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Raphael, at the request of Adam, relates how and wherefore this world was first created :—that God, after the expelling of Satan and his angels out of Heaven, declared His pleasure to create another world, and other creatures to dwell therein ; sends His Son with glory, and attendance of angels, to perform the work of creation in six days : the angels celebrate with hymns the performance thereof, and His reascension into Heaven.
DESCEND from Heaven, Urania, by that name
If rightly thou are called, whose voice divine
Following, above the Olympian hill I soar,
Above the flight of Pegasean wing!
The meaning, not the name, I call ; for thou
Nor of the Muses nine, nor on the top
Of old Olympus dwell'st; but, heavenly born,
Before the hills appeared or fountain flowed,
Thou with eternal Wisdom didst converse,
Wisdom thy sister, and with her didst play
In presence of the Almighty Father, pleased
With thy celestial song. Up led by thee,
Into the Heaven of Heavens I have presumed,
An earthly guest, and drawn empyreal air,
Thy tempering. With like safety guided down,
Return me to my native element;
Lest, from this flying steed unreined (as once
Bellerophon, though from a lower clime),
Dismounted, on the Aleian field I fall,
Erroneous there to wander and forlorn.
Half yet remains unsung, but narrower bound
Within the visible diurnal sphere.
Standing on earth, not rapt above the pole,
More safe I sing with mortal voice, unchanged
To hoarse or mute, though fallen on evil days,
On evil days though fallen, and evil tongues,
In darkness, and with dangers compassed round,
And solitude; yet not alone, while thou
Visit'st my slumbers nightly, or when morn
Purples the east. Still govern thou my song,
Urania, and fit audience find, though few.
But drive far off the barbarous dissonance
Of Bacchus and his revellers, the race
Of that wild rout that tore the Thracian bard
In Rhodope, where woods and rocks had ears
To rapture, till the savage clamour drowned
Both harp and voice; nor could the Muse defend
So fail not thou who thee implores;
For thou art heavenly, she an empty dream.
Say, goddess, what ensued when Raphael,
The affable archangel, had forewarned
Adam, by dire example, to beware
Apostasy, by what befell in Heaven
To those apostates, lest the like befall
In Paradise to Adam or his race,
Charged not to touch the interdicted tree,
If they transgress, and slight that sole command,
So easily obeyed amid the choice
Of all tastes else to please their appetite,
Though wandering. He, with his consorted Eve,
The story heard attentive, and was filled
With admiration and deep muse, to hear
Of things so high and strange—things to their thought
So unimaginable as hate in Heaven,
And war so near the peace of God in bliss,
With such confusion; but the evil, soon
Driven back, redounded as a flood on those
From whom it sprung, impossible to mix
With blessedness. Whence Adam soon repealed
The doubts that in his heart arose ; and, now
60 Led on, yet sinless, with desire to know What nearer might concern him—how this world Of heaven and earth conspicuous first began; When, and whereof, created ; for what cause ; What within Eden, or without, was done Before his memory-as one whose drouth, Yet scarce allayed, still eyes the current stream, Whose liquid murmur heard new thirst excites, Proceeded thus to ask his heavenly guest :“Great things, and full of wonder in our ears,
70 Far differing from this world, thou hast revealed, Divine interpreter! by favour sent Down from the empyrean to forewarn Us timely of what might else have been our loss, Unknown, which human knowledge could not reach; For which to the infinitely Good we owe Immortal thanks, and His admonishment Receive with solemn purpose to observe Immutably His sovereign will, the end Of what we are. But, since thou hast vouchsafed Gently, for our instruction, to impart Things above earthly thought, which yet concerned Our knowing, as to highest wisdom seemed, Deign to descend now lower, and relate What may no less perhaps avail us knownHow first began this heaven which we behold Distant so high, with moving fires adorned Innumerable; and this which yields or fills All space, the ambient air, wide interfused, Embracing round this florid earth; what cause Moved the Creator, in His holy rest Through all eternity, so late to build In Chaos; and, the work begun, how soon Absolved : if unforbid thou may'st unfold What we, not to explore the secrets, ask Of His eternal empire, but the more
To magnify His works the more we know.
And the great light of day yet wants to run
Much of his race, though steep; suspense in heaven
Held by thy voice, thy potent voice he hears,
And longer will delay, to hear thee tell
His generation, and the rising birth
Of nature from the unapparent deep :
Or, if the star of evening and the moon
Haste to thy audience, night with her will bring
Silence, and sleep listening to thee will watch ;
Or we can bid his absence till thy song
End, and dismiss thee ere the morning shine."
Thus Adam his illustrious guest besought;
And thus the godlike angel answered mild :-
“This also thy request, with caution asked,
Obtain; though to recount almighty works
What words or tongue of seraph can suffice,
Or heart of man suffice to comprehend ?
Yet what thou canst attain, which may best serve
To glorify the Maker, and infer
Thee also happier, shall not be withheld
Thy hearing. Such commission from above
I have received, to answer thy desire
Of knowledge within bounds; beyond abstain
To ask, nor let thine own inventions hope
Things not revealed, which the invisible King,
Only Omniscient, hath suppressed in night,
To none communicable in earth or Heaven.
Enough is left besides to search and know;
But knowledge is as food, and needs no less
Her temperance over appetite, to know
In measure what the mind may well contain;
Oppresses else with surfeit, and soon turns
Wisdom to folly, as nourishment to wind.
“Know, then, that after Lucifer from Heaven
(So call him, brighter once amidst the host
Of angels than that star the stars among)
Fell with his flaming legions through the deep
Into his place, and the great Son returned
Victorious with His saints, the Omnipotent
Eternal Father from His throne beheld
Their multitude, and to His Son thus spake :
“* At least Our envious foe hath failed, who thought
All like himself rebellious; by whose aid
This inaccessible high strength, the seat
Of Deity supreme, Us dispossessed,
He trusted to have seized, and into fraud
Drew many whom their place knows here no more.
Yet far the greater part have kept, I see,
Their station; Heaven, yet populous, retains
Number sufficient to possess her realms,
Though wide, and this high temple to frequent
With ministeries due and solemn rites.
But, lest his heart exalt him in the harm
Already done, to have dispeopled Heaven-
My damage fondly deemed—I can repair
That detriment, if such it be, to lose
Self-lost; and in a moment will create
Another world, out of one man a race
Of men innumerable, there to dwell,
Not here, till, by degrees of merit raised,
They open to themselves at length the way
Up hither, under long obedience tried,
And earth be changed to Heaven, and Heaven to earth.
One kingdom, joy and union without end.
Meanwhile inhabit lax, ye powers of Heaven;
And Thou, My Word, begotten Son, by Thee
This I perform ; speak Thou, and be it done!
My overshadowing Spirit and might with Thee
I send along; ride forth, and bid the deep
Within appointed bounds be Heaven and earth.
Boundless the deep, because I am who fill
Infinitude ; nor vacuous the space,
Though I, uncircumscribed, Myself retire,