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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 rubb’d with balm, expatiate and confer
Their state affairs ; so thick the aëry crowd
Swarm’d and were straitend ; till, the signal given,
Behold a wonder ! they, but now who seem'd
In bigness to surpass earth’s giant sons,
Now less than smallest dwarfs, in narrow roo
Throng numberless, like that Pygmean race
Beyond the Indian mount, or fairy 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 demigods on golden seats,
Frequent and full. After short silence then
And summons read, the great consult began.

BOOK II.

THE ARGUMENT. The consultation begun, Satan debates whether another battle be to be

hazarded for the recovery of heaven: some advise it, others dissuade. A third proposal is preferred, mentioned before by Satan, to search the truth of that prophecy or tradition in heaven concerning another world, and another kind of creature, equal, or not much inferior, to themselves, about this time to be created their doubt who shall be sent on this difficult search : Satan, their chief, undertakes alone the voyage, is honoured and applauded. The council thus ended, the rest betake them several ways, and to several employments, as their inclinations lead them, to entertain the time till Satan return. He passes on his journey to hell-gates, finds them shut, and who sat there to guard them, by whom at length they are opened, and discover to him the great gulf between hell and heaven; with what difficulty he passes through, directed by Chaos, the power of that place, to the sight of this new world which he sought.

High on a throne of royal state, which far
Outshone the wealth of Ormus and of Ind,
Or where the gorgeous East with richest hand
Showers on her kings Barbaric pearl and gold,

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Satan exalted sat, by merit raised
To that bad eminence; and, from despair
Thus high uplifted beyond hope, aspires
Beyond thus high, insatiate to pursue
Vain war with Heaven, and by success untaught
His proud imaginations thus display'd :

Powers and dominions, deities of heaven,
For since no deep within her gulf can hold
Immortal vigour, though oppress'd and fallen,
I give not heaven for lost : from this descent
Celestial virtues rising will appear
More glorious and more dread, than from no fall,
And trust themselves to fear no second fate.
Me though just right and the fix'd laws of heaven
Did first create your leader, next free choice,
With what besides, in council or in fight,
Hath been achieved of merit ; yet this loss,
Thus far at least recover'd, hath much more
Establish'd in a safe unenvied throne,
Yielded with full consent. The happier state
In heaven, which follows dignity, might draw
Envy from each inferior ; but who here
Will envy whom the highest place exposes
Foremost to stand against the Thunderer's aim
Your bulwark, and condemns to greatest share
Of endless pain? Where there is then no good
For which to strive, no strife can grow up there
From faction ; for none sure will claim in hell
Precedence, none, whose portion is so small
Of present pain, that with ambitious mind
Will covet more. With this advantage then
To union, and firm faith, and firm accord,
More than can be in heaven, we no return
To claim our just inheritance of old,
Surer to prosper than prosperity
Could have assured us; and by what best way,
Whether of open war or covert guile,
We now debate ; who can advise, may speak.

He ceased ; and next him Moloch, 'scepter'd king, Stood up, the strongest and the fiercest spirit That fought in heaven, now fiercer by despair : His trust was with the Eternal to be deem'd Equal in strength, and rather than be less Cared not to be at all ; with that care lost Went all his fear : of God, or hell, or worse, He reck'd not; and these words thereafter spake :

My sentence is for open war : of wiles, More unexpert, I boast not: them let those Contrive who need, or when they need, not now : For while they sit contriving, shall the rest, Millions that stand in arms and longing wait The signal to ascend, sit lingering here

Heaven's fugitives, and for their dwelling-place
Accept this dark opprobrious den of shame,
The prison of his tyranny who reigns
By our delay? no, let us rather choose,
Arm'd with hell flames and fury, all at once
O’er heaven's high towers to force resistless way,
Turning our tortures into horrid arms
Against the torturer ; when, to meet the noise
Of his almighty engine, he shall hear
Infernal thunder, and for lightning see
Black fire and horror shot with equal rage.
Among his angels; and his throne itself
Mix'd with Tartarean sulphur and strange fire,
His own invented torments. But perhaps
The way seems difficult and steep to scale
With upright wing against a higher foe.
Let such bethink them, if the sleepy drench
Of that forgetful lake benumb not still,
That in our proper motion we ascend
Up to our native seat : descent and fall
To us is adverse. Who but felt of late,
When the fierce foe hung on our broken rear
Insulting, and pursued us through the deep,
With what compulsion and laborious flight
We sunk thus low? the ascent is easy then;
The event is fear'd ; should we again provoke
Our stronger, some worse way his wrath may find
To our destruction : if there be in hell
Fear to be worse destroy'd : what can be worse
Than to dwell here, driven out from bliss, condemn'd
In this abhorred deep to utter woe ;
Where pain of unextinguishable fire
Must exercise us without hope of end,
The vassals of his anger, when the scourge
Inexorable, and the torturing hour
Calls us to penance? more destroy'd than thus
We should be quite abolish'd and expire.
What fear we then ? what doubt we to incense
His utmost ire? which, to the height enraged,
Will either quite consume us, and reduce
To nothing this essential ; happier far,
Than miserable to have eternal being.
Or if our substance be indeed divine,
And cannot cease to be, we are at worst
On this side nothing; and by proof we feel
Our power sufficient to disturb his heaven,
And with perpetual inroads to alarm,
Though inaccessible, his fatal throne :
Which, if not victory, is yet revenge.

He ended frowning, and his look denounced
Desperate revenge and battle dangerous
To less than gods. On the other side uprose

Belial, in act more graceful and humane;
A fairer person lost not heaven ; he seem'd
For dignity composed and high exploit :
But all was false and hollow; though his tongue
Dropp'd manna, and could make the worse appear
The better reason, to perplex and dash
Maturest counsels ; for his thoughts were low;
To vice industrious, but to nobler deeds
Timorous and slothful : yet he pleased the ear,
And with persuasive accent thus began :

I should be much for open war, O peers,
As not behind in hate, if what was urged,
Main reason to persuade immediate war,
Did not dissuade me most, and seem to cast
Ominous conjecture on the whole success ;
When he, who most excels in fact of arms,
In what he counsels and in what excels
Mistrustful, grounds his courage on despair
And utter dissolution, as the scope
Of all his aim, after some dire revenge.
First, what revenge ? the towers of heaven are fill'd
With armed watch, that render all access
Impregnable ; oft on the bordering deep
Encamp their legions, or with obscure wing
Scout far and wide into the realm of night,
Scorning surprise. Or could we break our way
By force, and at our heels all hell should rise
With blackest insurrection to confound
Heaven's purest light, yet our great Enemy
All incorruptible would on his throne
Sit unpolluted ; and the ethereal mould
Incapable of stain would soon expel
Her mischief, and purge off the baser fire,
Victorious. Thus repulsed, our final hope
Is flat despair : we must exasperate
The Almighty Victor to spend all his rage,
And that must end us, that must be our cure,
To be no more : sad cure ; for who would lose,
Though full of pain, this intellectual being,
Those thoughts that wander through eternity,
To perish rather, swallow'd up and lost
In the wide womb of uncreated night,
Devoid of sense and motion ? and who knows,
Let this be good, whether our angry Foe
Can give it, or will ever ? how he can,
Is doubtful ; that he never will, is sure.
Will he, so wise, let loose at once his ire,
Belike through impotence or unaware,
To give his enemies their wish, and end
Them in his anger, whom his anger saves
To punish endless? Wherefore cease we then ?
Say they who counsel war : We are decreed,

Reserved, and destined to eternal woe;
Whatever doing, what can we suffer more,
What can we suffer worse ?- Is this then worst,
Thus sitting, thus consulting, thus in arms?
What, when we fled amain, pursued and struck
With heaven's afflicting thunder, and besought
The deep to shelter us? this hell then seem'd
A refuge from those wounds.

Or when we
Chain'd on the burning lake? that sure was worse.
What if the breath that kindled those grim fires
Awaked should blow them into sevenfold rage,
And plunge us in the flames? or from above
Should intermitted vengeance arm again
His red right hand to plague us ? what, if all:
Her stores were open'd, and this firmament
Of hell should spout her cataracts of fire,
Impendent horrors, threatening hideous fall
One day upon our heads; while we, perhaps,
Designing or exhorting glorious war,
Caught in a fiery tempest shall be hurl'd
Each on his rock transfix'd, the sport and prey
Of racking whirlwinds; or for ever sunk
Under yon boiling ocean, wrapp'd in chains ;
There to converse with everlasting groans,
Unrespited, unpitied, unreprieved,
Ages of hopeless end ? this would be worse.
War therefore, open or conceald, alike
My voice dissuades; for what can force or guile
With him, or who deceive his mind, whose eye
Views all things at one view? He from heaven's height
All these our motions vain sees and derides;
Not more almighty to resist our might,
Than wise to frustrate all our plots and wiles.
Shall we then live thus vile, the race of heaven,
Thus trampled, thus expell’d, to suffer here
Chains and these torments ? better these than worse
By my advice; since fate inevitable
Subdues us, and omnipotent decree,
The Victor's will. To suffer, as to do,
Our strength is equal, nor the law unjust
That so ordains : this was at first resolved,
If we were wise, against so great a Foe
Contending, and so doubtful what might fall.
I laugh, when those who at the spear are bold
And venturous, if that fail them, shrink and fear
What yet they know must follow, to endure
Exile, or ignominy, or bonds, or pain,
The sentence of their Conqueror : this is now
Our doom; which if we can sustain and bear,
Our supreme Foe in time may much remit
His anger, and perhaps thus far removed
Not mind us not offending, satisfied

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