Imatges de pÓgina
PDF
EPUB

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 lay
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 conceal'd, 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

With what is punish'd: whence these raging fires
Will slacken, if his breath stir not their flames.
Our purer essence then will overcome
Their noxious vapour, or inured not feel;

Or, changed at length, and to the place conform'd
In temper and in nature, will receive
Familiar the fierce heat, and void of pain;
This horror will grow mild, this darkness light :
Besides what hope the never-ending flight

Of future days may bring, what chance, what change
Worth waiting, since our present lot appears
For happy though but ill, for ill not worst,
If we procure not to ourselves more woe.

Thus Belial, with words clothed in reason's garb,
Counsell'd ignoble ease, and peaceful sloth,
Not peace and after him thus Mammon spake:
Either to disenthrone the King of Heaven
We war, if war be best, or to regain
Our own right lost: him to unthrone we then
May hope, when everlasting Fate shall yield
To fickle Chance, and Chaos judge the strife:
The former vain to hope argues as vain
The latter for what place can be for us

Within heaven's bound, unless heaven's Lord supreme
We overpower? suppose he should relent
And publish grace to all, on promise made
Of new subjection; with what eyes could we
Stand in his presence humble, and receive
Strict laws imposed, to celebrate his throne
With warbled hymns, and to his Godhead sing
Forced hallelujahs; while he lordly sits
Our envied Sovereign, and his altar breathes
Ambrosial odours and ambrosial flowers,
Our servile offerings? This must be our task
In heaven, this our delight; how wearisome
Eternity so spent in worship paid

To whom we hate! Let us not then pursue
By force impossible, by leave obtain'd
Unacceptable, though in heaven, our state
Of splendid vassalage, but rather seek

Our own good from ourselves, and from our own
Live to ourselves, though in this vast recess,

Free, and to none accountable, preferring

Hard liberty before the easy yoke

Of servile pomp. Our greatness will appear

Then most conspicuous, when great things of small,
Useful of hurtful, prosperous of adverse,

We can create; and in what place soe'er
Thrive under evil, and work ease out of pain,
Through labour and endurance. This deep world
Of darkness do we dread? how oft amidst

Thick clouds and dark doth heaven's all-ruling Sire

Choose to reside, his glory unobscured,
And with the majesty of darkness round

Covers his throne; from whence deep thunders roar
Mustering their rage, and heaven resembles hell?
As he our darkness, cannot we his light
Imitate when we please? this desert soil
Wants not her hidden lustre, gems and gold;
Nor want we skill or art, from whence to raise
Magnificence; and what can heaven show more
Our torments also may in length of time
Become our elements, these piercing fires
As soft as now severe, our temper changed
Into their temper; which must needs remove
The sensible of pain. All things invite
To peaceful counsels, and the settled state
Of order, how in safety best we may
Compose our present evils, with regard
Of what we are and were, dismissing quite
All thoughts of war. Ye have what I advise.

He scarce had finish'd, when such murmur fill'd
The assembly, as when hollow rocks retain
The sound of blustering winds, which all night long
Had roused the sea, now with hoarse cadence lull
Seafaring men o'erwatch'd, whose bark by chance
Or pinnace anchors in a craggy bay

After the tempest: such applause was heard
As Mammon ended, and his sentence pleased,
Advising peace: for such another field

They dreaded worse than hell: so much the fear
Of thunder and the sword of Michaël

Wrought still within them; and no less desire
To found this nether empire, which might rise,
By policy and long process of time,

In emulation opposite to heaven.

Which when Beelzebub perceived, than whom,
Satan except, none higher sat, with grave
Aspect he fose, and in his rising seem'd
A pillar of state: deep on his front engraven
Deliberation sat, and public care:

And princely counsel in his face yet shone,
Majestic though in ruin: sage he stood,
With Atlantean shoulders fit to bear

The weight of mightiest monarchies; his look

Drew audience and attention still as night

Or summer's noontide air, while thus he spake :

Thrones and imperial powers, offspring of heaven, Ethereal virtues; or these titles now

Must we renounce, and changing style be call'd
Princes of hell? for so the popular vote

Inclines here to continue, and build up here

A growing empire; doubtless, while we dream,

And know not that the King of Heaven hath doom'd

This place our dungeon, not our safe retreat
Beyond his potent arm, to live exempt

From heaven's high jurisdiction, in new league
Banded against his throne, but to remain
In strictest bondage, though thus far removed,
Under the inevitable curb, reserved

His captive multitude: for he, be sure,

In height or depth, still first and last will reign
Sole King, and of his kingdom lose no part
By our revolt, but over hell extend

His empire, and with iron sceptre rule
Us here, as with his golden those in heaven.
What sit we then projecting peace and war?
War hath determined us, and foil'd with loss
Irreparable; terms of peace yet none

Vouchsafed or sought; for what peace will be given
To us enslaved, but custody severe,
And stripes, and arbitrary punishment
Inflicted? and what peace can we return,
But to our power hostility and hate,

Untamed reluctance, and revenge, though slow,

Yet ever plotting how the Conqueror least
May reap his conquest, and may least rejoice
In doing what we most in suffering feel?
Nor will occasion want, nor shall we need
With dangerous expedition to invade

Heaven, whose high walls fear no assault, or siege,
Or ambush from the deep. What if we find
Some easier enterprise? There is a place
If ancient and prophetic fame in heaven
Err not, another world, the happy seat
Of some new race call'd Man, about this time
To be created like to us, though less

In power and excellence, but favour'd more
Of him who rules above; so was his will
Pronounced among the gods, and by an oath,
That shook Heaven's whole circumference, confirm'd.
Thither let us bend all our thoughts, to learn
What creatures there inhabit, of what mould
Or substance, how endued, and what their power,
And where their weakness, how attempted best,
By force or subtlety. Though heaven be shut,
And heaven's high Arbitrator sit secure

In his own strength, this place may lie exposed,
The utmost border of his kingdom, left
To their defence who hold it: here perhaps
Some advantageous act may be achieved
By sudden onset, either with hell-fire
To waste his whole creation, or possess
All as our own, and drive, as we were driven,
The puny habitants; or, if not drive,
Seduce them to our party, that their God

May prove their foe, and with repenting hand
Abolish his own works. This would surpass
Common revenge, and interrupt his joy
In our confusion, and our joy upraise
In his disturbance; when his darling sons,
Hurl'd headlong to partake with us, shall curse
Their frail original, and faded bliss,
Faded so soon. Advise if this be worth
Attempting, or to sit in darkness here
Hatching vain empires.-Thus Beelzebub
Pleaded his devilish counsel, first devised
By Satan, and in part proposed; for whence,
But from the author of all ill, could spring
So deep a malice, to confound the race
Of mankind in one root, and earth with hell
To mingle and involve, done all to spite
The great Creator? but their spite still serves
His glory to augment. The bold design
Pleased highly those infernal states, and joy
Sparkled in all their eyes; with full assent
They vote whereat his speech he thus renews :

Well have ye judged, well ended long debate,
Synod of gods, and, like to what ye are,
Great things resolved, which from the lowest deep
Will once more lift us up, in spite of fate,

Nearer our ancient seat; perhaps in view

Of those bright confines, whence, with neighbouring arms,

And opportune excursion, we may chance
Re-enter heaven: or else in some mild zone
Dwell, not unvisited of heaven's fair light,
Secure, and at the brightening orient beam
Purge off this gloom; the soft delicious air,
To heal the scar of these corrosive fires,

Shall breathe her balm. But first, whom shall we send
In search of this new world? whom shall we find
Sufficient? who shall tempt with wandering feet
The dark unbottom'd infinite abyss,
And through the palpable obscure find out
His uncouth way, or spread his aëry flight,
Upborne with indefatigable wings,

Over the vast abrupt, ere he arrive

The happy isle? what strength, what art can then
Suffice, or what evasion bear him safe
Through the strict sentries and stations thick
Of angels watching round? here he had need
All circumspection, and we now no less
Choice in our suffrage; for on whom we send
The weight of all, and our last hope, relies.
This said, he sat; and expectation held
His look suspense, awaiting who appear'd
To second, or oppose, or undertake
The perilous attempt: but all sat mute,

« AnteriorContinua »