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Have finish'd, happy in our mutual help
And mutual love, the crown of all our bliss
Ordain'd by thee; and this delicious place
For us too large, where thy abundance wants
Partakers, and uncropt falls to the ground.
But thou hast promised from us two a race
To fill the earth, who shall with us extol
Thy goodness infinite, both when we wake,
And when we seek, as now, thy gift of sleep.'
This said unanimous, and other rites
Observing none, but adoration pure
Which God likes best, into their inmost bower
Handed they went; and, eased the putting off
These troublesome disguises which we wear,
Straight side by side were laid; nor turn'd, I ween,
Adam from his fair spouse, nor Eve the rites
Mysterious of connubial love refused:
Whatever hypocrites austerely talk
Of purity, and place, and innocence,
Defaming as impure what God declares
Pure, and commands to some, leaves free to all.
Our Maker bids increase; who bids abstain
But our destroyer, foe to God and man?
Hail, wedded love, mysterious law, true source
Of human offspring, sole propriety
In Paradise, of all things common else.
By thee adulterous lust was driven from men
Among the bestial herds to range; by thee
Founded in reason, loyal, just, and pure,
Relations dear, and all the charities
Of father, son, and brother, first were known.
Far be it, that I should write thee sin or blame,
Or think thee unbefitting holiest place,
Perpetual fountain of domestic sweets,
Whose bed is undefiled and chaste pronounced, Present, or past, as saints and patriarchs used. Here Love his golden shafts employs, here lights His constant lamp, and waves his purple wings, Reigns here and revels; not in the bought smile Of harlots, loveless, joyless, unendear'd,
Casual fruition; nor in court-amours,
Mix'd dance, or wanton mask, or midnight ball,
Or serenate, which the starved lover sings
To his proud fair, best quitted with disdain.
These, lull'd by nightingales, embracing slept,
And on their naked limbs the flowery roof
Shower'd roses, which the morn repair'd. Sleep on,
Blest pair; and O yet happiest, if ye seek
No happier state, and know to know no more.
Now had night measured with her shadowy cone
Half way up hill this vast sublunar vault,
And from their ivory port the cherubim,
Forth issuing at the accustom'd hour, stood arm'd
To their night-watches in warlike parade;
When Gabriel to his next in power thus spake:
Uzziel, half these draw off, and coast the south With strictest watch; these other wheel the north: Our circuit meets full west.' As flame they part, Half wheeling to the shield, half to the spear. From these, two strong and subtle spirits he call'd That near him stood, and gave them thus in charge: Ithuriel and Zephon, with wing'd speed
Search through this garden, leave unsearch'd no nook ;
But chiefly where those two fair creatures lodge,
Now laid perhaps asleep, secure of harm.
This evening from the sun's decline arrived,
Who tells of some infernal spirit seen
Hitherward bent (who could have thought?) escaped
The bars of hell, on errand bad no doubt:
Such, where ye find, seize fast, and hither bring.'
So saying, on he led his radiant files,
Dazzling the moon; these to the bower direct
In search of whom they sought: him there they
Squat like a toad, close at the ear of Eve,
Assaying by his devilish art to reach
The organs of her fancy, and with them forge
Illusions, as he list, phantasms and dreams;
Or if, inspiring venom, he might taint
The animal spirits, that from pure blood arise
Like gentle breaths from rivers pure, thence raise
At least distemper'd, discontented thoughts,
Vain hopes, vain aims, inordinate desires,
Blown up with high conceits engendering pride.
Him thus intent Ithuriel with his spear
Touch'd lightly; for no falsehood can endure
Touch of celestial temper, but returns
of force to its own likeness: up he starts
Discover'd and surprised. As when a spark
Lights on a heap of nitrous powder, laid
Fit for the tun, some magazine to store
Against a rumour'd war, the smutty grain,
With sudden blaze diffused, inflames the air;
So started up in his own shape the fiend.
Back stept those two fair angels, half amazed
So sudden to behold the grisly king;
Yet thus, unmoved with fear, accost him soon:
Which of those rebel spirits adjudged to hell Comest thou, escaped thy prison? and transform'd, Why satt'st thou like an enemy in wait,
Here watching at the head of these that sleep?"
Know ye not then,' said Satan, fill'd with scorn,
Know ye not me? ye knew me once no mate
For you, there sitting where ye durst not soar:
Not to know me, argues yourselves unknown,
The lowest of your throng: or, if ye know,
Why ask ye, and superfluous begin
Your message, like to end as much in vain ?"
To whom thus Zephon, answering scorn with
Think not, revolted spirit, thy shape the same, Or undiminish'd brightness to be known, As when thou stood'st in heaven upright and pure; That glory then, when thou no more wast good, Departed from thee; and thou resemblest now Thy sin and place of doom obscure and foul. But come, for thou, be sure, shalt give account To him who sent us, whose charge is to keep This place inviolable, and these from harm.'
So spake the cherub; and his grave rebuke
Severe in youthful beauty, added grace
Invincible: abash'd the devil stood,
And felt how awful goodness is, and saw
Virtue in her shape how lovely; saw, and pined
His loss; but chiefly to find here observed
His lustre visibly impair'd; yet seem'd
Undaunted. 'If I must contend,' said he,
Best with the best, the sender'not the sent,
Or all at once; more glory will be won,
Or less be lost."
Thy fear,' said Zephon bold,
• Will save us trial what the least can do
Single against thee wicked, and thence weak.'
The fiend replied not, overcome with rage;
But, like a proud steed rein'd, went haughty on,
Champing his iron curb: to strive or fly
He held it vain; awe from above had quell'd
His heart, not else dismay'd. Now drew they nigh
The western point, where those half-rounding guards
Just met, and closing stood in squadron join'd,
Awaiting next command.
To whom their chief,
Gabriel, from the front thus call'd aloud:
O friends! I hear the tread of nimble feet
Hasting this way, and now by glimpse discern
Ithuriel and Zephon through the shade;
And with them comes a third of regal port,
But faded splendour wan; who by his gait
And fierce demeanour seems the prince of hell,
Not likely to part hence without contést;
Stand firm, for in his look defiance lours.'
He scarce had ended, when those two ap-
And brief related whom they brought, where found,
How busied, in what form and posture couch'd.
To whom with stern regard thus Gabriel spake:
Why hast thou, Satan, broke the bounds prescribed
To thy transgressions, and disturb'd the charge
Of others, who approve not to transgress
By thy example, but have power and right
To question thy bold entrance on this place;
Employ'd, it seems, to violate sleep, and those Whose dwelling God hath planted here in bliss?'
To whom thus Satan with contemptuous brow: 'Gabriel, thou hadst in heaven the esteem of wise, And such I held thee; but this question ask'd
Puts me in doubt. Lives there who loves his pain? Who would not, finding way, break loose from hell, Though thither doom'd? Thou wouldst thyself, no doubt,
And boldly venture to whatever place
Farthest from pain, where thou mightst hope to change
Torment with ease, and soonest recompense
Dole with delight, which in this place I sought;
To thee no reason, who know'st only good,
But evil hast not tried: and wilt object
His will who bounds us? Let him surer bar
His iron gates, if he intends our stay
In that dark durance: thus much what was ask'd.
The rest is true, they found me where they say;
But that implies not violence or harm.'
Thus he in scorn. The warlike angel moved, Disdainfully half smiling, thus replied:
O loss of one in heaven to judge of wise, Since Satan fell, whom folly overthrew, And now returns him from his prison 'scaped, Gravely in doubt whether to hold them wise Or not, who ask what boldness brought him hither Unlicensed from his bounds in hell prescribed; So wise he judges it to fly from pain
However, and to 'scape his punishment!
So judge thou still, presumptuous! till the wrath,
Which thou incurr'st by flying, meet thy flight
Sevenfold, and scourge that wisdom back to hell,
Which taught thee yet no better, that no pain
Can equal anger infinite provoked.
But wherefore thou alone? wherefore with thee
Came not all hell broke loose? is pain to them
Less pain, less to be fled; or thou than they
Less hardy to endure? Courageous chief!