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To pieces, and o'erwhelm whatever stands
He ended, and his words their drooping cheer
501 In future days, if malice should abound, Some one intent on mischief, or inspired With devilish machination, might devise Like instrument to plague the sons of men 505 For sin, on war and mutual slaughter bent. Forthwith from council to the work they flew; None arguing stood; innumerable hands Were ready; in a moment up they turn'd Wide the celestial soil, and saw beneath
510 The originals of nature in their crude Conception; sulphurous and nitrous foam They found, they mingled, and, with subtile art, Concocted and adjusted, they reduced To blackest grain, and into store convey'd: 515 Part hidden veins digged up (nor hath this earth Entrails unlike) of mineral and stone, Whereof to found their engines and their balls Of missive ruin; part incentive reed Provide, pernicious with one touch to fire,
520 So all ere dayspring, under conscious night, Secret they finish'd, and in order set, With silent circumspection, unespied.
Now when fair morn orient in Heaven appear’d,
Up rose the victor-Angels, and to arms
525 The matin trumpet sung: in arms they stood Of golden panoply, refulgent host, Soon banded; others from the dawning hills Look round, and scouts each coast light-armed scour, Each quarter, to descry the distant foe,
530 Where lodged, or whither fled, or if for fight In motion or in halt: Him soon they met Under spread ensigns moving nigh, in slow But firm battalion: back with speediest sail Zophiel, of Cherubim the swiftest wing,
535 Came flying, and in mid air aloud thus cried:
Arm, Warriors, arm for fight; the foe at hand,
So warn’d he them, aware themselves, and soon In order, quit of all impediment; Instant without disturb they took alarm, And onward moved embattled: When behold! 550 Not distant far with heavy pace the foe Approaching gross and huge, in hollow cube Training his devilish enginery, impaled On every side with shadowing squadrons deep, To hide the fraud. At interview both stood 555 Awhile; but suddenly at head appear’d Satan, and thus was heard commanding loud:
Vanguard, to right and left the front unfold; That all may see who hate us, how we seek Peace and composure, and with open breast 560
Stand ready to receive them, if they like
565 Do as you have in charge, and briefly touch What we propound, and loud that all may hear!
So scoffing in ambiguous words, he scarce Had ended; when to right and left the front Divided, and to either flank retired:
570 Which to our eyes discover'd, new and strange, A triple mounted row of pillars laid On wheels (for like to pillars most they seem’d, Or hollow'd bodies made of oak or fir, With branches lopp’d, in wood or mountain fell’d,) Brass, iron, stony mould, had not their mouths 576 With hideous orifice gaped on us wide, Portending hollow truce: At each behind A Seraph stood, and in his hand a reed Stood waving tipp'd with fire: while we, suspense, Collected stood within our thoughts amused,
581 Not long: for sudden all at once their reeds Put forth, and to a narrow vent applied With nicest touch. Immediate in a flame, But soon obscured with smoke, all Heaven appear'd, From those deep-throated engines belch’d, whose roar Emboweld with outrageous noise the air, And all her entrails tore, disgorging foul Their devilish glut, chain'd thunderbolts and hail Of iron globes; which on the victor host
590 Leveld, with such impetuous fury smote, That whom they hit none on their feet might stand, Though standing else as rocks, but down they fell By thousands, Angel on Archangel roll'd; The sooner for their arms; unarm’d, they might 595 Have easily, as Spirits, evaded swift
By quick contraction or remove; but now
O Friends! why come not on these victors proud? Ere while they fierce were coming; and when we 610 To entertain them fair with open front And breast, (what could we more?)propounded terms Of composition, straight they chang'd their minds, Flew off and into strange vagaries fell, As they would dance; yet for a dance they seem'd 615 Somewhat extravagant and wild: perhaps For joy of offer'd peace: But I suppose If our proposals once again were heard, We should compel them to a quick result.
To whom thus Belial, in like gamesome mood: 620 Leader! the terms we sent were terms of weight, Of hard contents, and full of force urged home; Such as we might perceive amused them all, And stumbled many: Who receives them right Had need from head to foot well understand; 625 Not understood, this gift they have besides, They show us when our foes walk not upright.
So they among themselves in pleasant vein Stood scoffing, heighten’d in their thoughts beyond All doubt of victory: Eternal Might
630 To match with their inventions they presumed So easy, and of his thunder made a scorn,
And all his host derided, while they stood
636 Forthwith (behold the excellence, the power, Which God hath in his mighty Angels placed! Their arms away they threw, and to the hills (For Earth hath this variety from Heaven
640 Of pleasure situate in hill and dale,) Light as the lightning glimpse they ran, they flew; From their foundations loosening to and fro, They pluck'd the seated hills, with all their load, Rocks, waters, woods, and by the shaggy tops
645 Uplifting bore them in their hands: Amaze, Be sure, and terror seized the rebel host, When coming towards them so dread they saw The bottom of the mountains upward turn’d; Till on those cursed engines’ triple-row
650 They saw them whelm'd, and all their confidence Under the weight of mountains buried deep; Themselves invaded next, and on their heads Main promontories flung, which in the air
654 Came shadowing, and oppress'd whole legions arm’d; Their armor helped their harm, crush'd in and bruised Into their substance pent, which wrought them pain Implacable, and many a dolorous groan; Long struggling underneath, ere they could wind Out of such prison, though Spirits of purest light, 660 Purest at first, now gross by sinning grown. The rest, in imitation, to like arms Betook them, and the neighboring hills uptore: So hills amid the air encounter'd hills, Hurl'd to and fro with jaculation dire;
665 That under ground they fought in dismal shade; Infernal noise! war seem'd a civil game To this uproar; horrid confusion heap'd