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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 battle 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
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
Remain not; wherefore should not strength and
There fail where virtue fails, or weakest prove
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. 25
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.
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
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
To thee not visible, when I alone
Seem'd in thy world erroneous to dissent
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.
Proud, art thou met? thy hope was to have reach'd
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 150 Of my revenge, first sought for thou return'st From flight, seditious angel, to receive
Thy merited reward, the first assay
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
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
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.
Apostate, still thou err'st, nor end will find
Of erring, from the path of truth remote:
Unjustly thou deprav'st it with the name
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,
Thy self not free, but to thy self enthrall'd ;
Yet leudly dar'st our minist'ring upbraid.
Reign thou in hell thy kingdom, let me serve
In heav'n God ever bless'd, and his divine
Behests obey, worthiest to be obey'd;
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
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
The rebel thrones, but greater rage to see
Thus foil'd their mightiest; ours joy fill'd, and shout,
Presage of victory, and fierce desire
188 greeting] Virg. Æn. ix. 635.
'Bis capti Phryges hæc Rutulis responsa remittunt.' Newton.
a noble] v. Beaumont's Psyche, c. vi. st. 90.
'A noble stroke it was.'
197 mountain] Q. Smyrnæus says, that Achilles fell &λlynios övqei μázo̟w. V. iii. 176. A. Dyce.
Of battle: whereat Michael bid sound
The arch-angel trumpet; through the vast of heav'n
It sounded, and the faithful armies rung
Hosanna to the Highest: nor stood at gaze
The adverse legions, nor less hideous join'd
The horrid shock. Now storming fury rose,
And clamour, such as heard in heaven till now
Was never; arms on armour clashing bray'd
Horrible discord, and the madding wheels
Of brazen chariots rag'd; dire was the noise
Of conflict; over head the dismal hiss
Of fiery darts in flaming vollies flew,
And flying vaulted either host with fire.
So under fiery cope together rush'd
Both battles main, with ruinous assault
And inextinguishable rage; all heaven
Resounded, and had earth been then, all earth
Had to her centre shook. What wonder? when
Millions of fierce encount'ring angels fought
On either side, the least of whom could wield
These elements, and arm him with the force
Of all their regions: how much more of power
Army against army numberless to raise
Dreadful combustion warring, and disturb,
Though not destroy, their happy native seat;
Had not the eternal King omnipotent
From his strong hold of heaven high overrul'd
And limited their might; though number'd such,
As each divided legion might have seem'd
A numerous host; in strength each armed hand