Of Man’s first disobedience, and the fruit Of that forbidden tree whose mortal taste Brought death into the World, and all our woe, With loss of Eden, till one greater Man Restore us, and regain the blissful seat, Sing, Heavenly Muse, that, on the secret top Of Oreb, or of Sinai, didst inspire That shepherd who first taught the chosen seed In the beginning how the heavens and earth Rose out of Chaos: or, if Sion hill Delight thee more, and Siloa’s brook that flowed Fast by the oracle of God, I thence Invoke thy aid to my adventurous song, That with no middle flight intends to soar Above th’ Aonian mount, while it pursues Things unattempted yet in prose or rhyme. And chiefly thou, O Spirit, that dost prefer Before all temples th’ upright heart and pure, Instruct me, for thou know’st; thou from the first Wast present, and, with mighty wings outspread, Dove-like sat’st brooding on the vast Abyss, And mad’st it pregnant: what in me is dark Illumine, what is low raise and support; That, to the height of this great argument, I may assert Eternal Providence, And justify the ways of God to men.
Say first—for Heaven hides nothing from thy view, Nor the deep tract of Hell—say first what cause Moved our grand parents, in that happy state, Favoured of Heaven so highly, to fall off From their Creator, and transgress his will For one restraint, lords of the World besides. Who first seduced them to that foul revolt?
Th’ infernal Serpent; he it was whose guile, Stirred up with envy and revenge, deceived The mother of mankind, what time his pride Had cast him out from Heaven, with all his host Of rebel Angels, by whose aid, aspiring To set himself in glory above his peers, He trusted to have equalled the Most High, If he opposed, and with ambitious aim Against the throne and monarchy of God, Raised impious war in Heaven and battle proud, With vain attempt. Him the Almighty Power Hurled headlong flaming from th’ ethereal sky, With hideous ruin and combustion, down To bottomless perdition, there to dwell In adamantine chains and penal fire, Who durst defy th’ Omnipotent to arms.
Nine times the space that measures day and night To mortal men, he, with his horrid crew, Lay vanquished, rolling in the fiery gulf, Confounded, though immortal. But his doom Reserved him to more wrath; for now the thought Both of lost happiness and lasting pain Torments him: round he throws his baleful eyes, That witnessed huge affliction and dismay, Mixed with obdurate pride and steadfast hate. At once, as far as Angels ken, he views The dismal situation waste and wild. A dungeon horrible, on all sides round, As one great furnace flamed; yet from those flames No light; but rather darkness visible Served only to discover sights of woe, Regions of sorrow, doleful shades, where peace And rest can never dwell, hope never comes That comes to all, but torture without end Still urges, and a fiery deluge, fed With ever-burning sulphur unconsumed. Such place Eternal Justice has prepared For those rebellious; here their prison ordained In utter darkness, and their portion set, As far removed from God and light of Heaven As from the centre thrice to th’ utmost pole. Oh how unlike the place from whence they fell! There the companions of his fall, o’erwhelmed With floods and whirlwinds of tempestuous fire, He soon discerns; and, weltering by his side, One next himself in power, and next in crime, Long after known in Palestine, and named Beelzebub. To whom th’ Arch-Enemy, And thence in Heaven called Satan, with bold words Breaking the horrid silence, thus began:—
“If thou beest he—but O how fallen! how changed From him who, in the happy realms of light Clothed with transcendent brightness, didst outshine Myriads, though bright!—if he whom mutual league, United thoughts and counsels, equal hope And hazard in the glorious enterprise Joined with me once, now misery hath joined In equal ruin; into what pit thou seest From what height fallen: so much the stronger proved He with his thunder; and till then who knew The force of those dire arms? Yet not for those, Nor what the potent Victor in his rage Can else inflict, do I repent, or change, Though changed in outward lustre, that fixed mind, And high disdain from sense of injured merit, That with the Mightiest raised me to contend, And to the fierce contentions brought along Innumerable force of Spirits armed, That durst dislike his reign, and, me preferring, His utmost power with adverse power opposed In dubious battle on the plains of Heaven, And shook his throne. What though the field be lost? All is not lost—the unconquerable will, And study of revenge, immortal hate, And courage never to submit or yield: And what is else not to be overcome? That glory never shall his wrath or might Extort from me. To bow and sue for grace With suppliant knee, and deify his power Who, from the terror of this arm, so late Doubted his empire—that were low indeed; That were an ignominy and shame beneath This downfall; since, by fate, the strength of Gods, And this empyreal sybstance, cannot fail; Since, through experience of this great event, In arms not worse, in foresight much advanced, We may with more successful hope resolve To wage by force or guile eternal war, Irreconcilable to our grand Foe, Who now triumphs, and in th’ excess of joy Sole reigning holds the tyranny of Heaven.”
So spake th’ apostate Angel, though in pain, Vaunting aloud, but racked with deep despair; And him thus answered soon his bold compeer:—
“O Prince, O Chief of many throned Powers That led th’ embattled Seraphim to war Under thy conduct, and, in dreadful deeds Fearless, endangered Heaven’s perpetual King, And put to proof his high supremacy, Whether upheld by strength, or chance, or fate, Too well I see and rue the dire event That, with sad overthrow and foul defeat, Hath lost us Heaven, and all this mighty host In horrible destruction laid thus low, As far as Gods and heavenly Essences Can perish: for the mind and spirit remains Invincible, and vigour soon returns, Though all our glory extinct, and happy state Here swallowed up in endless misery. But what if he our Conqueror (whom I now Of force believe almighty, since no less Than such could have o’erpowered such force as ours) Have left us this our spirit and strength entire, Strongly to suffer and support our pains, That we may so suffice his vengeful ire, Or do him mightier service as his thralls By right of war, whate’er his business be, Here in the heart of Hell to work in fire, Or do his errands in the gloomy Deep? What can it the avail though yet we feel Strength undiminished, or eternal being To undergo eternal punishment?”
Whereto with speedy words th’ Arch-Fiend replied:—”Fallen Cherub, to be weak is miserable, Doing or suffering: but of this be sure—To do aught good never will be our task, But ever to do ill our sole delight, As being the contrary to his high will Whom we resist. If then his providence Out of our evil seek to bring forth good, Our labour must be to pervert that end, And out of good still to find means of evil; Which ofttimes may succeed so as perhaps Shall grieve him, if I fail not, and disturb His inmost counsels from their destined aim. But see! the angry Victor hath recalled His ministers of vengeance and pursuit Back to the gates of Heaven: the sulphurous hail, Shot after us in storm, o’erblown hath laid The fiery surge that from the precipice Of Heaven received us falling; and the thunder, Winged with red lightning and impetuous rage, Perhaps hath spent his shafts, and ceases now To bellow through the vast and boundless Deep. Let us not slip th’ occasion, whether scorn Or satiate fury yield it from our Foe. Seest thou yon dreary plain, forlorn and wild, The seat of desolation, void of light, Save what the glimmering of these livid flames Casts pale and dreadful? Thither let us tend From off the tossing of these fiery waves; There rest, if any rest can harbour there; And, re-assembling our afflicted powers, Consult how we may henceforth most offend Our enemy, our own loss how repair, How overcome this dire calamity, What reinforcement we may gain from hope, If not, what resolution from despair.”
Thus Satan, talking to his nearest mate, With head uplift above the wave, and eyes That sparkling blazed; his other parts besides Prone on the flood, extended long and large, Lay floating many a rood, in bulk as huge As whom the fables name of monstrous size, Titanian or Earth-born, that warred on Jove, Briareos or Typhon, whom the den By ancient Tarsus held, or that sea-beast Leviathan, which God of all his works Created hugest that swim th’ ocean-stream. Him, haply slumbering on the Norway foam, The pilot of some small night-foundered skiff, Deeming some island, oft, as seamen tell, With fixed anchor in his scaly rind, Moors by his side under the lee, while night Invests the sea, and wished morn delays. So stretched out huge in length the Arch-fiend lay, Chained on the burning lake; nor ever thence Had risen, or heaved his head, but that the will And high permission of all-ruling Heaven Left him at large to his own dark designs, That with reiterated crimes he might Heap on himself damnation, while he sought Evil to others, and enraged might see How all his malice served but to bring forth Infinite goodness, grace, and mercy, shewn On Man by him seduced, but on himself Treble confusion, wrath, and vengeance poured.
Forthwith upright he rears from off the pool His mighty stature; on each hand the flames Driven backward slope their pointing spires, and, rolled in billows, leave i’ th’ midst a horrid vale. Then with expanded wings he steers his flight Aloft, incumbent on the dusky air, That felt unusual weight; till on dry land He lights—if it were land that ever burned With solid, as the lake with liquid fire, And such appeared in hue as when the force Of subterranean wind transprots a hill Torn from Pelorus, or the shattered side Of thundering Etna, whose combustible And fuelled entrails, thence conceiving fire, Sublimed with mineral fury, aid the winds, And leave a singed bottom all involved With stench and smoke. Such resting found the sole Of unblest feet. Him followed his next mate; Both glorying to have scaped the Stygian flood As gods, and by their own recovered strength, Not by the sufferance of supernal Power.
“Is this the region, this the soil, the clime,” Said then the lost Archangel, “this the seat That we must change for Heaven?—this mournful gloom For that celestial light? Be it so, since he Who now is sovereign can dispose and bid What shall be right: farthest from him is best Whom reason hath equalled, force hath made supreme Above his equals. Farewell, happy fields, Where joy for ever dwells! Hail, horrors! hail, Infernal world! and thou, profoundest Hell, Receive thy new possessor—one who brings A mind not to be changed by place or time. The mind is its own place, and in itself Can make a Heaven of Hell, a Hell of Heaven. What matter where, if I be still the same, And what I should be, all but less than he Whom thunder hath made greater? Here at least We shall be free; th’ Almighty hath not built Here for his envy, will not drive us hence: Here we may reigh secure; and, in my choice, To reign is worth ambition, though in Hell: Better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven. But wherefore let we then our faithful friends, Th’ associates and co-partners of our loss, Lie thus astonished on th’ oblivious pool, And call them not to share with us their part In this unhappy mansion, or once more With rallied arms to try what may be yet Regained in Heaven, or what more lost in Hell?”
So Satan spake; and him Beelzebub Thus answered:—”Leader of those armies bright Which, but th’ Omnipotent, none could have foiled! If once they hear that voice, their liveliest pledge Of hope in fears and dangers—heard so oft In worst extremes, and on the perilous edge Of battle, when it raged, in all assaults Their surest signal—they will soon resume New courage and revive, though now they lie Grovelling and prostrate on yon lake of fire, As we erewhile, astounded and amazed; No wonder, fallen such a pernicious height!”
He scare had ceased when the superior Fiend Was moving toward the shore; his ponderous shield, Ethereal temper, massy, large, and round, Behind him cast. The broad circumference Hung on his shoulders like the moon, whose orb Through optic glass the Tuscan artist views At evening, from the top of Fesole, Or in Valdarno, to descry new lands, Rivers, or mountains, in her spotty globe. His spear—to equal which the tallest pine Hewn on Norwegian hills, to be the mast Of some great ammiral, were but a wand—He walked with, to support uneasy steps Over the burning marl, not like those steps On Heaven’s azure; and the torrid clime Smote on him sore besides, vaulted with fire. Nathless he so endured, till on the beach Of that inflamed sea he stood, and called His legions—Angel Forms, who lay entranced Thick as autumnal leaves that strow the brooks In Vallombrosa, where th’ Etrurian shades High over-arched embower; or scattered sedge Afloat, when with fierce winds Orion armed Hath vexed the Red-Sea coast, whose waves o’erthrew Busiris and his Memphian chivalry, While with perfidious hatred they pursued The sojourners of Goshen, who beheld From the safe shore their floating carcases And broken chariot-wheels. So thick bestrown, Abject and lost, lay these, covering the flood, Under amazement of their hideous change. He called so loud that all the hollow deep Of Hell resounded:—”Princes, Potentates, Warriors, the Flower of Heaven—once yours; now lost, If such astonishment as this can seize Eternal Spirits! Or have ye chosen this place After the toil of battle to repose Your wearied virtue, for the ease you find To slumber here, as in the vales of Heaven? Or in this abject posture have ye sworn To adore the Conqueror, who now beholds Cherub and Seraph rolling in the flood With scattered arms and ensigns, till anon His swift pursuers from Heaven-gates discern Th’ advantage, and, descending, tread us down Thus drooping, or with linked thunderbolts Transfix us to the bottom of this gulf? Awake, arise, or be for ever fallen!”
They heard, and were abashed, and up they sprung Upon the wing, as when men wont to watch On duty, sleeping found by whom they dread, Rouse and bestir themselves ere well awake. Nor did they not perceive the evil plight In which they were, or the fierce pains not feel; Yet to their General’s voice they soon obeyed Innumerable. As when the potent rod Of Amram’s son, in Egypt’s evil day, Waved round the coast, up-called a pitchy cloud Of locusts, warping on the eastern wind, That o’er the realm of impious Pharaoh hung Like Night, and darkened all the land of Nile; So numberless were those bad Angels seen Hovering on wing under the cope of Hell, ‘Twixt upper, nether, and surrounding fires; Till, as a signal given, th’ uplifted spear Of their great Sultan waving to direct Their course, in even balance down they light On the firm brimstone, and fill all the plain: A multitude like which the populous North Poured never from her frozen loins to pass Rhene or the Danaw, when her barbarous sons Came like a deluge on the South, and spread Beneath Gibraltar to the Libyan sands. Forthwith, form every squadron and each band, The heads and leaders thither haste where stood Their great Commander—godlike Shapes, and Forms Excelling human; princely Dignities; And Powers that erst in Heaven sat on thrones, Though on their names in Heavenly records now Be no memorial, blotted out and rased By their rebellion from the Books of Life. Nor had they yet among the sons of Eve Got them new names, till, wandering o’er the earth, Through God’s high sufferance for the trial of man, By falsities and lies the greatest part Of mankind they corrupted to forsake God their Creator, and th’ invisible Glory of him that made them to transform Oft to the image of a brute, adorned With gay religions full of pomp and gold, And devils to adore for deities: Then were they known to men by various names, And various idols through the heathen world.
Say, Muse, their names then known, who first, who last, Roused from the slumber on that fiery couch, At their great Emperor’s call, as next in worth Came singly where he stood on the bare strand, While the promiscuous crowd stood yet aloof?
The chief were those who, from the pit of Hell Roaming to seek their prey on Earth, durst fix Their seats, long after, next the seat of God, Their altars by his altar, gods adored Among the nations round, and durst abide Jehovah thundering out of Sion, throned Between the Cherubim; yea, often placed Within his sanctuary itself their shrines, Abominations; and with cursed things His holy rites and solemn feasts profaned, And with their darkness durst affront his light. First, Moloch, horrid king, besmeared with blood Of human sacrifice, and parents’ tears; Though, for the noise of drums and timbrels loud, Their children’s cries unheard that passed through fire To his grim idol. Him the Ammonite Worshiped in Rabba and her watery plain, In Argob and in Basan, to the stream Of utmost Arnon. Nor content with such Audacious neighbourhood, the wisest heart Of Solomon he led by fraoud to build His temple right against the temple of God On that opprobrious hill, and made his grove The pleasant valley of Hinnom, Tophet thence And black Gehenna called, the type of Hell. Next Chemos, th’ obscene dread of Moab’s sons, From Aroar to Nebo and the wild Of southmost Abarim; in Hesebon And Horonaim, Seon’s real, beyond The flowery dale of Sibma clad with vines, And Eleale to th’ Asphaltic Pool: Peor his other name, when he enticed Israel in Sittim, on their march from Nile, To do him wanton rites, which cost them woe. Yet thence his lustful orgies he enlarged Even to that hill of scandal, by the grove Of Moloch homicide, lust hard by hate, Till good Josiah drove them thence to Hell. With these came they who, from the bordering flood Of old Euphrates to the brook that parts Egypt from Syrian ground, had general names Of Baalim and Ashtaroth—those male, These feminine. For Spirits, when they please, Can either sex assume, or both; so soft And uncompounded is their essence pure, Not tried or manacled with joint or limb, Nor founded on the brittle strength of bones, Like cumbrous flesh; but, in what shape they choose, Dilated or condensed, bright or obscure, Can execute their airy purposes, And works of love or enmity fulfil. For those the race of Israel oft forsook Their Living Strength, and unfrequented left His righteous altar, bowing lowly down To bestial gods; for which their heads as low Bowed down in battle, sunk before the spear Of despicable foes. With these in troop Came Astoreth, whom the Phoenicians called Astarte, queen of heaven, with crescent horns; To whose bright image nigntly by the moon Sidonian virgins paid their vows and songs; In Sion also not unsung, where stood Her temple on th’ offensive mountain, built By that uxorious king whose heart, though large, Beguiled by fair idolatresses, fell To idols foul. Thammuz came next behind, Whose annual wound in Lebanon allured The Syrian damsels to lament his fate In amorous ditties all a summer’s day, While smooth Adonis from his native rock Ran purple to the sea, supposed with blood Of Thammuz yearly wounded: the love-tale Infected Sion’s daughters with like heat, Whose wanton passions in the sacred proch Ezekiel saw, when, by the vision led, His eye surveyed the dark idolatries Of alienated Judah. Next came one Who mourned in earnest, when the captive ark Maimed his brute image, head and hands lopt off, In his own temple, on the grunsel-edge, Where he fell flat and shamed his worshippers: Dagon his name, sea-monster, upward man And downward fish; yet had his temple high Reared in Azotus, dreaded through the coast Of Palestine, in Gath and Ascalon, And Accaron and Gaza’s frontier bounds. Him followed Rimmon, whose delightful seat Was fair Damascus, on the fertile banks Of Abbana and Pharphar, lucid streams. He also against the house of God was bold: A leper once he lost, and gained a king—Ahaz, his sottish conqueror, whom he drew God’s altar to disparage and displace For one of Syrian mode, whereon to burn His odious offerings, and adore the gods Whom he had vanquished. After these appeared A crew who, under names of old renown—Osiris, Isis, Orus, and their train—With monstrous shapes and sorceries abused Fanatic Egypt and her priests to seek Their wandering gods disguised in brutish forms Rather than human. Nor did Israel scape Th’ infection, when their borrowed gold composed The calf in Oreb; and the rebel king Doubled that sin in Bethel and in Dan, Likening his Maker to the grazed ox—Jehovah, who, in one night, when he passed From Egypt marching, equalled with one stroke Both her first-born and all her bleating gods. Belial came last; than whom a Spirit more lewd Fell not from Heaven, or more gross to love Vice for itself. To him no temple stood Or altar smoked; yet who more oft than he In temples and at altars, when the priest Turns atheist, as did Eli’s sons, who filled With lust and violence the house of God? In courts and palaces he also reigns, And in luxurious cities, where the noise Of riot ascends above their loftiest towers, And injury and outrage; and, when night Darkens the streets, then wander forth the sons Of Belial, flown with insolence and wine. Witness the streets of Sodom, and that night In Gibeah, when the hospitable door Exposed a matron, to avoid worse rape.
These were the prime in order and in might: The rest were long to tell; though far renowned Th’ Ionian gods—of Javan’s issue held Gods, yet confessed later than Heaven and Earth, Their boasted parents;—Titan, Heaven’s first-born, With his enormous brood, and birthright seized By younger Saturn: he from mightier Jove, His own and Rhea’s son, like measure found; So Jove usurping reigned. These, first in Crete And Ida known, thence on the snowy top Of cold Olympus ruled the middle air, Their highest heaven; or on the Delphian cliff, Or in Dodona, and through all the bounds Of Doric land; or who with Saturn old Fled over Adria to th’ Hesperian fields, And o’er the Celtic roamed the utmost Isles.
All these and more came flocking; but with looks Downcast and damp; yet such wherein appeared Obscure some glimpse of joy to have found their Chief Not in despair, to have found themselves not lost In loss itself; which on his countenance cast Like doubtful hue. But he, his wonted pride Soon recollecting, with high words, that bore Semblance of worth, not substance, gently raised Their fainting courage, and dispelled their fears. Then straight commands that, at the warlike sound Of trumpets loud and clarions, be upreared His mighty standard. That proud honour claimed Azazel as his right, a Cherub tall: Who forthwith from the glittering staff unfurled Th’ imperial ensign; which, full high advanced, Shone like a meteor streaming to the wind, With gems and golden lustre rich emblazed, Seraphic arms and trophies; all the while Sonorous metal blowing martial sounds: At which the universal host up-sent A shout that tore Hell’s concave, and beyond Frighted the reign of Chaos and old Night. All in a moment through the gloom were seen Ten thousand banners rise into the air, With orient colours waving: with them rose A forest huge of spears; and thronging helms Appeared, and serried shields in thick array Of depth immeasurable. Anon they move In perfect phalanx to the Dorian mood Of flutes and soft recorders—such as raised To height of noblest temper heroes old Arming to battle, and instead of rage Deliberate valour breathed, firm, and unmoved With dread of death to flight or foul retreat; Nor wanting power to mitigate and swage With solemn touches troubled thoughts, and chase Anguish and doubt and fear and sorrow and pain From mortal or immortal minds. Thus they, Breathing united force with fixed thought, Moved on in silence to soft pipes that charmed Their painful steps o’er the burnt soil. And now Advanced in view they stand—a horrid front Of dreadful length and dazzling arms, in guise Of warriors old, with ordered spear and shield, Awaiting what command their mighty Chief Had to impose. He through the armed files Darts his experienced eye, and soon traverse The whole battalion views—their order due, Their visages and stature as of gods; Their number last he sums. And now his heart Distends with pride, and, hardening in his strength, Glories: for never, since created Man, Met such embodied force as, named with these, Could merit more than that small infantry Warred on by cranes—though all the giant brood Of Phlegra with th’ heroic race were joined That fought at Thebes and Ilium, on each side Mixed with auxiliar gods; and what resounds In fable or romance of Uther’s son, Begirt with British and Armoric knights; And all who since, baptized or infidel, Jousted in Aspramont, or Montalban, Damasco, or Marocco, or Trebisond, Or whom Biserta sent from Afric shore When Charlemain with all his peerage fell By Fontarabbia. Thus far these beyond Compare of mortal prowess, yet observed Their dread Commander. He, above the rest In shape and gesture proudly eminent, Stood like a tower. His form had yet not lost All her original brightness, nor appeared Less than Archangel ruined, and th’ excess Of glory obscured: as when the sun new-risen Looks through the horizontal misty air Shorn of his beams, or, from behind the moon, In dim eclipse, disastrous twilight sheds On half the nations, and with fear of change Perplexes monarchs. Darkened so, yet shone Above them all th’ Archangel: but his face Deep scars of thunder had intrenched, and care Sat on his faded cheek, but under brows Of dauntless courage, and considerate pride Waiting revenge. Cruel his eye, but cast Signs of remorse and passion, to behold The fellows of his crime, the followers rather (Far other once beheld in bliss), condemned For ever now to have their lot in pain—Millions of Spirits for his fault amerced Of Heaven, and from eteranl splendours flung For his revolt—yet faithful how they stood, Their glory withered; as, when heaven’s fire Hath scathed the forest oaks or mountain pines, With singed top their stately growth, though bare, Stands on the blasted heath. He now prepared To speak; whereat their doubled ranks they bend From wing to wing, and half enclose him round With all his peers: attention held them mute. Thrice he assayed, and thrice, in spite of scorn, Tears, such as Angels weep, burst forth: at last Words interwove with sighs found out their way:—
“O myriads of immortal Spirits! O Powers Matchless, but with th’ Almighth!—and that strife Was not inglorious, though th’ event was dire, As this place testifies, and this dire change, Hateful to utter. But what power of mind, Forseeing or presaging, from the depth Of knowledge past or present, could have feared How such united force of gods, how such As stood like these, could ever know repulse? For who can yet believe, though after loss, That all these puissant legions, whose exile Hath emptied Heaven, shall fail to re-ascend, Self-raised, and repossess their native seat? For me, be witness all the host of Heaven, If counsels different, or danger shunned By me, have lost our hopes. But he who reigns Monarch in Heaven till then as one secure Sat on his throne, upheld by old repute, Consent or custom, and his regal state Put forth at full, but still his strength concealed—Which tempted our attempt, and wrought our fall. Henceforth his might we know, and know our own, So as not either to provoke, or dread New war provoked: our better part remains To work in close design, by fraud or guile, What force effected not; that he no less At length from us may find, who overcomes By force hath overcome but half his foe. Space may produce new Worlds; whereof so rife There went a fame in Heaven that he ere long Intended to create, and therein plant A generation whom his choice regard Should favour equal to the Sons of Heaven. Thither, if but to pry, shall be perhaps Our first eruption—thither, or elsewhere; For this infernal pit shall never hold Celestial Spirits in bondage, nor th’ Abyss Long under darkness cover. But these thoughts Full counsel must mature. Peace is despaired; For who can think submission? War, then, war Open or understood, must be resolved.”
He spake; and, to confirm his words, outflew Millions of flaming swords, drawn from the thighs Of mighty Cherubim; the sudden blaze Far round illumined Hell. Highly they raged Against the Highest, and fierce with grasped arms Clashed on their sounding shields the din of war, Hurling defiance toward the vault of Heaven.
There stood a hill not far, whose grisly top Belched fire and rolling smoke; the rest entire Shone with a glossy scurf—undoubted sign That in his womb was hid metallic ore, The work of sulphur. Thither, winged with speed, A numerous brigade hastened: as when bands Of pioneers, with spade and pickaxe armed, Forerun the royal camp, to trench a field, Or cast a rampart. Mammon led them on—Mammon, the least erected Spirit that fell From Heaven; for even in Heaven his looks and thoughts Were always downward bent, admiring more The riches of heaven’s pavement, trodden gold, Than aught divine or holy else enjoyed In vision beatific. By him first Men also, and by his suggestion taught, Ransacked the centre, and with impious hands Rifled the bowels of their mother Earth For treasures better hid. Soon had his crew Opened into the hill a spacious wound, And digged out ribs of gold. Let none admire That riches grow in Hell; that soil may best Deserve the precious bane. And here let those Who boast in mortal things, and wondering tell Of Babel, and the works of Memphian kings, Learn how their greatest monuments of fame And strength, and art, are easily outdone By Spirits reprobate, and in an hour What in an age they, with incessant toil And hands innumerable, scarce perform. Nigh on the plain, in many cells prepared, That underneath had veins of liquid fire Sluiced from the lake, a second multitude With wondrous art founded the massy ore, Severing each kind, and scummed the bullion-dross. A third as soon had formed within the ground A various mould, and from the boiling cells By strange conveyance filled each hollow nook; As in an organ, from one blast of wind, To many a row of pipes the sound-board breathes. Anon out of the earth a fabric huge Rose like an exhalation, with the sound Of dulcet symphonies and voices sweet—Built like a temple, where pilasters round Were set, and Doric pillars overlaid With golden architrave; nor did there want Cornice or frieze, with bossy sculptures graven; The roof was fretted gold. Not Babylon Nor great Alcairo such magnificence Equalled in all their glories, to enshrine Belus or Serapis their gods, or seat Their kings, when Egypt with Assyria strove In wealth and luxury. Th’ ascending pile Stood fixed her stately height, and straight the doors, Opening their brazen folds, discover, wide Within, her ample spaces o’er the smooth And level pavement: from the arched roof, Pendent by subtle magic, many a row Of starry lamps and blazing cressets, fed With naptha and asphaltus, yielded light As from a sky. The hasty multitude Admiring entered; and the work some praise, And some the architect. His hand was known In Heaven by many a towered structure high, Where Angels held their residence, And sat as Princes, whom the supreme King Exalted to such power, and gave to rule, Each in his Hierarchy, the Orders bright. Nor was his name unheard or unadored In ancient Greece; and in Ausonian land Men called him Mulciber; and how he fell From Heaven they fabled, thrown by angry Jove Sheer o’er the crystal battlements: from morn To noon he fell, from noon to dewy eve, A summer’s day, and with the setting sun Dropt from the zenith, like a falling star, On Lemnos, th’ Aegaean isle. Thus they relate, Erring; for he with this rebellious rout Fell long before; nor aught aviled him now To have built in Heaven high towers; nor did he scape By all his engines, but was headlong sent, With his industrious crew, to build in Hell.
Meanwhile the winged Heralds, by command Of sovereign power, with awful ceremony And trumpet’s sound, throughout the host proclaim A solemn council forthwith to be held At Pandemonium, the high capital Of Satan and his peers. Their summons called From every band and squared regiment By place or choice the worthiest: they anon With hundreds and with thousands trooping came Attended. All access was thronged; the gates And porches wide, but chief the spacious hall (Though like a covered field, where champions bold Wont ride in armed, and at the Soldan’s chair Defied the best of Paynim chivalry To mortal combat, or career with lance), Thick swarmed, both on the ground and in the air, Brushed with the hiss of rustling wings. As bees In spring-time, when the Sun with Taurus rides. Pour forth their populous youth about the hive In clusters; they among fresh dews and flowers Fly to and fro, or on the smoothed plank, The suburb of their straw-built citadel, New rubbed with balm, expatiate, and confer Their state-affairs: so thick the airy crowd Swarmed and were straitened; till, the signal given, Behold a wonder! They but now who seemed In bigness to surpass Earth’s giant sons, Now less than smallest dwarfs, in narrow room Throng numberless—like that pygmean race Beyond the Indian mount; or faery elves, Whose midnight revels, by a forest-side Or fountain, some belated peasant sees, Or dreams he sees, while overhead the Moon Sits arbitress, and nearer to the Earth Wheels her pale course: they, on their mirth and dance Intent, with jocund music charm his ear; At once with joy and fear his heart rebounds. Thus incorporeal Spirits to smallest forms Reduced their shapes immense, and were at large, Though without number still, amidst the hall Of that infernal court. But far within, And in their own dimensions like themselves, The great Seraphic Lords and Cherubim In close recess and secret conclave sat, A thousand demi-gods on golden seats, Frequent and full. After short silence then, And summons read, the great consult began.
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- John Milton as an old flame (telegraph.co.uk)