John Milton – Paradise Regain'd, Book 1

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I, WHO erewhile the happy Garden sung
By one man's disobedience lost,
now sing
Recovered Paradise to all mankind
By one man's firm obedience fully tried
Through all temptation, and the Tempter foiled
In all his wiles, defeated and repulsed
And Eden raised in the waste Wilderness
Thou Spirit, who led'st this glorious Eremite
Into the desert, his victorious field
Against the spiritual foe, and brought'st him thence [10]
By proof the undoubted Son of God, inspire
As thou art won't, my prompted song, else mute
And bear through highth or depth of Nature's bounds
With prosperous wing full summed, to tell of deeds
Above heroic, though in secret done
And unrecorded left through many an age
:
Worthy to have not remained so long unsung
Now had the great Proclaimer, with a voice
More awful than the sound of trumpet, cried
Repentance, and Heaven's kingdom nigh at hand [20]
To all baptized. To his great baptism flocked
With awe the regions round, and with them came
From Nazareth the son of Joseph deemed
To the flood Jordan -- came as then obscure
Unmarked, unknown.
But him the Baptist soon
Descried, divinely warned, and witness bore
As to his worthier,
and would have resigned
To him his heavenly office. Nor was long
His witness unconfirmed: on him baptized
Heaven opened, and in likeness of a Dove [30]
The Spirit descended, while the Father's voice
From Heaven pronounced him his beloved Son
That heard the Adversary, who, roving still
About the world
, at that assembly famed
Would not be last, and, with the voice divine
Nigh thunder-struck, the exalted man to whom
Such high attest was given a while surveyed
With wonder; then, with envy fraught and rage
Flies to his place, nor rests, but in mid air
To council summons all his mighty Peers
, [40]
Within thick clouds and dark tenfold involved
A gloomy consistory; and them amidst
With looks aghast and sad, he thus bespake: --
"O ancient Powers of Air and this wide World
(For much more willingly I mention Air
This our old conquest, than remember Hell
Our hated habitation), well ye know
How many ages, as the years of men
This Universe we have possessed, and ruled
In manner at our will the affairs of Earth, [50]
Since Adam and his facile consort Eve
Lost Paradise, deceived by me, though since
With dread attending when that fatal wound
Shall be inflicted by the seed of Eve
Upon my head
. Long the decrees of Heaven
Delay, for longest time to Him is short;
And now, too soon for us, the circling hours
This dreaded time have compassed
, wherein we
Must bide the stroke of that long-threatened wound
(At least, if so we can, and by the head [60]
Broken be not intended all our power
To be infringed, our freedom and our being
In this fair empire won of Earth and Air) --
For this ill news I bring: The Woman's Seed
Destined to this, is late of woman born
His birth to our just fear gave no small cause;
But his growth now to youth's full flower, displaying
All virtue, grace and wisdom to achieve
Things highest, greatest, multiplies my fear

Before him a great Prophet, to proclaim [70]
His coming, is sent harbinger, who all
Invites, and in the consecrated stream
Pretends to wash off sin, and fit them so
Purified to receive him pure, or rather
To do him honour as their King. All come
And he himself among them was baptized --
Not thence to be more pure, but to receive
The testimony of Heaven, that who he is
Thenceforth the nations may not doubt. I saw
The Prophet do him reverence; on him, rising [80]
Out of the water, Heaven above the clouds
Unfold her crystal doors; thence on his head
A perfet Dove descend (whate'er it meant)
;
And out of Heaven the sovraign voice I heard
'This is my Son beloved, -- in him am pleased.'
His mother, than, is mortal, but his Sire
He who obtains the monarchy of Heaven;
And what will He not do to advance his Son?
His first-begot we know, and sore have felt
When his fierce thunder drove us to the Deep; [90]
Who this is we must learn, for Man he seems
In all his lineaments, though in his face
The glimpses of his Father's glory shine

Ye see our danger on the utmost edge
Of hazard, which admits no long debate
But must with something sudden be opposed
(Not force, but well-couched fraud, well-woven snares)
Ere in the head of nations he appear
Their king, their leader, and supreme on Earth

I, when no other durst, sole undertook [100]
The dismal expedition to find out
And ruin Adam, and the exploit performed
Successfully
: a calmer voyage now
Will waft me; and the way found prosperous once
Induces best to hope of like success.
"
He ended, and his words impression left
Of much amazement to the infernal crew
Distracted and surprised with deep dismay
At these sad tidings. But no time was then
For long indulgence to their fears or grief: [110]
Unanimous they all commit the care
And management of this man enterprise
To him, their great Dictator, whose attempt
At first against mankind so well had thrived
In Adam's overthrow, and led their march
From Hell's deep-vaulted den to dwell in light
Regents, and potentates, and kings, yea gods
Of many a pleasant realm and province wide
So to the coast of Jordan he directs
His easy steps, girded with snaky wiles, [120]
Where he might likeliest find this new-declared
This man of men, attested Son of God
Temptation and all guile on him to try --
So to subvert whom he suspected raised
To end his reign on Earth so long enjoyed:
But, contrary, unweeting he fulfilled
The purposed counsel, pre-ordained and fixed
Of the Most High, who, in full frequence bright
Of Angels, thus to Gabriel smiling spake: --
"Gabriel, this day, by proof, thou shalt behold, [130]
Thou and all Angels conversant on Earth
With Man or men's affairs, how I begin
To verify that solemn message late
On which I sent thee to the Virgin pure
In Galilee, that she should bear a son
Great in renown, and called the Son of God
Then told'st her, doubting how these things could be
To her a virgin, that on her should come
The Holy Ghost, and the power of the Highest
O'ershadow her. This Man, born and now upgrown, [140]
To shew him worthy of his birth divine
And high prediction, henceforth I expose
To Satan; let him tempt, and now assay
His utmost subtlety
, because he boasts
And vaunts of his great cunning to the throng
Of his Apostasy. He might have learnt
Less overweening, since he failed in Job
Whose constant perseverance overcame
Whate'er his cruel malice could invent

He now shall know I can produce a man, [150]
Of female seed, far abler to resist
All his solicitations, and at length
All his vast force, and drive him back to Hell --
Winning by conquest what the first man lost
By fallacy surprised
. But first I mean
To exercise him in the Wilderness;
There he shall first lay down the rudiments
Of his great warfare,
ere I send him forth
To conquer Sin and Death, the two grand foes
By humiliation and strong sufferance.
[160]
His weakness shall o'ercome Satanic strength
And all the world, and mass of sinful flesh;
That all the Angels and aethereal Powers --
They now, and men hereafter -- may discern
From what consummate virtue I have chose
This perfet man, by merit called my Son
To earn salvation for the sons of men."
So spake the Eternal Father, and all Heaven
Admiring stood a space; then into hymns
Burst forth, and in celestial measures moved, [170]
Circling the throne and singing, while the hand
Sung with the voice, and this the argument: --
"Victory and triumph to the Son of God
Now entering his great duel, not of arms
But to vanquish by wisdom hellish wiles!

The Father knows the Son; therefore secure
Ventures his filial virtue, though untried
Against whate'er may tempt, whate'er seduce
Allure, or terrify, or undermine
Be frustrate, all ye stratagems of Hell, [180]
And, devilish machinations, come to nought!"
So they in Heaven their odes and vigils tuned
Meanwhile the Son of God, who yet some days
Lodged in Bethabara, where John baptized
Musing and much revolving in his breast
How best the mighty work he might begin
Of Saviour to mankind, and which way first
Publish his godlike office now mature

One day forth walked alone, the Spirit leading
And his deep thoughts, the better to converse [190]
With solitude, till, far from track of men
Thought following thought, and step by step led on
He entered now the bordering Desert wild

And, with dark shades and rocks environed round
His holy meditations thus pursued: --
"O what a multitude of thoughts at once
Awakened in me swarm, while I consider
What from within I feel myself
, and hear
What from without comes often to my ears
Ill sorting with my present state compared!
[200]
When I was yet a child, no childish play
To me was pleasing; all my mind was set
Serious to learn and know
, and thence to do
What might be public good
; myself I thought
Born to that end, born to promote all truth
All righteous things. Therefore, above my years
The Law of God I read, and found it sweet
;
Made it my whole delight, and in it grew
To such perfection that, ere yet my age
Had measured twice six years, at our great Feast [210]
I went into the Temple, there to hear
The teachers of our Law, and to propose
What might improve my knowledge or their own
And was admired by all.
Yet this not all
To which my spirit aspired. Victorious deeds
Flamed in my heart, heroic acts -- one while
To rescue Israel from the Roman yoke;
Then to subdue and quell, o'er all the earth
Brute violence and proud tyrannic power
Till truth were freed, and equity restored
: [220]
Yet held it more humane, more heavenly, first
By winning words to conquer willing hearts
And make persuasion do the work of fear;

At least to try, and teach the erring soul
Not wilfully misdoing, but unware
Misled; the stubborn only to subdue

These growing thoughts my mother soon perceiving
By words at times cast forth, inly rejoiced
And said to me apart, 'High are thy thoughts
O Son! but nourish them, and let them soar [230]
To what highth sacred virtue and true worth
Can raise them, though above example high;
By matchless deeds express thy matchless Sire

For know, thou art no son of mortal man;
Though men esteem thee low of parentage
Thy Father is the Eternal King who rules
All Heaven and Earth, Angels and sons of men

A messenger from God foretold thy birth
Conceived in me a virgin; he foretold
Thou shouldst be great, and sit on David's throne, [240]
And of thy kingdom there should be no end
At thy nativity a glorious quire
Of Angels, in the fields of Bethlehem, sung
To shepherds, watching at their folds by night
And told them the Messiah now was born
Where they might see him; and to thee they came
Directed to the manger where thou lay'st;
For in the inn was left no better room
A Star, not seen before, in heaven appearing
Guided the Wise Men thither from the East, [250]
To honour thee with incense, myrrh, and gold;
By whose bright course led on they found the place
Affirming it thy star, new-graven in heaven
By which they knew thee King of Israel born
Just Simeon and prophetic Anna, warned
By vision, found thee in the Temple, and spake
Before the altar and the vested priest
Like things of thee to all that present stood.'
This having heart, straight I again revolved
The Law and Prophets, searching what was writ [260]
Concerning the Messiah, to our scribes
Known partly, and soon found of whom they spake
I am
-- this chiefly, that my way must lie
Through many a hard assay, even to the death

Ere I the promised kingdom can attain
Or work redemption for mankind, whose sins'
Full weight must be transferred upon my head

Yet, neither thus disheartened or dismayed
The time prefixed I waited; when behold
The Baptist (of whose birth I oft had heard, [270]
Not knew by sight) now come, who was to come
Before Messiah, and his way prepare!
I, as all others, to his baptism came
Which I believed was from above; but he
Straight knew me, and with loudest voice proclaimed
Me him (for it was shewn him so from Heaven) --
Me him whose harbinger he was; and first
Refused on me his baptism to confer
As much his greater, and was hardly won
But, as I rose out of the laving stream, [280]
Heaven opened her eternal doors, from whence
The Spirit descended on me like a Dove;
And last, the sum of all, my Father's voice
Audibly heard from Heaven, pronounced me his
Me his beloved Son, in whom alone
He was well pleased
: by which I knew the time
Now full, that I no more should live obscure
But openly begin, as best becomes
The authority which I derived from Heaven

And now by some strong motion I am led [290]
Into this wilderness; to what intent
I learn not yet. Perhaps I need not know;
For what concerns my knowledge God reveals."

So spake our Morning Star, then in his rise
And, looking round, on every side beheld
A pathless desert, dusk with horrid shades
The way he came, not having marked return
Was difficult, by human steps untrod;
And he still on was led, but with such thoughts
Accompanied of things past and to come [300]
Lodged in his breast as well might recommend
Such solitude before choicest society

Full forty days he passed -- whether on hill
Sometimes, anon in shady vale, each night
Under the covert of some ancient oak
Or cedar to defend him from the dew
Or harboured in one cave, is not revealed;
Nor tasted human food, nor hunger felt
Till those days ended
; hungered then at last
Among wild beasts. They at his sight grew mild, [310]
Nor sleeping him nor waking harmed; his walk
The fiery serpent fled and noxious worm
;
The lion and fierce tiger glared aloof
But now an aged man in rural weeds
Following, as seemed, the quest of some stray ewe
Or withered sticks to gather, which might serve
Against a winter's day, when winds blow keen
To warm him wet returned from field at eve
He saw approach; who first with curious eye
Perused him, then with words thus uttered spake: -- [320]
"Sir, what ill chance hath brought thee to this place
So far from path or road of men, who pass
In troop or caravan? for single none
Durst ever, who returned, and dropt not here
His carcass, pined with hunger and with droughth
I ask the rather, and the more admire
For that to me thou seem'st the man whom late
Our new baptizing Prophet at the ford
Of Jordan honoured so, and called thee Son
Of God. I saw and heard, for we sometimes [330]
Who dwell this wild, constrained by want, come forth
To town or village nigh (nighest is far)
Where aught we hear, and curious are to hear
What happens new; fame also finds us out."
To whom the Son of God: -- "Who brought me hither
Will bring me hence; no other guide I seek."
"By miracle he may," replied the swain;
"What other way I see not; for we here
Live on tough roots and stubs, to thirst inured
More than the camel, and to drink go far -- [340]
Men to much misery and hardship born
But, if thou be the Son of God, command
That out of these hard stones be made thee bread;
So shalt thou save thyself, and us relieve
With food, whereof we wretched seldom taste."

He ended, and the Son of God replied: --
"Think'st thou such force in bread? Is it not written
(For I discern thee other than thou seem'st)
Man lives not by bread only, but each word
Proceeding from the mouth of God, who fed [350]
Our fathers here with manna?
In the Mount
Moses was forty days, nor eat nor drank;
And forty days Eliah without food
Wandered this barren waste; the same I now
Why dost thou, then, suggest to me distrust
Knowing who I am, as I know who thou art?"
Whom thus answered the Arch-Fiend, now undisguised: --
"'Tis true, I am that Spirit unfortunate
Who, leagued with millions more in rash revolt
Kept not my happy station, but was driven [360]
With them from bliss to the bottomless Deep --
Yet to that hideous place not so confined
By rigour unconniving but that oft
Leaving my dolorous prison, I enjoy
Large liberty to round this globe of Earth
Or range in the Air;
nor from the Heaven of Heavens
Hath he excluded my resort sometimes
I came, among the Sons of God, when he
Gave up into my hands Uzzean Job
To prove him, and illustrate his high worth; [370]
And, when to all his Angels he proposed
To draw the proud king Ahab into fraud
That he might fall in Ramoth, they demurring
I undertook that office, and the tongues
Of all his flattering prophets glibbed with lies
To his destruction, as I had in charge:
For what he bids I do. Though I have lost
Much lustre of my native brightness, lost
To be beloved of God, I have not lost
To love, at least contemplate and admire, [380]
What I see excellent in good, or fair
Or virtuous;
I should so have lost all sense
What can be then less in me than desire
To see thee and approach thee, whom I know
Declared the Son of God, to hear attent
Thy wisdom, and behold thy godlike deeds?
Men generally think me much a foe
To all mankind. Why should I? they to me
Never did wrong or violence. By them
I lost not what I lost; rather by them [390]
I gained what I have gained, and with them dwell
Copartner in these regions of the World
If not disposer -- lend them oft my aid
Oft my advice by presages and signs
And answers, oracles, portents, and dreams
Whereby they may direct their future life
Envy, they say, excites me, thus to gain
Companions of my misery and woe!
At first it may be; but, long since with woe
Nearer acquainted, now I feel by proof [400]
That fellowship in pain divides not smart
Nor lightens aught each man's peculiar load;
Small consolation, then, were Man adjoined

This wounds me most (what can it less?) that Man
Man fallen, shall be restored, I never more."

To whom our Saviour sternly thus replied: --
"Deservedly thou griev'st, composed of lies
From the beginning, and in lies wilt end

Who boast'st release from Hell, and leave to come
Into the Heaven of Heavens. Thou com'st, indeed, [410]
As a poor miserable captive thrall
Comes to the place where he before had sat
Among the prime in splendour, now deposed
Ejected, emptied, gazed, unpitied, shunned
A spectacle of ruin, or of scorn
To all the host of Heaven. The happy place
Imparts to thee no happiness, no joy --
Rather inflames thy torment, representing
Lost bliss, to thee no more communicable;
So never more in Hell than when in Heaven. [420]
But thou art serviceable to Heaven's King!
Wilt thou impute to obedience what thy fear
Extorts, or pleasure to do ill excites?
What but thy malice moved thee to misdeem
Of righteous Job, then cruelly to afflict him
With all inflictions? but his patience won
The other service was thy chosen task
To be a liar in four hundred mouths;
For lying is thy sustenance, thy food
Yet thou pretend'st to truth! all oracles [430]
By thee are given, and what confessed more true
Among the nations? That hath been thy craft
By mixing somewhat true to vent more lies

But what have been thy answers? what but dark
Ambiguous, and with double sense deluding
Which they who asked have seldom understood
And, not well understood, as good not known?

Who ever, by consulting at thy shrine
Returned the wiser, or the more instruct
To fly or follow what concerned him most, [440]
And run not sooner to his fatal snare?
For God hath justly given the nations up
To thy delusions; justly, since they fell
Idolatrous
. But, when his purpose is
Among them to declare his providence
To thee not known, whence hast thou then thy truth
But from him, or his Angels president
In every province, who, themselves disdaining
To approach thy temples, give thee in command
What, to the smallest tittle, thou shalt say [450]
To thy adorers? Thou, with trembling fear
Or like a fawning parasite, obey'st;
Then to thyself ascrib'st the truth foretold
But this thy glory shall be soon retrenched;
No more shalt thou by oracling abuse
The Gentiles; henceforth oracles are ceased
And thou no more with pomp and sacrifice
Shalt be enquired at Delphos or elsewhere --
At least in vain, for they shall find thee mute
God hath now sent his living Oracle [460]
Into the world to teach his final will
And sends his Spirit of Truth henceforth to dwell
In pious hearts, an inward oracle
To all truth requisite for men to know."

So spake our Saviour; but the subtle Fiend
Though inly stung with anger and disdain
Dissembled, and this answer smooth returned: --
"Sharply thou hast insisted on rebuke
And urged me hard with doings which not will
But misery, hath wrested from me. Where [470]
Easily canst thou find one miserable
And not inforced oft-times to part from truth
If it may stand him more in stead to lie
Say and unsay, feign, flatter, or abjure?
But thou art placed above me; thou art Lord;
From thee I can, and must, submiss, endure
Cheek or reproof, and glad to scape so quit

Hard are the ways of truth, and rough to walk
Smooth on the tongue discoursed, pleasing to the ear
And tunable as sylvan pipe or song; [480]
What wonder, then, if I delight to hear
Her dictates from thy mouth? most men admire
Virtue who follow not her lore.
Permit me
To hear thee when I come (since no man comes)
And talk at least
, though I despair to attain
Thy Father, who is holy, wise, and pure
Suffers the hypocrite or atheous priest
To tread his sacred courts, and minister
About his altar, handling holy things
Praying or vowing, and voutsafed his voice [490]
To Balaam reprobate, a prophet yet
Inspired: disdain not such access to me."

To whom our Saviour, with unaltered brow: --
"Thy coming hither, though I know thy scope
I bid not, or forbid. Do as thou find'st
Permission from above; thou canst not more."

He added not; and Satan, bowling low
His gray dissimulation, disappeared
Into thin air diffused: for now began
Night with her sullen wing to double-shade [500]
The desert; fowls in their clay nests were couched;
And now wild beasts came forth the woods to roam

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