By John Milton
Translated into Modern English by James Hampton Belton
Copyright © 2009, 2010, 2012
Welcome to the new online edition of my translation of Milton’s Paradise Lost into modern English. So far, I have translated and published the first three chapters of Milton’s epic. As more are completed, I’ll add them here, and will announce the them on my blog. I hold the copyright on this translation, so please don’t make copies without my permission.
Sing, heavenly Muse, who on the secret top of Mount Sinai, the spur of Mount Horeb, inspired the shepherd Moses, who first taught the chosen people how the heavens and earth rose out of chaos in the beginning. Sing of man’s first disobedience, and the fruit of the forbidden tree whose mortal taste brought death into the world, and all our woe over the loss of Eden, until one greater than man restores us, and we regain the blissful seat. Or, if Mount Sion delights you more, and Siloa’s Brook that flowed fast by the Oracle of God, I then invoke your aid in my ambitious song, that in no average way intends to soar above Mount Helicon, while I pursue things never before attempted in prose or verse.
And, oh spirit who prefers the upright and pure heart to any temple, instruct me, for you know. You were present from the beginning, and with mighty wings outspread, sat dove-like, brooding on the vast abyss and made it pregnant. Illuminate what is dark in me, and raise and support what is low, so that to the height of this great argument I may assert the eternal providence, and justify the ways of God to men. Heaven hides nothing from your view, not even the deep tracts of Hell. Tell first what made our ancestors in that happy state, favoured by Heaven so highly, fall from their creator, and transgress his will. Except for one restraint, they were lords of the world. Who first seduced them to that foul revolt?
The infernal serpent; it was he whose guile, stirred by envy and revenge, deceived the mother of mankind. His pride had cast him out of Heaven, with his host of rebel angels, with whose aid he had aspired to set himself in glory above his peers. He believed he equaled the most high, whom he opposed. Ambitious for the throne and monarchy of God, he raised impious war in Heaven and battled proudly in a vain attempt. The almighty power hurled him headlong from the ethereal sky in flaming, hideous ruin down into bottomless perdition, to dwell in adamantine chains and penal fire, for daring to defy the omnipotent to arms.
For nine days and nights, he lay vanquished with his horrid crew, rolling in the fiery gulf, confounded though immortal. But his fate doomed him to more wrath, for the thought of both lost happiness and lasting pain tormented him. He looked around with baleful eyes and witnessed huge affliction and dismay mixed with obdurate pride and steadfast hate. In an instant he viewed the dismal surroundings as far as angels ken, the waste and wilderness, a horrible dungeon. There were flames on all sides, like a great furnace. Yet from those flames came no light, rather a visible darkness that served only to reveal sights of woe, regions of sorrow and unhappy shades, where peace and rest can never dwell, and hope never comes. It urged torture without end, that fiery deluge, fed with ever-burning sulfur that was never consumed. Such a place eternal justice had prepared for the rebellious. Their prison was ordained here in utter darkness, their place removed from God and the light of Heaven by three time the distance from the center of the earth to its utmost pole. Oh how unlike the place from which they had fallen!
He soon discerned the others who had fallen, overwhelmed by floods and whirlwinds of tempestuous fire. Weltering by his side was one next only to himself in power, and next in crime, who long afterward was known in Palestine and named Beelzebub. The archenemy, in Heaven called Satan, broke the horrid silence with bold words.
“Are you he? Oh how fallen! How changed from him who, in the happy realms of light, clothed with transcendent brightness, outshone bright myriads. He who in mutual league, united thoughts and counsels, equal hope, and hazard in the glorious enterprise, joined with me, has now been joined by misery in equal ruin in this pit. From what heights we have fallen. So much stronger has God proven with His thunder. And until now, who knew the force of those dire arms? Yet I will not repent or change, though changed in outward luster, neither for those nor for what the potent victor in His rage could further inflict. Fixed mind and high disdain, from a sense of injured merit, raised me to contend with the mightiest, and bring along to the fierce contention an innumerable force of armed spirits that dared to dislike His reign. Preferring me, they opposed His utmost power with adverse power in battle on the plains of Heaven, and shook His throne. What if the field is lost? All is not lost; unconquerable will, the study of revenge, immortal hate, and the courage never to submit or yield remain. And what else is not to be overcome? His wrath or might shall never extort glory from me. To bow and sue for grace on suppliant knee, and deify His power for fear of His arm after so recently doubting His empire, would be low indeed; it would be an ignominy and shame beyond this downfall. By fate, the godly strength of our ethereal substance cannot fail, and this great clash of arms has not weakened it. With advanced foresight, we may resolve to wage, either by force or guile, eternal, irreconcilable war on our grand foe with more hope of success, though He now triumphs, and, with an excess of joy, reigns alone and holds the tyranny of Heaven.”
So spoke the apostate angel, though in pain, vaunting aloud, but racked with deep despair. His bold companion answered him:
“Oh prince, oh chief of many throned powers, who led the embattled Seraphim to war under your conduct, and in dreadful, fearless deeds endangered Heaven’s perpetual king. You proved His high supremacy, regardless of whether it was upheld by strength, chance, or fate. Too well I see and rue the dire event. This sad overthrow and foul defeat has lost us Heaven, and laid all this mighty host low in horrible destruction, as far as gods and heavenly essences can perish. The mind and spirit remain invincible, and vigour soon returns, though all our glory has died, and happiness here is swallowed up in endless misery. But what if our conqueror, whom I now am forced to believe almighty, since no less than that could have overpowered such force as ours, has left our spirit and strength whole only to suffer and bear our pain, so that we may appease His vengeful ire? Or may we do Him mightier service as His thralls by right of war, doing what ever His business is here in the heart of Hell, working in fire, or running His errands in the gloomy deep? What can it avail, when we feel our strength yet undiminished, for eternal beings to undergo eternal punishment?”
To which with speedy words the arch-fiend replied:
“Fallen cherub, to be weak is miserable, doing or suffering. But be sure of this: to do anything good will never be our task, and always to do evil our sole delight, this being contrary to the high will of He whom we resist. If out of our evil he seeks to bring forth good, we must labour to pervert that end, and out of good still find ways to do evil. Often we may succeed, and so perhaps shall grieve Him, and divert His inmost plans from their destined aim. But look, the angry victor has recalled His ministers of vengeance and pursuit back to the gates of Heaven. The sulfurous hail that was shot after us in the storm and that set fire to the surge that received us when we fell from the precipice of Heaven has blown over. And thunder, winged with red lightning and impetuous rage, has spent his shafts, and now ceases to bellow through the vast and boundless deep. Let us not waste the occasion, whether it comes from the scorn or the satiated fury of our foe. Do you see that dreary plain, forlorn and wild, the seat of desolation, devoid of light, save what the glimmering of these livid flames casts, pale and dreadful? Let us go there, leaving the tossing of these fiery waves. There we will rest, if any rest can be had, reassemble our afflicted powers, consult on how we may henceforth most offend our enemy, repair our own losses, overcome this dire calamity, and take what reinforcement we may gain from hope, if not what resolution from despair.”
So Satan spoke to his nearest friend, lifting his head above the waves, with eyes that sparkled and blazed. The rest of him lay prone, floating in the flood, many tens of yards long. He was as huge as any of those that fables name monstrous: Briarios, titanic and earth born, who warred against Zeus; or Typhon, who held the den by ancient Tarsus; or the sea beast Leviathan, which God of all his creatures made the hugest, that swims the ocean. The pilot of some small night-foundered skiff found Leviathan happily slumbering in the Norway foam. Thinking him an island, the pilot fixed an anchor to his scaly skin and moored by his side under the lee, while night invested the sea, and delayed the wished for morning.
So, stretched out, huge in length, the archfiend lay chained on the burning lake. He would never have risen or heaved his head from it, except that the will and high permission of all ruling Heaven had left him at large to his own dark designs, so that with reiterated crimes he might heap damnation upon himself. While he sought to do evil to others, he would, enraged, see how all his malice served only to bring forth infinite goodness, grace and mercy shown to men seduced by him. But on himself, treble confusion, wrath and vengeance would be poured.
He reared his mighty frame upright from the pool. On each hand the flames were driven back, sloped into pointing spires, and rolled in billows, leaving in their midst a horrid vale. Then, spreading his wings, he took flight. Aloft, born on the dusky air that felt the pressure his unexpected weight, he flew until he landed upon dry land, if one could call land something that burned forever with solid fire, as the lake did with liquid. The land had the hue of a hill torn from Pelorus and transported by the force of subterranean wind, or of the shattered side of thundering Etna, whose combustible and fueled entrails come forth conceiving fire, vaporized by mineral fury, aid the winds, and leave singed earth fully involved with stench and smoke. Such a resting place the soles of his unblessed feet found. His friend followed him next, and both gloried to have escaped the Stygian flood as gods, by their own recovered strength, and not by the sufferance of supernal powers.
“Is this the region, the soil, the clime,” said the lost archangel, “this the seat that we must exchange for Heaven, and this mournful gloom for the celestial light? So be it, since he who rules can decide and say what is right. Farthest from Him is best. He who reason has made equal, force has made supreme above His equals. Farewell, happy fields where joy dwells forever. Hail horrors, hail infernal world, and profoundest Hell. Receive your new owner, who brings a mind not to be changed by place or time. The mind is its own place, and can make a heaven of hell, or a hell of heaven. What does the place matter, if I am still the same? And what I should be, if less than He whom thunder has made greater? Here at least we shall be free. The Almighty has not built here, and so will not drive us forth in envy. Here we may reign secure, and in my choice to reign is worth the ambition, though in Hell. Better to reign in Hell, than serve in Heaven. But why do we let our faithful friends, the associates and partners in our loss lie astonished in the oblivious Pool, and not call them to share with us their part of this unhappy mansion? Perhaps once more we may rally arms to learn what may yet be regained in Heaven, or what more lost in Hell.”
So Satan spoke, and Beelzebub answered:
“Leader of those bright armies, which only the Omnipotent could have foiled, once they hear your voice, their liveliest pledge of hope in fears and dangers, heard so often in worst extremes, and on the perilous edge of battle when it raged, in all assaults their surest signal, they will soon find new courage and revive, though they now lie groveling and prostrate in the lake of fire. We too were astounded and amazed. No wonder, having fallen from such a pernicious height.”
He had scarcely ceased when Satan began moving toward the shore. His ponderous shield, tempered in ethereal fire, heavy, large and round, hung behind him. Its broad circumference hung on his shoulders like the moon, whose orb Galileo viewed through a telescope in the evening from the height of Fiesole, or in the Arno valley, to descry new lands, rivers or mountains on her spotty globe. Satan’s spear, which would equal the tallest pine hewn on the Norwegian hills, or the mast of some great admiral’s flagship, was merely a wand to him. He walked with uneasy steps over the burning marle, not at all like his steps on Heaven’s azure ground. The torrid air smote on him sorely as well, vaulted with fire. Nevertheless, he endured, until he stood on the beach of that flaming sea.
He called his legions, the angelic forms who lay entranced as thickly as autumn leaves that strew the brooks in Vallombrosa, which the high overarching Etruscan shades embower. They were like scattered floating seaweed, when fierce winds, armed by Orion, have vexed the coast of the Red Sea, whose waves overthrew Pharaoh and his Egyptian cavalry when, with deceitful hatred, they pursued the Israelites, who beheld safely from the shore their floating carcasses and broken chariot wheels, thickly bestrewn upon the sea. They lay abject and lost, covering the lake, dazed by their hideous change. He called so loudly that all the hollow deep of Hell resounded.
“Princes, potentates, warriors: the flower of Heaven, once yours, is now lost, if such astonishment as this can seize eternal spirits. Or have you chosen this place after the toil of battle to rest your wearied virtue, because of the ease you find in slumber here, as in the vales of Heaven? Or have you sworn to adore the conqueror, who now beholds Cherub and Seraph in this abject posture, rolling in the flood with scattered arms and ensigns. Soon his swift pursuers will discern their advantage from Heaven’s Gates and descend to tread us down while we are drooping, or with linked thunderbolts, chain us to the bottom of this gulf. Awake, arise, or be forever fallen.”
They heard, and were abashed, and up they sprung up on the wing, as when men on watch duty, found sleeping by those whom they dread, rouse and stir themselves before they are fully awake. They did not perceive the evil plight which they were in, or feel the fierce pains. Innumerable, they quickly obeyed their general’s voice. Like a black cloud of locusts called up by the potent rod of Moses waved round the coast in Egypt’s evil day, warping on the eastern wind, hanging like night over the realm of the impious Pharoah, and darkening all the land of the Nile, the numberless evil angels hovered on the wing under the vaulted roof of Hell between the upper, nether, and surrounding fires. The uplifted spear of their great sultan waving as a signal to direct their course, in even balance they set down on the firm brimstone, and filled the entire plain. A multitude, the like of which even the populous north never poured from her frozen loins, to pass the Rhine or the Danube, when her barbarous sons came like a deluge on the south, and spread south from Gibraltar to the Libyan sands.
From every squadron and each band the heads and leaders hastened to where their great commander stood. Their godlike shapes and forms exceeded human, princely dignities, these powers that in Heaven had sat on thrones. Heavenly records now held no memorial of their names, which were blotted out and erased by their rebellion from the books of life. They had not yet been given new names among the sons of Eve. In future, wandering over the Earth, through God’s high sufferance and for the trial of man, they would by falsehoods and lies corrupt the greatest part of mankind to forsake God their creator, and often lead man to transform the invisible glory of He that made them to the image of a brute, adorned with gay religions full of pomp and gold, and to adore devils as deities.
Men have known them by various names, and various idols throughout the heathen world. Tell, Muse, their names as known by men, who came first and who last. Roused from slumber on that fiery couch at their great Emperor’s call, they came in order of worth one by one to where he stood on the bare strand, while the promiscuous crowd stood aloof. The chiefs were those who much later rose from the pit of Hell, roaming to seek their prey on earth, and dared to fix their seats next to the seat of God, their altars by His altar, and were adored as gods among the nations, and dared abide Yahweh thundering out of Zion, enthroned between the Cherubim. Often their shrines were placed within His sanctuary itself, abominations. With cursed things His holy rites and solemn feasts were profaned, and with their darkness they dared affront His light.
First Moloch, a horrid king besmeared with the blood of human sacrifice and parents tears, though under the loud noise of drums and timbrels their children’s cries went unheard, passed through fire to his grim idol. The Ammonites worshiped him in Amman and her watery plain, and in Argob and Basan, to the stream of utmost Arnon. Not content with such an audacious neighborhood, he led the wise heart of Solomon by deceit to build his temple right next to the temple of God on the Mount of Olives, and made his grove the pleasant valley of Gehinnom, called Tophet from that time on, and later black Gehenna, the earthly symbol of Hell.
Next was Chemosh, the obscene dread of Moab’s sons, from Arair to Nebo, the wild of southernmost Abarim, in Heshbon and Heronaim, Sihon’s realm, beyond the flowery, vine-clad dale of Sibma, and Eleale to the Dead Sea. Peor was his other name, when he enticed the Israelites in Shittim on their march from the Nile to perform wanton rites to him, which caused them woe. Yet from there he enlarged his lustful orgies to the Mount of Olives, by the grove of Moloch the homicidal, lust hard by hate, until king Josiah drove them forth to Hell.
After these came those who, from the bordering flood of old Euphrates to the brook that parts Egypt from Syrian ground, were called Baalim or Ashtaroth, depending on whether they were male or female. For spirits when they please could assume either sex, or both. Their pure essence was soft and uncompounded, not tied or manacled with joint or limb, nor founded on the brittle strength of bones, like cumbersome flesh. They could choose in which form, dilated or condensed, bright or obscure, to execute their aerie purposes, and fulfill works of love or hatred. The race of Israel often forsook their living strength, and left His righteous altar unfrequented, bowing down to these bestial gods. For this their heads were bowed down as low in battle, sunk before the spears of their despicable foes. Astoreth came with these in tow; the Phoenicians called her Astarte, Queen of Heaven, with her crescent horns. Phoenician virgins maid their vows and sang songs to her bright image nightly by moonlight. She was not unsung in Zion, where her temple stood on the Mount of Olives, built by the uxorious king Solomon, whose heart though large, was beguiled by fair idolatresses, and fell foul to idols.
Tammuz came next. His annual wounding in Lebanon would allure Syrian damsels to lament his fate in amorous song for an entire summer’s day, while the smooth river Adonis from its native rock ran red to the Sea, supposed to br thre blood of Tammuz. This love tale would also infect Zion’s daughters with the same heat. Ezekiel would see their wanton passions from the sacred porch, when the vision led his eye to survey the dark idolatries of apostate Judah.
Next came one who would mourn in earnest when the ark of the covenant, capture by the Philistines, maimed his brutal image, lopping its head and hands off in his own temple, on the edge of the threshold, when it fell flat and shamed his worshipers. Dagon was his name, and he was a sea monster, a man above the waist and a fish below. Yet his temple would rear high in Ashdod, dreaded on the coast of Palestine from Gath, Askelon, and Ekron, to Gaza’s frontier bounds.
Rimmon followed, whose delightful seat was fair Damascus, on the fertile banks of Abbana and Pharphar, the clear streams. He was also bold against the house of God. He once lost a leper and gained a king, Ahaz, his sottish conqueror, whom he led to disparage and displace God’s altar for one of Syrian mode, on which to burn his odious offerings, and adore those whom God had vanquished.
After these appeared a crew under names of old renown, Osiris, Isis, Horus and their train, who with monstrous shapes and sorceries deluded fanatic Egypt and her priests to seek their wandering gods disguised in animal forms rather then human. Nor did Israel escape the infection when their borrowed gold composed the calf in Oreb. The rebel king Jereboam doubled that sin in Bethel and in Dan, likening his maker to the grazing ox, though Yahweh in one night, when he passed from Egypt marching, equaled with one stroke both her first born and all her bleating gods.
Belial came last. No spirit who fell from Heaven was more lewd, or more gross to love vice for itself. No temple stood to him nor altar smoked. Yet who more often than he was in temples and at altars when the priests turned atheist, as did Ely’s sons, who filled the house of God with lust and violence. He reigned in courts, palaces, and luxurious cities, where the noise of riots, injury, and outrage rose above their loftiest towers. When night darkened the streets, the sons of Belial wandered forth, full of insolence and wine. Witness the streets of Sodom, and that night in Gibeah, when the hospitable doors yielded their matrons to prevent worse rape.
These were the first in order and in might. The rest would be a long tale to tell, though they were far renowned. Next were those the Ionian’s held gods, yet confessed later that heaven and earth were their boasted parents. Titan, heaven’s first born, came with his enormous brood. His birthright was seized by younger Cronos, who by the even mightier Zeus, his and Rhea’s own son, received like measure. Zeus reigned as a usurper, first known in Crete and Ida. They ruled from the snowy top of cold Olympus, where the middle air was their highest heaven, on the Delphian cliff, in Dodona, and through all the land of Greece. With old Cronos, they fled over the Adriatic to the Hesperian Fields, and roamed over the lands of the Celts and to the farthest isles.
All these and more came flocking with downcast and damp looks, in which yet appeared some obscure glimpse of joy, to have found their chief not in despair, to have found themselves not lost in loss it self. On his countenance these cast a doubtful hue. But recalling his habitual pride, with high words that bore the semblance of worth not substance, he gently raised their fainted courage, and dispelled their fears. Then he commanded that his mighty standard be upraised, to the warlike sound of loud trumpets and clarions. Azazel, a tall Cherub, claimed that proud honor as his right. From a glittering staff, he unfurled the imperial ensign, which full high advanced, shining like a meteor, streaming in the wind with gems and golden luster richly emblazoning seraphic arms and trophies.
All the while sonorous metal blowing martial instruments sounded, at which the universal host sent up a shout that tore Hell’s concave, and beyond it frightened the reign of chaos and old night. In a moment ten thousand banners rose through the gloom into the air with oriental colors waving. With them rose a huge forest of spears, thronging helmets, and serried shields in a thick array of immeasurable depth. Soon they moved in a perfect phalanx to the Dorian mood of flutes and soft recorders like those which raised ancient heroes arming to battle to heights of noblest temper, and instead of rage breathed deliberate valor, firm and unmoved with dread of death to flight or foul retreat, with the power to mitigate and assuage with solemn touches troubled thoughts, and chase anguish, doubt, fear, sorrow and pain from mortal or immortal minds. Breathing united force with fixed thought, they moved on in silence to soft pipes that charmed their painful steps over the burnt soil. Advanced into view, they stood, a horrid front of dreadful length and dazzling arms, in the guise of ancient warriors with ordered spears and shields, awaiting what command their mighty chief might impose.
He darted his experienced eyes through the armed files, and soon had viewed the whole battalion, their due order, their visages and stature like gods, and last their number he summed. Then, his heart swollen with pride, he gloried in his hardening strength. The combined armies of man since his creation, met with an embodied force such as named with these, would be little more than an army of pygmies slaughtered by cranes as they rush to the sea, even if all the giants who fought on the plain of Phlegra joined the heroic race that fought at Thebes and Ilium, and on each flank were joined by auxiliary god, and those who resound in fable or romance, Arthur surrounded by British and Breton knights, and all who since, baptized or infidel, jousted in Aspramont, Montalban, Damasco, Morocco, or Trebisond, or who came from Bizerte on the shore of Africa when Charlemagne with all his peerage fell at Fuenterrabia.
They were so far beyond compare with mortal prowess, yet they attended their dread commander. He stood above the rest in shape and gesture, proudly eminent like a tower. His form had not yet lost all its original brightness, nor though ruined did he appear less than an archangel, and the excess of glory obscured his image like the light of the sun, newly risen, peering through the horizontal misty air, shorn of its beams, or from behind the moon in dim eclipse, shedding disastrous twilight on half of the nations, and perplexing monarchs with fear of change. Even so darkened, the archangel still shone above them all. Thunder had gouged deep scars in his face, and care sat on his faded cheeks, but under brows of dauntless courage, a considerate pride awaited revenge. His eyes were cruel, but cast signs of remorse and passion to behold his fellows in crime, or followers rather, who though once beheld in bliss were now condemned to pain forever. Millions of spirits were punished for his fault by Heaven, and flung from eternal splendors for his revolt, yet how faithfully they stood, their glory withered as when heaven’s fire has scathed the forest oaks or mountain pines and their stately trunks stand with tops singed bare on the blasted heath.’
He now prepared to speak, at which their doubled ranks bent from wing to wing, half enclosed him with all his peers. Attention held them mute. Thrice he assayed, and thrice in spite of scorn, tears such as angels weep burst forth. At last words interwove with sighs found their way out:
“Oh myriads of immortal spirits, oh powers unmatched except by the almighty. Our strife was not inglorious, though the result was dire, as this place testifies, and this dire change hateful to speak of. But what power of mind foreseeing or presaging, from the depth of knowledge past or present, could have feared that such a united force of gods such as stood like these could ever be repulsed? And who can yet believe, though we have lost, that all these powerful, courageous legions, whose exile has emptied Heaven, shall fail to reascend, self raised, and repossess their native seat.
For me, be witness all the host of Heaven: if different counsels, or danger shunned by me, have lost our hopes. But he who reigns as monarch in Heaven had until then sat on his throne as one secure, upheld by old repute, consent or custom, and his regal state put forth at full, but still concealed his strength, which tempted our attempt, and wrought our fall. Now we know his strength and know our own, so as not either to provoke, or dread new war, provoked. A better chance remains to accomplish in close design, by fraud or guile, what force could not do, that he may learn in time from us that he who overcomes by force has overcome only half of his foe.
Space may produce new worlds. The rumors were rife in Heaven that before long he intended to create, and therein plant a generation whom his choice regard should favor equally to the sons of Heaven. Thither, if but to pry, shall be perhaps our first eruption, thither or elsewhere. For this infernal pit shall never hold celestial spirits in bondage, nor the abyss long under darkness cover. But these thoughts must mature with full counsel. Peace is to be despaired of, for who can think of submission? War then, open or understood, must be resolved.
He spoke, and to confirm his words, out flew millions of flaming swords, drawn from the thighs of mighty Cherubim. The sudden blaze illumined far round Hell. Highly they raged against the highest, and fiercely with grasped arms clashed the din of war on their sounding shields, hurling defiance toward the vault of Heaven.
There stood a hill not far away whose formidable peak belched fire and rolling smoke. The slopes shone with a glossy crust, an undoubted sign that in its womb was hidden metallic over, the work of sulfur. There, with winged speed, a numerous brigades hastened, like bands of pioneers armed with spades and pickaxes who precede the royal camp to trench a field or cast a rampart. Mammon led them on. Mammon, the least elevated spirit that fell from heaven, for even in heaven his looks and thoughts were always bent downward, admiring the riches of Heaven’s pavements of trodden gold more than anything divine or holy enjoyed in beatific vision. At his suggestion, men first ransacked the center, and with impious hands rifled the bowels of their mother earth for treasures better left hidden. Soon his crew had opened a spacious wound in the hill and dug out ribs of gold. Let none admire the riches found in Hell. That soil may best deserve the precious bane. Let those who boast of mortal things, and tell in wonder of Babel, and the works of the Pharaohs, learn how their greatest monuments of fame, strength and art were easily outdone by we reprobate spirits, and what in an age with incessant toil and innumerable hands they scarcely performed was accomplished in an hour .
Nearby on the plain in many prepared cells that had veins of liquid fire underneath them, sluiced from the lake, a second multitude with wondrous art founded the masses of ore, separating each kind, and scummed the bullion dross. A third group as quickly had formed various molds in the ground, and from the boiling cells by strange conveyance filled each hollow nook, as the sound board in an organ breaths one blast of wind into many row of pipes. Soon material rose out of the earth like a huge exhalation, to the sound of dulcet symphonies and sweet voices, built like a temple, with columns set round and Doric pillars supporting a golden architrave. They did not want for cornices or friezes, carved with embossed sculptures, and the roof was of fretted gold. Not Babylon, nor great Cairo equaled such magnificence in all their glories, to enshrine Baal or Serapis, their gods, or seat their kings, when Egypt strove with Assyria for wealth and luxury. The ascending structure reached its stately height, and straight away the doors, opening on brazen folds, invited discovery of the wide interior, ample spaces, over smooth and level pavement. Many rows of starry lamps hung from the arched roof by subtle magic and blazing iron lamps fed with naphtha and asphalt yielded light like the earthly sky. The multitude entered hastily, admiring it; some praised the work and some the architect. His hand was known in Heaven by many a high towered structure, where sceptered angels held their residence and sat as princes, exalted to such power by the supreme king, and gave bright orders to rule, each according to his place in the hierarchy. Nor was his name unheard or unadored in ancient Greece. In Italy, men called him Vulcan. They told how he fell from heaven, thrown sheer over the crystal battlements by angry Zeus. From morning to noon he fell, from noon to dewy evening, an entire summer’s day. With the setting sun, he dropped from the zenith like a falling star on Lemnos, the Aegean isle. So Homer relates, but he is wrong. For Hephaestus fell with this rebellious rout long before. It did not avail him to have built high towers in Heaven. Nor did all his engines help him escape; he was sent headlong with his industrious crew to build in hell.
Meanwhile the winged heralds by command of sovereign power, with awe inspiring ceremony and trumpets sounded throughout the host proclaimed a solemn council to be held immediately at Pandemonium, the high capital of Satan and his peers. Their summons called from every band and squared regiment by place or choice their worthiest. They came in the hundreds and thousands, trooping to attend. All points of access were thronged, the gates and wide porches. The spacious hall, like a covered field, where bold champions ride armed, and at the Sultan’s chair challenge the best of pagan chivalry to mortal combat, or career with the lance, swarmed thick, both on the ground and in the air, and brushed each other with the hiss of rustling wings. As bees in spring time, when the sun rides with Taurus, pour forth their populous youth about the hive in clusters and fly to and fro among fresh dews and flowers or on the smoothed plank, the suburb of their straw-built citadel, new rubbed with balm, to wander freely and confer their state affairs, so thickly the aerie crowd swarmed and were stationed. Then the signal was given, and, behold, a wonder! Those who seemed in size to surpass earth’s giant sons were now less then smallest dwarfs, and thronged numberless, like the pygmy race beyond the mountains of India. They were like the elves of faerie, whose midnight revels are seen by some peasant, or dreamed of, by the edge of a forest or beside a fountain, while over head the moon sits arbitress, and wheels nearer to the earth on her pale course, and they charm his ear with sprightly music, intent on their mirth and dance, and with joy and fear his heart rebounds. The incorporeal spirits reduced their immense shapes to the smallest forms, and were at large, though without number still, amidst the hall of that infernal court. Far within and in their own dimensions like themselves the great Seraphic lords and Cherubim sat in close recess and secret conclave, a thousand demigods on golden seats, frequent and full. After short silence and then summons read, the great council began.
On a high throne of royal state that far outshone the wealth of the kingdoms of Hormuz and India, where the gorgeous East showers her barbaric kings with pearls and gold with the richest hand, Satan sat exalted, raised to evil eminence by merit. Lifted from high despair beyond hope, he aspired to yet greater heights, insatiably pursuing vain war with Heaven, and though not learned by success, his proud imagination was displayed.
“Powers and Dominions, Deities of Heaven,” said Satan, “since no depth can hold immortal vigor within its gulf, though oppressed and fallen, I do not give up Heaven for lost. Rising from this descent, celestial powers will appear more glorious and more dreadful than from no fall, and trust themselves to fear no second fate. Right and the fixed laws of Heaven first made me your leader, and second, free choice, besides achieving merit in counsel and battle. Our loss has been recovered at least this far: We have established a safe unenvied throne, yielded to me with full consent. The dignified Throne of Heaven might draw envy from every inferior. Who here will envy me, whom in the highest place was first to stand against the Thunderer’s aim, your bulwark, condemned to the greatest share of endless pain? Where there is nothing good for which to strive, no strife can grow up from factions. For surely no one whose share of our present pain is small will claim precedence in hell, and with ambition mind covet more. With this advantage, then, united in firm faith and accord, more than we could be in Heaven, we will return to claim our just inheritance of old, surer to prosper than prosperity could have assured us. We must now debate what the best way is, whether open war or covert guile. Whoever can advise may speak.”
Next to him Moloch, the sceptered king, stood up, the strongest and fiercest spirit that fought in Heaven, now fiercer in despair. He had trusted Yahweh to deem him equal in strength, and would rather not exist at all than be weaker. All his fear left with that care: of God, or Hell, or worse, he no longer cared.
“My council is for open war. I do not boast of wiles, in which I am inexpert. Let those who need them contrive them, and when they are needed, not now. While they sit contriving, should the rest of us, the millions who stand armed and long for the signal to ascend, sit lingering here, Heaven’s fugitives, and accept this dark contemptuous den of shame as our dwelling place, imprisoned by the tyrant who reigns while we delay? No, let us choose, armed with Hell fire and fury, to force our way irresistibly over Heaven’s high towers all at once, turning our tortures into horrible weapons against the torturer. Against the noise of his almighty chariot, he shall hear infernal thunder, and for lightning see black fire and horror fired with equal rage among his angels. His throne itself shall be scorched with the sulfur of Tartarus and strange fire, his own invented torments. Perhaps the way seems difficult and steep to scale with upright wings against a higher foe. Remember, if the sleepy drench of the lake of forgetfulness does not benumb you still, that our natural motion is to ascend up to our native seat. Descent and fall are adverse to us; we felt these so recently when the fierce foe hung on our broken rear, insulting, and pursuing us through the deep, and under compulsion in laborious flight we sunk this low. The ascent is easy then, but the outcome is feared. Should we again provoke our stronger enemy, his wrath may find some worse way to destroy us, if there can be, in Hell, any fear of being destroyed further. What can be worse than to dwell here, driven out of bliss, condemned to lament in these abhorrent depths, tormented by the pain of unending inextinguishable fire? We are the slaves of his anger, scourged inexorably, and the torturing hour calls us to penance. If we were destroyed any further than this, we would expire. What do we fear then? Why do we fear to incense His utmost ire? When most enraged, it will either consume us, and reduce our essence to nothing, a happier fate by far than to be eternally miserable, or, if our substance is indeed divine, and cannot cease to be, we are at worst on this side of nothing, and we will have proved our power sufficient to disrupt Heaven, and with perpetual raids to disturb, though it remains inaccessible, his throne. If not victory, this is at least revenge.”
Moloch ended, frowning, and his look denounced desperate revenge, and battle dangerous to less than gods. On the other side, Belial rose up, more graceful and humane. A fairer person had not been lost to Heaven. He seemed made for dignity and high exploits. He was false and hollow, though his tongue dripped Manna, and could make the worse appear the better reason, and perplex and dash the maturest counsels. For his thoughts were low, quick to vice, but fearful and lazy to do nobler deeds. Yet he pleased the ear, and spoke persuasively.
“I should be very much for open war, friends, as I have no less hate, if what was urged as the main reason to pursue immediate war did not dissuade me the most, and seem to cast ominous doubt on our success. He who most excels in fighting fails to trust in it, and instead grounds his courage on despair and utter dissolution. His aim is dire revenge. First, what Revenge? The towers of Heaven are filled with armed watchers, who render it impregnable to all access. Their legions are encamped on the borders of the deep, and with obscure wings scout far and wide into the realm of night, scorning any chance of surprise. We could break our way in by force, and at our heels all Hell rise in blackest insurrection to confound Heaven’s purest light. Yet our great enemy would sit incorruptible and unpolluted on his throne, and the ethereal world, incapable of being stained, would soon expel our mischief, and purge our baser fire, victorious. Thus repulsed, our only hope would be dull despair. We would only exasperate the almighty victor until he unleashed his full rage, and that would end us. That would be our solution, to be no more. A sad cure, for who would lose, though full of pain, this intellectual existence, these thoughts that wander through eternity, to perish or be swallowed up and lost in the wide womb of uncreated night, devoid of sense and motion? Even if this would be good, who knows whether our angry foe can give it, or ever would? Whether he can is doubtful; that he never will I am sure. Would he, who is so wise, let loose his ire as though impotent or unaware, and give his enemies their wish, ending them in his anger, when despite his anger, he has saved us to punish endlessly? How then, will we cease to be? Those who counsel war say we are decreed, reserved and destined to eternal woe, and whatever happens, we can suffer no worse. Is this the worst, sitting, consulting, armed? What of when we fled, pursued and struck by Heaven’s afflicting thunder, and sought the depths to shelter ourselves? Hell then seemed a refuge from our wounds. When we lay chained on the burning lake, that was surely was worse. What if the breath that kindled those grim fires should blow them into sevenfold rage and plunge us into the flames, or interrupted vengeance from above once more armed his red right hand to plague us? What if all Hell’s stores were opened and the sky spouted cataracts of fire, impending horrors, hideously falling upon our heads, while we, perhaps designing or exhorting glorious war, were caught in the fiery tempest and hurled and each transfixed on his rock, the sport and prey of racking whirlwinds, or forever sunk in the boiling ocean, wrapped in chains, to converse there in everlasting groans, without respite, pity, or reprieve, through the ages without hope of an end. This would be worse. I am therefore against war, open or covert. For who can deceive one whose eyes see all things with one glance? From Heaven’s height, he sees and derides all of our vain actions. And is he not as able to resist our might as he is to frustrate all our plots and wiles? Should we then live like this, though of the race of Heaven, vilely trampled and expelled to suffer here in chains and torments? Better these than worse, by my advice. Since inevitable fate and omnipotent decree subdue us, let us let the victors have their way. Our strength to suffer equals our strength to do, and the law that ordains our suffering is not unjust. This was decided in the beginning, when we did not know if we were wise to contend against so great a foe, and were in doubt as to what might happen. I laugh when those who are bold when holding a spear shrink from and fear what they know must follow if that fails them: to endure exile, ignominy, bonds, or pain, the sentence of their conqueror. This is now our doom. If we can sustain and bear it, our supreme foe’s anger may in time greatly diminish, and perhaps if we stay this far away, he may forgive our offenses, and be satisfied with our punishment. Then these raging fires will slacken, and his breath no longer stir their flames. Our purer essence then will overcome their noxious vapor, or inured not feel it, or change in time to conform to this place in substance and in nature, and receive as familiar the fierce heat, and be devoid of pain. This horror will grow mild, this darkness light, and who can tell what hope the never-ending flight of future days may bring. It is worth waiting, since our present lot appears, though unhappy, not the worst we could do, if we do not procure ourselves more woe.”
So Belial, with words clothed in reason, counseled ignoble ease, and peaceful sloth, though not peace.
“We war, if war is indeed best, either to dethrone the King of Heaven or to regain our own lost rights,” said Mammon. “We may hope to overthrow him when everlasting fate yields to fickle chance, and chaos reigns over the strife. This may be a vain hope, but what place can there be for us in Heaven, unless we can overpower Heaven’s supreme Lord? Suppose he relents and gives grace to us all, on the promise of new subjection: how can we stand humble in his presence, receive his strict laws, celebrate his reign with warbled hymns, and sing forced hallelujahs to his godhead, while he sits lordly as our envied sovereign, and his altar breaths odors of ambrosial flowers of our servile offering? This must be our task in Heaven, our delight. How wearisome to spend eternity in worship to one who we hate. Let us not pursue what is by force impossible and obtained by his leave unacceptable. Though in Heaven, our state would be one of splendid slavery. Rather, let us seek our own goodness, and live by ourselves, though in this vast recess, free, and accountable to none, preferring hard liberty to the easy yoke of servile pomp. Our greatness will then be most conspicuous, when we can create great things from small, useful from hurtful, prosperous from adverse, and in any place whatsoever thrive under evil, and make ease out of pain through labor and endurance. Do we dread this deep world of darkness? Heaven’s all-ruling Father often chooses to reside amidst thick clouds and darkness does, his glory unobstructed, wrapping his throne in the Majesty of darkness, from which deep thunder roars, mustering its rage, and Heaven resembles Hell. As he imitates our darkness, can we not imitate his light when we please? This dessert soil is not wanting for hidden luster, gems and gold. Nor do we lack the skill or art from which to raise magnificence. What more can Heaven show? Our torments may in time become our elements, and these piercing fires as soft as now severe, or our temper change to match their temper, removing the sense of pain. All these things invite peaceful counsel, and the settled state of order. We should deal with our present evils in safety, with regard to what we are and where, dismissing all thoughts of war. This is what I advise.”
Mammon had scarcely finished when a murmur filled the assembly, like hollow rocks that retain the sound of blustering winds which have roused the sea all night long , their hoarse rhythm lulling seafaring men whose ship is anchored in a craggy bay after the storm. Then applause was heard. His counsel pleased the host by advising peace, for they dreaded another battle more than Hell. Much fear of thunder and the sword of Michael remained with them. They desired to found this nether empire no less, to rise by political strategy over the course of time, emulating Heaven and yet opposite to it.
When Beelzebub, above whom none sat except Satan, perceived this, he rose gravely, like a stately pillar. His countenance was deeply graven with deliberation and care, and princely counsel shone in his face, which was majestic though in ruin. He stood sagely with Atlantean shoulders fit to bear the weight of the mightiest of monarchies. His look drew the audience’s attention, and they grew as still as night or the air of a summer’s noon.
“Thrones and imperial powers, children of Heaven, ethereal powers,” he began, “must we renounce these titles now, and be called Princes of Hell? The popular vote is inclined to remain here and build an empire. Are we dreaming? Don’t we know that the king of Heaven has fated this place to be our prison, not our safe haven beyond his strong arm? We will not be exempt from Heaven’s high jurisdiction, a new league banded against his throne, but will remain in strictest bondage, though far removed, under the inevitable yoke, his captive multitude. For he, be sure, at the heights or in the depths, will reign first and last as sole king, and lose no part of his kingdom to our revolt. He will extend his empire over Hell and rule with an iron scepter here, as he rules with his golden scepter over those in Heaven. Why do we sit debating peace and war? War has created us, and foiled us with irreparable loss. Terms of peace have not yet been promised or sought. What peace will be given to the enslaved, save severe custody, lashings, and arbitrary punishment? And what peace can we return but hostility and hate, unbridled resistance, and slow revenge that is forever plotting how the conqueror may least reap his conquest, and least rejoice in doing what we most feel suffering for? But we need make no dangerous expedition to invade Heaven, whose high walls fear no assault, siege, or ambush from the deep. What if we found some easier enterprise? There is a place, of ancient and prophetic fame in Heaven, another world, the home of a new race called man, who will be created like us, though less powerful and perfect, but will be more highly favored by he who rules above. He pronounced this his will among the angels, and confirmed with an oath that shook Heaven’s whole circumference. Let us bend all our thoughts there, to learn what creatures inhabit it, of what shape and substance, endowed with powers, and with what weakness, and how best to attempt it, by force or subtlety. For though Heaven is shut, and her high arbitrator sits secure in his own strength, this place may lie exposed, and as the utmost border of his kingdom be left to the defense of those who hold it. Here perhaps some advantage may be achieved by a sudden attack, either to waste his creation with hell fire, or to possess it as our own, and drive the puny inhabitants out as we were driven, or, if not drive them out, seduce them to our cause, that their God may prove their foe, and with a repenting hand, abolish his own works. This would surpass common revenge, ending his joy in our defeat, and giving us joy in corrupting his creation. His darling sons, hurled headlong to partake in Hell with us, shall curse their frail progenitors, and their bliss, which faded so soon. I ask you, is this not worth attempting, rather than sitting here in darkness hatching vain empires?”
So Beelzebub pleaded devilish counsel first devised by Satan. For where, but from the author of all ills, could such deep malice come, to corrupt the race of man at the root, and to mingle and involve Earth with Hell, all to spite the great creator, even though their spite served to augment Yahweh’s glory in the end? The bold plan pleased the infernal masses, and joy sparkled in their eyes. They gave full assent, and he continued.
“You have judged well, and ended this long debate, council of gods, and have resolved matters as great as yourselves. From the lowest depths, we will rise once more, in spite of fate, closer to our ancient home. Perhaps we will be within sight of those bright confines, and with neighboring arms and an opportune excursion we may even reenter Heaven. Perhaps we will dwell secure under Heaven’s fair light in some mild zone and the beam of the brightening orient shall purge this gloom. The soft delicious air will heal the scars of these corrosive fires, and we shall breath its balm. But who shall we send in search of this new world? Whom do we find sufficient to the task? Who shall attempt the dark, bottomless, infinite abyss with wandering feet and find his way through the palpable darkness, or take flight, born up on indefatigable wings, over the vast void, until he arrives in paradise? What strength and arts can suffice, and what evasion carry him safely through the strict sentries and stations thick with angels watching all around? He will need total circumspection, and we must be no less careful in our choice. For the weight of our last hope falls on whom we send.”
This said, he sat, and held his audience in expectant suspense, awaiting the one who would stand to second, oppose, or undertake the perilous attempt. But all sat mute, pondering the danger in deep thought. Each read his own dismay in others countenance, astonished. Not one among the best and greatest of those champions who had warred with Heaven was hardy enough to undertake the dreadful voyage alone. At last Satan, whom transcendent glory had raised above his fellows, with monarchical pride, conscious of his highest worth, spoke.
“Oh progeny of Heaven, Imperial Thrones: With good reason has this deep silence and reserve seized us, though we are undismayed. The way out of Hell up to light is long and hard. Our prison, this huge convex bowl of fire, is eager to devour, and walls us in nine times. The gates of burning adamant, barred above us, prohibit all egress. If any should pass, a vast void of formless night receives him next. It gapes hugely, threatening utter loss of being , plunged into that abortive gulf. If he escapes from there into whatever world or region lies beyond, the dangers that remain are unknown. But I would hardly deserve this throne, my friends, and imperial sovereignty, adorned with splendor and armed with power, if I could be deterred from attempting anything you proposed and judged to be of public benefit, despite its difficulty or danger. How could I assume royalty, and not refuse to reign, if I were to refuse as great a share of hazard as of honor? For honor is due to one who reigns, but so much more to he who risks himself. He sits above the rest in high honor. Go forth, therefore, mighty powers, the terror of Heaven, though fallen. Consider at home, while this remains our home, what may best ease our present misery, and render Hell more tolerable. See if there is a cure or charm to give a respite, deceive the senses, or slacken the pain of this evil place. Keep unceasing watch against the wakeful foe, while I go abroad and through all the shores of dark destruction seek deliverance for us all. None shall partake in this enterprise with me.”
The Monarch rose, preventing all reply. Prudent, lest emboldened by his resolution, others might now offer, certain to be refused, what before they had feared to. For though refused, his rivals might cheaply win the high repute which he must earn at great risk. But they dreaded his forbidding voice no less than the adventure he had undertaken, and at once all rose with him, with a sound like far away thunder. They bowed toward him with awed reverence, and extolled him as a god equal to the highest in Heaven. They praised him for risking his own safety for theirs, for even damned spirits do not lose all their virtue; otherwise, evil men would boast of their false deeds on earth, excited by glory, and hide ambition, covering it over with lies. They ended their doubtful dark consultations, rejoicing in their matchless chief. As when from mountain tops the dusky clouds ascend while the North wind sleeps, and spread over the cheerful face of the heavens, the lowering sky scowling over the darkened landscape with snow or showers, and then by chance the radiant sun in sweet farewell extends its evening beams, the fields revive, the birds renew their song, bleating herds attest to their joy, and hills and valleys ring, so did they rejoice. Shame to men! Even damned devils keep their agreements. Only men disagree, though of all rational creatures, we alone have hope of heavenly grace. God proclaims peace, yet men live in hatred, enmity, and strife with each other, and wage cruel wars, wasting the earth, and destroying each other, as if man did not have hellish foes enough, that wait day and night for his destruction, which should induce us to cooperate.
The Stygian council dissolved, and the grand infernal lords came forth in order. In their midst came their mighty paramount, who alone seemed the enemy of Heaven, no less than Hell’s dread emperor, with supreme pomp and in godlike state. A circle of fiery Seraphim enclosed him with bright heraldic decorations, and bristling weapons. Their session ended, they sounded the great result with regal trumpets. Four speedy Cherubim flew to the four winds. They put trumpets of gold, created by alchemy, to their mouths and in heralds’ voices explained the outcome. The hollow abyss heard the news far and wide, and all the host of Hell returned loud acclaim with a deafening shout.
Then more at ease, their minds and spirits somewhat raised by false presumptuous hope, the ranged powers disbanded, and wandering, each pursued his unique way, as inclination or sad choice led him, perplexed, to where he might likeliest find calm for his restless thoughts, and pass the irksome hours until his great chief returned.
Some contended with each other on the plains, or in the sublime air upon the wing, or in swift races, as at the Olympic Games or on the Pythian fields. Others controlled their fiery steeds, raced chariots around a course, avoiding the markers. on rapid wheels, and formed fronted brigades. They fought like the wars waged in the troubled sky, where armies rush to battle in the clouds, before each vanguard the aerie knights spur forth and couch their spears until the thickest legions engage in battle, and with feats of arms from either end of Heaven the sky burns, a warning to proud cities. Others with vast rage more destructive than Typhon’s, rent the rocks and hills, and rode the air in whirlwinds. Hell could scarcely hold the wild uproar, which was as loud as that made when Heracles, returning victorious from Oechalia, and felt the envenomed robe and through pain tore the Thessalian pines up by the roots, and threw Lichas from the top of Oeta into the Euboic sea.
Others, more mild, retreated into a silent valley and sang with angelic notes, accompanied by many harps,
of their own heroic deeds and hapless fall by doom of battle. They lamented that fate should enthrall free virtue by force or chance. Their song was partial, but the harmony suspended Hell, and ravished the thronging audience. How could it do less when immortal spirits sang? Others sat apart on a hill in even sweeter discourse, for eloquence sooths the soul, while song merely charms the senses. They retired in elevated thought and reasoned intelligently about providence, foreknowledge, will, fate, destiny, and free will, and found no end, wandering lost in mazes.
They argued of good and evil, happiness and misery, passion and apathy, and glory and shame, full of vain wisdom and false philosophies. With pleasing sorcery, they could charm pain and anguish for a while, and excite false hope, or arm the hardened breast with stubborn patience like triple steel.
Another part set forth in squadrons and bands, on a bold adventure to discover that wide, dismal world, and see if any clime might perhaps yield them easier habitation. Their flying march bent four ways, along the banks of the four infernal rivers that disgorged their baleful streams into the burning lake: The abhorred Styx, the flood of deadly hate; sad Acheron, the river of sorrow, black and deep; Cocytus, named for the loud lamentation heard on that rueful stream; and fierce Phlegeton, whose waves of torrential fire inflamed them with rage. Far from these, a slow and silent stream, Lethe, the river of oblivion, ruled her watery labyrinth, of which if any drinks, he immediately forgets his former state and being, both joy and grief, pleasure and pain. Beyond this flood lay a frozen continent, dark and wild, beaten by perpetual storms, whirlwinds and dire hail, which on firm land did not thaw, but gathered in heaps, looking like ancient ruins. All else was deep snow and ice, a gulf as profound as the Serbonian bog between Damietta and Mount Kasion, where whole armies have sunk. The parching air was so cold it burned like fire.
In the future, at certain times all the damned would be brought there by harpy-footed furies, and feel by turns the bitter extremes made more fierce by change, as they were taken from beds of raging fire to starve their soft ethereal warmth in ice, and to pine immovable, fixed, and frozen for a time, before being hurried back to the fire. They would be ferried to and fro over the Lethe, to augment their sorrow, and wish and struggle, as they passed, to reach the tempting stream, and with one small drop to lose in sweet forgetfulness all pain and woe, all in one moment, and so neared the brink. But their fate would withstand and oppose their attempts, for the terrifying gorgon Medusa would guard the ford, and by itself the water would fly from the mouths of these dead creatures, as once it fled the lips of Tantalus.
Roving on in a confused and forlorn march, the adventurous bands paled with shuddering horror, and viewed their lamentable lot with aghast eyes, and found no rest. They passed through many a dark and dreary valley, and sorrowful regions, over fiery mountains, frozen rocks, caves, lakes, fens, bogs, dens, and shades of death, a universe of death, which God created with an evil curse, good only for evil, where all life dies, death lives, and nature perversely breeds all monstrous, prodigious things, abominable, unutterable, and worse than fables have yet imagined or fear conceived: gorgons, hydras, and dire chimeras.
Meanwhile, the adversary of God and man, Satan, with inflamed thoughts of highest design, put on swift wings, and flew alone toward the gates of Hell. At times he scoured the right hand coast, at others the left. First he skimmed the depths with level wings, then soared up to the fiery concave roof, high above. From far off, the flying fiend seemed like a fleet hanging far out at sea, seen among the clouds, sailing from Bengal by equinoctial winds, or from the isles of Ternate and Tidore, from which merchants bring spices, plying the trade route through the wide Ethiopian sea to the cape, making headway nightly toward the pole. At last hell’s bounds appeared, reaching high to the horrid roof, guarded by thrice threefold the gates. Three were of brass, three iron, and three adamantine stone, impenetrable, wreathed in fire yet unconsumed.
At either side of the gates there sat two formidable shapes. One seemed a woman to the waste, and fair, but ended foully in many scaly folds, voluminous and vast, a serpent armed with mortal sting. About her round middle, hell hounds never ceased barking, their wide Cerberean mouths loudly ringing a hideous peal. When they wanted, they would creep, if anything disturbed their noise, into her womb, and kennel there, yet there still barked and howled within, though unseen. Even Scylla, bathing in the sea that separates Calabria from the rough Sicilian shore, was far less abhorred then these, and Hecate, called in secret, riding through the air, lured with the smell of infant’s blood, to dance with the witches of Lapland while the laboring moon is eclipsed by their charms, was less hideous. The other shape, if shape it might be called, had no distinguishable members, joints, or limbs, nor substance that might be called that. Pure shadow it seemed, and it stood black as night, fierce as ten furies, terrible as Hell, and shook a dreadful dart. What seemed its head bore the likeness of a kingly crown.
Satan was now close, and the monster moved from its seat a came forward quickly, with horrid strides. Hell trembled as it strode. The undaunted fiend wondered what it might be, but was unafraid. Except for Yahweh and his son, he neither valued nor shunned any creature, and with a disdainful look he spoke:
“From where do you come and what are you, cursed shape, to dare advance your grim and terrible misshapen for-m, and bar my way to the gates? I mean to pass through them, be assured, without asking your leave. Retire, or taste your folly, and learn by proof, hell-born, not to contend with the spirits of Heaven.”
“Are you the traitor angel?” the goblin demanded, full of wrath. “Are you he who first broke peace and faith in Heaven, and led a third of Heaven’s sons in proud rebellious arms against the highest, for which both you and they were cast out by Yahweh, and condemned to waste here in eternal pain and sorrow? Do you reckon yourself the equal of the spirits of Heaven, Hell doomed, and breath defiance and scorn here, where I reign, your king and lord? Back to your punishment, false fugitive, and add wings to your speed, lest with a whip of scorpions I pursue you, or with one stroke of this dart, strange horror seizes you, and pangs you have never before felt.”
While it spoke, the grisly terror grew ten times more dreadful and deformed. Facing it, incensed with indignation, Satan stood, unafraid, and burned like a comet that flames the length of Ophiuchus, huge in the arctic sky, and from its horrid hair shakes pestilence and war. Each took deadly aim at the head of the other. Their fatal hands intended no second strike, and each cast the other such a frown, like two black clouds fraught with Heaven’s artillery come rattling over the Caspian sea to stand front to front hovering for a space, until winds blow the signal to join in a dark encounter in mid air. At the frowns of the mighty combatants, Hell grew darker. They were so evenly matched that only once more was either likely to meet so great a foe. Great deeds would have been done, with which all Hell would have rung, had not the serpentine sorceress who sat on the other side of hell’s gates and kept the fatal key risen, and with a hideous cry rushed between them.
“Oh father, what do you intend, raising your hand against your only son?” she cried. “And what fury, oh son, possesses you to aim that mortal dart at your father’s head? And for whom? For he who sits above and laughs at you, his ordained servant, as you do whatever his wrath, which he calls justice, bids? His wrath which one day will destroy you both?”
“So strange is your cry, and the words you interposed, that I will spare my hand, though it waits to show you yet by deeds what it intends. But first I must know of you, and what you are, in this dual form, and why in this infernal vale on our first meeting you call me father, and that phantasm my son. I do not know you, nor ever saw until now a sight more detestable than him and you.”
“Have you forgotten me then?” the guardian of hell’s gates replied. “Do I seem so foul to your eyes now, when I once was deemed so fair in Heaven? At the assembly, in sight of all the Seraphim in bold conspiracy with you against Heaven’s king, a sudden miserable pain surprised you, dimmed your eyes, and made you swim in dizzy darkness, while your head threw forth flames thick and fast, until the left side opened wide. Like you in shape and bright countenance, shining heavenly and fair, I sprung out of your head, an armed goddess. Amazement seized the hosts of Heaven. They recoiled, afraid at first, and called me Sin, and held me for a portentous sign. But when I had grown familiar, they were pleased with me, and with my attractive graces I won even the most averse. You, often seeing in me your perfect image, became enamored. Such joy you took with me in secret that my womb conceived a growing burden. Meanwhile, war arose, and was fought on the fields of Heaven. In the end (for what else could have happened) clear victory fell to our almighty foe, and to us, loss and rout through all the imperium. Down they fell, driven headlong from the heights of Heaven, down into this depth, and I also fell. This powerful key was given into my hand, with the charge to keep these gates forever shut, and none can pass without my opening them. I sat here pensive and alone, but I had not sat long when my womb, pregnant by you, and now grown excessive, felt prodigious motion and rueful throes. At last this odious offspring whom you see, begotten by you, broke his violent way out, tearing through my entrails. Distorted by fear and pain, my nether shape was transformed. He, my inbred enemy, issued forth, brandishing his fatal dart, made to destroy. I fled, and cried out ‘Death’. Hell trembled at the hideous name, and sighed from all her caves, and back resounded Death. I fled, but he pursued, more, it seems, inflamed with lust than rage, and swifter by far, overtook me, his mother, all dismayed, and in forced embraces foully engendered with me, and by that rape begot these baying monsters that ceaselessly cry around me, as you saw, hourly conceived and hourly born. They are infinite sorrow to me, for when they return to the womb that bred them, they howl and gnaw my bowels, their repast. Then, bursting forth anew, the conscious terrors vex me round, so that I find no rest or break. Before my eyes in opposition sits grim Death, my son and foe, who sets them on me, and would devour me himself for want of other prey, except that he knows his end is involved with mine. I shall prove a bitter morsel, and his bane, when ever that shall be. So fate has pronounced. But you, father, I forewarn: shun his deadly arrow. Do not vainly hope to be invulnerable in those bright arms, even though they were tempered in heaven, for none can resist its mortal blow, save he who reigns above.
“Dear Daughter, since you claim me for your sire,” the subtle fiend, his lore now learned, answered smoothly, “and show me my fair son, the dear pledge of dalliance had with you in Heaven, and joys then sweet, now sad to mention, through the dire change befallen us unforeseen and unthought of: know that I come not as an enemy, but to set free from this dark and dismal house of pain both him and you, and all the heavenly host of spirits who armed in our just cause fell with us from on high. I come from them alone on this unfamiliar errand, and endanger myself for the good of all, to tread with lonely steps the bottomless deep, and search the immense void, wandering in quest of a place that was foretold, which should be, by concurring signs, now created, vast and round. It is a place of bliss on the outskirts of Heaven, and in it are placed a race of upstart creatures. It may supply, perhaps, vacant room, far removed from Heaven, lest her potent multitudes, grown to great, happen to settle new domains. Be this or not, I hasten to learn of this most secret and newly created world. Once I have found it, I shall quickly return, and bring you to a place where you and Death may dwell at ease, and wing silently through the uresisting air, up and down, unseen, and soothed by its fragrances. There you shall be fed and filled immeasurably; all things shall be your prey.”
Both seemed highly pleased, and Death grinned a horrible, ghastly smile, to hear that his famine would be filled, and his maw destined to that good hour. His evil mother rejoiced no less.
“I keep the keys to this infernal pit by command of Heaven’s all powerful king,” she said, “and am by him forbidden to unlock these adamantine gates. Against all force, Death ready stands to interpose his dart, unafraid to be outmatched by any living might. But what do I owe to the commands of the one above, who hates me and has thrust me down into this gloomy Tartarus to sit confined in this hateful service. I was once an inhabitant of Heaven, and heavenly born, but now sit here in perpetual agony and pain, with the terrors and clamors of my own brood surrounding me, feeding on my bowels. You are my father, my creator, you gave me being. Whom should I obey but you, and who follow? You will soon bring me to that new world of light and bliss, to live at ease among the gods, where I shall reign at your right hand, voluptuous, as suits your daughter and your darling, without end.”
She took the fatal key, sad instrument of all our woe, from her side. Rolling her bestial train towards the gate, she drew up the huge portcullis, which except for herself, not all the Stygian powers could have moved. Then the intricate wards in the keyhole turned, and every bolt and bar of massive iron and solid rock unfastened with ease. Suddenly, the infernal doors flew open and recoiled violently on their great hinges with a jarring sound like harsh thunder, which shook the lowest reaches of the underworld. She had opened them, but to shut them once more excelled her power. The gates stood wide open so that a host with marching banners flying and with extended wings banners might pass through with horses and chariots ranked in loose array. Like the mouth of a furnace, they cast forth smoke and ruddy flame.
Before their eyes, the secrets of the hoary deep appeared, a boundless dark illimitable ocean without dimension, where length, breadth, and height, time and position were lost. Eldest Night and Chaos, the ancestors of nature, held eternal anarchy, and stood amidst the noise of endless war and confusion. Hot, cold, moisture, and drought, four fierce champions, strove for mastery and brought their embryonic atoms to battle. They rallied around the flags of their factions in their various clans, lightly or heavily armed, sharp or smooth, swift or slow, a swarming populous, unnumbered as the sands of Barca or Cyrene’s torrid soil, levied to their sides by warring winds, and balanced on their lighter wings. The one to whom most of these gathered ruled at the moment. Chaos sat as umpire, and further embroiled the fray by decisions by which he reigned. Next to him, the high arbiter Chance governed all. This wild abyss, the womb of nature and perhaps her grave, was neither sea, shore, air, nor fire, but all of these in their primordial forms, mixed in confusion, which were doomed to fight eternally, unless the almighty creator ordained them, his dark materials, to create more worlds. Into this wild abyss the wary fiend looked, standing on the brink of Hell, pondering his voyage. For it was no narrow firth he had to cross. Nor were his ears less assailed with loud and ruinous sound than when the goddess of war storms, with all her battering engines bent to raze some capital city. It sounded as if the sky was falling, and the elements in mutiny had torn the Earth from its axis.
At last he spread his sail-broad wings to fly, and in the surging smoke, rose up from the ground, and ascended many leagues as though in wafted on a bed of cloud. He rode on audacious, but the updraft soon failed, and he met a vast vacuum. Unaware, flapping his pinions in vain, he dropped straight down, ten thousand fathoms deep, and might have fallen forever, had not by ill chance the strong rebuff of a tumultuous cloud, imbued with fire and saltpeter, hurled him as many miles aloft. That fury was stayed, quenched in boggy quicksand, neither sea nor solid land. Nearly foundered, on he fared, treading the crude consistence, half on foot, half flying. It behooves him now to use both oar and sail. Like a winged griffin coursing through the wilderness over hill or moor y dale, pursuing an Arimaspian who by stealth had stolen from his wakeful custody the gold he guarded, so the fiend eagerly, over bog or steep, through strait or rough, dense or rare, with head, hands, wings, and feet pursued his way, and swam, dove, waded, crept, and flew. A universal wild hubbub of stunning sounds and confused voices born through the hollow darkness assaulted his ear with loudest vehemence. He advanced toward it, unafraid to meet what ever power or spirit of the nethermost abyss might reside in that noise, hoping to ask in which direction the nearest shore of the darkness lay, bordering on the light. He soon behold the throne of Chaos, a dark pavilion spread wide on the wasteful deep. With him enthroned sat Night, clothed in sable, eldest of things, the consort of his reign. Next to them stood Orcus and Hades, and the dreaded Demogorgon. Next to these were Rumor and Chance, Tumult and Confusion all embroiled, and Discord with her thousand mouths.
“Powers and spirits of this nethermost abyss, Chaos and ancient Night,” said Satan boldly, “I do not come to spy or to explore or disturb the secrets of your realm, but by constraint am wandering this dark dessert, as my way up to the light lies through your spacious empire. Alone, and without guide, half lost, I seek the readiest path that leads to where your gloomy land borders uoon Heaven. Or, if some other place has been won from your dominion by the ethereal king lately, then direct my course to arrive there, for it is there I travel. If so directed, it will bring you no mean recompense. If I reach that lost region, all usurpation shall be expelled from it, reducing it to its original darkness and your sway, and once more you may erect the standard of ancient Night there. Yours will gain all the advantage, and I my revenge.”
“I know who you are, stranger,” the anarchic old one answered with faltering speech, looking disturbed. “That mighty leader of angels, who recently made war against Heaven’s king, and was overthrown. I saw and heard, for such a numerous host could not flee in silence through the fearful deep with ruin upon ruin, rout on rout, and confusion worse confounded. Heaven’s victorious bands poured out of her gates in the millions in pursuit. I keep residence here upon my frontiers. All I have serve to defend that little which is left. Yet we are encroached on still though our guts boil at the weakening of the scepter of old Night. First Hell, your dungeon stretching far and wide beneath. Then Heaven and lately, Earth, another world hung over my realm, linked by a golden chain to Heaven from which your legions fell. If you are going that way, you are not far. So much the nearer danger. Go and good speed. Havock and spoil and ruin are my gain.”
He ceased, and Satan did not wait to reply but, glad that now he would soon find the shore of this vast sea, with fresh energy and renewed force, he sprang upward like a pyramid of fire into the wild expanse, and won his way through the shock of fighting elements on all sides. He was harder beset and more endangered than when the Argo passed through the Bosporus between the jostling rocks or when Odysseus shunned Charybdis on the port side and passed close by the other the lair of Scylla. He moved on with difficulty and great labor.
Soon after, when man fell, the way he had come would be strangely altered. Sin and Death would follow his track with great speed, and by the will of Heaven, pave a broad and beaten way over the dark abyss, whose boiling gulf tamely endured a bridge of wondrous length from Hell reaching to the orbit of moon that circles this frail Earth. It would give the perverted spirits an easy course pass to and fro to tempt or punish mortals, except those whom God and the good Angels guarded by special grace.
At last the sacred influence of light appeared, and from the walls of Heaven shoot far into the bosom of dim Night, a glimmering dawn. Here nature first began her farthest verge, and chaos retired from her outermost works a broken foe with less tumult and hostile din, so that Satan with less toil, and soon with ease was wafted on the calmer waves in the dubious light. He was like a weather-beaten vessel coming gladly into port, though her shrouds and tackle are torn. The empty waste, resembling air, lifted his spread wings, and he beheld imperial Heaven in the distance, so wide in extant that one could not determine whether the walls were straight or curved. Opal towers and battlements adorned with living sapphire surround the place that had once been his native land. Nearby, hanging by a golden chain, this earth hung, looking like a tiny star next to the moon. There, full of mischievous revenge, accursed, and in a cursed hour he went.
Hail holy light, first-born offspring of Heaven, the eternal beam. May I tell of you without blame, since God is light, and has dwelt in nothing but brightest light for eternity, in you, the bright outpouring of bright uncreated essence? Or would you rather be addressed as the pure ethereal stream, of whose fountain none shall tell? You existed before the sun, before the heavens, and at the voice of Yahweh, like a mantle enveloped the rising world of dark, deep waters, won from the formless infinite void. I revisit you now on bolder wings, having escaped the infernal pool, though long detained on that obscure sojourn, while in my flight through utter and middle darkness, borne by other notes than those of the Orphean lyre, I told of chaos and eternal night, taught by the heavenly muse to venture down the dark descent, and then to reascend, though this is hard and rarely done.
I revisit you safe, and feel your sovereign vital light. But you do not visit these eyes, that roll in vain to find your piercing rays, and find no dawn. Thick cataracts have quenched their lenses, and dimly suffused my sight like a veil. Yet I do not cease to wander where the Muses haunt clear springs, or shady groves, or sunny hills, smitten with the love of sacred song. But nightly, I chiefly visit you on mount Sion and the flowery brooks below it that wash your hallowed feet in their warbling flow. Nor do I forget the others who shared my fate, though I can only hope to equal them in renown, boastful Thamyris, blind Homer, Tiresias of Thebes, and Phineus, king of Thrace, the ancient prophets. I feed on thoughts that voluntarily move in harmonious verses, like a nightingale singing in the dark, hidden in the shadiest covert trilling her nocturnal notes. With the year, seasons return, but not to me the day, nor the sweet approach of evening or morning, or sight of vernal bloom, or summer’s rose, or flocks, or herds, or a divine human face. Instead, a cloud of ever lasting darkness surrounds me, cut off from the cheerful ways of men; by the fair book of knowledge, I am presented with a universal blank. All of nature’s works to me are expunged and razed, and wisdom at one entrance quite shut out. I would much rather you, celestial light, shine inward, and illuminate my mind through all your powers, and plant eyes there, and purge and disperse all mist from there, that I may see and tell of things invisible to mortal sight.
Now the Almighty Father, from the pure imperium where he sat enthroned above all height, looked down all of his works at once. About him all, the sanctities of Heaven stood thick as stars, and from his sight received beatitude past utterance. On his right sat the radiant image of his glory, his only son. First, upon the Earth below, he observed our two first parents, as yet the only two of mankind, in the their garden of delight, reaping the immortal fruits of uninterrupted joy and unrivaled love in blissful solitude. He then surveyed hell and the gulf between it and the world and saw Satan there, coasting the along wall of Heaven on the night side in the dark, sublime air, ready to swoop down with wearied wings and willing feet on the bare outside of boundary between the universe and chaos, which was like firm land enclosed without sky, ocean, or air. Yahweh watched him from his high prospect, from which he beheld past, present, future, and foreseeing, spoke to his only Son.
“My son, do you see the rage that transports our adversary, whom no prescribed bounds – not the bars of Hell, nor all the chains heaped on him there, nor even the wide abyss between us – can hold. He seems so bent on the desperate revenge that shall rebound upon his own rebellious head. And now broken loose through all restraints, he wings his way not far from Heaven, in the precincts of light, directly towards the newly created world where man has been placed, hoping to determine whether by force he can destroy him, or worse, by false guile pervert. And pervert he shall, for man will hearken to his flattering lies, and easily transgress the sole command and sole pledge of his obedience. So he will fall, he and all his faithless progeny. And whose fault shall it be? Whose but his own. Ingrate, he had from me all he could want. I made him just and right, sufficient to have stood, though free to fall. So I created all the ethereal powers and spirits, both those who stood and those who fell. Those who would stood freely, and so fell those who fell. If not free, what sincere proof could they have given of true allegiance, constant faith or love, when they were only doing what they must, and not what they wished? What praise could they receive? What pleasure would I get from such obedience paid, without will and reason, and the choice they made possible. If both were made passive, their freedom would be despoiled, useless and vain, and they would have served necessity, not me. They therefore were created with free will, and cannot justly blame their maker, or their making, for their fate, as if predestination overruled their will, driven by absolute decree or high foreknowledge. They themselves decreed their own revolt, not I. I foreknew, but foreknowledge had no influence on their fault, which would have no less proved certain if not foreknown. So without the least impulse or shadow of fate, or anything immutably foreseen by me, they trespassed, authors of all they judged and chose. For so I formed them, free, and free they must remain, until they enslave themselves. I otherwise must change their nature, and revoke the high decree, unchangeable and eternal, which ordained their freedom, though they themselves ordained their fall. The fallen angels fell by their own free will, self-tempted, and self-depraved. Man will fall deceived by the fallen. Man shall therefore find grace, but the fallen angels none. In mercy and justice, in Heaven and Earth, so shall my glory excel, but mercy shall first and last shine brightest.”
While Yahweh spoke, ambrosial fragrance filled all Heaven, and in the blessed elect spirits sensed a new ineffable joy being diffused. The Son of God was glorious beyond compare; in him his Father shone, substantially expressed, and in his face divine compassion visibly appeared, love without end, and grace without measure.
“Oh Father,” he said, “gracious was that word with which your closed your sovereign decree, that man should find grace, for which both Heaven and Earth shall extol your high praises with the innumerable hymns and sacred songs, with which your throne surround shall resound, and you be ever blessed. For should man finally be lost, should man your latest creation yet so loved, your youngest son, fall circumvented like this by fraud, even though chosen in his own folly? May that be far from your will, Father, judge of all things made, who always judges correctly. Shall the adversary obtain his end this way, and frustrate you? Shall he fulfill his malice, and bring your goodness to nothing, or return proud to his heavier doom, with revenge accomplished, and draw after him to Hell the entire race of mankind, corrupted by him? Or will you your self abolish your creation, and unmake, for him, what for your glory you have made? If you did so, your goodness and your greatness would both be questioned and blasphemed without defense.”
“Son,” replied Yahweh, “my soul takes chief delight in you. Son of my bosom, son who is alone my word, my wisdom, and effectual might, all have you said is just as I think and my eternal purpose has decreed. Man shall not quite be lost, but those who wish shall be saved, yet not by their own will, but by my grace, given freely. Once more I will renew his lapsed powers, though forfeit and enthralled by sin to foul exorbitant desires. Upheld by me, once more he shall stand on even ground against his mortal foe, so that he may know how frail his fallen condition is, and to me he will owe all his deliverance, and to none but me. Some of peculiar grace I have chosen to elect above the rest. This is my will. The rest shall hear me call, and often be warned of their sinful state, and to quickly appease their incensed God, while offered grace invites them. For I will clear their dark senses, which may suffice, and soften stony hearts to pray, repent, and give the obedience due to me. My ear shall not be slow not my eye shut to prayer, repentance, and obedience, endeavored with sincere intent. I will place within men, as a guide, conscience, which, if they will hear it, will give them light after well used light, and if they persist to the end, they will arrive safely.
Those who neglect and scorn me shall never taste my long sufferance and their day of grace. The hard will be hardened, the blind blinded more, so that they may stumble on, and fall further. Only such as these shall be excluded from my mercy. But all is not done. Man, disobeying and disloyal, shall break his fealty, and sin against the high supremacy of Heaven, pretending to godhood, and so lose all. He will have nothing left to expiate his treason but destruction; he and all his decedents must die. Either he dies or justice must, unless some other is able and as willing to pay the price for him, death for death. Tell me, heavenly powers, where shall we find such love; which of you will become mortal to redeem man’s mortal crime, and save the unjust. Is there in all Heaven a charity so strong?”
All the heavenly choir stood mute, and there was silence in Heaven. No patron or intercessor appeared on man’s behalf , much less dared to take upon his own head the deadly forfeiture, and pay the ransom. Without redemption, all mankind might have bin lost, doomed to death and Hell by severe judgment, had not the son of God, in whom the fullness of love divine dwelt, renewed his dearest mediation.
“Father, your word is spoken: man shall find grace. Grace, the speediest of your winged messengers, finds a way to visit your creatures, and comes to all, unexpected, unasked for, and unsought. Shall she not find the means to come to man’s aid? He can never seek her help, once lost to his sins; indebted and undone; he has nothing left to offer for atonement. Take me, then, me for him; I offer life for life. Let your anger fall on me. Account me man; for his sake I will leave your side, and freely give up this glory, and finally die for him with pleasure. Let Death unleash all his rage on me. I shall not lie vanquished under his gloomy power long. You have given me everlasting life, and by you I will live, though I will yield to death all of me that can die. Yet, that debt paid, you will not leave me in the loathsome grave, his prey, nor suffer my pure soul to dwell in death, forever corrupted. I shall rise victorious, and subdue my vanquisher, despoiled of his vaunted spoil. Death shall then receive his death wound, and fall from glory, of his mortal sting disarmed. In triumph, I shall lead Hell captive high through the air, and show the powers of darkness bound. You shall look down from Heaven and smile, pleased at the sight while raised by you I ruin all my foes, death last, and with his carcass, glut the grave. Then with the multitude of my redeemed, I shall enter Heaven after my long absence, and return, father, to see your face, in which no cloud of anger shall remain, but certain peace and reconciliation. There shall be no more wrath from then on, only joy in your presence.”
His words ceased, but his meek demeanor silently spoke on, and breathed immortal love to mortal men, above which shone only filial obedience. Glad to be offered as a sacrifice, he attended the will of his great Father. Admiration seized all of Heaven, and all wondered what this might mean.
“In Heaven and Earth,” said Yahweh, “you are the only peace found for mankind from my wrath; you alone are please me! You know how dear all my works are to me, and man not the least though created last. I will give you up from my warm familial embrace and right hand to save, by losing you for a while, the entire race. You can only redeem them if you give up your true nature for theirs, and become a man among men on Earth, made flesh. When the time comes, you will be miraculously born to a virgin. You will be the father of all mankind in Adam’s place, though also Adam’s descendant. All men descended from him shall perish, but those who have you as a second father shall be restored, and none shall be raised from death without you. Adam’s crime will make all his sons guilty, but your merit, credited to them, shall absolve those who renounce their own righteous and unrighteous deeds, and live transplanted in you, and they will receive new life from you. As a man, as is most just, you shall satisfy the need for man to pay the price, and be judged and die, and dying rise, and rising, raise your brothers with you, ransomed with you own dear life. So heavenly love shall outdo hellish hate, giving up life, and dying to redeem, paying so dearly to redeem what Hellish hate so easily destroyed, and still destroys in those who, though they might, still do not accept grace. Nor shall your assumption of human nature lessen or degrade your true nature. Though enthroned in highest bliss, equal to mine, and enjoying godlike accomplishments, you would give all this up to save a world from utter loss; therefore I find you worthy to rule, by merit more than by your birthright as my son, because you are good, far more than great or high and because love is more abundant in you than glory. Your humiliation shall exalt you to this throne, and you shall sit here incarnate, and reign over both Seraph and Man, son both of god and man, anointed king of the universe. I will give you all of my power to reign forever, and assume your rights as such. Thrones, Princedoms, Powers, and Dominions will be placed under you as their supreme head. All who live, in Heaven, Earth, or beneath the earth in Hell, shall bow to you. When you appear in the sky, attended in your glory by the heavenly host, and send the archangels to summon the living and the dead of all past ages to hear your judgment, immediately a peal shall be heard to the four corners of the earth, rousing all from their sleep, and all shall be impelled to learn their fate. Then, all your saints assembled, you shall judge men and angels, and those found to be evil shall sink down beneath your sentence. Hell will be full, and shall be shut forever. Meanwhile, the world shall burn, and from the ashes spring a new Heaven and Earth, in which the just shall dwell. After all their long tribulations, they will see golden days, full of golden deeds, and joy, love, and truth triumphant. Then you shall lay your regal scepter down, for it shall be needed no more, and god shall be all in all. All you gods, adore the one who will die to achieve all this. Adore my son, and honor him as you do me.”
The multitude of Angels uttered a loud and joyful shout loud, from numbers without number, sweet from blessed voices. Heaven rung with jubilant and loud cries of ‘save us’, which filled the eternal regions. They bowed low and reverently towards each throne in turn, and with solemn adoration they cast down to the ground their crowns woven with gold and amaranth. Immortal amaranth, a flower which bloomed in paradise next to the tree of life , would soon, for man’s offense, be removed to Heaven where first it grew, and grow and flower aloft, shading the fountain of life and the river of bliss, that amber stream that flows through through midst of Heaven and rolls over Elysian plains of flowers. With these flowers that never fade, the elect spirits bind their resplendent locks wreathed with beams of light. Thick with the loose garlands they had thrown off, the bright pavement shone like a sea of jasper, purple with celestial roses. Then, crowned again, they took up their golden Harps, always in tune, that hung glittering at their sides like quivers, and with sweet preamble of charming symphony they introduced their sacred song, and wakened high raptures. No voice was exempt, and there was no voice which could not find its own melodious part, such concord was there in Heaven. They sang first of the omnipotent father, their immutable, immortal, infinite, eternal king:
“Author of all being, fountain of light, your are invisible amidst the glorious brightness where you sit, enthroned and inaccessible. When you shade the full blaze of your beams, and through a cloud drawn round about you like a radiant shrine, your robes appear dark with excessive brightness, you still dazzle Heaven, so that even the brightest Seraphim cannot approach, but veil their eyes with both wings.”
Next they sang of the begotten son, the divine similitude:
“In your clear countenance, visible even when unclouded, the almighty father shines, who otherwise no creature could behold. You bear the stamp of his radiant glory, and his ample Spirit has been poured into you. He created the Heaven of Heavens and all the powers in it using you, and by your power threw down the aspiring dominations. You did not spare your father’s dreadful thunder that day, nor stop your flaming chariot wheels, that shook Heaven’s everlasting frame, while you drove over the bodies of the warring angels in their disarray. When you returned from pursuit, your Powers extolled only you, with loud acclaim, son of your father’s might, for executing fierce vengeance on his foes. Not so on frail man, who through his own malice will fall. The father of mercy and grace did not doom them so strictly, but was much more inclined to pity. No sooner did you, his dear and only son , perceive this, than you decided to appease his wrath, and end the strife between mercy and justice that you discerned in his face. Despite the bliss in which you sat next to him, you offered to die for mans offense. Such love was nowhere to be found in any less than divine! Hail son of Yahweh, savior of men! Your name shall be the abundant subject of our song from now on, and never shall our harps forget your praise, nor cease from your Father’s praise.”
So those in Heaven, above the stars, spent happy hours in joy and song. Meanwhile, Satan alighted and walked upon the firm opaque globe of this realm, whose outer wall surrounded the luminous stars and their planets, and protected them from chaos and the inroads of ancient darkness. What had seemed a globe from far off, now seemed a boundless continent, dark, wasted, and wild, under the frowning night, exposed under a starless and inclement sky, ever threatened by storms of chaos which blustered around it, except on the far side of the globe,which gained some small glimmering of air less vexed by the loud tempest in the shelter of the wall of Heaven. The Fiend walked across a spacious field, like a vulture bred in the Himalayas, whose snowy ridges are ranged by the roving Tartars, who leaves a region scarce in prey to gorge on the flesh of lambs or newborn kids on hills where flocks are fed, and flies toward the springs of the Ganges or the Jehlum, but along the way alights on the barren plains where the Chinese drive their clever light wagons with sails and wind. Satan hiked up and down across this windy plain, bent on his prey, alone, for no other creature was to be found in this place, living or lifeless.
In the future, when sin had filled the works of men with vanity, a multitude of transitory and meaningless things rose up from the earth up to this place like airy vapors: both all material things, and all who built their fond hopes of glory or lasting fame, or happiness in this or the next life on those material things. All who had their reward on Earth, the fruits of painful superstition and blind zeal, seeking nothing but the praise of men, found fit retribution there, as empty as their deeds. All the unfinished works of nature’s hand, abortive, monstrous, or poorly composed, when dead on the Earth, were placed there, and wandered in vain until their final dissolution, not on the neighboring moon, as some have dreamed. Her silver fields are more likely inhabited by translated saints, or middle spirits between angelic and human kind. There the giants, children of human women and angels, born first in the ancient world, came and performed many meaningless exploits, though they were then renowned. Next came the men who built Babel on the plains of Babylonia, and would still in vain design new Babels, if they had the means. Others came alone: Empedocles, who threw himself into the flames of Etna to prove to his disciples that he was immortal; he believed he would come back as a god after being consumed by the fire. Cleombrotus who, to enjoy Plato’s Elysium, leaped into the sea. Many more came, too long a list to contemplate, immature and idiots, hermits and friars, white, black and gray, with all their foolishness. Pilgrims roam there who strayed so far as to seek in Golgotha the one who lives in Heaven. There were those who, to be sure of paradise, when dying put on the robes of the Dominicans, or in Franciscan garb think to pass disguised. They passed the seven planets, and the fixed crystalline sphere of the stars, whose balance measures the irregular motions of the planets, and the final sphere, the prime mover, from which all the others derive their movements. Saint Peter seemed to await them at the gates of Heaven with his keys, and they lifted their feet at foot of Heaven’s ascent, when a violent cross wind blew them sideways ten thousand leagues away into the distant air. Then you might see cowls, hoods and habits with their wearers tossed and fluttered into rags, and relics, rosaries, indulgences, dispensations, pardons, and papal decrees the sport of winds. These were all whirled aloft and flew over the far off backside of heaven to the broad plain of Limbo, called the paradise of fools, unknown to few.
But Limbo was then unpopulated and untrodden. The fiend found the entire globe dark as he passed over it, and he wandered, until at last, seeing a gleam of dawning light, he turned toward it in haste. In the far distance, he descried, ascending by magnificent degrees up to the wall of Heaven, a high structure, at the top of which appeared a kingly palace gate but far more rich, with an ornamental facade of diamond and gold, embellished thickly with sparkling oriental gems. The portal shone, impossible to imitate on Earth by model or drawing. The stairs were those which Jacob saw angels ascending and descending, bands of bright guardians, when he fled from Esau to Paddan Aram, and in the field of Luz, dreaming by night under the open sky, waking cried, ‘This is the gate of Heaven’. Each stair represented a state between earth and heaven. The stairs did not always stand there, but were sometimes drawn up to Heaven, out of view. Beneath them, a bright sea of jasper or liquid pearl flowed, on which those who afterward came from Earth arrived by sail, wafted by angels, or flew over in a chariot drawn by fiery steeds.
The Stairs were at this time let down, either to dare the fiend to make the easy ascent, or aggravate the sadness of his exclusion from the doors of bliss. Directly below the gates, over the blissful seat of paradise, the stairs began their wide passage down to the Earth, wider by far than in later times, passing over mount Zion and the wide promised land that was so dear to God. By them, at Yahweh’s behest, his angels frequently passed to and fro to visit the blessed tribes of Israel, and from them, one could look out over the land from Banias, the source of the river Jordan, to Beersheba, where the holy land borders on Egypt and the Arabian shore. The panorama was so wide that its bounds were in darkness, like the boundless waves of the ocean.
Satan looked down in wonder from the lowest step of the golden staircase to Heaven’s gate at the sudden view of the entire world, like a scout who has traveled all night through perilous, dark and dessert ways, and at last at break of dawn reaches the brow of some high hill, and discovers the unexpected prospect of some foreign land seen for the first time, or some renowned metropolis adorned with glistering spires and pinnacles gilded by the beams of the rising sun. Wonder seized the malign spirit, even though he had dwelt in Heaven, but even more, envy seized him at sight of this fair world. He searched all around from where he stood, high above the circling canopy of night’s extended shade, from the eastern point of Libra to Alpheratz, and the fleecy nebula that bears Andromeda far off over the Atlantic ocean, beyond the horizon, and then from pole to pole. Without further pause, he flew right into the world’s first region, dropping precipitously, and winding with ease through the pure marble air, making his oblique way amongst innumerable stars that shone.
Though distant, near at hand they would have seemed other worlds, happy isles, like the gardens of the Hesperides, fortunate fields, groves and flowery vales; but who dwelt happily there he did not stray to inquire. Brighter than them all, the golden sun drew his eye with its heavenly splendor. He turned his course toward it through the calm firmament; whether he traveled up or down, in a straight line or eccentrically, or sideways was hard to tell. The great luminary orb of the sun, aloof from the vulgar constellations thick in the sky, remained at a distance, dispensing its light from afar. The stars, moving in their starry dance in measures, computed the days, months, and years, turning swiftly through their various motions toward it. The all cheering lamp of the sun gently warmed the universe with its magnetic beams, and penetrated each inward part with unseen invisible virtue, even the depths of the oceans, so wondrous was its bright radiation.
The fiend landed in a spot which perhaps no astronomer has yet seen on the Sun’s lucent orb through his telescope. He found the place bright beyond expression, compared with anything on Earth, metal or stone. Not all parts were alike, but all were formed of radiant light, like iron glowing with fire. If metal, part seemed gold, part clear silver. If stone, mostly red gemstone, chrysolite, ruby or topaz, like the twelve that shone in Aaron’s breastplate, and another stone more often imagined than seen, like the stone which philosophers have sought in vain so long, though by their powerful art they bind volatile mercury, and call up unbound in various shapes old Proteus from the sea, distilled in an alembec to his native form. What wonder then if the fields and regions there breathed forth pure elixir, and rivers of liquid gold flowed, when with one virtuous touch the arch alchemist, the sun, so remote from us, produces when mixed with terrestrial moisture here in the dark so many precious things of glorious color and such rare effect?
Here the Devil looked far and wide, his eye undazzled, on things he had never seen before. Sight found no obstacle here, nor shade, but everywhere sunshine. The beams of the sun shot directly upward, and there was no way for a shadow to fall from an opaque body, as at noon on the equator, when the sun is at the exact zenith. The air, nowhere else so clear, sharpened his vision, allowing him to see objects at great distances clearly, and he soon saw a glorious angel stand on the solar surface, the same whom John saw in his apocalyptic vision. His back was turned, but his brightness not hidden; a golden crown of beaming sun rays circled his head. His locks lay behind his head, waving round and shining brightly on his shoulders, which were fledged with wings. He seemed employed on some great charge, or fixed in deep thought.
The impure spirit was glad to find one who might direct his wandering flight to paradise, the happy home of man, his journey’s end and the beginning of our sorrows. He cast a spell to change his proper shape, which otherwise might put him danger or delay him. He appeared to be a stripling Cherub, not of the prime order, yet in his face celestial youth smiled. He diffused suitable grace to every limb, so well he disguised himself. Under a coronet, his flowing hair’s curls played on his cheeks. His wings were of many colored plumage, sprinkled with gold, his habit close fitting for speed, and he held before him a silver wand.
He approached was heard by the bright angel. Before Satan had drawn near, the other turned his radiant visage, admonished by his ear, and Satan knew him immediately:+ the archangel Uriel, one of the seven who in stand in Yahweh’s presence, nearest to his throne, ready at command, and are his eyes that run through all the heavens, or down to the earth running his swift errands over sea and dry land.
“Uriel, you of those seven spirits that stand in sight of Yahweh’s high throne, gloriously bright, are the first to bring interpretation of his great authentic will through highest Heaven, where all his sons attend your embassy. You are likely here in honor obtain by supreme decree, as his eye often visit this newly created globe. I have an unspeakable desire to see and know all of his wondrous work. But especially mankind, his chief delight and favor, for whom all these wondrous works were ordained, has brought me from the choirs of Cherubim wandering here alone. Brightest Seraph, tell me which of all these shining spheres is the home of man, or if he has none, in which he has chosen to dwell. I wish to find him and secretly gaze upon or openly admire the one on whom the great creator has bestowed worlds, and has poured all these graces upon, that both in him and all things, as is right, I may praise the universal maker we may praise, who has justly driven out his rebel foes to deepest Hell, and to repair that loss created this new happy race of men to serve him better. He is wise in every way.
The false dissembler went unperceived, for neither man nor angel, but God alone can discern hypocrisy, the only evil that walks invisible through Heaven and Earth by his permissive will. Often though wisdom is awake, suspicion sleeps at wisdoms gate, and to simplicity resigns her charge, while goodness thinks no ill where no ill seems to be. For once Uriel, though regent of the sun, and held the sharpest sighted spirit in all of Heaven, was beguiled.
“Fair angel,” he replied, “your desire to know the works of God, and thereby glorify the great master worker, leads to no excess that requires blame. Rather, that which led you here alone from your imperial mansion alone, to witness with your eyes what some are perhaps content to merely hear report of in Heaven, merits praise. For wonderful indeed are all his works, pleasant to know, and worthiest to be remembered forever with delight. But what created mind can comprehend their number, or the infinite wisdom that brought them forth, but hid their causes deep. I saw when at his word the formless mass, this world’s material earth, came together in a heap. Confusion heard his voice, and wild uproar stood ruled, the vast infinitude confined, until at his second bidding darkness fled, light shone, and order sprung from disorder. The cumbersome elements, earth, water, air, and fire, hastened swiftly to the four quarters and the ethereal quintessence of the Heaven flew upward, filled with various forms that rolled into spheres and turned into the numberless stars you see. Each had its appointed place, each its course, on the circuit that walls this universe. Look down on that globe whose near side shines with light from here, though but reflected. That place is the Earth, the home of man; that light his day, which otherwise as on the other hemisphere, would be invaded by night. But there the neighboring moon, the so called opposite fair star, interposes her timely aid, through her monthly cycle, ever ending, ever renewing, across the heavens. With borrowed light her changing countenance fills and empties to light the Earth, and in her pale dominion checks the night. That spot to which I point is Paradise, Adam’s abode, those lofty shades his bower. You cannot miss your way. My duty requires my attention.
Uriel turned, and Satan, bowing low, as spirits are wont to do to a superior in Heaven, where due honor and reverence are neglected by none, took his leave. He sped toward the coast of Earth below, down from the ecliptic, hoping for success, slowing his steep flight with many a wheeling turn through the air, but not stopping until he lit on the top of mount Niphates.