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Of union irresistible, mov'd on

In silence their bright legions, to the sound
Of instrumental harmony, that breath'd
Heroic ardour to advent'rous deeds,
Under their godlike leaders, in the cause
Of GOD and his Messiah. On they move
Indissolubly firm; nor obvious hill,

Nor strait'ning vale, nor wood, nor stream, divides
Their perfect ranks; for high above the ground
Their march was, and the passive air upbore
Their nimble tread; as when the total kind
Of birds in orderly array on wing

Came summon'd over Eden to receive

65

75

Their names of thee: so over many a tract
Of heaven they march'd, and many a province wide
Tenfold the length of this terrene.

At last

80

Far in th' horizon to the north appear'd
From skirt to skirt a fiery region, stretch'd
In battailous aspect, and nearer view
Bristled with upright beams innumerable
Of rigid spears, and helmets throng'd, and shields
Various, with boastful argument portray'd,
The banded powers of Satan hasting on
With furious expedition; for they ween'd
That self-same day, by fight or by surprize,
To win the mount of GOD, and on his throne
To set the envier of his state, the proud

85

Aspirer; but their thoughts prov'd fond and vain 90

82 Bristled] Virg. Æn. xi. 601. Tum late ferreus hastis horret ager.' Newton.

95

In the mid way. Though strange to us it seem'd
At first, that angel should with angel war,
And in fierce hosting meet, who wont to meet
So oft in festivals of joy and love
Unanimous, as sons of one great Sire,
Hymning th' eternal Father; but the shout
Of battel now began, and rushing sound
Of onset ended soon each milder thought.
High in the midst exalted as a god

Th' apostate in his sun-bright chariot sat,
Idol of Majesty divine, enclos'd

With flaming cherubim and golden shields:

Then lighted from his gorgeous throne, for now Twixt host and host but narrow space was left, A dreadful interval, and front to front Presented stood in terrible array

100

105

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Of hideous length: before the cloudy van,
On the rough edge of battle ere it join'd,
Satan, with vast and haughty strides advanc'd,
Came towering, arm'd in adamant and gold:
Abdiel that sight endur'd not, where he stood
Among the mightiest, bent on highest deeds,
And thus his own undaunted heart explores.
O heaven! that such resemblance of the Highest
Should yet remain, where faith and realty

115

93 hosting] Johnson has cited this unusual word from Spenser on Ireland. 'Leading of their own followers to the general hostings.'

105 dreadful interval] 'a needful counterview.'

x. 231. Bentl. MS.

Remain not; wherefore should not strength and

might

There fail where virtue fails, or weakest prove
Where boldest, though to sight unconquerable?
His puissance, trusting in th' Almighty's aid,
I mean to try, whose reason I have try'd
Unsound and false; nor is it aught but just,
That he, who in debate of truth hath won,
Should win in arms, in both disputes alike
Victor: though brutish that contest and foul,
When reason hath to deal with force, yet so
Most reason is that reason overcome.

120

125

So pondering, and, from his armed peers
Forth stepping opposite, half way he met
His daring foe, at this prevention more
Incens'd, and thus securely him defied. [reach'd
Proud, art thou met? thy hope was to have
The highth of thy aspiring unoppos'd,

The throne of GOD unguarded, and his side
Abandon'd at the terror of thy power

Or potent tongue; fool, not to think how vain 135
Against th' Omnipotent to rise in arms;

Who out of smallest things could without end
Have rais'd incessant armies to defeat

Thy folly; or, with solitary hand
Reaching beyond all limit, at one blow

Unaided could have finish'd thee, and whelm'd
Thy legions under darkness: but thou seest
All are not of thy train; there be, who faith
Prefer and piety to GOD; though then

140

To thee not visible, when I alone
Seem'd in thy world erroneous to dissent

145

From all my sect thou seest; now learn too late How few sometimes may know, when thousands err. Whom the grand foe, with scornful eye askance, Thus answer'd, Ill for thee, but in wish'd hour Of my revenge, first sought for thou return'st From flight, seditious angel, to receive

Thy merited reward, the first assay

151

Of this right hand provok❜d, since first that tongue
Inspir'd with contradiction durst oppose

A third part of the gods, in synod met
Their deities to assert, who, while they feel
Vigour divine within them, can allow
Omnipotence to none. But well thou com'st
Before thy fellows, ambitious to win

155

160

From me some plume, that thy success may show
Destruction to the rest: this pause between,
Unanswer'd lest thou boast, to let thee know,
At first I thought that liberty and heaven
To heavenly souls had been all one; but now 165
I see that most through sloth had rather serve,
Minist'ring spirits, train'd up in feast and song:
Such hast thou arm'd, the minstrelsy of heaven,
Servility with freedom to contend,

As both their deeds compar'd this day shall prove.

To whom in brief thus Abdiel stern reply'd. 171 Apostate, still thou err'st, nor end wilt find Of erring, from the path of truth remote: Unjustly thou deprav'st it with the name

175

Of servitude to serve whom God ordains,
Or Nature; GOD and Nature bid the same,
When he who rules is worthiest, and excels
Them whom he governs. This is servitude,
To serve th' unwise, or him who hath rebell'd
Against his worthier, as thine now serve thee, 180
Thyself not free, but to thyself enthrall'd;

Yet leudly dar'st our minist'ring upbraid.
Reign thou in hell thy kingdom, let me serve
In heaven God ever bless'd, and his divine
Behests obey, worthiest to be obey'd;

185

Yet chains in hell, not realms expect: mean while From me return'd, as erst thou saidst, from flight, This greeting on thy impious crest receive.

So saying, a noble stroke he lifted high,

Which hung not, but so swift with tempest fell 190
On the proud crest of Satan, that no sight,
Nor motion of swift thought, less could his shield
Such ruin intercept: ten paces huge

195

He back recoil'd; the tenth on bended knee
His massy spear upstay'd; as if on earth
Winds under ground or waters, forcing way
Side-long, had push'd a mountain from his seat,
Half sunk with all his pines. Amazement seiz'd

188 greeting] Virg. Æn. ix. 635.

'Bis capti Phryges hæc Rutulis responsa remittunt."

189 a noble] v. Beaumont's Psyche, c. vi. st. 90.

'A noble stroke it was.'

Newton.

197 mountain] Q. Smyrnæus says, that Achilles fell, ἀλίγκιος ὄρει μάκρω. V. iii, 176. A. Dyce.

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