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to strike, though oft invoked
Shall bring on men. Immediately a place Before his eyes appear'd, sad, noisome, dark, A lazar-house it seem'd, wherein were laid Numbers of all diseased, all maladies Of ghastly spasm, or racking torture, qualms Of heart-sick agony, all feverous kinds, Convulsions, epilepsies, fierce catarrhs, Intestine stone and ulcer, colic pangs, Demoniac frenzy, moping melancholy, And moon-struck madness, pining atrophy, Marasmus, and wide-wasting pestilence, Dropsies, and asthmas, and joint-racking rheums. Dire was the tossing, deep the groans; Despair Tended the sick, busiest from couch to couch; And over them triumphant Death his dart Shook, but delay'd With vows, as their chief good, and final hope. Sight so deform what heart of rock could long Dry-eyed behold? Adam could not, but wept, Though not of woman born; compassion quell'd His best of man, space, till firmer thoughts restrain'd excess, and gave him up to tears And, scarce recovering words, his plaint renew'd: O miserable mankind, to what fall Degraded, to what wretched state reserved! Better end here unborn. Why is life given To be thus wrested from us? rather why Obtruded on us thus? who, if we knew What we receive, would either not accept Glad to be so dismiss'd in peace. Can thus Life offer'd, or soon beg to lay it down, The image of God in man, created once So goodly and erect, though faulty since, To such unsightly sufferings be debased Under inhuman pains?
Why should not
Retaining still Divine similitude
In part, from such deformities be free,
And for his Maker's image sake exempt?
Forsook them, when themselves they vilified
Their Maker's image, answer'd Michael, then
ungovern'd appetite, and took
His image whom they served, a brutish vice,
Inductive mainly to the sin of Eve.
abject is their punishment,
Disfiguring not God's likeness, but their own,
Or, if his likeness, by themselves defaced,
To loathsome sickness, worthily, since they
While they pervert pure nature's healthful rules
did not reverence in themselves.
But is there yet no other way, besides
I yield it just, said Adam, and submit.
These painful passages, how we may come
To death, and mix with our connatural dust?
There is, said Michael, if thou well observe
The rule of not too much, by temperance taught
In what thou eat'st and drink'st, seeking from thence
Due nourishment, not gluttonous delight,
Till many years over thy head return :
So mayst thou live, till like ripe fruit thou drop
Into thy mother's lap, or be with ease
Gather'd, not harshly pluck'd, for death mature.
This is old age; but then thou must outlive
Thy youth, thy strength, thy beauty, which will change
To wither'd, weak, and gray; thy senses then
Obtuse all taste of pleasure must forego
To what thou hast, and for the air of youth
Hopeful and cheerful in thy blood will reign
A melancholy damp of cold and dry,
To weigh thy spirits down, and last consume
The balm of life. To whom our ancestor :
Henceforth I fly not death, nor would prolong
Life much, bent rather how I may be quit
Fairest and easiest of this cumbrous charge,
Which I must keep till my appointed day
Of rendering up, and patiently attend
My dissolution. Michael replied:
Nor love thy life, nor hate; but what thou livest
Live well, how long or short permit to Heaven:
And now prepare thee for another sight.
He look'd, and saw a spacious plain, whereon
Were tents of various hue; by some were herds
Of cattle grazing; others, whence the sound
Of instruments that made melodious chime
Was heard, of harp and organ; and who moved
Their stops and chords was seen; his volant touch,
Instinct through all proportions low and high,
Fled and pursued transverse the resonant fugue.
In other part stood one who, at the forge
Labouring, two massy clods of iron and brass
Had melted, whether found where casual fire
Had wasted woods on mountain or in vale,
Down to the veins of earth, thence gliding hot
To some cave's mouth, or whether wash'd by stream
From underground; the liquid ore he drain'd
Into fit moulds prepared; from which he form'd
First his own tools; then, what might else be wrought Fusil or graven in metal. After these,
But on the hither side, a different sort
From the high neighbouring hills, which was their seat
Down to the plain descended; by their guise
Just men they seem'd, and all their study bent
To worship God aright, and know his works
Not hid, nor those things last, which might preserve
Freedom and peace to men: they on the plain
Long had not walk'd, when from the tents behold
A bevy of fair women, richly gay
In gems and wanton dress; to the harp they sung
Soft amorous ditties, and in dance came on:
The men, though grave, eyed them, and let their eyes
Rove without rein, till, in the amorous net
Fast caught, they liked, and each his liking chose :
And now of love they treat, till the evening star,
Love's harbinger, appear'd; then all in heat
They light the nuptial torch, and bid invoke
Hymen, then first to marriage rites invoked ;
With feast and music all the tents resound.
Such happy interview and fair event
Of love and youth not lost, songs, garlands, flowers,
And charming symphonies attach'd the heart
Of Adam, soon inclined to admit delight,
The bent of nature, which he thus express'd:
True opener of mine eyes, prime angel bless'd,
Much better seems this vision, and more hope
Of peaceful days portends, than those two past;
Those were of hate and death, or pain much worse,
Here nature seems fulfill'd in all her ends.
To whom thus Michael: Judge not what is best
By pleasure, though to nature seeming meet,
Created, as thou art, to nobler end
Holy and pure, conformity divine.
Those tents, thou saw'st so pleasant, were the tents
Of wickedness, wherein shall dwell his race
Who slew his brother; studious they appear
Of arts that polish life, inventors rare,
Unmindful of their Maker, though his Spirit
Taught them, but they his gifts acknowledged none.
Yet they a beauteous offspring shall beget;
For that fair female troop thou saw'st, that seem'd
Of goddesses, so blithe, so smooth, so gay,
Yet empty of all good wherein consists
Woman's domestic honour and chief praise;
Bred only and completed to the taste
Of lustful appetence, to sing, to dance,
To dress, and troll the tongue, and roll the eye.
To these that sober race of men, whose lives
Religious titled them the sons of God,
Shall yield up all their virtue, all their fame
Ignobly, to the trains and to the smiles
Of these fair atheists; and now swim in joy,
Erelong to swim at large; and laugh, for which
The world erelong a world of tears must weep.
To whom thus Adam, of short joy bereft :
O pity and shame, that they, who to live well
Enter'd so fair, should turn aside to tread
Paths indirect, or in the midway faint!
But still I see the tenor of man's woe
Holds on the same, from woman to begin.
From man's effeminate slackness it begins,
Said the angel, who should better hold his place
By wisdom and superior gifts received.
But now prepare thee for another scene.
He look'd, and saw wide territory spread
Before him, towns, and rural works between,
Cities of men with lofty gates and towers,
Concourse in arms, fierce faces threatening war,
Giants of mighty bone, and bold emprise;
Part wield their arms, part curb the foaming steed,
Single, or in array of battle ranged,
Both horse and foot, nor idly mustering stood;
One way a band select from forage drives
A herd of beeves, fair oxen and fair kine,
From a fat meadow-ground; or fleecy flock,
Ewes and their bleating lambs, over the plain,
Their booty; scarce with life the shepherds fly,
But call in aid, which makes a bloody fray.
With cruel tournament the squadrons join;
Where cattle pastured late, now scatter'd lies
With carcases and arms, the ensanguined field
Deserted. Others to a city strong
Lay siege, encamp'd, by battery, scale, and mine,
Assaulting; others from the wall defend
With dart and javelin, stones and sulphurous fire;
On each hand slaughter and gigantic deeds.
In other part the scepter'd heralds call
To council in the city gates; anon
Gray-headed men and grave, with warriors mix'd,
Assemble, and harangues are heard; but soon
In factious opposition; till at last
Of middle age one rising, eminent
In wise deport, spake much of right and wrong,
Of justice, of religion, truth and peace,
And judgment from above; him old and young
Exploded, and had seized with violent hands,
Had not a cloud descending snatch'd him thence
Unseen amid the throng: so violence
Proceeded, and oppression, and sword-law,
Through all the plain, and refuge none was found.
Adam was all in tears, and to his guide
Lamenting turn'd full sad: O what are these?
Death's ministers, not men, who thus deal death
Inhumanly to men, and multiply
Ten thousand-fold the sin of him who slew
His brother; for of whom such massacre
Make they but of their brethren, men of men?
But who was that just man, whom had not Heaven
Rescued, had in his righteousness been lost?
To whom thus Michael: These are the product
Of those ill-mated marriages thou saw'st ;
Where good with bad were match'd, who of themselves
Abhor to join; and by imprudence mix'd
Produce prodigious births of body or mind.
Such were these giants, men of high renown;
For in those days might only shall be admired,
And valour and heroic virtue call'd.
To overcome in battle, and subaue
Nations, and bring home spoils with infinite
Manslaughter, shall be held the highest pitch
Of human glory, and for glory done
Of triumph to be styled great conquerors,
Patrons of mankind, gods, and sons of gods,
Destroyers rightlier call'd, and plagues of men.
Thus fame shall be achieved, renown on earth,
And what most merits fame in silence hid.
But he, the seventh from thee, whom thou beheld': t
The only righteous in a world perverse,
And therefore hated, therefore so beset
With foes, for daring single to be just,
And utter odious truth, that God would come
To judge them with his saints; him the Most High
Wrapt in a balmy cloud with winged steeds
Did, as thou saw'st, receive, to walk with God
High in salvation and the climes of bliss,
Exempt from death; to show thee what reward
Awaits the good, the rest what punishment;
Which now direct thine eyes and soon behold.
He look'd, and saw the face of things quite changed; The brazen throat of war had ceased to roar;
All now was turn'd to jollity and game,
To luxury and riot, feast and dance,
Marrying or prostituting as befell,
Rape or adultery, where passing fair
Allured them; thence from cups to civil broils.
At length a reverend sire among them came,
And of their doings great dislike declared,
And testified against their ways; he oft
Frequented their assemblies, whereso met,
Triumphs, or festivals, and to them preach'd
Conversion and repentance, as to souls
In prison under judgments imminent :
But all in vain: which, when he saw, he ceased
Contending, and removed his tents far off:
Then, from the mountain hewing timber tall,
Began to build a vessel of huge bulk,
Measured by cubit, length, and breadth, and height,
Smear'd round with pitch, and in the side a door
Contrived, and of provisions laid in large
For man and beast: when, lo, a wonder strange!
Of every beast, and bird, and insect small,
Came sevens, and pairs, and enter'd in, as taught