Page images
PDF
EPUB

Short intermission bought with double smart !
This knows my punisher; therefore as far
From granting he, as I from begging peace!
All hope excluded thus, behold, instead
Of us outcast ! exiled! his new delight,
Mankind created, and for him this world.
So, farewell hope! and with hope, farewell fear!
Farewell remorse! all good to me is lost.
Evil, be thou my good! by thee, at least
Divided empire with Heaven's King I hold;
By thee, and more than half perhaps will reign;
As man ere long, and this new world, shall know !

X.-SPEECH OF BELIAL IN COUNCIL.

(MILTON.)

On the other side uprose
Belial, in act more graceful and humane:
A fairer person lost not Heaven; he seemed
For dignity composed, and high exploit:
But all was false and hollow; though his tongue
Dropped 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
Tim'rous and slothful; yet he pleased the ear,
And with persuasive accent thus began:

I should be much for open war, O 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 Heaven are filled

66

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 Heil should rise
With blackest insurrection, to confound
Heaven's purest light; yet our great enemy,
All incorruptible, would on his throne
Sit unpolluted; and the ethereal mould,
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
The 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;
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 Heaven's afflicting thunder, and besought
The deep to shelter us !—this Hell then seemed
A refuge from those wounds: or when we lay
Chained on the burning lake!- that sure was worse.

6

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 us? What if all
Her stores were opened, and this firmament
Of Hell should spout her cataracts of fire,
Impending horrors, threatening hideous fall
One day upon our heads : while we perhaps,
Designing or exhorting glorious war,
Caught in a fiery tempest, shall be hurled
Each on his rock transfixed, the sport and prey
Of wracking whirlwinds; or for ever sunk
Under yon boiling ocean, wrapt in chains ;
There to converse with everlasting groans,
Unrespited, unpitied, unreprieved,
Ages of hopeless end? This would be worse.
War, therefore, open or concealed, alike
My voice dissuades ; for what can force or guile
With him, or who deceive his mind, whose eye
Views all things at one view! He from Heaven's height
All these our motions vain sees, and derides ;
Not more almighty to resist our might
Than wise to frustrate all our plots and wiles.
Shall we then live thus vile, the race of Heaven
Thus trampled, thus expelled, to suffer here
Chains and these torments? Better these than worse,
By my advice, since fate inevitable
Subdues us, and omnipotent decree,
The Victor's will. To suffer, as to do,
Our strength is equal, nor the law unjust
That so ordains: this was at first resolved,
If we were wise, against so great a foe
Contending, and so doubtful what might fall.
I laugh, when those who at the spear are bold
And venturous, if that fail them, shrink and fear
What yet they know must follow, to endure
Exile, or ignominy, or bonds, or pain,
The sentence of their conqueror. This is now
Our doom ; which if we can sustain and bear,

Our s'ipreme foe in time may much remit
His anger; and perhaps, thus far removed,
Not mind us not offending, satisfied
With what is punished; whence these raging fires
Will slacken, if his breath stir not their flames.
Our purer essence then will overcome
Their noxious vapour ; or, inured, not feel;
Or, changed at length, and to the place conformed
In temper and in nature, will receive
Familiar the fierce heat, and void of pain;
This horror will grow mild, this darkness light;
Besides what hope the never-ending flight
Of future days may bring, what chance, what change
Worth waiting ; since our present lot appears
For happy though but ill, for ill not worst,
If we procure not to ourselves more woe.”

Thus Belial, with words clothed in reason's garb, Counselled ignoble ease, and peaceful sloth.

SECTION IV.-MISCELLANEOUS.

I.—THE OCEAN.

(BYRON.)
TAERE is a pleasure in the pathless woods;
There is a rapture on the lonely shore;
There is society, where none intrudes,
By the deep Sea, and music in its roar:
I love not Man the less, but Nature more,
From these our interviews, in which I steal
From all I may be, or have been before,

To mingle with the Universe, and feel
What I can ne'er express, yet cannot all conceal.

Roll on, thou deep and dark-blue Ocean-roll!
Ten thousand fleets sweep over thee in vain;
Man marks the earth with ruin-his control
Stops with the shore ;-upon the watery plain
The wrecks are all thy deed, nor doth remain
A shadow of man's ravage, save his own;
When, for a moment, like a drop of rain,

He sinks into thy depths with bubbling groan, Without a grave, unknelled, uncoffined, and unknown!

His steps are not upon thy paths,-thy fields
Are not a spoil for him,-thou dost arise
And shake him from thee; the vile strength he wields
For earth's destruction thou dost all despise,
Spurning him from thy bosom to the skies,
And send'st him, shivering in thy playful spray,
And howling to his gods, where haply lies

His petty hope in some near port or bay,
And dashest him again to earth :-there let him lay.

« PreviousContinue »