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In temples and at altars when the priest
Turns atheist, as did Eli's sons, who fill'd
With lust and violence the house of God?
In courts and palaces he also reigns,
And in luxurious cities, where the noise
Of riot ascends above their loftiest towers,
And injury, and outrage.
THE FIRST MARTIAL REVIEW.
THEN straight commands, that at the warlike sound
Of trumpets loud and clarions, be uprear'd
His mighty standard : that proud honour claim’d
Azazel as his right, a cherub tall;
Who forthwith from the glittering staff unfurld
The imperial ensign, which, full high advanced,
Shone like a meteor, streaming to the wind,
With gems and golden lustre rich emblazed,
Seraphic arms and trophies; all the while
Sonorous metal blowing martial sounds :
At which the universal host
A shout that tore hell's concave, and beyond
Frighted the reign of Chaos and old Night.
All in a moment through the gloom were seen
Ten thousand banners rise into the air
With orient colours waving: with them rose
A forest huge of spears; and thronging helms
Appear'd, and serried shields in thick array
Of depth immeasurable: anon they move
In perfect phalanx to the Dorian mood
Of flutes and soft recorders.
TOWARDS him they bend
With awful reverence prone ; and as a god
Extol him equal to the Highest in heaven.
Nor fail'd they to express how much they praised,
That for the general safety he despised
His own : for neither do the spirits damn'd
Lose all their virtue; lest bad men should boast
Their specious deeds on earth, which glory excites,
Or close ambition varnish'd o'er with zeal.
Thus they their doubtful consultations dark
Ended, rejoicing in their matchless chief:
As when from mountain tops the dusky clouds
Ascending, while the north wind sleeps, o'er-spread
Heaven's cheerful face; the lowering element
Scowls o'er the darken'd landskip snow, or shower :
If chance the radiant sun with farewell sweet
Extend his evening beam, the fields revive,
The birds their notes renew, and bleating herds
Attest their joy, that hill and valley rings.
O shame to men! devil with devil damn'd
Firm concord holds; men only disagree
Of creatures rational, though under hope
Of heavenly grace; and, God proclaiming peace,
Yet live in hatred, enmity, and strife,
Among themselves, and levy cruel wars,
Wasting the earth, each other to destroy :
As if, (which might induce us to accord,)
Man had not hellish foes enow besides,
That, day and night, for his destruction wait.
At last appear Hell bounds, high reaching to the horrid roof, And thrice threefold the gates; three folds were brass, Three iron, three of adamantine rock, Impenetrable, impaled with circling fire, Yet unconsumed. Before the gates there sat On either side a formidable shape; The one seem'd woman to the waist, and fair, But ended foul in many a scaly fold, Voluminous and vast, a serpent arm'd With mortal sting; about her middle round A cry of hell-hounds never ceasing bark'd With wide Cerberean mouths full loud, and rung A hideous peal: yet, when they list, would creep, If aught disturb’d their noise, into her womb, And kennel there; yet there still bark'd and howld Within unseen.*
THE other shape,
If shape it might be call’d, that shape had none
Distinguishable in member, joint, or limb,
Or substance might be callid that shadow seem'd,
For each seem'd either; black it stood as night,
Fierce as ten furies, terrible as hell,
And shook a dreadful dart; what seem'd his head
The likeness of a kingly crown had on.
Satan was now at hand, and from his seat
The monster moving onward came as fast,
With horrid strides; hell treinbled as he strode.
The undaunted fiend what this might be admired ;
Admired, not fear'd.
So spake the grisly terror; and in shape, So speaking, and so threatening, grew tenfold More dreadful and deform: on the other side, Incensed with indignation, Satan stood Unterrified, and like a comet burn'd That fires the length of Ophiuchus huge In the arctic sky, and from his horrid hair Shakes pestilence and war. Each at the head Leveld his deadly aim ; their fatal hands No second stroke intend; and such a frown Each cast at the other, as when two black clouds, With heaven's artillery fraught, come rattling on Over the Caspian ; then stand front to front, Hovering a space, till winds the signal blow To join their dark encounter in mid air; So frown'd the mighty combatants, that hell Grew darker at their frown; so match'd they stood ; For never but once more was either like To meet so great a foe.
Hail, holy Light! offspring of heaven first-born,
Or of the Eternal co-eternal beam,
May I express thee unblamed ? since God is light,
And never but in unapproached light
Dwelt from eternity; dwelt then in thee,
Bright effluence of bright essence increate.
Or hear’st thou rather, pure ethereal stream,
Whose fountain who shall tell ? before the sun,
Before the heavens thou wert, and at the voice
Of God, as with a mantle, didst invest
The rising world of waters dark and deep,
Won from the void and formless infinite.
Thee I revisit now with bolder wing,
Escaped the Stygian pool, though long detain'd
In that obscure sojourn ; while in my flight
Through utter and through middle darkness borne,
With other notes than to the Orphean lyre,
I sung of Chaos and eternal Night;
Taught by the heavenly Muse to venture down
The dark descent, and up to reascend,
Though hard and rare : thee I revisit safe,
And feel thy sovereign vital lamp; but thou
Revisit’st not these eyes, that roll in vain
To find thy piercing ray, and find no dawn;
So thick a drop serene hath quench'd their orbs,
Or dim suffusion veild. Yet not the more
Cease I to wander where the Muses haunt
Clear spring, or shady grove, or sunny hill,
Smit with the love of sacred song ; but chief