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His trust was with the Eternal to be deemed
Equal in strength, and, rather than be less,
Cared not to be at all: with that care lost,
Went all his fear; of God, or hell, or worse,
He recked not, and these words thereafter spake:- 50
"My sentence is for open war.
More unexpert, I boast not: them let those
Contrive who need, or when they need; not now.
For, while they sit contriving, shall the rest,
Millions that stand in arms and longing wait
The signal to ascend, sit lingering here,
Heaven's fugitives, and for their dwelling-place
Accept this dark opprobrious den of shame,
The prison of his tyranny who reigns
By our delay? No! let us rather choose,
Armed with hell-flames and fury, all at once,
O'er heaven's high towers to force resistless way,
Turning our tortures into horrid arms
Against the Torturer; when, to meet the noise
Of his almighty engine, he shall hear
Infernal thunder; and, for lightning, see
Black fire and horror shot with equal rage
Among his angels, and his throne itself
Mixed with Tartarean sulphur and strange fire,
His own invented torments. But perhaps
The way seems difficult, and steep to scale
With upright wing against a higher foe!
Let such bethink them, if the sleepy drench°
Of that forgetful lake benumb not still,
That in our proper motion we ascend
Up to our native seat: descent and fall
To us is adverse. Who but felt of late,
When the fierce foe hung on our broken rear
Insulting, and pursued us through the deep,
With what compulsion and laborious flight
We sunk thus low?
The event is feared!
The ascent is easy, then:
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 destroyed! -What can be worse
Than to dwell here, driven out from bliss, condemned
In this abhorrèd deep to utter woe;
Where pain of unextinguishable fire
Must exercise us without hope of end,
The vassals of his anger, when the scourge
Inexorably, and the torturing hour,
Calls us to penance? More destroyed than thus,
We should be quite abolished, and expire.
What fear we then? what doubt we to incense
His utmost ire? which, to the highth enraged,
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 power sufficient to disturb his heaven,
And with perpetual inroads to alarm,
Though inaccessible, his fatal throne;
Which, if not victory, is yet revenge!
He ended frowning, and his look denounced
Desperate revenge, and battle dangerous
To less than gods. On the other side, up rose
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
Dropt 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,
Timorous 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
With armèd 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 hell 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 mold,
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,-
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 strook
With heaven's afflicting thunder, and besought
The deep to shelter us? This hell then seemed
A refuge from those wounds.
Chained on the burning lake?
What if the breath that kindled those grim fires,