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Dove-like satst brooding' on the vast abyss,
And made it pregnant: what in me is dark
Illumine, what is low raise and support;
That to the height of this great argument
I may assert eternal Providence,
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?
Th' infernal Serpent; he it was, whose guile,
Stirred up with envy and revenge, deceived
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
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
Torments him : round he throws his baleful eyes,
That witnessed huge affliction and dismay
Mixed with obdurate pride and stedfast hate :
At once, as far as angels' ken, he views
The dismal situation waste and wild ;
A dungeon horrible on all sides round
1 From Genesis i. 2, “And the Spirit of God brooded apon the waters" (Hebrew).
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
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.3
Oh, how unlike the place from whence they fell !
There the companions of his fall, o'erwhelmed
With floods and whirlwinds of tempestuous fire,
1 Milton seems to have used these words to signify gloom: absolute darkness is, strictly speaking, invisible; but where there is a gloom only, there is so much light remaining as serves to show that there are objects, and yet that those objects cannot be distinctly seen. In this sense Milton seems to use the strong and bold expression, darkness visible.- Pearce.
Seneca has a like expression, speaking of the Grotto of Pausilypo, Senec. Epist. lvii. Nihil illo carcere longius, nihil illis faucibus obscurius, quæ nobis præstant, non ut per tenebras videamus, sed ut ipsas. And, as Mons. Voltaire observes, Antonio de Solis, in his excellent History of Mexico, has ventured on the same thought, when speaking of the place wherein Montezuma was wont to consult his deities ; “It was a large dark subterraneous vault, says he, where some dismal tapers afforded just light enough to see the obscurity.” See his Essay on Epic Poetry, p. 44. So, too, Spenser, F.Q. i. 1. 14.
“A little glooming light, much like a shade."—Newton. 2 Dr. Bentley reads outer here, and in many other places of this poem, because it is in scripture, TÒOKÓTOS TÒ Èútepov; but ulter and outer are both the same word, differently spelled and pronounced. Milton, in the argument of this book, says, in a place of utler darkness, and nowhere throughout the poem does the poet use outer.- Pearce.
Spenser justifies the present reading by frequently using the word utter for ouler, as in Faërie Queen, b. ii. cant. ii. st. 34
“And inly grieve, as doth an hidden moth
The inner garment fret, not the outer touch."-Newton. 3 i. e. thrice as far as it is from the centre of the earth (which is the centre of the world according to Milton's system, ix. 103, x. 671) to the pole of the world; for it is the pole of the universe, far beyond the pole of the earth, which is here called the “utmost pole."—Newton.
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
Clothed with transcendent brightness didst outshine
Myriads though bright! 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
In: equal ruin : into what pit thou seest
From what height 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
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?
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;
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
1 The lord of flies, an idol worshipped at Ecron, a city of the Philistines, 2 Kings i. 2. He is called “prince of the devils,” Matt. xii. 24, therefore deservedly here made second to Satan himself.-Hume.
2 Satan, in Hebrew, means an enemy.
3 Rather, "and equal ruin,” as Bentley reads.