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To stand approv'd in sight of God, though worlds
Judg'd thee perverse. The easier conquest now
Remains thee, aided by this host of friends,
Back on thy foes more glorious to return
Than scorn'd thou didst depart, and to subdue
By force, who reason for their law refuse,
Right reason for their law, and for their king
Messiah, who by right of merit reigns.
Go, Michael of celestial armies prince,
And thou, in military prowess next,
Gabriel, lead forth to battel these my sons
Invincible, lead forth my armed Saints
By thousands and by millions rang'd for fight;
Equal in number to that godless crew
Rebellious; them with fire and hostile arms
Fearless assault, and to the brow of heav'n
Pursuing drive them out from GOD and bliss,
Into their place of punishment, the gulf

Of Tartarus, which ready opens wide
His fiery chaos to receive their fall.

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So spake the sovereign voice, and clouds began To darken all the hill, and smoke to roll

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In dusky wreaths reluctant flames, the sign
Of wrath awak'd: nor with less dread the loud
Ethereal trumpet from on high gan blow:
At which command the powers militant
That stood for heav'n, in mighty quadrate join'd

60 Ethereal] Archangel. Bentl. MS.

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,

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Nor strait'ning vale, nor wood, nor stream, divides 70
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

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

At last

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

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

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

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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 tow'ring, arm'd in adamant and gold: 110
Abdiel that sight endur'd not, where he stood
Among the mightiest, bent on highest deeds,
And thus his own undaunted heart explores.
O heav'n! that such resemblance of the Highest
Should yet remain, where faith and realty

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

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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.

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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

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

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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

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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 heav'n
To heav'nly 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 heav'n,
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 wilt find

Of erring, from the path of truth remote:
Unjustly thou deprav'st it with the name

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