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.660 visions ill foreseen ! Better had I Lived ignorant of future—so had borne My part of evil only, each day's lot Enough to bear. Those now that were dispensed The burden of many ages on me light At once, by my foreknowledge gaining birth Abortive, to torment me, ere their being, With thought that they must be. Let no man seek 770 Henceforth to be foretold what shall befall Him or his children-evil, he may be sure, Which neither his foreknowing can prevent, And he the future evil shall no less In apprehension than in substance feel Grievous to bear. But that care now is past ; Man is not whom to warn ; those few escaped Famine and anguish will at last consume, Wandering that watery desert. I had hope, When violence was ceased and war on earth,
780 All would have then gone well, peace would have crowned With length of happy days the race of man; But I was far deceived, for now I see Peace to corrupt no less than war to waste. How comes it thus ? Unfold, celestial guide, And whether here the race of man will end."
To whom thus Michael :-" Those whom last thou saw'st In triumph and luxurious wealth, are they First seen in acts of prowess eminent And great exploits, but of true virtue void ;
790 Who, having spilt much blood, and done much waste, Subduing nations, and achieved thereby Fame in the world, high titles, and rich prey, Shall change their course to pleasure, ease, and sloth, Surfeit, and lust; till wantonness and pride Raise out of friendship hostile deeds in peace. The conquered, also, and enslaved by war, Shall, with their freedom lost, all virtue lose, And fear of God-from whom their piety feigned
In sharp contest of battle found no aid
Against invaders; therefore, cooled in zeal,
Thenceforth shall practise how to live secure,
Worldly or dissolute, on what their lords
Shall leave them to enjoy; for the earth shall bear
More than enough, that temperance may be tried.
So all shall turn degenerate, all depraved,
Justice and temperance, truth and faith, forgot ;
One man except, the only son of light
In a dark age, against example good,
Against allurement, custom, and a world
Offended. Fearless of reproach and scorn,
Or violence, he of their wicked ways
Shall them admonish, and before them set
The paths of righteousness, how much more safe
And full of peace, denouncing wrath to come
On their impenitence, and shall return
Of them derided, but of God observed
The one just man alive: by His command
Shall build a wondrous ark, as thou beheld'st,
To save himself and household from amidst
A world devote to universal wrack.
No sooner he, with them of man and beast
Select for life, shall in the ark be lodged
And sheltered round, but all the cataracts
Of heaven set open on the earth shall pour
Rain day and night; all fountains of the deep,
shall heave the ocean to usurp
Beyond all bounds, till inundation rise
Above the highest hills. Then shall this mount
Of Paradise by might of waves be moved
Out of his place, pushed by the horned flood,
With all his verdure spoiled, and trees adrift,
Down the great river to the opening gulf,
And there take root, an island salt and bare,
The haunt of seals, and orcs, and sea-mews' clang-
To teach thee that God attributes to place
No sanctity, if none be thither brought
By men who there frequent or therein dwell.
And now what further shall ensue behold."
He looked, and saw the ark hull on the flood,
Which now abated ; for the clouds were fled,
Driven by a keen north wind, that, blowing dry,
Wrinkled the face of deluge, as decayed ;
And the clear sun on his wide watery glass
Gazed hot, and of the fresh wave largely drew,
As after thirst ; which made their flowing shrink
From standing lake to tripping ebb, that stole
With soft foot towards the deep, who now had stopped
His sluices, as the heaven his windows shut.
The ark no more now floats, but seems on ground,
Fast on the top of some high mountain fixed.
And now the tops of hills as rocks appear ;
With clamour thence the rapid currents drive
Towards the retreating sea their furious tide.
Forthwith from out the ark a raven flies,
And, after him, the surer messenger,
A dove, sent forth once and again to spy
Green tree or ground whereon his foot may light;
The second time returning, in his bill
An olive leaf he brings, pacific sign.
Anon dry ground appears, and from his ark
The ancient sire descends, with all his train;
Then, with uplifted hands and eyes devout,
Grateful to Heaven, over his head beholds
A dewy cloud, and in the cloud a bow
Conspicuous with thres listed colours gay,
Betokening peace from God, and covenant new.
Whereat the heart of Adam, erst so sad,
Greatly rejoiced ; and thus his joy broke forth :-
“O Thou, who future things canst represent
As present, heavenly instructor, I revive
At this last sight, assured that man shall live,
With all the creatures, and their seed preserve.
Far less I now lament for one whole world
Of wicked sons destroyed, than I rejoice
For one man found so perfect and so just
That God vouchsafes to raise another world
From Him, and all His anger to forget.
But say, what mean those coloured streaks in heaven :
Distended as the brow of God appeased ?
Or serve they as a flowery verge to bind
The fluid skirts of that same watery cloud,
Lest it again dissolve and shower the earth ?”
To whom the archangel :-"Dextrously thou aim'st.
So willingly doth God remit His ire :
Though late repenting Him of man depraved,
Grieved at His heart, when, looking down, He saw
The whole earth filled with violence, and all flesh
Corrupting each their way; yet, those removed,
Such grace shall one just man find in His sight
That He relents, not to blot out mankind,
And makes a covenant never to destroy
The earth again by flood, nor let the sea
Surpass his bounds, nor rain to drown the world
With man therein or beast; but, when He brings
Over the earth a cloud, will therein set
His triple-coloured bow, whereon to look
And call to mind His covenant. Day and night,
Seed-time and harvest, heat and hoary frost,
Shall hold their course, till fire purge all things new,
Both heaven and earth, wherein the just shall dwell.”
The Angel Michael continues, from the flood, to relate what shall succeed ; then, in the mention of Abraham, comes by degrees to explain who that Seed of the Woman shall be which was promised Adam and Eve in the Fall : His incarnation, death, resurrection, and ascension; the state of the Church till His second coming. Adanı, greatly satisfied and recomforted by these relations and promises, descends the hill with Michael ; wakens Eve, who all this while had slept, but with gentle dreams composed to quietness of mind and submission. Michael in either hand leads them out of Paradise, the fiery sword waving behind them, and the cherubim taking their stations to guard the place.
As one who, in his journey, bates at noon,
Though bent on speed, so here the archangel paused
Betwixt the world destroyed and world restored,
If Adam aught perhaps might interpose ;
Then, with transition sweet, new speech resumes :-
“ Thus thou hast seen one world begin and end,
And man as from a second stock proceed.
Much thou hast yet to see; but I perceive
Thy mortal sight to fail ; objects divine
Must needs impair and weary human sense.
Henceforth what is to come I will relate;
Thou, therefore, give due audience, and attend :
“This second source of men, while yet but few,
And while the dread of judgment past remains
Fresh in their minds, fearing the Deity,
With some regard to what is just and right
Shall lead their lives, and multiply apace,
Labouring the soil, and reaping plenteous crop,
Corn, wine, and oil; and, from the herd or flock
Oft sacrificing bullock, lamb, or kid,
With large wine-offerings poured, and sacred feast,
Shall spend their days in joy unblamed, and dwell