Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub
[ocr errors]

120

125

“This downfall! since, by fate, the strength of gods?
And this empyreal substance cannot fail ;
“Since, through experience of this great event,
“In arms not worse, in foresight much advanced,
We

may, with more successful hope, resolve
“To wage, by force or guile, eternal war,
“ Irreconcileable to our grand Foe,
“Who now triúmphs, and in the excess of joy
“Sole reigning holds the tyranny of Heaven.”

So spake the apostate angel, though in pain, Vaunting aloud, but racked with deep despair: And him thus answered soon his bold compeer:

“O Prince! O chief of many thronèd Powers ! “That led the embattled Seraphim to war “ Under thy conduct, and, in dreadful deeds “Fearless, endangered Heaven's perpetual King, “ And put to proof his high supremacy, “Whether upheld by strength, or chance, or fate: « Too well I see and rue the dire event, “That with sad overthrow and foul defeat “Hath lost us Heaven; and all this mighty host “ In horrible destruction laid thus low, “ As far as gods and heavenly essences “Can perish: for the mind and spirit remains “ Invincible, and vigour soon returns, “Though all our glory extinct, and happy state

130

135

140

i By fate, the strength of gods, &c. - Angels are here called gods by Satan. Same term applied, Ps. xcvii. 7: “Worship him all ye gods." Their destiny was, never to be destroyed, being of a refined indestructible substance, fancifully called empyreal, or fiery; compare Ps. civ. 4.

2 So spake. The contrast between Satan's inward feelings and outward expressions is brought out in these two lines with a sense rising finely in the latter, and has excited the admiration of critics, who give it the preference over classical parallels.

3 Extinct-swallowed.--The omission of the substantive verb is noted before these words, for “be extinct, be swallowed."--Pr.

CG

[ocr errors]

“ Here swallowed up in endless misery. “But what if he our Conqueror, (whom I now “Of force believe almighty, since no less “ Than such could have o'erpowered such force as ours) 145 “ Have left us this our spirit and strength entire,

Strongly to suffer and support our pains ? “ That we may so suffice his vengeful ire; “ Or do him mightier service, as his thralls By right of war, whate'er his business be,

150 “Here in the heart of Hell to work in fire, “Or do his errands in the gloomy deep? “ What can it then avail, though yet we feel “Strength undiminished, or eternal being, “ To undergo eternal punishment?”

155 Whereto with speedy words the Arch-fiend? replied: “ Fallen Cherub! to be weak is miserable, Doing or suffering: but of this be sure, “ To do aught good never will be our task, “ But ever to do ill our sole delight;

160 “ As being the contrary to his high will, “ Whom we resist. If then his providence “Out of our evil seek to bring forth good, “Our labour must be to pervert that end, “ And out of good still to find means of evil:

165 “ Which oft-times may succeed, so as perhaps “Shall grieve him, if I fail not, and disturb “ His inmost counsels from their destined aim. “ But see! the angry Victor hath recalled “ His ministers of vengeance and pursuit

170 “ Back to the gates of Heaven : the sulphurous hail, “ Shot after us in storm, o'erblown hath laid The fiery surge, that from the precipice

[ocr errors]

1 Arch-fiéna; 1. 209, Arch-fiend: the accent varied to suit the verse, as frequently throughout the poem.

175

180

185

" Of Heaven received us falling; and the thunder,
“ Winged with red lightning and impetuous rage,
“ Perhaps hath spent his shafts, and ceases now
“ To bellow through the vast and boundless deep.
“Let us not slip the occasion, whether scorn,
“ Or satiate fury, yield it from our foe.
“Seest thou yon dreary plain, forlorn and wild,
“The seat of desolation, void of light,
“Save what the glimmering of these livid flames
“ Casts pale and dreadful ? Thither let us tend
“ From off the tossing of these fiery waves ;
“There rest, if any rest can harbour there;
“ And, reassembling our afflicted powers,
“ Consult how we may henceforth most offend
“Our enemy; our own loss how repair;
“How overcome this dire calamity;
“ What reinforcement we may gain from hope;
“ If not, what resolution from despair."

Thus Satan, talking to his nearest mate,
With head uplift above the wave, and eyes
That sparkling blazed : his other parts besides
Prone on the flood, extended long and large,
Lay floating many a rood; in bulk as huge
As whom the fables name of monstrous size,
Titanian, or Earth-born," that warred on Jove,
Briareos, or Typhon, whom the den

190

[ocr errors]

195

1 Titanian, or Earth-born.- Titānes, fabled as the Son of Cælus, (Heaven,) and Terra, (Earth,) among which were Briăreus, with his fifty heads and hundred hands, and Typhon, or Typhõeus, with his hundred heads like those of a dragon. The Titanes were oi gigantic stature, and celebrated for their wars against the gods. The name is deduced by Pezron from the Celtic, meaning Earth-man, whence the Greek appellation of yngeveîs, or Earth-born. On being conquered by Jupiter, Typhon was said to have been thrust under Ætna, or, by some authorities, to be confined to a cave near Tarsus, in Cilicia. The two, Briareus and Typhon, are confounded by some of the ancients, as they are by Milton.

B

3

By ancient Tarsus held; or that sea-beast

200 Leviathan,' which God of all his works Created hugest that swim the ocean stream: Him, haply, slumbering on the Norway foam, The pilot of some small night-foundered skiff, Deeming some island, oft, as seamen tell,

205 With fixed anchor in his scaly rind Moors by his side under the lee, while night Invests the sea, and wished morn delays. So stretched out huge in length the Arch-fiend lay Chained on the burning lake; nor ever thence 210 Had risen or heaved his head, but that the will And high permission of all-ruling Heaven Left him at large to his own dark designs; That with reiterated crimes he might Heap on himself damnation, while he sought

215 Evil to others; and enraged might see How all his malice served but to bring forth Infinite goodness, grace, and mercy shown On man by him seduced; but on himself Treble confusion, wrath, and vengeance poured. 220 Forthwith upright he rears from off the pool His mighty stature; on each hand the flames, Driven backward, slope their pointing spires, and, rolled In billows, leave in the midst a horrid vale.

1 Leviathan.-This term is used in the book of Job to denote the crocodile, if the opinion of the best critics may be relied on. Milton seems to designate by it some animal much larger than the crocodile; an inhabit. ant, not oi rivers, but of the ocean, and of such dimensions as to be easily mistaken for an island-a mistake of which he may have read instances in the works of Olaus Magnus. He casts the responsibility for the truth of these stories on their narrators, 1. 205; but the circumstance alluded to, even if fabulous, serves to illustrate his idea of Satan's vast bulk.

2 Under the lee.-Under that side not exposed to the wind, from which the size of the creature sheltered the ship.

3 The structure of this line, consisting of monosyllables, chiefly long, is well adapted to the subject described, independently of the meaning.

Then with expanded wings he steers his flight 223
Aloft, incumbent on the dusky air,
That felt unusual weight; till on dry land
He lights; if it were land, that ever burned
With solid, as the lake with liquid fire;
And such appeared in hue, as when the force 230
Of subterranean wind transports a hill
Torn from Pelorus, or the shattered side
Of thundering Ætna, whose combustible
And fuelled entrails thence conceiving fire,
Sublimed with mineral fury, aid the winds,

235
And leave a singèd bottom all involved
With stench and smoke: such resting found the sole
Of unblest feet! Him followed his next mate;
Both glorying to have 'scaped the Stygian flood,
As gods, and by their own recovered strength, 240
Not by the sufferance of supernal power.

“ Is this the region, this the soil, the clime,” Said then the lost archangel, “ this the seat “That we must change for heaven ? this mournful gloom “For that celestial light? Be it so! since he, 245 “ Who now is Sovran, can dispose and bid “ What shall be right: farthest from him is best, “ Whom reason hath equalled, force hath made supreme “ Above his equals. Farewell, happy fields, “Where joy for ever dwells! Hail, horrors ! hail, 250 “ Infernal world! and thou, profoundest hell,

1 Pelorus.-A promontory of Sicily, now Capo di Faro, washed by the Straits of Messina, which are believed to have been formed by a convulsion of nature, separating Sicily from Italy. According to Ovid, the right hand of the giant Typhõeus was buried under this spot.

2 Sovran.- Milton seems to have preferred this orthography, borrowed directly from the Italian Sovrano, without the French modification which has given us the form in present use, and which has been adopted by many modern cditors.

3 Farthest from him is best.—Bentley refers tu a Greek proverb, “Far from Jupiter, far from thunder.”

« VorigeDoorgaan »