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BOOK II.

THE ARGUMENT.

The consultation begun, Satan debates whether another battle be to be hazarded for the recovery of heaven: some advise it, others dissuade. A third proposal is preferred, mentioned before by Satan, to search the truth of that prophecy or tradition in heaven concerning another world, and another kind of creature, equal, or not much inferior, to themselves, about this time to be created : their doubt who shall be sent on this difficult search : Satan their chief undertakes alone the voyage, is honoured and applauded. The council thus ended, the rest betake them several ways, and to several employments, as their inclinations lead them, to entertain the time till Satan return. He passes on bis journey to hell gates, finds them shut, and who sat there to guard them, by whom at length they are opened, and discover to him the great gulf between bell and heaven: with what difficulty he passes through, directed by Chaos, the Power of that place, to the sight of this new world which he sought.

High on a throne of royal state, which far
Outshone the wealth of Ormus' and of Ind,
Or where the gorgeous east with richest hand
Show'rs on her kings Barbaric pearl and gold,
Satan exalted sat, by merit raised
To that bad eminence; and, from despair
Thus high uplifted beyond hope, aspires
Beyond thus high, insatiate to pursue
Vain war with heav'n, and by success untaught
His proud imaginations thus display'd.

Powers and Dominions, Deities of heav'n,'
For since no deep within her gulf can hold
Immortal vigor, though oppress’d and fall’n,
I give not heav'n for lost: from this descent
Celestial virtues rising will appear
More glorious and more dread, than from no fall,
And trust themselves to fear no second fate.
Me though just right and the fix'd laws of heav'n
Did first create your leader, next free choice,
With what besides, in council or in fight,
Hath been achieved of merit; yet this loss,

3

1 In the Persian Gulf.

2 It was the Eastern custom for the princes of the blood royal and tbe emirs to sprinkle gold dust and seed pearl on

the head of the monarch at his coronation. See “Vie de Tamerlane" (translated by M. Petit de la Croix), B. II. c. 1.

3 Colos. i. 16.

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Thus far at least recover'd, hath much more
Establish'd in a safe unenvied throne,
Yielded with full consent. The happier state
In heav'n, which follows dignity, might draw
Envy from each inferior; but who here
Will envy whom the highest place exposes
Foremost to stand against the Thund'rer's aim
Your bulwark, and condemns to greatest share
Of endless pain? Where there is then no good
For which to strive, no strife can grow up there
From faction; for none sure will claim in hell
Precedence, none, whose portion is so small
Of present pain, that with ambitious mind
Will covet more. With this advantage then
To union, and firm faith, and firm accord,
More than can be in heav'n, we now return
To claim our just inheritance of old,
Surer to prosper than prosperity
Could have assured us; and by what best way,
Whether of open war or covert guile,
We now debate; who can advise, may speak.

He ceased ; and next him Moloch, scepter'd king,
Stood up, the strongest and the fiercest spirit
That fought in heav'n, now fiercer by despair :
His trust was with th' Eternal to be deem'd
Equal in strength, and rather than be less
Cared not to be at all; with that care lost
Went all his fear: of God, or hell, or worse,
He reck'd not; and these words thereafter spake :

My sentence is for open war: of wiles, More unexpert, I boast not: them let those Contrive who need, or when they need, not now: For while they sit contriving, shall the rest, Millions that stand in arms and longing wait The signal to ascend, sit ling’ring here Heav'n's fugitives, and for their dwelling-place Accept this dark opprobrious den of shame, The prison of his tyranny who reigns By our delay ? no, let us rather choose, Arm'd with hell flames and fury, all at once

:

O'er heav'n's high towers to force resistless way,
Turning our tortures into horrid arms
Against the torturer; when to meet the noise
Of his almighty engine he shall hear
Infernal thunder, and for lightning see
Black fire and horror shot with equal rage
Among his angels; and his throne itself
Mixt with Tartarean sulphur and strange fire,
His own invented torments. But perhaps
The way seems difficult and steep to scale
With upright wing against a higher foe.
Let such bethink them, if the sleepy drench
Of that forgetful lake benumb not still,
That in our proper motion we ascend
Up to our native seat: descent and fall
To us is adverse. Who but felt of late,
When the fierce foe hung on our broken rear
Insulting, and pursued us through the deep,
With what compulsion and laborious flight
We sunk thus low? th' ascent is

then;
Th' event is fear'd; should we again provoke
Our stronger, some worse way his wrath may find
To our destruction: if there be in hell
Fear to be worse destroy'd: what can be worse
Than to dwell here, driv'n out from bliss, condemn'd
In this abhorrèd deep to utter woe;
Where pain of unextinguishable fire
Must exercise us without hope of end,
The vassals of his anger, when the scourge
Inexorably, and the torturing hour
Calls us to penance ? more destroy'd than thus
We should be quite abolish'd and expire.
What fear we then? what doubt we to incense
His utmost ire? which, to the highth enraged,
Will either quite consume us, and reduce
To nothing this essential; happier far,
Than miserable to have eternal being.
Or if our substance be indeed divine,
And cannot cease to be, we are at worst
On this side nothing; and by proof we feel

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Our power sufficient to disturb his heav'n,
And with perpetual inroads to alarm,
Though inaccessible, his fatal throne ::
Which, if not victory, is yet revenge.

He ended frowning, and his look denounced
Desperate revenge and battle dangerous
To less than Gods. On th’other side up rose
Belial, in act more graceful and humane;
A fairer person lost not heav'n; he seem'd
For dignity composed and high exploit:
But all was false and hollow; though his tongue
Dropp'd Manna, and could make the worse appear
The better reason, to perplex and dash
Maturest counsels; for his thoughts were low;
To vice industrious, but to nobler deeds
Timorous and slothful: yet he pleased the ear,
And with persuasive accent thus began.

I should be much for open war, 0 Peers, As not behind in hate, if what was urged, Main reason to persuade immediate war, Did not dissuade me most, and seem to cast Ominous conjecture on the whole success; When he, who most excels in fact of arms, In what he counsels, and in what excels Mistrustful, grounds his courage on despair And utter dissolution, as the scope Of all his aim, after some dire revenge. First, what revenge ? the towers of heav'n are fill’d With armed watch, that render all access Impregnable; oft on the bordering deep Encamp their legions, or with obscure wing Scout far and wide into the realm of night, Scorning surprise. Or could we break our way By force, and at our heels all hell should rise, With blackest insurrection to confound Heav'n's purest light, yet our great enemy All incorruptible would on his throne Sit unpolluted; and th'ethereal mould

1 Uphold by fate.-NEWTON,

Incapable of stain would soon expel Her mischief, and purge off the baser fire, Victorious. Thus repulsed, our final hope Is flat despair: we must exasperate Th’ almighty Victor to spend all his rage, And that must end us, that must be our cure, To be no more: sad cure'; for who would lose, Though full of pain, this intellectual being, Those thoughts that wander through eternity, To perish rather, swallowed up and lost In the wide womb of uncreated night, Devoid of sense and motion ? and who knows, Let this be good, whether our angry foe Can give it, or will ever how he can, Is doubtful; that he never will, is sure. Will he, so wise, let loose at once his ire, Belike through impotence or unaware, To give his enemies their wish, and end Them in his anger, whom his anger saves To punish endless ? Wherefore cease we then ? Say they who counsel war;We are decreed. Reserved, and destined to eternal woe; -7 jotain 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 heav'n'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. I 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 usp what, if all Her stores were open'd, and this firmament Of hell should spout her cataracts of fire, Impendent horrors, threatening hideous fall

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1 Isaiah xxx, 33.

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