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God, sitting on his throne, sees Satan flying towards this world, then newly
created; shows him to the Son, who sat at his right hand; foretels the success of Satan in perverting mankind, clears his own justice and wisdom from all imputation, having created man free and able enough to have withstood his tempter ; yet declares his purpose of grace towards him, in regard he fell not of his own malice, as did Satan, but by him seduced. The Son of God renders praises to his Father for the manifestation of his gracious purpose towards man: but God again declares, that grace cannot be extended towards man without the satisfaction of divine justice: man hath offended the majesty of God by aspiring to godhead, and therefore, with all his progeny, devoted to death, must die, unless some one can be found sufficient to answer for his offence, and undergo his punishment. The Son of God freely offers himself a ransom for man: the Father accepts him, ordains his incarnation, pronounces his exaltation above all names in heaven and earth ; commands all the angels to adore him. They obey, and hymning to their harps in full quire, celebrate the Father and the Son. Meanwhile Satan alights upon the bare convex of this world's outermost orb; where wandering he first finds a place, since called the Limbo of Vanity: what persons and things fly up thither: thence comes to the gate of heaven, described ascending by stairs, and the waters above the firmament that flow about it: his passage thence to the orb of the sun : he finds there Uriel, the regent of that orb, but first changes himself into the shape of a meaner angel; and, pretending a zealous desire to behold the new creation, and man whom God had placed here, inquires of him the place of his habitation, and is directed: alights first on mount Niphates.
Hail, holy Light! offspring of heaven first born!
And never but in unapproached light
Bright effluence of bright essence increate !
Before the heavens thou wert; and at the voice 10 Of God, as with a mantle, didst invest
The rising world of waters dark and deep,
Escap'd the Stygian pool, though long detain'd 15 In that obscure sojourn, while in my flight,
Through utter and through middle darkness borne,
Taught by the heavenly Muse to venture down 20 The dark descent, and up to re-ascend,
Though hard and rare. Thee I revisit safe,
Revisit'st not these eyes, that roll in vain
To find thy piercing ray, and find no dawn; 25 So thick a Drop-serene hath quench'd their orbs,
Or dim suffusion veil’d. Yet not the more
Smit with the love of sacred song ; but chief 30 Thee, Sion, and the flowery brooks beneath
That wash thy hallowed feet, and warbling flow,
So were I equall'd with them in renown, 35 Blind Thamyris, and blind Mæonides,
And Tiresias, and Phineus, prophets old ;
Sings darkling, and in shadiest covert hid 40 Tunes her nocturnal note.
Thus with the year
Or flocks, or herds, or human face divine ; 45 But cloud instead, and ever-during dark Surrounds
me, from the cheerful ways of men Cut off! and, for the book of knowledge fair, Presented with a universal blank
Of nature's works, to me expung'd and ras'd, 50 And wisdom at one entrance quite shut out!
So much the rather thou, celestial light,
Purge and disperse ; that I may see and tell 55 Of things invisible to mortal sight.
Now had the Almighty Father from above,
60 About him all the sanctities of heaven
Stood thick as stars, and from his sight receiv'd
His only Son. On earth he first beheld 65 Our two first parents, yet the only two
Of mankind, in the happy garden plac'd,
In blissful solitude. He then survey'd
Coasting the wall of heaven on this side night,
On the bare outside of this world, that seem'd 75 Firm land imbosom'd without firmament;
Uncertain which, in ocean or in air.
“Only begotten Son! seest thou what rage
Heap'd on him there, nor yet the main abyss “ Wide interrupt, can hold ; so bent he seems 85 "On desperate revenge, that shall redound
Upon his own rebellious head. And now,
Through all restraint broke loose, he wings his way “ Not far off heaven, in the precincts of light,
Directly towards the new-created world,
By some false guile pervert; and shall pervert :
“And easily transgress the sole command, 95 Sole pledge of his obedience : so will fall,
“He and his faithless progeny. Whose fault?
“ All he could have; I made him just and right,
“ Sufficient to have stood, though free to fall. 100 “ Such I created all the ethereal Powers
“ And spirits, both them who stood, and them who fail'd;
Freely they stood who stood, and fell who fell. “ Not free, what proof could they have given sincere
“Of true allegiance, constant faith, or love, 105 “ Where only what they needs must do appear'd, “Not what they would ? What praise could they
“ As if predestination over-ruld
“Or high foreknowledge. They themselves decreed
“Which had no less prov'd certain unforeknown. 120 “So, without least impulse, or shadow of fate,
“Or aught by me immutably foreseen,
“ I form’d them, free; and free they must remain, 125 “ Till they enthral themselves: I else must change
“Their nature, and revoke the high decree
Unchangeable, eternal, which ordain'd “ Their freedom: they themselves ordain’d their fall.
“ The first sort by their own suggestion fell, 130 “Self-tempted, self-deprav'd: man falls, deceiv'd
By the other first: man therefore shall find grace, “ The other none: in mercy and justice both,
Through heaven and earth, so shall my glory excel : “But mercy, first and last, shall brightest shine."