Verse > Anthologies > T. H. Ward, ed. > The English Poets > Vol. II. Ben Jonson to Dryden
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CONTENTS · BIBLIOGRAPHIC RECORD
Thomas Humphry Ward, ed.  The English Poets.  1880–1918.
Vol. II. The Seventeenth Century: Ben Jonson to Dryden
 
Extracts from Paradise Lost: Book IV
By John Milton (1608–1674)
 
(See full text.)

O, FOR that warning voice, which he, who saw
The Apocalypse, heard cry in heaven aloud,
Then when the Dragon, put to second rout,
Came furious down to be revenged on men,
‘Woe to the inhabitants on earth!’ that now,        5
While time was, our first parents had been warn’d
The coming of their secret foe, and ’scaped,
Haply so ’scaped his mortal snare: for now
Satan, now first inflamed with rage, came down,
The tempter ere the accuser of mankind,        10
To wreak on innocent frail man his loss
Of that first battle, and his flight to hell:
Yet, not rejoicing in his speed, though bold
Far off and fearless, not with cause to boast,
Begins his dire attempt; which nigh the birth        15
Now rolling boils in his tumultuous breast,
And like a devilish engine back recoils
Upon himself; horror and doubt distract
His troubled thoughts, and from the bottom stir
The hell within him; for within him hell        20
He brings, and round about him, nor from hell
One step, no more than from himself, can fly,
By change of place: now conscience wakes despair,
That slumber’d; wakes the bitter memory
Of what he was, what is, and what must be        25
Worse; of worse deeds worse sufferings must ensue.
Sometimes towards Eden, which now in his view
Lay pleasant, his grieved look he fixed sad;
Sometimes towards heaven, and the full-blazing sun.
Which now sat high in his meridian tower:        30
Then, much revolving, thus in sighs began:
  ‘O thou, that, with surpassing glory crown’d,
Look’st from thy sole dominion like the god
Of this new world; at whose sight all the stars
Hide their diminish’d heads; to thee I call,        35
But with no friendly voice, and add thy name,
O sun! to tell thee how I hate thy beams,
That bring to my remembrance from what state
I fell, how glorious once above thy sphere;
Till pride and worse ambition threw me down,        40
Warring in heaven against heaven’s matchless King:
Ah, wherefore? he deserved no such return
From me, whom he created what I was
In that bright eminence, and with his good
Upbraided none; nor was his service hard.        45
What could be less than to afford him praise,
The easiest recompense, and pay him thanks,
How due! yet all his good proved ill in me,
And wrought but malice; lifted up so high
I ’sdain’d subjection, and thought one step higher        50
Would set me highest, and in a moment quit
The debt immense of endless gratitude,
So burdensome still paying, still to owe:
Forgetful what from him I still received,
And understood not that a grateful mind        55
By owing owes not, but still pays, at once
Indebted and discharged; what burden then?
O had his powerful destiny ordain’d
Me some inferior angel, I had stood
Then happy; no unbounded hope had raised        60
Ambition. Yet why not? some other power
As great might have aspired, and me, though mean,
Drawn to his part; but other powers as great
Fell not, but stand unshaken, from within
Or from without, to all temptations arm’d.        65
Hadst thou the same free will and power to stand?
Thou hadst: whom hast thou then or what to accuse,
But heaven’s free love dealt equally to all?
Be then his love accursed, since love or hate,
To me alike, it deals eternal woe.        70
Nay, cursed be thou; since against his thy will
Chose freely what it now so justly rues,
Me miserable! which way shall I fly
Infinite wrath, and infinite despair?
Which way I fly is hell; myself am hell;        75
And, in the lowest deep, a lower deep
Still threatening to devour me opens wide,
To which the hell I suffer seems a heaven.
O, then, at last relent: is there no place
Left for repentance, none for pardon left?        80
None left but by submission; and that word
Disdain forbids me, and my dread of shame
Among the spirits beneath, whom I seduced
With other promises and other vaunts
Than to submit, boasting I could subdue        85
The Omnipotent. Ah me! they little know
How dearly I abide that boast so vain;
Under what torments inwardly I groan,
While they adore me on the throne of hell,
With diadem and sceptre high advanced,        90
The lower still I fall, only supreme
In misery: such joy ambition finds.
But say I could repent, and could obtain,
By act of grace, my former state; how soon
Would height recall high thoughts, how soon unsay        95
What feign’d submission swore! Ease would recant
Vows made in pain, as violent and void.
For never can true reconcilement grow
Where wounds of deadly hate have pierced so deep:
Which would but lead me to a worse relapse        100
And heavier fall: so should I purchase dear
Short intermission bought with double smart.
This knows my punisher; therefore as far
From granting he, as I from begging peace:
All hope excluded thus, behold, instead        105
Of us out-cast, exiled, his new delight,
Mankind created, and for him this world.
So farewell hope, and with hope farewell fear,
Farewell remorse: all good to me is lost;
Evil, be thou my good: by thee at least        110
Divided empire with heaven’s King I hold,
By thee, and more than half perhaps will reign,
As man ere long, and this new world shall know.’
  Thus while he spake, each passion dimm’d his face
Thrice changed with pale ire, envy, and despair;        115
Which marr’d his borrow’d visage, and betray’d
Him counterfeit, if any eye beheld:
For heavenly minds from such distempers foul
Are ever clear. Whereof he soon aware,
Each perturbation smooth’d with outward calm,        120
Artificer of fraud; and was the first
That practised falsehood under saintly show,
Deep malice to conceal, couch’d with revenge
Yet not enough had practised to deceive
Uriel once warn’d: whose eye pursued him down        125
The way he went, and on the Assyrian mount
Saw him disfigured, more than could befall
Spirit of happy sort: his gestures fierce
He mark’d, and mad demeanour, then alone,
As he supposed, all unobserved, unseen.        130
So on he fares, and to the border comes
Of Eden, where delicious Paradise,
Now nearer, crowns with her enclosure green,
As with a rural mound, the champaign head
Of a steep wilderness, whose hairy sides        135
With thicket overgrown, grotesque and wild,
Access denied; and over-head up-grew
Insuperable height of loftiest shade,
Cedar, and pine, and fir, and branching palm,
A sylvan scene; and, as the ranks ascend        140
Shade above shade, a woody theatre
Of stateliest view. Yet higher than their tops
The verdurous wall of Paradise up-sprung:
Which to our general sire gave prospect large
Into his nether empire neighbouring round:        145
And higher than that wall a circling row
Of goodliest trees, loaden with fairest fruit,
Blossoms and fruits at once of golden hue,
Appear’d, with gay enamell’d colours mix’d:
On which the sun more glad impress’d his beams        150
Than in fair evening cloud, or humid bow,
When God hath shower’d the earth; so lovely seem’d
That landscape: and of pure now purer air
Meets his approach, and to the heart inspires
Vernal delight and joy, able to drive        155
All sadness but despair: now gentle gales,
Fanning their odoriferous wings, dispense
Native perfumes, and whisper whence they stole
Those balmy spoils. As when to them who sail
Beyond the Cape of Hope, and now are past        160
Mozambic, off at sea north-east winds blow
Sabean odours from the spicy shore
Of Araby the Blest; with such delay
Well pleased they slack their course, and many a league
Cheer’d with the grateful smell old Ocean smiles:        165
So entertain’d those odorous sweets the fiend,
Who came their bane: though with them better pleased
Than Asmodëus with the fishy fume
That drove him, though enamour’d, from the spouse
Of Tobit’s son, and with a vengeance sent        170
From Media post to Egypt, there fast bound.
  Now to the ascent of that steep savage hill
Satan had journey’d on, pensive and slow;
But further way found none, so thick entwined,
As one continued brake, the undergrowth        175
Of shrubs and tangling bushes had perplex’d
All path of man or beast that pass’d that way.
One gate there only was, and that look’d east
On the other side: which when the arch-felon saw,
Due entrance he disdain’d; and, in contempt,        180
At one slight bound high o’erleap’d all bound
Of hill or highest wall, and sheer within
Lights on his feet. As when a prowling wolf,
Whom hunger drives to seek new haunt for prey,
Watching where shepherds pen their flocks at eve        185
In hurdled cotes amid the field secure,
Leaps o’er the fence with ease into the fold:
Or as a thief bent to unhoard the cash
Of some rich burgher, whose substantial doors,
Cross-barr’d and bolted fast, fear no assault,        190
In at the window climbs, or o’er the tiles:
So clomb the first grand thief into God’s fold;
So since into his church lewd hirelings climb.
Thence up he flew, and on the tree of life,
The middle tree and highest there that grew,        195
Sat like a cormorant; yet not true life
Thereby regain’d, but sat devising death
To them who lived; nor on the virtue thought
Of that life-giving plant, but only used
For prospect, what well used had been the pledge        200
Of immortality. So little knows
Any, but God alone, to value right
The good before him, but perverts best things
To worst abuse, or to their meanest use.
Beneath him with new wonder now he views,        205
To all delight of human sense exposed,
In narrow room, nature’s whole wealth, yea more,
A heaven on earth: for blissful Paradise
Of God the garden was, by him in the east
Of Eden planted; Eden stretch’d her line        210
From Auran eastward to the royal towers
Of great Seleucia, built by Grecian kings,
Or where the sons of Eden long before
Dwelt in Telassar: in this pleasant soil
His far more pleasant garden God ordain’d:        215
Out of the fertile ground he caused to grow
All trees of noblest kind for sight, smell, taste;
And all amid them stood the tree of life,
High eminent, blooming ambrosial fruit
Of vegetable gold; and next to life,        220
Our death, the tree of knowledge, grew fast by,
Knowledge of good, bought dear by knowing ill.
Southward through Eden went a river large
Nor changed his course, but through the shaggy hill
Pass’d underneath ingulf’d; for God had thrown        225
That mountain as his garden-mound high-raised
Upon the rapid current, which through veins
Of porous earth with kindly thirst up-drawn,
Rose a fresh fountain, and with many a rill
Water’d the garden; thence united fell        230
Down the steep glade, and met the nether flood,
Which from his darksome passage now appears,
And, now divided into four main streams,
Runs diverse, wandering many a famous realm
And country, whereof here needs no account;        235
But rather to tell how, if art could tell,
How from that sapphire fount the crisped brooks,
Rolling on orient pearl and sands of gold,
With mazy error under pendent shades
Ran nectar, visiting each plant, and fed        240
Flowers worthy of Paradise, which not nice art
In beds and curious knots, but nature boon
Pour’d forth profuse on hill, and dale, and plain,
Both where the morning sun first warmly smote
The open field, and where the unpierced shade        245
Imbrown’d the noontide bowers: thus was this place
A happy rural seat of various view;
Groves whose rich trees wept odorous gums and balm;
Others whose fruit, burnish’d with golden rind,
Hung amiable, Hesperian fables true,        250
If true, here only, and of delicious taste:
Betwixt them lawns, or level downs, and flocks
Grazing the tender herb, were interposed,
Or palmy hillock; or the flowery lap
Of some irriguous valley spread her store,        255
Flowers of all hue, and without thorn the rose:
Another side, umbrageous grots and caves
Of cool recess, o’er which the mantling vine
Lays forth her purple grape, and gently creeps
Luxuriant; meanwhile murmuring waters fall        260
Down the slope hills, dispersed, or in a lake,
That to the fringed bank with myrtle crown’d
Her crystal mirror holds, unite their streams.
The birds their quire apply; airs, vernal airs,
Breathing the smell of field and grove, attune        265
The trembling leaves, while universal Pan,
Knit with the Graces and the Hours in dance,
Led on the eternal Spring. Not that fair field
Of Enna, where Proserpine gathering flowers,
Herself a fairer flower, by gloomy Dis        270
Was gather’d, which cost Ceres all that pain
To seek her through the world; nor that sweet grove
Of Daphne by Orontes, and the inspired
Castalian spring, might with this Paradise
Of Eden strive; nor that Nyseian isle        275
Girt with the river Triton, where old Cham,
Whom Gentiles Ammon call and Libyan Jove,
Hid Amalthea, and her florid son
Young Bacchus, from his stepdame Rhea’s eye;
Nor where Abassin kings their issue guard,        280
Mount Amara, though this by some supposed
True Paradise, under the Ethiop line
By Nilus’ head, enclosed with shining rock,
A whole day’s journey high, but wide remote
From this Assyrian garden, where the fiend        285
Saw, undelighted, all delight, all kind
Of living creatures, new to sight and strange.
Two of far nobler shape, erect and tall,
Godlike erect, with native honour clad,
In naked majesty seem’d lords of all:        290
And worthy seem’d; for in their looks divine
The image of their glorious Maker shone,
Truth, wisdom, sanctitude severe and pure
(Severe, but in true filial freedom placed),
Whence true authority in men; though both        295
Not equal, as their sex not equal seem’d;
For contemplation he and valour form’d;
For softness she, and sweet attractive grace;
He for God only, she for God in him:
His fair large front and eye sublime declared        300
Absolute rule; and hyacinthine locks
Round from his parted forelock manly hung
Clustering, but not beneath his shoulders broad:
She, as a veil, down to the slender waist
Her unadorned golden tresses wore        305
Dishevell’d, but in wanton ringlets waved,
As the vine curls her tendrils, which implied
Subjection, but required with gentle sway,
And by her yielded, by him best received,
Yielded with coy submission, modest pride,        310
And sweet, reluctant, amorous delay.
Nor those mysterious parts were then conceal’d;
Then was not guilty shame; dishonest shame
Of nature’s works, honour dishonourable,
Sin-bred, how have ye troubled all mankind        315
With shows instead, mere shows of seeming pure,
And banish’d from man’s life his happiest life,
Simplicity and spotless innocence!
So pass’d they naked on, nor shunn’d the sight
Of God or angel; for they thought no ill:        320
So hand in hand they pass’d, the loveliest pair
That ever since in love’s embraces met;
Adam the goodliest man of men since born
His sons, the fairest of her daughters Eve.
Under a tuft of shade that on a green        325
Stood whispering soft, by a fresh fountain-side
They sat them down; and, after no more toil
Of their sweet gardening labour than sufficed
To recommend cool zephyr, and made ease
More easy, wholesome thirst and appetite        330
More grateful, to their supper-fruits they fell,
Nectarine fruits, which the compliant boughs
Yielded them, sidelong as they sat recline
On the soft downy bank damask’d with flowers:
The savoury pulp they chew, and in the rind,        335
Still as they thirsted, scoop the brimming stream;
Nor gentle purpose, nor endearing smiles,
Wanted, nor youthful dalliance, as beseems
Fair couple, link’d in happy nuptial league,
Alone as they. About them frisking play’d        340
All beasts of the earth, since wild, and of all chase
In wood or wilderness, forest or den;
Sporting the lion ramp’d, and in his paw
Dandled the kid; bears, tigers, ounces, pards,
Gamboll’d before them; the unwieldy elephant,        345
To make them mirth, used all his might, and wreath’d
His lithe proboscis; close the serpent sly,
Insinuating, wove with Gordian twine
His braided train, and of his fatal guile
Gave proof unheeded; others on the grass        350
Couch’d, and now fill’d with pasture gazing sat,
Or bedward ruminating; for the sun,
Declined, was hasting now with prone career
To the ocean isles, and in the ascending scale
Of heaven the stars that usher evening rose;        355
When Satan still in gaze, as first he stood,
Scarce thus at length fail’d speech recover’d sad.
*        *        *        *        *
 
 
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