Paradise Regain'd: Book I (1671)

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I Who e're while the happy Garden sung,By one mans disobedience lost, now singRecover'd Paradise to all mankind,By one mans firm obedience fully tri'dThrough all temptation, and the Tempter foil'dIn all his wiles, defeated and repuls't,And Eden rais'd in the wast Wilderness. Thou Spirit who ledst this glorious EremiteInto the Desert, his Victorious FieldAgainst the Spiritual Foe, and broughtst him thenceBy proof the undoubted Son of God, inspire,As thou art wont, my prompted Song else mute,And bear through highth or depth of natures boundsWith prosperous wing full summ'd to tell of deedsAbove Heroic, though in secret done,And unrecorded left through many an Age,Worthy t'have not remain'd so long unsung. Now had the great Proclaimer with a voiceMore awful then the sound of Trumpet, cri'dRepentance, and Heavens Kingdom nigh at handTo all Baptiz'd: to his great Baptism flock'dWith aw the Regions round, and with them cameFrom Nazareth the Son of Joseph deem'dTo the flood Jordan, came as then obscure,Unmarkt, unknown; but him the Baptist soonDescri'd, divinely warn'd, and witness boreAs to his worthier, and would have resign'dTo him his Heavenly Office, nor was longHis witness unconfirm'd: on him baptiz'dHeaven open'd, and in likeness of a DoveThe Spirit descended, while the Fathers voiceFrom Heav'n pronounc'd him his beloved Son.That heard the Adversary, who roving stillAbout the world, at that assembly fam'dWould not be last, and with the voice divineNigh Thunder-struck, th' exalted man, to whomSuch high attest was giv'n, a while survey'dWith wonder, then with envy fraught and rageFlies to his place, nor rests, but in mid airTo Councel summons all his mighty Peers,Within thick Clouds and dark ten-fold involv'd,A gloomy Consistory; and them amidstWith looks agast and sad he thus bespake. O ancient Powers of Air and this wide world,For much more willingly I mention Air,This our old Conquest, then remember HellOur hated habitation; well ye knowHow many Ages, as the years of men,This Universe we have possest, and rul'dIn manner at our will th' affairs of Earth,Since Adam and his facil consort EveLost Paradise deceiv'd by me, though sinceWith dread attending when that fatal woundShall be inflicted by the Seed of EveUpon my head, long the decrees of Heav'nDelay, for longest time to him is short;And now too soon for us the circling hoursThis dreaded time have compast, wherein weMust bide the stroak of that long threatn'd wound,At least if so we can, and by the headBroken be not intended all our powerTo be infring'd, our freedom and our being.In this fair Empire won of Earth and Air;For this ill news I bring, the Womans seedDestin'd to this, is late of woman born,His birth to our just fear gave no small cause,But his growth now to youths full flowr, displayingAll vertue, grace and wisdom to atchieveThings highest, greatest, multiplies my fear.Before him a great Prophet, to proclaimHis coming, is sent Harbinger, who allInvites, and in the Consecrated streamPretends to wash off sin, and fit them soPurified to receive him pure, or ratherTo do him honour as their King; all come,And he himself among them was baptiz'd,Not thence to be more pure, but to receiveThe testimony of Heaven, that who he isThenceforth the Nations may not doubt; I sawThe Prophet do him reverence, on him risingOut of the water, Heav'n above the CloudsUnfold her Crystal Dores, thence on his headA perfect Dove descend, what e're it meant,And out of Heav'n the Sov'raign voice I heard,This is my Son belov'd, in him am pleas'd.His Mother then is mortal, but his Sire,He who obtains the Monarchy of Heav'n,And what will he not do to advance his Son?His first-begot we know, and sore have felt,When his fierce thunder drove us to the deep;Who this is we must learn, for man he seemsIn all his lineaments, though in his faceThe glimpses of his Fathers glory shine.Ye see our danger on the utmost edgeOf hazard, which admits no long debate,But must with something sudden be oppos'd,Not force, but well couch't fraud, well woven snares,E're in the head of Nations he appearTheir King, their Leader, and Supream on Earth.I, when no other durst, sole undertookThe dismal expedition to find outAnd ruine Adam, and the exploit perform'dSuccessfully; a calmer voyage nowWill waft me; and the way found prosperous onceInduces best to hope of like success. He ended, and his words impression leftOf much amazement to th' infernal Crew,Distracted and surpriz'd with deep dismayAt these sad tidings; but no time was thenFor long indulgence to their fears or grief:Unanimous they all commit the careAnd management of this main enterprizeTo him their great Dictator, whose attemptAt first against mankind so well had thriv'dIn Adam's overthrow, and led thir marchFrom Hell's deep-vaulted Den to dwell in light,Regents and Potentates, and Kings, yea godsOf many a pleasant Realm and Province wide.So to the Coast of Jordan he directsHis easie steps; girded with snaky wiles,Where he might likeliest find this new-declar'd,This man of men, attested Son of God,Temptation and all guile on him to try;So to subvert whom he suspected rais'dTo end his Raign on Earth so long enjoy'd:But contrary unweeting he fulfill'dThe purpos'd Counsel pre-ordain'd and fixtOf the most High, who in full frequence brightOf Angels, thus to Gabriel smiling spake. Gabriel this day by proof thou shalt behold,Thou and all Angels conversant on EarthWith man or mens affairs, how I beginTo verifie that solemn message late,On which I sent thee to the Virgin pureIn Galilee, that she should bear a SonGreat in Renown, and call'd the Son of God;Then toldst her doubting how these things could beTo her a Virgin, that on her should comeThe Holy Ghost, and the power of the highestO're-shadow her: this man born and now up-grown,To shew him worthy of his birth divineAnd high prediction, henceforth I exposeTo Satan; let him tempt and now assayHis utmost subtilty, because he boastsAnd vaunts of his great cunning to the throngOf his Apostasie; he might have learntLess over-weening, since he fail'd in Job,Whose constant perseverance overcameWhate're his cruel malice could invent.He now shall know I can produce a manOf female Seed, far abler to resistAll his sollicitations, and at lengthAll his vast force, and drive him back to Hell,Winning by Conquest what the first man lostBy fallacy surpriz'd. But first I meanTo exercise him in the Wilderness,There he shall first lay down the rudimentsOf his great warfare, e're I send him forthTo conquer Sin and Death the two grand foes,By Humiliation and strong Sufferance:His weakness shall o'recome Satanic strengthAnd all the world, and mass of sinful flesh;That all the Angels and Ætherial Powers,They now, and men hereafter may discern,From what consummate vertue I have choseThis perfect Man, by merit call'd my Son,To earn Salvation for the Sons of men. So spake the Eternal Father, and all HeavenAdmiring stood a space, then into HymnsBurst forth, and in Celestial measures mov'd,Circling the Throne and Singing, while the handSung with the voice, and this the argument. Victory and Triumph to the Son of GodNow entring his great duel, not of arms,But to vanquish by wisdom hellish wiles.The Father knows the Son; therefore secureVentures his filial Vertue, though untri'd,Against whate're may tempt, whate're seduce,Allure, or terrifie, or undermine.Be frustrate all ye stratagems of Hell,And devilish machinations come to nought. So they in Heav'n their Odes and Vigils tun'd:Mean while the Son of God, who yet some daysLodg'd in Bethabara where John baptiz'd,Musing and much revolving in his brest,How best the mighty work he might beginOf Saviour to mankind, and which way firstPublish his God-like office now mature,One day forth walk'd alone, the Spirit leading;And his deep thoughts, the better to converseWith solitude, till far from track of men,Thought following thought, and step by step led on,He entred now the bordering Desert wild,And with dark shades and rocks environ'd round,His holy Meditations thus persu'd. O what a multitude of thoughts at onceAwakn'd in me swarm, while I considerWhat from within I feel my self, and hearWhat from without comes often to my ears,Ill sorting with my present state compar'd.When I was yet a child, no childish playTo me was pleasing, all my mind was setSerious to learn and know, and thence to doWhat might be publick good; my self I thoughtBorn to that end, born to promote all truth,All righteous things: therefore above my years,The Law of God I read, and found it sweet,Made it my whole delight, and in it grewTo such perfection, that e're yet my ageHad measur'd twice six years, at our great FeastI went into the Temple, there to hearThe Teachers of our Law, and to proposeWhat might improve my knowledge or their own;And was admir'd by all, yet this not allTo which my Spirit aspir'd, victorious deedsFlam'd in my heart, heroic acts, one whileTo rescue Israel from the Roman yoke,Then to subdue and quell o're all the earthBrute violence and proud Tyrannick pow'r,Till truth were freed, and equity restor'd:Yet held it more humane, more heavenly firstBy winning words to conquer willing hearts,And make perswasion do the work of fear;At least to try, and teach the erring SoulNot wilfully mis-doing, but unwareMisled; the stubborn only to destroy.These growing thoughts my Mother soon perceivingBy words at times cast forth inly rejoyc'd,And said to me apart, high are thy thoughtsO Son, but nourish them and let them soarTo what highth sacred vertue and true worthCan raise them, though above example high;By matchless Deeds express thy matchless Sire.For know, thou art no Son of mortal man,Though men esteem thee low of Parentage,Thy Father is the Eternal King, who rulesAll Heaven and Earth, Angels and Sons of men,A messenger from God fore-told thy birthConceiv'd in me a Virgin, he fore-toldThou shouldst be great and sit on David's Throne,And of thy Kingdom there should be no end.At thy Nativity a glorious QuireOf Angels in the fields of Bethlehem sungTo Shepherds watching at their folds by night,And told them the Messiah now was born,Where they might see him, and to thee they came;Directed to the Manger where thou lais't,For in the Inn was left no better room:A Star, not seen before in Heaven appearingGuided the Wise Men thither from the East,To honour thee with Incense, Myrrh, and Gold,By whose bright course led on they found the place,Affirming it thy Star new grav'n in Heaven,By which they knew thee King of Israel born.Just Simeon and Prophetic Anna, warn'dBy Vision, found thee in the Temple, and spakeBefore the Altar and the vested Priest,Like things of thee to all that present stood.This having heard, strait I again revolv'dThe Law and Prophets, searching what was writConcerning the Messiah, to our ScribesKnown partly, and soon found of whom they spakeI am; this chiefly, that my way must lieThrough many a hard assay even to the death,E're I the promis'd Kingdom can attain,Or work Redemption for mankind, whose sinsFull weight must be transferr'd upon my head.Yet neither thus disheartn'd or dismay'd,The time prefixt I waited, when beholdThe Baptist, (of whose birth I oft had heard,Not knew by sight) now come, who was to comeBefore Messiah and his way prepare.I as all others to his Baptism came,Which I believ'd was from above; but heStrait knew me, and with loudest voice proclaim'dMe him (for it was shew'n him so from Heaven)Me him whose Harbinger he was; and firstRefus'd on me his Baptism to confer,As much his greater, and was hardly won;But as I rose out of the laving stream,Heaven open'd her eternal doors, from whenceThe Spirit descended on me like a Dove,And last the sum of all, my Father's voice,Audibly heard from Heav'n, pronounc'd me his,Me his beloved Son, in whom aloneHe was well pleas'd; by which I knew the timeNow full, that I no more should live obscure,But openly begin, as best becomesThe Authority which I deriv'd from Heaven.And now by some strong motion I am ledInto this Wilderness, to what intentI learn not yet, perhaps I need not know;For what concerns my knowledge God reveals. So spake our Morning Star then in his rise,And looking round on every side beheldA pathless Desert, dusk with horrid shades;The way he came not having mark'd, returnWas difficult, by humane steps untrod;And he still on was led, but with such thoughtsAccompanied of things past and to comeLodg'd in his breast, as well might recommendSuch Solitude before choicest Society.Full forty days he pass'd, whether on hillSometimes, anon in shady vale, each nightUnder the covert of some ancient Oak,Or Cedar, to defend him from the dew,Or harbour'd in one Cave, is not reveal'd;Nor tasted humane food, nor hunger feltTill those days ended, hunger'd then at lastAmong wild Beasts: they at his sight grew mild,Nor sleeping him nor waking harm'd, his walkThe fiery Serpent fled, and noxious Worm,The Lion and fierce Tiger glar'd aloof.But now an aged man in Rural weeds,Following, as seem'd, the quest of some stray Ewe,Or wither'd sticks to gather; which might serveAgainst a Winters day when winds blow keen,To warm him wet return'd from field at Eve,He saw approach, who first with curious eyePerus'd him, then with words thus utt'red spake. Sir, what ill chance hath brought thee to this placeSo far from path or road of men, who passIn Troop or Caravan, for single noneDurst ever, who return'd, and dropt not hereHis Carcass, pin'd with hunger and with droughth?I ask the rather, and the more admire,For that to me thou seem'st the man, whom lateOur new baptizing Prophet at the FordOf Jordan honour'd so, and call'd thee SonOf God; I saw and heard, for we sometimesWho dwell this wild, constrain'd by want, come forthTo Town or Village nigh (nighest is far)Where ought we hear, and curious are to hear,What happ'ns new; Fame also finds us out. To whom the Son of God. Who brought me hitherWill bring me hence, no other Guide I seek. By Miracle he may, reply'd the Swain,What other way I see not, for we hereLive on tough roots and stubs, to thirst inur'dMore then the Camel, and to drink go far,Men to much misery and hardship born;But if thou be the Son of God, CommandThat out of these hard stones be made thee bread;So shalt thou save thy self and us relieveWith Food, whereof we wretched seldom taste. He ended, and the Son of God reply'd.Think'st thou such force in Bread? is it not written(For I discern thee other then thou seem'st)Man lives not by Bread only, but each WordProceeding from the mouth of God; who fedOur Fathers here with Manna; in the MountMoses was forty days, nor eat nor drank,And forty days Eliah without foodWandred this barren waste, the same I now.Why dost thou then suggest to me distrust,Knowing who I am, as I know who thou art? Whom thus answer'd th' Arch Fiend now undisguis'd.'Tis true, I am that Spirit unfortunate,Who leagu'd with millions more in rash revoltKept not my happy Station, but was driv'nWith them from bliss to the bottomless deep,Yet to that hideous place not so confin'dBy rigour unconniving, but that oftLeaving my dolorous Prison I enjoyLarge liberty to round this Globe of Earth,Or range in th' Air, nor from the Heav'n of Heav'nsHath he excluded my resort sometimes.I came among the Sons of God, when heGave up into my hands Uzzean JobTo prove him, and illustrate his high worth;And when to all his Angels he propos'dTo draw the proud King Ahab into fraudThat he might fall in Ramoth, they demuring,I undertook that office, and the tonguesOf all his flattering Prophets glibb'd with lyesTo his destruction, as I had in charge.For what he bids I do; though I have lostMuch lustre of my native brightness, lostTo be belov'd of God, I have not lostTo love, at least contemplate and admireWhat I see excellent in good, or fair,Or vertuous, I should so have lost all sense.What can be then less in me then desireTo see thee and approach thee, whom I knowDeclar'd the Son of God, to hear attentThy wisdom, and behold thy God-like deeds?Men generally think me much a foeTo all mankind: why should I? they to meNever did wrong or violence, by themI lost not what I lost, rather by themI gain'd what I have gain'd, and with them dwellCopartner in these Regions of the World,If not disposer; lend them oft my aid,Oft my advice by presages and signs,And answers, oracles, portents and dreams,Whereby they may direct their future life.Envy they say excites me, thus to gainCompanions of my misery and wo.At first it may be; but long since with woNearer acquainted, now I feel by proof,That fellowship in pain divides not smart,Nor lightens aught each mans peculiar load.Small consolation then, were Man adjoyn'd:This wounds me most (what can it less) that Man,Man fall'n shall be restor'd, I never more. To whom our Saviour sternly thus reply'd.Deservedly thou griev'st, compos'd of lyesFrom the beginning, and in lies wilt end;Who boast'st release from Hell, and leave to comeInto the Heav'n of Heavens; thou com'st indeed,As a poor miserable captive thrall,Comes to the place where he before had satAmong the Prime in Splendour, now depos'd,Ejected, emptyed, gaz'd, unpityed, shun'd,A spectacle of ruin or of scornTo all the Host of Heaven; the happy placeImparts to thee no happiness, no joy,Rather inflames thy torment, representingLost bliss, to thee no more communicable,So never more in Hell then when in Heaven.But thou art serviceable to Heaven's King.Wilt thou impute to obedience what thy fearExtorts, or pleasure to do ill excites?What but thy malice mov'd thee to misdeemOf righteous Job, then cruelly to afflict himWith all inflictions, but his patience won?The other service was thy chosen task,To be a lyer in four hundred mouths;For lying is thy sustenance, thy food.Yet thou pretend'st to truth; all OraclesBy thee are giv'n, and what confest more trueAmong the Nations? that hath been thy craft,By mixing somewhat true to vent more lyes.But what have been thy answers, what but darkAmbiguous and with double sense deluding,Which they who ask'd have seldom understood,And not well understood as good not known?Who ever by consulting at thy shrineReturn'd the wiser, or the more instructTo flye or follow what concern'd him most,And run not sooner to his fatal snare?For God hath justly giv'n the Nations upTo thy Delusions; justly, since they fellIdolatrous, but when his purpose isAmong them to declare his ProvidenceTo thee not known, whence hast thou then thy truth,But from him or his Angels PresidentIn every Province, who themselves disdainingTo approach thy Temples, give thee in commandWhat to the smallest tittle thou shalt sayTo thy Adorers; thou with trembling fear,Or like a Fawning Parasite obey'st;Then to thy self ascrib'st the truth fore-told.But this thy glory shall be soon retrench'd;No more shalt thou by oracling abuseThe Gentiles; henceforth Oracles are ceast,And thou no more with Pomp and SacrificeShalt be enquir'd at Delphos or elsewhere,At least in vain, for they shall find thee mute.God hath now sent his living OracleInto the World, to teach his final will,And sends his Spirit of Truth henceforth to dwellIn pious Hearts, an inward OracleTo all truth requisite for men to know. So spake our Saviour; but the subtle Fiend,Though inly stung with anger and disdain,Dissembl'd, and this Answer smooth return'd. Sharply thou hast insisted on rebuke,And urg'd me hard with doings, which not willBut misery hath rested from me; whereEasily canst thou find one miserable,And not inforc'd oft-times to part from truth;If it may stand him more in stead to lye,Say and unsay, feign, flatter, or abjure?But thou art plac't above me, thou art Lord;From thee I can and must submiss endureCheck or reproof, and glad to scape so quit.Hard are the ways of truth, and rough to walk,Smooth on the tongue discourst, pleasing to th' ear,And tuneable as Silvan Pipe or Song;What wonder then if I delight to hearHer dictates from thy mouth? most men admireVertue, who follow not her lore: permit meTo hear thee when I come (since no man comes)And talk at least, though I despair to attain.Thy Father, who is holy, wise and pure,Suffers the Hypocrite or Atheous PriestTo tread his Sacred Courts, and ministerAbout his Altar, handling holy things,Praying or vowing, and vouchsaf'd his voiceTo Balaam Reprobate, a Prophet yetInspir'd; disdain not such access to me. To whom our Saviour with unalter'd brow.Thy coming hither, though I know thy scope,I bid not or forbid; do as thou find'stPermission from above; thou canst not more. He added not; and Satan bowing lowHis gray dissimulation, disappear'dInto thin Air diffus'd: for now beganNight with her sullen wing to double-shadeThe Desert, Fowls in thir clay nests were couch't;And now wild Beasts came forth the woods to roam.

The End of the First Book.

© John Milton