Text - "Paradise Lost" John Milton
Me though just right, and the fixed laws of heaven, Did first create your leader-next, free choice With what besides in council or in fight Hath been achieved of merit-yet this loss, Thus far at least recovered, hath much more Established in a safe, unenvied throne, Yielded with full consent. The happier state In Heaven, which follows dignity, might draw Envy from each inferior; but who here Will envy whom the highest place exposes Foremost to stand against the Thunderer's aim Your bulwark, and condemns to greatest share Of endless pain? Where there is, then, no good For which to strive, no strife can grow up there From faction: for none sure will claim in Hell Precedence; none whose portion is so small Of present pain that with ambitious mind Will covet more! With this advantage, then, To union, and firm faith, and firm accord, More than can be in Heaven, we now return To claim our just inheritance of old, Surer to prosper than prosperity Could have assured us; and by what best way, Whether of open war or covert guile, We now debate. Who can advise may speak." He ceased; and next him Moloch, sceptred king, Stood up-the strongest and the fiercest Spirit That fought in Heaven, now fiercer by despair. His trust was with th' 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: "My sentence is for open war. Of wiles, 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? Th' ascent is easy, then; Th' event is feared! 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 abhorred 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 height 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 th' 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 Dropped 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 armed 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 th' ethereal mould, 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 Th' Almighty Victor to spend all his rage; And that must end us; that must be our cure To be no more. 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 struck With Heaven's afflicting thunder, and besought The Deep to shelter us? This Hell then seemed A refuge from those wounds. Or when we lay Chained on the burning lake? That sure was worse. What if the breath that kindled those grim fires, Awaked, should blow them into sevenfold rage, And plunge us in the flames; or from above Should intermitted vengeance arm again His red right hand to plague us? What if all Her stores were opened, and this firmament Of Hell should spout her cataracts of fire, Impendent horrors, threatening hideous fall One day upon our heads; while we perhaps, Designing or exhorting glorious war, Caught in a fiery tempest, shall be hurled, Each on his rock transfixed, the sport and prey Or racking whirlwinds, or for ever sunk Under yon boiling ocean, wrapt in chains, There to converse with everlasting groans, Unrespited, unpitied, unreprieved, Ages of hopeless end? This would be worse. War, therefore, open or concealed, alike My voice dissuades; for what can force or guile With him, or who deceive his mind, whose eye Views all things at one view? He from Heaven's height All these our motions vain sees and derides, Not more almighty to resist our might Than wise to frustrate all our plots and wiles. Shall we, then, live thus vile-the race of Heaven Thus trampled, thus expelled, to suffer here Chains and these torments? Better these than worse, By my advice; since fate inevitable Subdues us, and omnipotent decree, The Victor's will. To suffer, as to do, Our strength is equal; nor the law unjust That so ordains. This was at first resolved, If we were wise, against so great a foe Contending, and so doubtful what might fall. I laugh when those who at the spear are bold And venturous, if that fail them, shrink, and fear What yet they know must follow-to endure Exile, or ignominy, or bonds, or pain, The sentence of their Conqueror. This is now Our doom; which if we can sustain and bear, Our Supreme Foe in time may much remit His anger, and perhaps, thus far removed, Not mind us not offending, satisfied With what is punished; whence these raging fires Will slacken, if his breath stir not their flames.
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