was a place, 70 Now not, though sin, not time, first wrought the

change,
Where Tigris, at the foot of Paradise,
Into a gulf shot under ground, till part
Rose up a fountain by the tree of life:

In with the river sunk, and with it rose,
75 Satan, involv'd in rising mist; then sought

Where to lie hid : sea he had search'd, and land,
From Eden over Pontus, and the pool
Mootis, up beyond the river Ob;

Downward as far antarctic; and in length, 80 West from Orontes to the ocean barr'd

At Darien; thence to the land where flows
Ganges and Indus. Thus the orb he roam'd
With narrow search; and with inspection deep

Consider'd every creature, which of all
85 Most opportune might serve his wiles; and found

The serpent subtlest beast of all the field.
Him after long debate, irresolute
Of thoughts revolv’d, his final sentence chose

Fit vessel, fittest imp of fraud, in whom 90 To enter, and his dark suggestions hide

From sharpest sight: for, in the wily snake
Whatever sleights, none would suspicious mark,
As from his wit and native subtlety

Proceeding, which in other beasts observ'd 95 Doubt might beget of diabolic power

Active within, beyond the sense of brute.

P

115

Thus he resolv'd, but first from inward grief
His bursting passion into plaints thus pour’d:

“O earth, how like to heaven! if not preferr'd 100 “ More justly-seat worthier of gods, as built

“With second thoughts, reforming what was old!
“For what God, after better, worse would build ?
“ Terrestrial heaven, danc'd round by other heavens

“ That shine, yet bear their bright officious lamps, 105 “ Light above light, for thee alone as seems

“In thee concentring all their precious beams
“ Of sacred influence! As God in heaven
“ Is centre, yet extends to all; so thou,

“ Centring, receiv'st from all these orbs : in thee, 10 “Not in themselves, all their known virtue appears

“ Productive in herb, plant, and nobler birth
“Of creatures animate with gradual life
“ Of growth, sense, reason-all summ’d up in man.
“With what delight could I have walk'd thee round,
“ If I could joy in aught, sweet interchange
“ Of hill, and valley, rivers, woods, and plains,
“Now land, now sea, and shores with forest crown'd,
“Rocks, dens, and caves ! But I in none of these
“Find place or refuge; and the more I see
“ Pleasures about me, so much more I feel
“ Torment within me, as from the hateful siege
“Of contraries : all good to me becomes
“ Bane; and in heaven much worse would be my

state. “ But neither here seek I, no, nor in heaven, 125 “ To dwell, unless by mastering heaven's Supreme;

"Nor hope to be myself less miserable

By what I seek, but others to make such
“ As I, though thereby worse to me redound;

“For only in destroying I find ease
130 “ To my relentless thoughts; and, him destroy'd,

“ Or won to what may work his utter loss,
“For whom all this was made, all this will soon
“ Follow, as to him link'd in weal or woe-
“In woe then, that destruction wide may range!

120

135 “ To me shall be the glory sole among

“ The infernal Powers, in one day to have marr'd
" What he, Almighty styl’d, six nights and days
“Continued making; and who knows how long

“ Before had been contriving? though perhaps 140 “ Not longer than since I, in one night, freed

“From servitude inglorious well nigh half
The angelic name, and thinner left the throng
“Of his adorers. He, to be aveng'd,

“And to repair his numbers thus impair’d,
145 "(Whether such virtue spent of old now fail'd

“More angels to create, if they at least
“ Are his created, or to spite us more,)
“ Determin'd to advance into our room

A creature form'd of earth; and him endow, 150 Exalted from so base original,

“ With heavenly spoils-our spoils! What he decreed, “ He effected: man he made, and for him built

Magnificent this world, and earth his seat;
“ Him lord pronounc'd; and, O indignity!

Subjected to his service angel-wings,
“ And flaming ministers, to watch and tend
“ Their earthly charge. Of these the vigilance
“I dread; and, to elude, thus wrapt in mist
“Of midnight vapour glide obscure, and pry
“ In every bush and brake, where hap may find
“The serpent sleeping; in whose mazy folds
“ To hide me, and the dark intent I bring.
“O foul descent! that I, who erst contended

“ With gods to sit the highest, am now constrain'd 165 “Into a beast; and, mix'd with bestial slime,

“ This essence to incarnate and imbrute,
“ That to the height of deity aspir’d:
“ But what will not ambition and revenge

“Descend to? Who aspires, must down as low 170 “ As high he soar'd; obnoxious, first or last,

To basest things. Revenge, at first though sweet, “Bitter ere long, back on itself recoils :

155

160

“Let it; I reck not, so it light well aim'd

(Since, higher, I fall short,) on him who next 175 “ Provokes my envy—this new favourite

“ Of heaven-this man of clay—son of despite,
“ Whom, us the more to spite, his Maker rais'd
“From dust: spite then with spite is best repaid.”

So saying, through each thicket, dank or dry, 180 Like a black mist low-creeping, he held on

His midnight search where soonest he might find
The serpent. Him fast sleeping soon he found
In labyrinth of many a round self rolld;

His head the midst, well stor’d with subtle wiles ; 185 Not yet in horrid shade, or dismal den;

Nor nocent yet; but, on the grassy herb,
Fearless, unfear'd, he slept. In at his mouth
The devil enter'd ; and his brutal sense,

In heart or head, possessing, soon inspir'd 190 With act intelligential; but his sleep

Disturb'd not, waiting close the approach of morn.

Now, when as sacred light began to dawn
In Eden on the humid flowers, that breath'd

Their morning incense, when all things that breathe, 195 From the earth's great altar send up silent praise

To the Creator, and his nostrils fill
With grateful smell, forth came the human pair,
And join'd their vocal worship to the quire

Of creatures wanting voice; that done, partake 200 The season, prime for sweetest scents and airs :

Then commune, how that day they best may ply
Their growing work; for much their work outgrew
The hands' dispatch of two gard’ning so wide:

And Eve first to her husband thus began : 205 Adam, well may we labour still to dress

“ This garden, still to tend plant, herb, and flower-
“Our pleasant task enjoin'd; but, till more hands
“ Aid us, the work under our labour grows,
“ Luxurious by restraint: what we by day

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »