Verse > Anthologies > The World’s Best Poetry > Vol. IV. The Higher Life
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Bliss Carman, et al., eds.  The World’s Best Poetry.
Volume IV. The Higher Life.  1904.
 
V. Selections from “Paradise Lost”
Intercession and Redemption
John Milton (1608–1674)
 
From “Paradise Lost,” Book XI.

THUS they, in lowliest plight, repentant stood
Praying; for from the mercy-seat above
Prevenient grace descending had removed
The stony from their hearts, and made new flesh
Regenerate grow instead; that sighs now breathed        5
Unutterable; which the spirit of prayer
Inspired, and winged for Heaven with speedier flight
Than loudest oratory: yet their port
Not of mean suitors; nor important less
Seemed their petition, than when the ancient pair        10
In fables old, less ancient yet than these,
Deucalion and chaste Pyrrha, to restore
The race of mankind drowned, before the shrine
Of Themis stood devout. To Heaven their prayers
Flew up, nor missed the way, by envious winds        15
Blown vagabond or frustrate: in they passed
Dimensionless through heavenly doors; then clad
With incense, where the golden altar fumed,
By their great Intercessor, came in sight
Before the Father’s throne: them the glad Son        20
Presenting, thus to intercede began.
  “See, Father, what first-fruits on Earth are sprung
From thy implanted grace in Man; these sighs
And prayers, which in this golden censer, mixed
With incense, I thy priest before thee bring;        25
Fruits of more pleasing savor, from thy seed
Sown with contrition in his heart, than those
Which, his own hand manuring, all the trees
Of Paradise could have produced ere fallen
From innocence. Now, therefore, bend thine ear        30
To supplication; hear his sighs, though mute;
Unskilful with what words to pray, let me
Interpret for him; me, his advocate
And propitiation; all his works on me,
Good, or not good, ingraft; my merit those        35
Shall perfect, and for these my death shall pay.
Accept me; and, in me, from these receive
The smell of peace toward mankind: let him live
Before thee reconciled, at least his days
Numbered though sad; till death his doom (which I        40
To mitigate thus plead, not to reverse,)
To better life shall yield him: where with me
All my redeemed may dwell in joy and bliss;
Made one with me, as I with thee am one.”
  To whom the Father, without cloud, serene,        45
“All thy request for Man, accepted Son,
Obtain; all thy request was my decree:
But, longer in that Paradise to dwell,
The law I gave to Nature him forbids:
Those pure immortal elements, that know        50
No gross, no unharmonious mixture foul,
Eject him, tainted now; and purge him off,
As a distemper, gross, to air as gross,
And mortal food; as may dispose him best
For dissolution wrought by sin, that first        55
Distempered all things, and of incorrupt
Corrupted. I, at first, with two fair gifts
Created him endowed; with happiness,
And immortality: that fondly lost,
This other served but to eternize woe;        60
Till I provided death: so death becomes
His final remedy; and, after life,
Tried in sharp tribulation, and refined
By faith and faithful works, to second life,
Waked in the renovation of the just,        65
Resigns him up with Heaven and Earth renewed.”
 
 
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