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So that no room is here for writers left,
That majesty which thro’ thy work doth reign,
find ? Whence furnish such a vast expanse of mind ? Just Heav'n thee, like Tiresias, to requite, · Rewards with prophecy thy loss of sight.
Well might'st thou scorn thy readers to allure With tinkling rhyme, of thy own sense secure ; While the Town Bays writes all the while and
spells, And, like a pack-horse, tires without his bells: Their fancies like our bushy points appear ; The poets tag them, we for fashion wear. I too, transported by the mode, offend, And while I mean to praise thee, must commend. Thy verse, created like thy theme, sublime, In number, weight, and measure, needs not rhyme.
This First Book proposes, first, in brief, the whole subject, Man's disobedience, and the loss thereupon of Paradise, wherein he was placed : Tben touches the prime cause of his fall, the Serpent, or rather Satan in the serpent; who revolting from God, and drawing to his side many legions of Angels, was, by the command of God, driven out of Heaven, with all bis crew, into the great deep. Which action passed over, the poem bastens into the midst of things, presenting Satan with bis Angels now fallen into Hell, described here, not in the centre (for Heaven and earth may be supposed as yet not made certainly not yet accursed) but in a place of utter darkness, fitliest called Chaos: Here Satan with bis Angels lying on the burning lake, thunder-struck and astonisbed, after a certain space recovers, as from confusion, calls up him who next in order and dignity lay by him; they confer of their miserable fall. Satan awakens all bis legions, who lay till then in the same manner confounded : They rise, their numbers, array of battle, their chief leaders named, according to the idols known afterwards in Canaan and the countries adjoining. To these Satan directs his speech, comforts them with hope yet of regaining Heaven, but tells them lastly of a new world and new kind of creature to be created, according to an ancient prophecy or report in Heaven; for that Angels were long before this visible creation, was the opinion of many ancient Fathers. To find out the truth of this prophecy, and what to determine thereon, be refers to a full council. What bis associates thence attempt. Pandemonium, the palace of Satan, rises, suddenly built out of the deep : The infernal peers there sit in council.
BOOK THE FIRST.
F 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 Heav'nly Muse, that on the secret top Of Oreb, or of Sinai, didst inspire That shepherd, who first taught the chosen seed In the beginning, how the heav'ns and earth Rose out of Chaos. Or if Sion hill Delight thee more, and Siloa's brook that flow'd Fast by the oracle of God; I thence Invoke thy aid to my advent'rous song, That with no middle flight intends to soar Above th' Aonian mount, while it pursues 15 Things unattempted yet, in prose or rhime. And chiefly Thou, O Sp'rit, that dost prefer Before all temples th' upright heart and pure,
Instruct me, for Thou know'st: Thoufrom the first
25 And justify the ways of God to Men.
Say first, for Heav'n hides nothing from thy view, Nor the deep tract of Hell ; say first what cause Mov’d our grand parents, in that happy state, Favour'd of Heav'n so highly, to fall off 30 From their Creator, and transgress his will For one restraint, lords of the world besides? Who first seduc'd them to that foul revolt? Th'infernal Serpent; he it was whose guile, Stirr'd up with envy
35 The mother of mankind, what time his pride Had cast him out from Heav'n, with all his host Of rebel Angels; by whose aid aspiring To set himself in glory 'bove his peers, He trusted to have equall’d the Most High, If he oppos’d; and with ambitious aim Against the throne and monarchy of God, Rais’d impious war in Heav'n, and battle proud With vain attempt. Him the Almighty Power Hurl'd headlong flaming from th’ ethereal sky, 45 With hideous ruin and combustion, down To bottomless perdition; there to dwell In adamantine chains and penal fire,