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SONNETS

Went to the ground; and the repeated air

Of sad Electra's poet had the power
To save the Athenian walls from ruin bare.

ON

THE DETRACTION WHICH FOLLOWED UPON MY WRITING CERTAIN TREATISES

TO THE NIGHTINGALE
O Nightingale, that on yon bloomy spray

Warblest at eve, when all the woods are still,
Thou with fresh hope the lover's heart dost fill,

While the jolly hours lead on propitious May. Thy liquid notes that close the eye of day, 5

First heard before the shallow cuckoo's bill, Portend success in love. O, if Jove's will Have linked that amorous power to thy soft

lay, Now timely sing, ere the rude bird of hate

Foretell my hopeless doom, in some grove nigh;

As thou from year to year hast sung too late For my relief, yet hadst no reason why.

Whether the Muse or Love call thee his mate, Both them I serve, and of their train am I.

A book was writ of late called Tetrachordon,

And woven close, both matter, form, and style; The subject new: it walked the town a while, Numbering good intellects; now seldom pored

on.

ON HIS HAVING ARRIVED AT THE AGE

OF TWENTY-THREE

Cries the stall-reader, “Bless us! what a word on

A title-page is this !”; and some in file 6 Stand spelling false, while one might walk to

MileEnd Green. Why, is it harder, sirs, than

Gordon, Colkitto, or Macdonnel, or Galasp? Those rugged names to our like mouths grow

sleek That would have made Quintilian stare and

gasp. Thy age, like ours, O soul of Sir John Cheek,

Hated not learning worse than toad or asp, When thou taught'st Cambridge and King

Edward Greek.

10

How soon hath Time, the subtle thief of youth,

Stolen on his wing my three and twentieth year! My hasting days fly on with full career,

But my late spring no bud or blossom shew'th. Perhaps my semblance might deceive the truth 5

That I to manhood am arrived so near;
And inward ripeness doth much less appear,

That some more timely-happy spirits endu'th. Yet be it less or more, or soon or slow,

It shall be still in strictest measure even

To that same lot, however mean or high, Toward which Time leads me, and the will of

Heaven;
All is, if I have grace to use it so,
As ever in my great Task-Master's eye.

ON THE SAME

IO

I did but prompt the age to quit their clogs

By the known rules of ancient liberty,
When straight a barbarous noise environs me

Of owls and cuckoos, asses, apes, and dogs; As when those hinds that were transformed to frogs

5 Railed at Latona's twin-born progeny, Which after held the sun and moon in fee.

But this is got by casting pearl to hogs, That bawl for freedom in their senseless mood,

And still revolt when truth would set them free.

License they mean when they cry Liberty; II For who loves that must first be wise and good:

But from that mark how far they rove we see, For all this waste of wealth and loss of blood.

WHEN THE ASSAULT WAS INTENDED

TO THE CITY

Captain, or Colonel, or Knight in arms,
Whose chance on these defenceless doors may

· seize, If ever deed of honour did thee please, Guard them, and him within protect from

harms. He can requite thee; for he knows the charms 5

That call fame on such gentle acts as these, And he can spread thy name o'er lands and

seas, Whatever clime the sun's bright circle warms. Lift not thy spear against the Muses' bower:

The great Emathian conqueror bid spare
The house of Pindarus, when temple and tower

TO MR. H. LAWES ON HIS AIRS

Harry, whose tuneful and well-measured song

First taught our English music how to span Words with just note and accent, not to scan

With Midas' ears, committing short and long: Thy worth and skill exempts thee from the throng,

With praise enough for Envy to look wan: 6

IO

O'er all the Italian fields, where still doth sway The triple tyrant; that from these may grow

A hundredfold, who, having learnt thy way,
Early may fly the Babylonian woe.

To after age thou shalt be writ the man
That with smooth air couldst humour best our

tongue. Thou honour'st verse, and verse must lend her

wing To honour thee, the priest of Phæbus' quire, 10 That tun'st their happiest lines in hymn or

story. Dante shall give Fame leave to set thee higher

Than his Casella, whom he wooed to sing,
Met in the milder shades of Purgatory.

ON HIS BLINDNESS

TO THE LORD GENERAL CROMWELL

MAY, 1652

When I consider how my light is spent

Ere half my days, in this dark world and wide, And that one talent which is death to hide Lodged with me useless, though my soul more

bent To serve therewith my Maker, and present 5

My true account, lest he returning chide; “Doth God exact day-labour, light denied ?”

I fondly ask. But Patience, to prevent That murmur, soon replies, “God doth not need

Either man's work or his own gifts. Who best Bear his mild yoke, they serve him best. His

state
Is kingly: thousands at his bidding speed,

And post o'er land and ocean without rest;
They also serve who only stand and wait.”

II

TO CYRIACK SKINNER

On the Proposals of Certain Ministers at the Com

mittee for Propagation of the Gospel Cromwell, our chief of men, who through a

cloud Not of war only, but detractions rude, Guided by faith and matchless fortitude, To peace and truth thy glorious way hast

ploughed, And on the neck of crowned Fortune proud 5 Hast reared God's trophies, and his work pur

sued, While Darwen stream, with blood of Scots im

brued, And Dunbar field, resounds thy praises loud, And Worcester's laureate wreath: yet much re

mains To conquer still; peace hath her victories

No less renowned than war: new foes arise, Threatening to bind our souls with secular

chains. Help us to save free conscience from the paw Of hireling wolves, whose gospel is their maw.

10

Cyriack, this three years' day these eyes, though

clear To outward view, of blemish or of spot, Bereft of light, their seeing have forgot;

Nor to their idle orbs doth sight appear
Of sun or moon or star throughout the year, 5

Or man or woman. Yet I argue not
Against Heaven's hand or will, nor bate a jot

Of heart or hope, but still bear up and steer Right onward. What supports me, dost thou ask? The conscience, friend, to have lost them over

plied In liberty's defence, my noble task, Of which all Europe talks from side to side. This thought might lead me through the

world's vain mask Content, though blind, had I no better guide.

10

ON THE LATE MASSACRE IN PIEDMONT

PARADISE LOST

BOOK I

Avenge, O Lord, thy slaughtered saints, whose

bones Lie scattered on the Alpine mountains cold; Even them who kept thy truth so pure of old, When all our fathers worshipped stocks and

stones, Forget not: in thy book record their groans 5

Who were thy sheep, and in their ancient fold Slain by the bloody Piemontese, that rolled Mother with infant down the rocks. Their

moans The vales redoubled to the hills, and they To heaven. Their martyred blood and ashes

SOW

Of Man's first disobedience, and the fruit
Of that forbidden tree, whose mortal taste
Brought death into the world, and all our woe,
With loss of Eden, till one greater Man
Restore us, and regain the blissful seat,

5 Sing, Heavenly Muse, that on the secret top Of Oreb, or of Sinai, didst inspire

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70

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80

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That shepherd who first taught the chosen seed
In the beginning how the Heavens and Earth
Rose out of Chaos: or, if Sion hill
Delight thee more, and Siloa's brook that flowed
Fast by the oracle of God, I thence
Invoke thy aid to my adventurous song,
That with no middle flight intends to soar
Above the Aonian mount, while it pursues 15
Things unattempted yet in prose or rhyme.
And chiefly Thou, O Spirit, that dost prefer
Before all temples the upright heart and pure,
Instruct me, for Thou know'st; Thou from the

first
Wast present, and, with mighty wings outspread,
Dove-like sat'st brooding on the vast Abyss,
And mad'st it pregnant: what in me is dark
Illumine, what is low raise and support;
That to the highth of this great argument
I may assert Eternal Providence,

25 And justify the ways of God to men. Say first — for Heaven hides nothing from Thy

view, Nor the deep tract of Hell say first what cause Moved our grand parents, in that happy state, Favoured of Heaven so highly, to fall off From their Creator, and transgress his will For one restraint, lords of the world besides. Who first seduced them to that foul revolt ?

The infernal Serpent; he it was, whose guile, Stirred up with envy and revenge, deceived 35 The mother of mankind, what time his pride Had cast him out from Heaven, with all his host Of rebel Angels, by whose aid, aspiring To set himself in glory above his peers, He trusted to have equalled the Most High, If he opposed; and with ambitious aim Against the throne and monarchy of God Raised impious war in Heaven, and battle proud, With vain attempt. Him the Almighty Power Hurled headlong flaming from the ethereal sky, With hideous ruin and combustion, down To bottomless perdition; there to dwell In adamantine chains and penal fire, Who durst defy the Omnipotent to arms. Nine times the space that measures day and night

50 To mortal men, he with his horrid crew Lay vanquished, rolling in the fiery gulf, Confounded, though immortal. But his doom Reserved him to more wrath; for now the thought Both of lost happiness and lasting pain 55 Torments him; round he throws his baleful eyes, That witnessed huge affliction and dismay, Mixed with obdurate pride and steadfast hate. At once, as far as Angels ken, he views The dismal situation waste and wild:

60

A dungeon horrible on all sides round
As one great furnace flamed; yet from those flames
No light; but rather darkness visible
Served only to discover sights of woe,
Regions of sorrow, doleful shades, where peace
And rest can never dwell, hope never comes 66
That comes to all; but torture without end
Still urges, and a fiery deluge, fed
With ever-burning sulphur unconsumed.
Such place Eternal Justice had prepared
For those rebellious; here their prison ordained
In utter darkness, and their portion set,
As far removed from God and light of Heaven
As from the centre thrice to the utmost pole.
Oh how unlike the place from whence they fell!
There the companions of his fall, o'erwhelmed 76
With floods and whirlwinds of tempestuous fire,
He soon discerns; and, weltering by his side,
One next himself in power, and next in crime,
Long after known in Palestine, and named
Beëlzebub. To whom the Arch-Enemy,
And thence in Heaven called Satan, with bold

words Breaking the horrid silence, thus began:“If thou beest he - but Oh how fallen! how

changed From him, who in the happy realms of light, 85 Clothed with transcendent brightness, didst out

shine Myriads, though bright 1 — if he whom mutual

league, United thoughts and counsels, equal hope And hazard in the glorious enterprise, Joined with me once, now misery hath joined 90 In equal ruin — into what pit thou seest From what highth fallen: so much the stronger

proved He with his thunder: and till then who knew The force of those dire arms? Yet not for those, Nor what the potent Victor in his rage 95 Can else inflict, do I repent, or change, Though changed in outward lustre, that fixed

mind, And high disdain from sense of injured merit, That with the Mightiest raised me to contend, And to the fierce contention brought along Innumerable force of Spirits armed, That durst dislike his reign, and, me preferring, His utmost power with adverse power opposed In dubious battle on the plains of Heaven, And shook his throne. What though the field be lost?

105 All is not lost: the unconquerable will, And study of revenge, immortal hate, And courage never to submit or yield, And what is else not to be overcome;

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100 IIO

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That glory never shall his wrath or might
Extort from me.

To bow and sue for grace
With suppliant knee, and deify his power
Who, from the terror of this arm, so late
Doubted his empire that were low indeed;
That were an ignominy and shame beneath 115
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,
Irreconcilable to our grand Foe,
Who now triumphs, and in the excess of joy
Sole reigning holds the tyranny of Heaven.124

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

130 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

135 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 vigor soon returns, Though all our glory extinct, and happy state 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 ofttimes 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
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
Of Heaven received us falling; and the thunder,
Winged with red lightning and impetuous rage,
Perhaps hath spent his shafts, and ceases now 176
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, 180
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; 185
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, 190
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, 195
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
By ancient Tarsus held, or that sea-beast
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, shewn

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200

His spear

On Man by him seduced; but on himself

219 Treble confusion, wrath, and vengeance poured.

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. Then with expanded wings he steers his flight 225 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 forever dwells ! Hail, horrors ! hail, Infernal world! and thou, profoundest Hell, 251 Receive thy new possessor, one who brings A mind not to be changed by place or time. The mind is its own place, and in itself Can make a Heaven of Hell, a Hell of Heaven. What matter where, if I be still the same, 256 And what I should be, all but less than he Whom thunder hath made greater? Here at least We shall be free; the Almighty hath not built Here for his envy, will not drive us hence: 260 Here we may reign secure, and in my choice To reign is worth ambition, though in Hell: Better to reign in Hell, than serve in Heaven. But wherefore let we then our faithful friends, The associates and co-partners of our loss, Lie thus astonished on the oblivious pool, And call them not to share with us their part In this unhappy mansion, or once more With rallied arms to try what may be yet Regained in Heaven, or what more lost in Hell ?”

So Satan spake; and him Beëlzebub 271 Thus answered:-“Leader of those armies bright Which but the Omnipotent none could have foiled, If once they hear that voice, their liveliest pledge Of hope in fears and dangers — heard so oft 275 In worst extremes, and on the perilous edge Of battle when it raged, in all assaults Their surest signal — they will soon resume New courage and revive, though now they lie Grovelling and prostrate on yon lake of fire, 280 As we erewhile, astounded and amazed: No wonder, fallen such a pernicious highth!”

He scarce had ceased when the superior Fiend Was moving toward the shore; his ponderous

shield, Ethereal temper, massy, large, and round, 285 Behind him cast. The broad circumference Hung on his shoulders like the moon, whose orb Through optic glass the Tuscan artist views At evening from the top of Fesole, Or in Valdarno, to descry new lands,

290 Rivers, or mountains, in her spotty globe.

- to equal which the tallest pine Hewn on Norwegian hills, to be the mast Of some great ammiral, were but a wand He walked with, to support uneasy steps 295 Over the burning marle, not like those steps On Heaven's azure; and the torrid clime Smote on him sore besides, vaulted with fire. Nathless he so endured, till on the beach Of that inflamèd sea he stood, and called 300 His legions, angel forms, who lay entranced, Thick as autumnal leaves that strow the brooks In Vallombrosa, where the Etrurian shades High over-arched embower; or scattered sedge Afloat, when with fierce winds Orion armed 305 Hath vexed the Red-Sea coast, whose waves o'er

threw Busiris and his Memphian chivalry, While with perfidious hatred they pursued The sojourners of Goshen, who beheld From the safe shore their floating carcases 310 And broken chariot-wheels: so thick bestrown, Abject and lost, lay these, covering the flood, Under amazement of their hideous change. He called so loud that all the hollow deep Of Hell resounded:—“Princes, Potentates, 315 Warriors, the Flower of Heaven

once yours, now lost, If such astonishment as this can seize Eternal Spirits! Or have ye chosen this place After the toil of battle to repose Your wearied virtue, for the ease you find 320 To slumber here, as in the vales of Heaven? Or in this abject posture have ye sworn To adore the Conqueror, who now beholds

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