Abbildungen der Seite


[ocr errors]

Return me to my native element:
Lest, from this flying steed unrein'd (as once
Bellerophon, though from a lower clime),
Dismounted, on the Aleian field I fall,
Erroneous there to wander, and forlorn.
Half yet remains unsung, but narrower bound
Within the visible diurnal sphere:
Standing on earth, not rapt above the pole,
More safe I sing with mortal voice, unchanged
To hoarse or mute, though fallen on evil days:
On evil days though fallen, and evil tongues ;
In darkness; and with dangers compass'd round,
And solitude: yet not alone, while thou
Visit'st my slumbers nightly, or when morn
Purples the east. Still govern thou my song,
Urania ! and fit audience find, though few.
But drive far off the barbarous dissonance
Of Bacchus and his revellers, the race
Of that wild rout that tore the Thracian bard
In Rhodope, where woods and rocks had ears
To rapture, till the savage clamor drown'd
Both harp and voice ; nor could the Muse defend

So fail not thou, who thee implores : For thou art heavenly, she an empty dream.

Say, Goddess ! what ensued when Raphaël, The affable archangel, had forewarn'd Adam, by dire example, to beware Apostasy, by what befel in heaven To those apostates; lest the like befall In paradise to Adam or his race, Charged not to touch the interdicted tree, If they transgress, and slight that sole command, So easily obey'd amid the choice Of all tastes else to please their appetite,

Her son.

Though wandering. He, with his consorted Eve,
The story heard attentive; and was fillid
With admiration and deep muse, to hear
Of things so high and strange; things, to their
So unimaginable, as hate in heaven, [thought
And war so near the peace of God in bliss,
With such confusion : but the evil, soon
Driven back, redounded as a flood on those
From whom it sprang; impossible to mix
With blessedness. Whence Adam soon repeald
The doubts that in his heart arose ; and now
Led on, yet sinless, with desire to know
What nearer might concern him, how this world
Of heaven and earth conspicuous first began;
When, and whereof created; for what cause;
What within Eden, or without, was done
Before his memory; as one, whose drought
Yet scarce allay'd, still eyes the current stream,
Whose liquid murmur heard new thirst excites,
Proceeded thus to ask his heavenly guest:

“ Great things, and full of wonder in our ears,
Far differing from this world, thou hast reveal'd.
Divine Interpreter! by favor sent
Down from the empyréan, to forewarn
Us timely of what might else have been our loss,
Unknown, which human knowledge could not
For which to the infinitely Good we owe (reach:
Immortal thanks; and his admonishment
Receive, with solemn purpose to observe
Immutably his sovran wilī, the end
Of what we are.

But since thou hast vouchsafed Gently, for our instruction, to impart Things above earthly thought, which yet concern'd Our knowing, as to the highest wisdom seem'd,

[ocr errors]

Deign to descend now lower, and relate
What may no less perhaps avail us known,
How first began this heaven which we behold
Distant so high, with moving fires adorn'd
Innumerable; and this which yields or fills

the ambient air wide interfused,
Embracing round this florid earth : what cause
Moved the Creator, in his holy rest
Through all eternity, so late to build
In Chaos; and the work begun how soon
Absolved; if unforbid thou may'st unfold
What we, not to explore the secrets ask
Of his eternal empire, but the more
To magnify his works, the more we know.
And the great light of day yet wants to run
Much of his race though steep; suspense in heaven,
Held by thy voice: thy potent voice, he hears,
And longer will delay to hear thee tell
His generation, and the rising birth
Of Nature from the unapparent deep:
Or if the star of evening and the moon
Haste to thy andience, Night with her will bring
Silence; and Sleep, listening to thee, will watch:
Or we can bid his absence, till thy song
End, and dismiss thee ere the morning shine.”

Thus Adam his illustrious guest besought; And thus the godlike angel answer'd mild: “ This also thy request, with caution ask'd, Obtain; though to recount almighty works What words or tongue of Seraph can suffice, Or heart of man suffice to comprehend? Yet what thou canst attain, which best may serve To glorify the Maker, and infer Thee also happier, shall not be withheld

[ocr errors]

Thy hearing : such commission from above
I have received, to answer thy desire
Of knowledge within bounds; beyond, abstain
To ask; nor let thine own inventions hope
Things not reveal'd, which the invisible King,
Only Omniscient, hath suppress'd in night;
To none communicable in earth or heaven:
Enough is left besides to search and know.
But knowledge is as food, and needs no less
Her temperance over appetite, to know
In measure what the mind may well contain;
Oppresses else with surfeit, and soon turns
Wisdom to folly, as nourishment to wind.

“ Know then, that, after Lucifer from heaven
(So call him, brighter once amidst the host
Of angels, than that star the stars among).
Fell with his flaming legions, through the deep,
Into his place; and the great Son return'd
Victorious with his saints, the Omnipotent
Eternal Father from his throne beheld
Their multitude, and to his Son thus spake:

* At least our envious foe hath fail'd, who thought All like himself rebellious, by whose aid This inaccessible high strength, the seat Of Deity supreme, us dispossess'd, He trusted to have seized, and into fraud Drew many, whom their place knows here no more: Yet far the greater part have kept, I see, Their station : heaven, yet populous, retains Number sufficient to possess her realms Though wide, and this high temple to frequent With ministeries due, and solemn rites. But, lest his heart exalt him in the harm Already done, to have dispeopled heaven,

My damage fondly deem'd, I can repair
That detriment, if such it be to lose
Self-lost; and in a moment will create
Another world, out of one man a race
Of men innumerable, there to dwell,
Not here: till, by degrees of merit raised,
They open to themselves at length the way
Up hither, under long obedience tried ; [earth,
And earth be changed to heaven, and heaven to
One kingdom, joy and union without end.
Mean while inhabit lax, ye Powers of Heaven !
And Thou my Word! begotten Son! by Thee
This I perform: speak Thou, and be it done!
My overshadowing Spirit and might with Thee
I send along. Ride forth, and bid the deep
Within appointed bounds be heaven and earth :
Boundless the deep, because I Am who fill
Infinitude, nor vacuous the space;
Though I, uncircumscribed myself, retire,
And put not forth my goodness, which is free
To act or not. Necessity and Chance
Approach not me; and what I will is Fate.'

“So spake the Almighty, and to what he spake
His Word, the Filial Godhead, gave effect. .
Immediate are the acts of God, swift
Than time or motion, but to human ears
Cannot without procéss of speech be told,
So told as earthly notion can receive.
Great triumph and rejoicing was in heaven,
When such was heard declared the Almighty's will.
Glory they sung to the Most High, good will
To future men, and in their dwellings peace :
Glory to Him, whose just avenging ire
Had driven out the ungodly from his sight,


« ZurückWeiter »