Page images

As when a vulture on Imaüs bred,

Whose snowy ridge the roving Tartar bounds,
Dislodging from a region scarce of prey

To gorge the flesh of lambs or yeanling kids

On hills where flocks are fed, flies toward the springs Of Ganges or Hydaspes, Indian streams;

But in his way lights on the barren plains

Of Sericana, where Chineses drive

With sails and wind their cany waggons light :
So on this windy sea of land the fiend
Walk'd up and down alone, bent on his prey;
Alone, for other creature in this place,
Living or lifeless, to be found was none;
None yet, but store hereafter from the earth
Up hither like aërial vapours flew

Of all things transitory and vain, when sin
With vanity had fill'd the works of men :
Both all things vain, and all who in vain things
Built their fond hopes of glory or lasting fame,
Or happiness in this or the other life;

All who have their reward on earth, the fruits
Of painful superstition and blind zeal,
Nought seeking but the praise of men, here find
Fit retribution, empty as their deeds;

All the unaccomplish'd works of Nature's hand,
Abortive, monstrous, or unkindly mix'd,

Dissolved on earth, fleet hither, and in vain,

Till final dissolution, wander here,

Not in the neighbouring moon, as some have dream'd; Those argent fields more likely habitants,

Translated saints, or middle spirits, hold

Betwixt the angelical and human kind.

Hither of ill-join'd sons and daughters born

First from the ancient world those giants came

With many a vain exploit, though then renown'd:

The builders next of Babel on the plain

Of Sennaar, and still with vain design

New Babels, had they wherewithal, would build :
Others came single; he who to be deem'd

A god leap'd fondly into Ætna flames,

Empedocles, and he who to enjoy
Plato's Elysium leap'd into the sea,
Cleombrotus, and many more too long,
Embryos and idiots, eremites and friars,

White, black, and gray, with all their trumpery.
Here pilgrims roam, that stray'd so far to seek
In Golgotha him dead, who lives in heaven;
And they who to be sure of Paradise
Dying put on the weeds of Dominic,

Or in Franciscan think to pass disguised;
They pass the planets seven, and pass the fix'd,
And that crystalline sphere whose balance weighs

The trepidation talk'd, and that first moved :
And now Saint Peter at heaven's wicket seems
To wait them with his keys, and now at foot
Of heaven's ascent they lift their feet, when, lo!
A violent cross-wind from either coast

Blows them transverse ten thousand leagues awry
Into the devious air; then might ye see

Cowls, hoods, and habits, with their wearers toss'd
And flutter'd into rags; then relics, beads,
Indulgences, dispenses, pardons, bulls,
The sport of winds: all these upwhirl'd aloft
Fly o'er the backside of the world far off,
Into a limbo large and broad, since call'd
The Paradise of fools, to few unknown
Long after, now unpeopled, and untrod.
All this dark globe the fiend found as he pass'd,
And long he wander'd, till at last a gleam
Of dawning light turn'd thitherward in haste
His travelled steps; far distant he descries,
Ascending by degrees magnificent

Up to the wall of heaven, a structure high,
At top whereof, but far more rich appear'd
The work as of a kingly palace-gate,
With frontispiece of diamond and gold
Embellish'd; thick with sparkling orient gems
The portal shone, inimitable on earth
By model or by shading pencil drawn.
The stairs were such as whereon Jacob saw
Angels ascending and descending, bands
Of guardians bright, when he from Esau fled
To Padan-Aram in the field of Luz,
Dreaming by night under the open sky,
And waking cried, This is the gate of heaven.
Each stair mysteriously was meant, nor stood
There always, but drawn up to heaven sometimes
Viewless, and underneath a bright sea flow'd
Of jasper, or of liquid pearl, whereon
Who after came from earth sailing arrived,
Wafted by angels, or flew o'er the lake,
Wrapt in a chariot drawn by fiery steeds.
The stairs were then let down, whether to dare
The fiend by easy ascent, or aggravate
His sad exclusion from the doors of bliss:
Direct against which open'd from beneath,
Just o'er the blissful seat of Paradise,

A passage down to the earth, a passage wide,
Wider by far than that of after-times

Over mount Sion, and, though that were large,
Over the Promised Land to God so dear,

By which, to visit oft those happy tribes,
On high behests his angels to and fro

Pass'd frequent, and his eye with choice regard,

From Paneas, the fount of Jordan's flood,
To Beërsaba, where the Holy Land

Borders on Egypt and the Arabian shore;

So wide the opening seem'd, where bounds were set
To darkness, such as bound the ocean wave.
Satan from hence now on the lower stair,
That, scaled by steps of gold to heaven-gate,
Looks down with wonder at the sudden view
Of all this world at once. As when a scout,
Through dark and desert ways with peril gone
All night, at last by break of cheerful dawn
Obtains the brow of some high-climbing hill,
Which to his eye discovers unaware

The goodly prospect of some foreign land
First seen, or some renown'd metropolis,
With glistering spires and pinnacles adorn'd,
Which now the rising sun gilds with his beams;
Such wonder seized, though after heaven seen,
The spirit malign; but much more envy seized
At sight of all this world beheld so fair.
Round he surveys, and well might, where he stood
So high above the circling canopy

Of night's extended shade, from eastern point
Of Libra to the fleecy star that bears
Andromeda far off Atlantic seas,

Beyond the horizon: then from pole to pole
He views in breadth, and without longer pause
Down right into the world's first region throws
His flight precipitant, and winds with ease
Through the pure marble air his oblique way
Amongst innumerable stars, that shone
Stars distant, but nigh hand seem'd other worlds;
Or other worlds they seem'd, or happy isles,
Like those Hesperian gardens famed of old,
Fortunate fields, and groves, and flowery vales,
Thrice happy isles; but who dwelt happy there
He stay'd not to inquire above them all
The golden sun, in splendour likest heaven,
Allured his eye; thither his course he bends
Through the calm firmament; but up or down,
By centre or eccentric, hard to tell,
Or longitude, where the great luminary,
Aloof the vulgar constellations thick,

That from his lordly eye keep distance due,
Dispenses light from far; they, as they move

Their starry dance in numbers that compute

Days, months, and years, towards his all-cheering lamp
Turn swift their various motions, or are turn'd
By his magnetic beam, that gently warms
The universe, and to each inward part

With gentle penetration, though unseen,
Shoots invisible virtue even to the deep;


So wondrously was set his station bright.
There lands the fiend, a spot like which perhaps
Astronomer in the sun's lucent orb

Through his glazed optic tube yet never saw.
The place he found beyond expression bright,
Compared with aught on earth, metal or stone;
Not all parts like, but all alike inform'd
With radiant light, as glowing iron with fire;
If metal, part seem'd gold, part silver clear;
If stone, carbuncle most or chrysolite,
Ruby or topaz, to the twelve that shone
In Aaron's breastplate, and a stone besides
Imagined rather oft than elsewhere seen;
That stone, or like to that, which here below
Philosophers in vain so long have sought,
In vain, though by their powerful art they bind
Volatile Hermes, and call up unbound
In various shapes old Proteus from the sea,
Drain'd through a limbec to his native form.
What wonder then if fields and regions here
Breathe forth elixir pure, and rivers run
Potable gold, when with one virtuous touch
The arch-chymic sun, so far from us remote,
Produces, with terrestrial humour mix'd,
Here in the dark so many precious things
Of colour glorious and effect so rare?
Here matter new to gaze the devil met
Undazzled, far and wide his eye commands,
For sight no obstacle found here, nor shade,
But all sunshine; as when his beams at noon
Culminate from the Equator, as they now
Shot upward still direct, whence no way round
Shadow from body opaque can fall, and the air,
Nowhere so clear, sharpen'd his visual ray
To objects distant far, whereby he soon
Saw within ken a glorious angel stand,
The same whom John saw also in the sun :
His back was turn'd but not his brightness hid
Of beaming sunny rays, a golden tiar

Circled his head, nor less his locks behind
Illustrious on his shoulders fledge with wings

Lay waving round; on some great charge employ'd
He seem'd, or fix'd in cogitation deep.

Glad was the spirit impure, as now in hope
To find who might direct his wandering flight
To Paradise, the happy seat of man,

His journey's end, and our beginning woe.
But first he casts to change his proper shape,
Which else might work him danger or delay
And now a stripling cherub he appears,
Not of the prime, yet such as in his face
Youth smiled celestial, and to every limb

Suitable grace diffused, so well he feign'd;
Under a coronet his flowing hair

In curls on either cheek play'd; wings he wore
Of many a colour'd plume sprinkled with gold;
His habit fit for speed succinct, and held
Before his decent steps a silver wand.

He drew not nigh unheard; the angel bright,
E'er he drew nigh, his radiant visage turn'd,
Admonish'd by his ear, and straight was known
The archangel Uriel, one of the seven,

Who in God's presence nearest to his throne
Stand ready at command, and are his eyes

That run through all the heavens, or down to the earth
Bear his swift errands over moist and dry,

O'er sea and land: him Satan thus accosts:

Uriel, for thou of those seven spirits that stand
In sight of God's high throne, gloriously bright,
The first art wont his great authentic will
Interpreter through highest heaven to bring,
Where all his sons thy embassy attend;
And here art likeliest by supreme decree
Like honour to obtain, and as his eye
To visit oft this new creation round;
Unspeakable desire to see, and know
All these his wondrous works, but chiefly man,
His chief delight and favour, him for whom
All these his works so wondrous he ordain'd,
Hath brought me from the choirs of cherubim
Alone thus wandering, Brightest seraph, tell
In which of all these shining orbs hath man
His fixed seat, or fixed seat hath none,
But all these shining orbs his choice to dwell;
That I may find him, and, with secret gaze
Or open admiration, him behold,

On whom the great Creator hath bestow'd

Worlds, and on whom hath all these graces pour'd;
That both in him and all things, as is meet,

The universal Maker we may praise,

Who justly hath driven out his rebel foes
To deepest hell, and, to repair that loss,
Created this new happy race of men

To serve him better: wise are all his ways.
So spake the false dissembler unperceived;
For neither man nor angel can discern
Hypocrisy, the only evil that walks

Invisible, except to God alone,

By his permissive will, through heaven and earth:
And oft, though wisdom wake, suspicion sleeps
At wisdom's gate, and to simplicity

Resigns her charge, while goodness thinks no ill
Where no ill seems; which now for once beguiled
Uriel, though regent of the sun, and held

« EelmineJätka »