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Wandering that watery desert: I had hope,
785 And whether here the race of Man will end. To whom thus Michael: Those, whom last thou
saw'st In triumph and luxurious wealth, are they First seen in acts of prowess eminent And great exploits, but of true virtue void; 790 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 795 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
800 Against invaders; therefore, cool'd in zeal, Thenceforth shall practice 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: 805 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
810 Offended: fearless of reproach and scorn, Or violence, he of their wicked ways
Shall them admonish; and before them set
830 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 seamews' clang: 835 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.
He look'd, and saw the ark hull on the flood, 840 Which now abated; for the clouds were fled, Driven by a keen north wind, that, blowing dry, Wrinkled the face of deluge, as decay'd; And the clear sun on his wide watery glass Gazed hot, and of the fresh wave largely drew, 845 As after thirst; which made their flowing shrink From standing lake to tripping ebb, that stole With soft foot towards the Deep; who now had stopp'd
His sluices, as the Heaven his windows shut.
860 Anon dry ground appears, and from his ark The ancient sire descends, with all his train: Then with uplifted hands, and eyes devout, Grateful to Heaven, over his head beholds A dewy cloud, and in the cloud a bow
865 Conspicuous with three listed colors gay, Betokening peace from God, and covenant new. Whereat the heart of Adam, erst so sad, Greatly rejoiced; and thus his joy broke forth: O thou, who, future things canst represent
870 As present, heavenly Instructor! I revive At this last sight; assured that Man shall live With all the creatures, and their seed preserve. Far less I now lament for one whole world Of wicked sons destroy'd, than I rejoice
875 For one man found so perfect and so just, That God vouchsafes to raise another world From him, and all his anger to forget. But say, what mean those color'd streaks in Heaven Distended, as the brow of God appeased? 880 Or serve they, as a flowery verge, to bind The fluid skirts of that same watery cloud, Lest it again dissolve, and shower the earth?
To whom the archangel: Dexterously thou aim'st;
So willingly doth God remit his ire,
885 Though late repenting him of Man depraved; Grieved at his heart, when looking down he saw The whole earth fill’d with violence, and all flesh Corrupting each their way; yet, those removed, Such grace shall one just man find in his sight, 890 That he relents, not to blot out mankind; And makes a covenant never to destroy The earth again by flood; nor let the sea Surpass his bounds; nor rain to drown the world, With man therein or beast; but, when he brings 895 Over the earth a cloud, will therein set. His triple-color'd bow, whereon to look, And call to mind his covenant: day and night, Seed-time and harvest, heat and hoary frost, 899 Shall hold their course; till fire purge all things new, Both Heaven and Earth, wherein the just shall dwell.
The Angel Michael continues, from the Flood, to relate what shall
succeed; then, in the mention of Abraham, comes by degrees to explain who that Seed of the Woman shall be, which was promised Adam and Eve in the Fall; his incarnation, death, resurrection, and ascension; the state of the church till his second coming. Adam, greatly satisfied and recomforted by these relations and promises, de scends the hill with Michael; wakens Eve, who all this while had slept, but with gentle dreams composed to quietness of mind and submission. Michael in either hand leads them out of Paradise, the fiery sword waving behind them, and the Cherubim taking their stations to guard the place.
As ONE who in his journey bates at noon,
Thus thou hast seen one world begin and end;
This second source of Men, while yet but few,
15 With some regard to what is just and right, Shall lead their lives, and multiply apace; Laboring the soil, and reaping plenteous crop, Corn, wine, and oil; and, from the herd or flock, Oft sacrificing bullock, lamb, or kid,