Page images
PDF
EPUB

When the fierce foe hung on our broken rear,
Insulting, and pursued us through the deep,
With what compulsion, and laborious flight, 80
We funk thus low? Th’ascent is easy then; .

Th’event is fear’d; should we again provoke
Our stronger, some worse way his wrath may find
To our destruction; if there be in Hell .
Fear to be worse destroy’d: what can be worse 85
Than to dwell here, driv'n out from bliss, condemn'd
In this abhorred deep to utter woe;
Where pain of unextinguishable fire
Must exercise us, without hope of end,
The vassals of his anger, when the scourge 90
Inexorably, and the torturing hour
Calls us to penance? More destroy'd than thus,
We should be quite abolish’d, and expire.
What fear we then? what doubt we to incense
His utmost ire? which, to the highth enrag’d 95
Will either quite consume us, and reduce
To nothing this essential, happier far,
Than miserable, to have eternal being:
Or if our substance be indeed divine,
And cannot cease to be, we are at worst
On this side nothing; and by proof we feel
Our pow'r sufficient to disturb his Heaven,
And with perpetual inroads to alarm,
Though inaccessible, his fatal throne:
Which if not victory, is yet revenge.

He

100

105

He ended; frowning; and his look denounc'd
Desperate revenge, and battel dangerous
To less than Gods. On th’other side up rose
Belial, in act more graceful and humane;
A fairer person loft not Heav'n; he seem'd 110
For dignity compos'd,and high exploit:
But all was false and hollow; though his tongue
Dropt Manna, and could make the worse appear
The better reason, to perplex and dash
Maturest counsels: for his thoughts were low; 115
To vice industrious, but to nobler deeds
Timorous and slothful: yet he pleas'd 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 urg'd 120
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 tow'rs of Heav'n are fillid
With armed watch, that render all access 130
Impregnable; oft on the bord’ring deep
Incamp their legions, or with obscure wing,
Scout far and wide into the realm of night,

F2 : Scorning

[ocr errors]

125

[ocr errors]

Scorning surprise. Or could we break our way
By force, and at our heels all Hell should rise, 135
With blackest insurrection, to confound
Heav'n's purest light; yet our great enemy,
All incorruptible, would on his throne
Sit unpolluted, and th’ethereal mold,
Incapable of stain,would soon expel

140
Her mischief, and purge off the baser fire,
Victorious. Thus repuls’d, our final hope
Is flat despair: we must exasperate
Th’almighty victor to spend all his rage,
And that must end us; that must be our cure, 145
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, swallow'd up and lost . In the wide womb of uncreated night, 150

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, fo wise, let loose at once his ire, 155
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, 160
Reserv'd, and defin’d to eternal woe;

Whatever

Whatever doing, what can we suffer more,
What can we suffer worse? Is this then worst,
Thus fitting, thus consulting, thus in arms?
What, when we fled amain, pursued and struck 165
With Heav'n's afflicting thunder, and befought
The deep to shelter us? this Hell then seem'd
A refuge from those wounds: or when we lay
Chain'd on the burning lake? that, sure, was worse.
What if the breath that kindled those grim fires, 170
Awak'd should blow them into sev’nfold 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 open'd, and this firmament 175
Of Hell should spout her cataracts of fire,
Impendent horrors, threatning hideous fall
One day upon our heads, while we perhaps,
Designing,or exhorting glorious war,
Caught in a fiery tempest, shall be hurld 180
Each on his rock transfix’d, 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, unreprievod,

185
Ages of hopeless end? this would be worse.
War therefore, open or conceald, alike
My voice dissuades; for what can force or guile
With him, or who deceive his mind, whose eye

200

Views allthings at one view? he from Heav'n's highth, All these our motions vain sees,and derides; 191 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 expell’d,to suffer here 195 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 resolvid, 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 ventrous, if that fail them, shrink, and fear 205 What yet they know must follow, to indure: Exile, or ignominy , or bonds, or pain, The sentence of their conqu'ror: this is now Our doom; which if we can sustain and bear, Our supreme foe in time may much remit His anger; and perhaps, thus far remov’d, Not mind us, not offending, satisfy'd With what is punish’d; whence these raging fires Will slacken, if his breath fir not their flames. Our purer essence then will overcome . 215 Their noxious vapor; or inur'd, not feel, Or chang’d at length, and to the place conformid

,210

« PreviousContinue »