John Milton

Soundings Index

In this Monody the Author bewails a learned Friend, unfortunatly drown'd in his Passage from Chester on the Irish Seas, 1637. And by occasion foretels the ruine of our corrupted Clergy then in their height.

 Yet once more, O ye Laurels, and once more
 Ye Myrtles brown, with Ivy never-sear,
 I com to pluck your Berries harsh and crude,
 And with forc'd fingers rude,
 Shatter your leaves before the mellowing year.
 Bitter constraint, and sad occasion dear,
 Compels me to disturb your season due:
 For Lycidas is dead, dead ere his prime
 Young Lycidas, and hath not left his peer:
 Who would not sing for Lycidas? he knew
 Himself to sing, and build the lofty rhyme.
 He must not flote upon his watry bear
 Unwept, and welter to the parching wind,
 Without the meed of som melodious tear.
 	Begin then, Sisters of the sacred well,
 That from beneath the seat of Jove doth spring,
 Begin, and somwhat loudly sweep the string.
 Hence with denial vain, and coy excuse,
 So may som gentle Muse
 With lucky words favour my destin'd Urn,
 And as he passes turn,
 And bid fair peace be to my sable shrowd.
 For we were nurst upon the self-same hill,
 Fed the same flock, by fountain, shade, and rill.
 	Together both, ere the high Lawns appear'd
 Under the opening eye-lids of the morn,
 We drove a field, and both together heard
 What time the Gray-fly winds her sultry horn,
 Batt'ning our flocks with the fresh dews of night,
 Oft till the Star that rose, at Ev'ning, bright
 Toward Heav'ns descent had slop'd his westering wheel,
 Mean while the Rural ditties were not mute,
 Temper'd to th'Oaten Flute;
 Rough Satyrs danc'd, and Fauns with clov'n heel,
 From the glad sound would not be absent long,
 And old Damaetas lov'd to hear our song.
	But O the heavy charge, now thou art gon,
 Now thou art gon, and never must return!
 Thee Shepherd, thee the Woods, and desert Caves,
 With wilde Thyme and the gadding Vine o'regrown
 And all their echoes mourn.
 The Willows, and the Hazle Copses green,
 Shall now no more be seen,
 Fanning their joyous Leaves to thy soft layes.
 As killing as the Canker to the Rose,
 Or Taint-worm to the weanling Herds that graze,
 Or Frost to Flowers, that their gay wardrop wear,
 When first the White thorn blows;
 Such, Lycidas, thy loss to Shepherds ear.
 	Where were ye Nymphs when the remorseless deep
 Clos'd o're the head of your lov'd Lycidas?
 For neither were ye playing on the steep,
 Where your old Bards, the famous Druids ly,
 Nor on the shaggy top of Mona high,
 Nor yet where Deva spreads her wisard stream:
 Ay me, I fondly dream!
 Had ye bin there--for what could that have don?
 What could the Muse her self that Orpheus bore,
 The Muse her self, for her inchanting son
 Whom Universal nature did lament,
 When by the rout that made the hideous roar,
 His goary visage down the stream was sent,
 Down the swift Hebrus to the Lesbian Shore.
 	Alas! What boots it with uncessant care
 To tend the homely slighted Shepherds trade,
 And strictly meditate the thankles Muse,
 Were it not better don as others use,
 To sport with Amaryllis in the shade,
 Or with the tangles of Neaera's hair?
 Fame is the spur that the clear spirit doth raise
 (That last infirmity of Noble mind)
 To scorn delights, and live laborious dayes;
 But the fair Guerdon when we hope to find,
 And think to burst out into sudden blaze,
 Comes the blind Fury with th'abhorred shears,
 And slits the thin spun life. But not the praise,
 Phaebus repli'd, and touch'd my trembling ears;
 Fame is no plant that grows on mortal soil,
 Nor in the glistering foil
 Set off to th'world, nor in broad rumour lies,
 But lives and spreds aloft by those pure eyes,
 And perfet witness of all judging Jove;
 As he pronounces lastly on each deed,
 Of so much fame in Heav'n expect thy meed.
 	O Fountain Arethuse, and thou honour'd floud,
 Smooth-sliding Mincius, crown'd with voocall reeds,
 That strain I heard was of a higher mood:
 But now my Oate proceeds,
 And listens to the Herald of the Sea
 That came in Neptune's plea,
 He ask'd the Waves, and ask'd the Fellon winds,
 What hard mishap hath doom'd this gentle swain?
 And question'd every gust of rugged wings
 That blows from off each beaked Promontory,
 They knew not of his story,
 And sage Hippotads their answer brings,
 That not a blast was from his dungeon stray'd,
 The Ayr was calm, and on the level brine,
 Sleek Panope with all her sisters play'd.
 It was that fatall and perfidious Bark
 Built in th'eclipse and rigg'd with curses dark,
 That sunk so low that scared head of thine.
 	Next Camus, reverend Sire, went footing slow,
 His Mantle hairy, and his Bonnet sedge,
 Inwrought with figures dim, and on the edge
 Like to that sanguine flower inscrib'd with woe.
 Ah; who hath reft (quoth he) my dearest pledge?
 Last came, adn last did go,
 The Pilot of the Galilean like,
 Two many Keyes he bore of metals twain,
 (The Golden opes, the Iron shuts amain)
 He shook his Miter'd locks, and stern bespake,
 How well could I have spar'd for thee, young swain,
 Anow of such as for their bellies sake,
 Creep and intrude, and climb into the fold?
 Of other care they little reck'ning make,
 Then how to scramble at the shearers feast,
 And shove away the worthy bidden guest.
 Blind mouthes! that scarce themselves know how to hold
 A Sheep-hook, or have learn'd ought els the least
 That to the fiathfull Herdmans art belongs!
 What recks it them? What need they? They are sped;
 And when they list, their lean and flashy songs
 Grate on their scrannel Pipes of wretched straw,
 The hungry Sheep look up, and are not fed,
 But swoln with wind, and the rank mist they draw,
 Rot inwardly, and foul contagion spread:
 Besides what the grim Woolf with privy paw
 Daily devours apace, and nothing sed,
 But that two-handed engine at the door,
 Stands ready to smite once, and smite no more.
 	Returns Alpheus, the dread voice is past,
 That shrunk thy stream; Return Sicilian Must,
 And call the Vales, and bid them hither cast
 Their Bels, and Flourets of a thousand hues.
 Ye valleys low where the milde whispers use,
 Of shades and wonton winds, and gushing brooks
 On whose fresh lap the swart Star sparely looks,
 Throw hither all your quaint enameld eyes,
 That on the green terf suck the honied showres,
 And purple all the ground with vernal flowres.
 Bring the rathe Primrose that forsaken dies.
 The tufted Crow-tow, and pale Gessamine,
 The white Pink, and the Pansie freakt with jeat,
 The glowing Violet.
 The Musk-rose, and the well attir'd Woodbine,
 With Cowslips wan that hang the pensive hed,
 And every flower that sad embroidery wears:
 Bid Amaranthus all his beauty shed,
 And Daffadillies fill their cups with tears,
 To strew the Laureat Herse where Lycid lies.
 For so to interpose a little ease,
 Let our frail thoughts dally with false surmise.
 Ay me! What thee the shores, and sounding Seas
 Wash far away, where ere thy bones are hurld,
 Whether beyond the stormy Hebrides,
 Where thou perhaps under the whelming tide
 Visit'st the bottom of the monstrous world;
 Or whether thou to our moist vows deny'd
 Sleep'st  by the fable of Bellerus old,
 Where the great vision of the guarded Mount
 Looks toward namancos and Bayona's hold;
 Look homeward Angel now, and melt with ruth.
 And, O ye Dolphins, waft the haples youth.
 	Weep no more, woful Shepherds, weep no more,
 For Lycidas your sorrow is not dead,
 Sunk though he be beneath the watry floar,
 So sinks the day-star in the Ocean bed,
 And yet anon repairs his drooping head,
 And tricks his beams, and with new spangled Ore,
 Flames in the forehead of the morning sky:
 So Lycidas sunk low, but mounted high,
 Through the dear might of him that walk'd the waves,
 Where other groves, and other streams along,
 With Nectar pure his oozy Lock's he laves,
 And hears the unexpressive nuptiall Song,
 In the blest Kingdoms meek of joy and love.
 There entertain him all the Saints above,
 In solemn troops, and sweet Societies
 That sing, and singing in their glory move,
 And wipe the tears for ever from his eyes.
 Now Lycidas the Shepherds weep no more;
 Hence forth thou art the Genius of the shore,
 In thy large recompense, and shalt be good
 To al that wander in that perilous flood.
 	Thus sang the uncouth Swain to th'Okes and rills,
 While the still morn went out with Sandals gray,
 He touch'd the tender stops of various Quills,
 With eager thought warbling his Dorick lay:
 And now the Sun had stretch'd out all the hills,
 And now wasdropt into the Western bay;
 At last he rose, and twitch'd his Mantle blew:
 To-morrow to fresh Woods, and Pastures new.

How soon hath Time

 How soon hath Time the suttle theef of youth,
  Stoln on his wing my three and twentith yeer!
  My hasting dayes flie on with full career,
  But my late spring no bud or blossom shew'th.
 Perhaps my semblance might deceive the truth,
  That I to manhood am arriv'd so near,
  And inward ripenes doth much less appear,
  That som more timely-happy spirits indu'th.
 Yet be it less or more, or soon or slow,
  It shall be still in strictest measure eev'n
  To that same lot, however mean, or high,
 Toward which Time leads me, and the will of Heav'n;
  All is, if I have grace to use it so,
  As ever in my great task Masters eye.

When I Consider

 When I consider how my light is spent,
  E'er half my days, in this dark world and wide,
  And that one Talent which is death to hide,
  Lodg'd with me useless, though my Soul more bent
 To serve therewith my Maker, and present
  My true account, least he returning chide,
  Doth God exact day-labour, light deny'd,
  I fondly ask; But patience to prevent
 That murmur, soon replies, God doth not need
  Either man's work or his own gifts, who best
  Bear his milde yoak, they serve him best, his State
 Is Kingly. Thousands at his bidding speed
  And post o're Land and Ocean without rest:
  They also serve who only stand and waite.

Avenge O Lord

 Avenge O Lord thy slaughter'd Saints, whose bones
  Lie scatter'd on the Alpine mountains cold,
  Ev'n them who kept thy truth so pure of old
  When all our Fathers worship't Stocks and Stones,
 Forget not: in thy book record their groanes
  Who were thy Sheep and in their antient Fold
  Slayn by the bloody Piemontese that roll'd
  Mother with Infant down the Rocks. Their moans
 The Vales redoubl'd to the Hills, and they
  To Heav'n. Their martyr'd blood and ashes sow
  O'er all th'Italian fields where still doth sway
 The triple Tyrant: that from these may grow
  A hunder'd-fold, who having learnt thy way
  Early may fly the Babylonian wo.

Paradise Lost: Book 1

 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 sceptred 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.

Soundings Index