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Paradise Lost: Book 12

 As one who in his journey bates at noon, 
Though bent on speed; so here the Arch-Angel paused 
Betwixt the world destroyed and world restored, 
If Adam aught perhaps might interpose; 
Then, with transition sweet, new speech resumes.
Thus thou hast seen one world begin, and end; And Man, as from a second stock, proceed.
Much thou hast yet to see; but I perceive Thy mortal sight to fail; objects divine Must needs impair and weary human sense: Henceforth what is to come I will relate; Thou therefore give due audience, and attend.
This second source of Men, while yet but few, And while the dread of judgement past remains Fresh in their minds, fearing the Deity, With some regard to what is just and right Shall lead their lives, and multiply apace; Labouring the soil, and reaping plenteous crop, Corn, wine, and oil; and, from the herd or flock, Oft sacrificing bullock, lamb, or kid, With large wine-offerings poured, and sacred feast, Shall spend their days in joy unblamed; and dwell Long time in peace, by families and tribes, Under paternal rule: till one shall rise Of proud ambitious heart; who, not content With fair equality, fraternal state, Will arrogate dominion undeserved Over his brethren, and quite dispossess Concord and law of nature from the earth; Hunting (and men not beasts shall be his game) With war, and hostile snare, such as refuse Subjection to his empire tyrannous: A mighty hunter thence he shall be styled Before the Lord; as in despite of Heaven, Or from Heaven, claiming second sovranty; And from rebellion shall derive his name, Though of rebellion others he accuse.
He with a crew, whom like ambition joins With him or under him to tyrannize, Marching from Eden towards the west, shall find The plain, wherein a black bituminous gurge Boils out from under ground, the mouth of Hell: Of brick, and of that stuff, they cast to build A city and tower, whose top may reach to Heaven; And get themselves a name; lest, far dispersed In foreign lands, their memory be lost; Regardless whether good or evil fame.
But God, who oft descends to visit men Unseen, and through their habitations walks To mark their doings, them beholding soon, Comes down to see their city, ere the tower Obstruct Heaven-towers, and in derision sets Upon their tongues a various spirit, to rase Quite out their native language; and, instead, To sow a jangling noise of words unknown: Forthwith a hideous gabble rises loud, Among the builders; each to other calls Not understood; till hoarse, and all in rage, As mocked they storm: great laughter was in Heaven, And looking down, to see the hubbub strange, And hear the din: Thus was the building left Ridiculous, and the work Confusion named.
Whereto thus Adam, fatherly displeased.
O execrable son! so to aspire Above his brethren; to himself assuming Authority usurped, from God not given: He gave us only over beast, fish, fowl, Dominion absolute; that right we hold By his donation; but man over men He made not lord; such title to himself Reserving, human left from human free.
But this usurper his encroachment proud Stays not on Man; to God his tower intends Siege and defiance: Wretched man!what food Will he convey up thither, to sustain Himself and his rash army; where thin air Above the clouds will pine his entrails gross, And famish him of breath, if not of bread? To whom thus Michael.
Justly thou abhorrest That son, who on the quiet state of men Such trouble brought, affecting to subdue Rational liberty; yet know withal, Since thy original lapse, true liberty Is lost, which always with right reason dwells Twinned, and from her hath no dividual being: Reason in man obscured, or not obeyed, Immediately inordinate desires, And upstart passions, catch the government From reason; and to servitude reduce Man, till then free.
Therefore, since he permits Within himself unworthy powers to reign Over free reason, God, in judgement just, Subjects him from without to violent lords; Who oft as undeservedly enthrall His outward freedom: Tyranny must be; Though to the tyrant thereby no excuse.
Yet sometimes nations will decline so low From virtue, which is reason, that no wrong, But justice, and some fatal curse annexed, Deprives them of their outward liberty; Their inward lost: Witness the irreverent son Of him who built the ark; who, for the shame Done to his father, heard this heavy curse, Servant of servants, on his vicious race.
Thus will this latter, as the former world, Still tend from bad to worse; till God at last, Wearied with their iniquities, withdraw His presence from among them, and avert His holy eyes; resolving from thenceforth To leave them to their own polluted ways; And one peculiar nation to select From all the rest, of whom to be invoked, A nation from one faithful man to spring: Him on this side Euphrates yet residing, Bred up in idol-worship: O, that men (Canst thou believe?) should be so stupid grown, While yet the patriarch lived, who 'scaped the flood, As to forsake the living God, and fall To worship their own work in wood and stone For Gods! Yet him God the Most High vouchsafes To call by vision, from his father's house, His kindred, and false Gods, into a land Which he will show him; and from him will raise A mighty nation; and upon him shower His benediction so, that in his seed All nations shall be blest: he straight obeys; Not knowing to what land, yet firm believes: I see him, but thou canst not, with what faith He leaves his Gods, his friends, and native soil, Ur of Chaldaea, passing now the ford To Haran; after him a cumbrous train Of herds and flocks, and numerous servitude; Not wandering poor, but trusting all his wealth With God, who called him, in a land unknown.
Canaan he now attains; I see his tents Pitched about Sechem, and the neighbouring plain Of Moreh; there by promise he receives Gift to his progeny of all that land, From Hameth northward to the Desart south; (Things by their names I call, though yet unnamed;) From Hermon east to the great western Sea; Mount Hermon, yonder sea; each place behold In prospect, as I point them; on the shore Mount Carmel; here, the double-founted stream, Jordan, true limit eastward; but his sons Shall dwell to Senir, that long ridge of hills.
This ponder, that all nations of the earth Shall in his seed be blessed: By that seed Is meant thy great Deliverer, who shall bruise The Serpent's head; whereof to thee anon Plainlier shall be revealed.
This patriarch blest, Whom faithful Abraham due time shall call, A son, and of his son a grand-child, leaves; Like him in faith, in wisdom, and renown: The grandchild, with twelve sons increased, departs From Canaan to a land hereafter called Egypt, divided by the river Nile See where it flows, disgorging at seven mouths Into the sea.
To sojourn in that land He comes, invited by a younger son In time of dearth, a son whose worthy deeds Raise him to be the second in that realm Of Pharaoh.
There he dies, and leaves his race Growing into a nation, and now grown Suspected to a sequent king, who seeks To stop their overgrowth, as inmate guests Too numerous; whence of guests he makes them slaves Inhospitably, and kills their infant males: Till by two brethren (these two brethren call Moses and Aaron) sent from God to claim His people from enthralment, they return, With glory and spoil, back to their promised land.
But first, the lawless tyrant, who denies To know their God, or message to regard, Must be compelled by signs and judgements dire; To blood unshed the rivers must be turned; Frogs, lice, and flies, must all his palace fill With loathed intrusion, and fill all the land; His cattle must of rot and murren die; Botches and blains must all his flesh emboss, And all his people; thunder mixed with hail, Hail mixed with fire, must rend the Egyptians sky, And wheel on the earth, devouring where it rolls; What it devours not, herb, or fruit, or grain, A darksome cloud of locusts swarming down Must eat, and on the ground leave nothing green; Darkness must overshadow all his bounds, Palpable darkness, and blot out three days; Last, with one midnight stroke, all the first-born Of Egypt must lie dead.
Thus with ten wounds The river-dragon tamed at length submits To let his sojourners depart, and oft Humbles his stubborn heart; but still, as ice More hardened after thaw; till, in his rage Pursuing whom he late dismissed, the sea Swallows him with his host; but them lets pass, As on dry land, between two crystal walls; Awed by the rod of Moses so to stand Divided, till his rescued gain their shore: Such wondrous power God to his saint will lend, Though present in his Angel; who shall go Before them in a cloud, and pillar of fire; By day a cloud, by night a pillar of fire; To guide them in their journey, and remove Behind them, while the obdurate king pursues: All night he will pursue; but his approach Darkness defends between till morning watch; Then through the fiery pillar, and the cloud, God looking forth will trouble all his host, And craze their chariot-wheels: when by command Moses once more his potent rod extends Over the sea; the sea his rod obeys; On their embattled ranks the waves return, And overwhelm their war: The race elect Safe toward Canaan from the shore advance Through the wild Desart, not the readiest way; Lest, entering on the Canaanite alarmed, War terrify them inexpert, and fear Return them back to Egypt, choosing rather Inglorious life with servitude; for life To noble and ignoble is more sweet Untrained in arms, where rashness leads not on.
This also shall they gain by their delay In the wide wilderness; there they shall found Their government, and their great senate choose Through the twelve tribes, to rule by laws ordained: God from the mount of Sinai, whose gray top Shall tremble, he descending, will himself In thunder, lightning, and loud trumpets' sound, Ordain them laws; part, such as appertain To civil justice; part, religious rites Of sacrifice; informing them, by types And shadows, of that destined Seed to bruise The Serpent, by what means he shall achieve Mankind's deliverance.
But the voice of God To mortal ear is dreadful: They beseech That Moses might report to them his will, And terrour cease; he grants what they besought, Instructed that to God is no access Without Mediator, whose high office now Moses in figure bears; to introduce One greater, of whose day he shall foretel, And all the Prophets in their age the times Of great Messiah shall sing.
Thus, laws and rites Established, such delight hath God in Men Obedient to his will, that he vouchsafes Among them to set up his tabernacle; The Holy One with mortal Men to dwell: By his prescript a sanctuary is framed Of cedar, overlaid with gold; therein An ark, and in the ark his testimony, The records of his covenant; over these A mercy-seat of gold, between the wings Of two bright Cherubim; before him burn Seven lamps as in a zodiack representing The heavenly fires; over the tent a cloud Shall rest by day, a fiery gleam by night; Save when they journey, and at length they come, Conducted by his Angel, to the land Promised to Abraham and his seed:--The rest Were long to tell; how many battles fought How many kings destroyed; and kingdoms won; Or how the sun shall in mid Heaven stand still A day entire, and night's due course adjourn, Man's voice commanding, 'Sun, in Gibeon stand, 'And thou moon in the vale of Aialon, 'Till Israel overcome! so call the third From Abraham, son of Isaac; and from him His whole descent, who thus shall Canaan win.
Here Adam interposed.
O sent from Heaven, Enlightener of my darkness, gracious things Thou hast revealed; those chiefly, which concern Just Abraham and his seed: now first I find Mine eyes true-opening, and my heart much eased; Erewhile perplexed with thoughts, what would become Of me and all mankind: But now I see His day, in whom all nations shall be blest; Favour unmerited by me, who sought Forbidden knowledge by forbidden means.
This yet I apprehend not, why to those Among whom God will deign to dwell on earth So many and so various laws are given; So many laws argue so many sins Among them; how can God with such reside? To whom thus Michael.
Doubt not but that sin Will reign among them, as of thee begot; And therefore was law given them, to evince Their natural pravity, by stirring up Sin against law to fight: that when they see Law can discover sin, but not remove, Save by those shadowy expiations weak, The blood of bulls and goats, they may conclude Some blood more precious must be paid for Man; Just for unjust; that, in such righteousness To them by faith imputed, they may find Justification towards God, and peace Of conscience; which the law by ceremonies Cannot appease; nor Man the mortal part Perform; and, not performing, cannot live.
So law appears imperfect; and but given With purpose to resign them, in full time, Up to a better covenant; disciplined From shadowy types to truth; from flesh to spirit; From imposition of strict laws to free Acceptance of large grace; from servile fear To filial; works of law to works of faith.
And therefore shall not Moses, though of God Highly beloved, being but the minister Of law, his people into Canaan lead; But Joshua, whom the Gentiles Jesus call, His name and office bearing, who shall quell The adversary-Serpent, and bring back Through the world's wilderness long-wandered Man Safe to eternal Paradise of rest.
Mean while they, in their earthly Canaan placed, Long time shall dwell and prosper, but when sins National interrupt their publick peace, Provoking God to raise them enemies; From whom as oft he saves them penitent By Judges first, then under Kings; of whom The second, both for piety renowned And puissant deeds, a promise shall receive Irrevocable, that his regal throne For ever shall endure; the like shall sing All Prophecy, that of the royal stock Of David (so I name this king) shall rise A Son, the Woman's seed to thee foretold, Foretold to Abraham, as in whom shall trust All nations; and to kings foretold, of kings The last; for of his reign shall be no end.
But first, a long succession must ensue; And his next son, for wealth and wisdom famed, The clouded ark of God, till then in tents Wandering, shall in a glorious temple enshrine.
Such follow him, as shall be registered Part good, part bad; of bad the longer scroll; Whose foul idolatries, and other faults Heaped to the popular sum, will so incense God, as to leave them, and expose their land, Their city, his temple, and his holy ark, With all his sacred things, a scorn and prey To that proud city, whose high walls thou sawest Left in confusion; Babylon thence called.
There in captivity he lets them dwell The space of seventy years; then brings them back, Remembering mercy, and his covenant sworn To David, stablished as the days of Heaven.
Returned from Babylon by leave of kings Their lords, whom God disposed, the house of God They first re-edify; and for a while In mean estate live moderate; till, grown In wealth and multitude, factious they grow; But first among the priests dissention springs, Men who attend the altar, and should most Endeavour peace: their strife pollution brings Upon the temple itself: at last they seise The scepter, and regard not David's sons; Then lose it to a stranger, that the true Anointed King Messiah might be born Barred of his right; yet at his birth a star, Unseen before in Heaven, proclaims him come; And guides the eastern sages, who inquire His place, to offer incense, myrrh, and gold: His place of birth a solemn Angel tells To simple shepherds, keeping watch by night; They gladly thither haste, and by a quire Of squadroned Angels hear his carol sung.
A virgin is his mother, but his sire The power of the Most High: He shall ascend The throne hereditary, and bound his reign With Earth's wide bounds, his glory with the Heavens.
He ceased, discerning Adam with such joy Surcharged, as had like grief been dewed in tears, Without the vent of words; which these he breathed.
O prophet of glad tidings, finisher Of utmost hope! now clear I understand What oft my steadiest thoughts have searched in vain; Why our great Expectation should be called The seed of Woman: Virgin Mother, hail, High in the love of Heaven; yet from my loins Thou shalt proceed, and from thy womb the Son Of God Most High: so God with Man unites! Needs must the Serpent now his capital bruise Expect with mortal pain: Say where and when Their fight, what stroke shall bruise the victor's heel.
To whom thus Michael.
Dream not of their fight, As of a duel, or the local wounds Of head or heel: Not therefore joins the Son Manhood to Godhead, with more strength to foil Thy enemy; nor so is overcome Satan, whose fall from Heaven, a deadlier bruise, Disabled, not to give thee thy death's wound: Which he, who comes thy Saviour, shall recure, Not by destroying Satan, but his works In thee, and in thy seed: Nor can this be, But by fulfilling that which thou didst want, Obedience to the law of God, imposed On penalty of death, and suffering death; The penalty to thy transgression due, And due to theirs which out of thine will grow: So only can high Justice rest appaid.
The law of God exact he shall fulfil Both by obedience and by love, though love Alone fulfil the law; thy punishment He shall endure, by coming in the flesh To a reproachful life, and cursed death; Proclaiming life to all who shall believe In his redemption; and that his obedience, Imputed, becomes theirs by faith; his merits To save them, not their own, though legal, works.
For this he shall live hated, be blasphemed, Seised on by force, judged, and to death condemned A shameful and accursed, nailed to the cross By his own nation; slain for bringing life: But to the cross he nails thy enemies, The law that is against thee, and the sins Of all mankind, with him there crucified, Never to hurt them more who rightly trust In this his satisfaction; so he dies, But soon revives; Death over him no power Shall long usurp; ere the third dawning light Return, the stars of morn shall see him rise Out of his grave, fresh as the dawning light, Thy ransom paid, which Man from death redeems, His death for Man, as many as offered life Neglect not, and the benefit embrace By faith not void of works: This God-like act Annuls thy doom, the death thou shouldest have died, In sin for ever lost from life; this act Shall bruise the head of Satan, crush his strength, Defeating Sin and Death, his two main arms; And fix far deeper in his head their stings Than temporal death shall bruise the victor's heel, Or theirs whom he redeems; a death, like sleep, A gentle wafting to immortal life.
Nor after resurrection shall he stay Longer on earth, than certain times to appear To his disciples, men who in his life Still followed him; to them shall leave in charge To teach all nations what of him they learned And his salvation; them who shall believe Baptizing in the profluent stream, the sign Of washing them from guilt of sin to life Pure, and in mind prepared, if so befall, For death, like that which the Redeemer died.
All nations they shall teach; for, from that day, Not only to the sons of Abraham's loins Salvation shall be preached, but to the sons Of Abraham's faith wherever through the world; So in his seed all nations shall be blest.
Then to the Heaven of Heavens he shall ascend With victory, triumphing through the air Over his foes and thine; there shall surprise The Serpent, prince of air, and drag in chains Through all his realm, and there confounded leave; Then enter into glory, and resume His seat at God's right hand, exalted high Above all names in Heaven; and thence shall come, When this world's dissolution shall be ripe, With glory and power to judge both quick and dead; To judge the unfaithful dead, but to reward His faithful, and receive them into bliss, Whether in Heaven or Earth; for then the Earth Shall all be Paradise, far happier place Than this of Eden, and far happier days.
So spake the Arch-Angel Michael; then paused, As at the world's great period; and our sire, Replete with joy and wonder, thus replied.
O Goodness infinite, Goodness immense! That all this good of evil shall produce, And evil turn to good; more wonderful Than that which by creation first brought forth Light out of darkness! Full of doubt I stand, Whether I should repent me now of sin By me done, and occasioned; or rejoice Much more, that much more good thereof shall spring; To God more glory, more good-will to Men From God, and over wrath grace shall abound.
But say, if our Deliverer up to Heaven Must re-ascend, what will betide the few His faithful, left among the unfaithful herd, The enemies of truth? Who then shall guide His people, who defend? Will they not deal Worse with his followers than with him they dealt? Be sure they will, said the Angel; but from Heaven He to his own a Comforter will send, The promise of the Father, who shall dwell His Spirit within them; and the law of faith, Working through love, upon their hearts shall write, To guide them in all truth; and also arm With spiritual armour, able to resist Satan's assaults, and quench his fiery darts; What man can do against them, not afraid, Though to the death; against such cruelties With inward consolations recompensed, And oft supported so as shall amaze Their proudest persecutors: For the Spirit, Poured first on his Apostles, whom he sends To evangelize the nations, then on all Baptized, shall them with wonderous gifts endue To speak all tongues, and do all miracles, As did their Lord before them.
Thus they win Great numbers of each nation to receive With joy the tidings brought from Heaven: At length Their ministry performed, and race well run, Their doctrine and their story written left, They die; but in their room, as they forewarn, Wolves shall succeed for teachers, grievous wolves, Who all the sacred mysteries of Heaven To their own vile advantages shall turn Of lucre and ambition; and the truth With superstitions and traditions taint, Left only in those written records pure, Though not but by the Spirit understood.
Then shall they seek to avail themselves of names, Places, and titles, and with these to join Secular power; though feigning still to act By spiritual, to themselves appropriating The Spirit of God, promised alike and given To all believers; and, from that pretence, Spiritual laws by carnal power shall force On every conscience; laws which none shall find Left them inrolled, or what the Spirit within Shall on the heart engrave.
What will they then But force the Spirit of Grace itself, and bind His consort Liberty? what, but unbuild His living temples, built by faith to stand, Their own faith, not another's? for, on earth, Who against faith and conscience can be heard Infallible? yet many will presume: Whence heavy persecution shall arise On all, who in the worship persevere Of spirit and truth; the rest, far greater part, Will deem in outward rites and specious forms Religion satisfied; Truth shall retire Bestuck with slanderous darts, and works of faith Rarely be found: So shall the world go on, To good malignant, to bad men benign; Under her own weight groaning; till the day Appear of respiration to the just, And vengeance to the wicked, at return Of him so lately promised to thy aid, The Woman's Seed; obscurely then foretold, Now ampler known thy Saviour and thy Lord; Last, in the clouds, from Heaven to be revealed In glory of the Father, to dissolve Satan with his perverted world; then raise From the conflagrant mass, purged and refined, New Heavens, new Earth, ages of endless date, Founded in righteousness, and peace, and love; To bring forth fruits, joy and eternal bliss.
He ended; and thus Adam last replied.
How soon hath thy prediction, Seer blest, Measured this transient world, the race of time, Till time stand fixed! Beyond is all abyss, Eternity, whose end no eye can reach.
Greatly-instructed I shall hence depart; Greatly in peace of thought; and have my fill Of knowledge, what this vessel can contain; Beyond which was my folly to aspire.
Henceforth I learn, that to obey is best, And love with fear the only God; to walk As in his presence; ever to observe His providence; and on him sole depend, Merciful over all his works, with good Still overcoming evil, and by small Accomplishing great things, by things deemed weak Subverting worldly strong, and worldly wise By simply meek: that suffering for truth's sake Is fortitude to highest victory, And, to the faithful, death the gate of life; Taught this by his example, whom I now Acknowledge my Redeemer ever blest.
To whom thus also the Angel last replied.
This having learned, thou hast attained the sum Of wisdom; hope no higher, though all the stars Thou knewest by name, and all the ethereal powers, All secrets of the deep, all Nature's works, Or works of God in Heaven, air, earth, or sea, And all the riches of this world enjoyedst, And all the rule, one empire; only add Deeds to thy knowledge answerable; add faith, Add virtue, patience, temperance; add love, By name to come called charity, the soul Of all the rest: then wilt thou not be loth To leave this Paradise, but shalt possess A Paradise within thee, happier far.
-- Let us descend now therefore from this top Of speculation; for the hour precise Exacts our parting hence; and see!the guards, By me encamped on yonder hill, expect Their motion; at whose front a flaming sword, In signal of remove, waves fiercely round: We may no longer stay: go, waken Eve; Her also I with gentle dreams have calmed Portending good, and all her spirits composed To meek submission: thou, at season fit, Let her with thee partake what thou hast heard; Chiefly what may concern her faith to know, The great deliverance by her seed to come (For by the Woman's seed) on all mankind: That ye may live, which will be many days, Both in one faith unanimous, though sad, With cause, for evils past; yet much more cheered With meditation on the happy end.
He ended, and they both descend the hill; Descended, Adam to the bower, where Eve Lay sleeping, ran before; but found her waked; And thus with words not sad she him received.
Whence thou returnest, and whither wentest, I know; For God is also in sleep; and dreams advise, Which he hath sent propitious, some great good Presaging, since with sorrow and heart's distress Wearied I fell asleep: But now lead on; In me is no delay; with thee to go, Is to stay here; without thee here to stay, Is to go hence unwilling; thou to me Art all things under $Heaven, all places thou, Who for my wilful crime art banished hence.
This further consolation yet secure I carry hence; though all by me is lost, Such favour I unworthy am vouchsafed, By me the Promised Seed shall all restore.
So spake our mother Eve; and Adam heard Well pleased, but answered not: For now, too nigh The Arch-Angel stood; and, from the other hill To their fixed station, all in bright array The Cherubim descended; on the ground Gliding meteorous, as evening-mist Risen from a river o'er the marish glides, And gathers ground fast at the labourer's heel Homeward returning.
High in front advanced, The brandished sword of God before them blazed, Fierce as a comet; which with torrid heat, And vapour as the Libyan air adust, Began to parch that temperate clime; whereat In either hand the hastening Angel caught Our lingering parents, and to the eastern gate Led them direct, and down the cliff as fast To the subjected plain; then disappeared.
They, looking back, all the eastern side beheld Of Paradise, so late their happy seat, Waved over by that flaming brand; the gate With dreadful faces thronged, and fiery arms: Some natural tears they dropt, but wiped them soon; The world was all before them, where to choose Their place of rest, and Providence their guide: They, hand in hand, with wandering steps and slow, Through Eden took their solitary way.

Poem by John Milton
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Book: Shattered Sighs