Invincible: Abashed the Devil stood, And felt how awful goodness is…

Which of those rebel Spirits adjudged to Hell

Comest thou, escaped thy prison? and, transformed,

Why sat’st thou like an enemy in wait,

Here watching at the head of these that sleep?

Know ye not then said Satan, filled with scorn,

Know ye not me? ye knew me once no mate

For you, there sitting where ye durst not soar:

Not to know me argues yourselves unknown,

The lowest of your throng; or, if ye know,

Why ask ye, and superfluous begin

Your message, like to end as much in vain?

To whom thus Zephon, answering scorn with scorn.

Think not, revolted Spirit, thy shape the same,

Or undiminished brightness to be known,

As when thou stoodest in Heaven upright and pure;

That glory then, when thou no more wast good,

Departed from thee; and thou resemblest now

Thy sin and place of doom obscure and foul.

But come, for thou, be sure, shalt give account

To him who sent us, whose charge is to keep

This place inviolable, and these from harm.

So spake the Cherub; and his grave rebuke,

Severe in youthful beauty, added grace

Invincible: Abashed the Devil stood,

And felt how awful goodness is, and saw

Virtue in her shape how lovely; saw, and pined

His loss; but chiefly to find here observed

His lustre visibly impaired; yet seemed

Undaunted. If I must contend, said he,

Best with the best, the sender, not the sent,

Or all at once; more glory will be won,

Or less be lost. Thy fear, said Zephon bold,

Will save us trial what the least can do

Single against thee wicked, and thence weak.

The Fiend replied not, overcome with rage;

But, like a proud steed reined, went haughty on,

Champing his iron curb: To strive or fly

He held it vain; awe from above had quelled

His heart, not else dismayed. Now drew they nigh

The western point, where those half-rounding guards

Just met, and closing stood in squadron joined,

A waiting next command. To whom their Chief,

Gabriel, from the front thus called aloud.

O friends! I hear the tread of nimble feet

Hasting this way, and now by glimpse discern

Ithuriel and Zephon through the shade;

And with them comes a third of regal port,

But faded splendour wan; who by his gait

And fierce demeanour seems the Prince of Hell,

Not likely to part hence without contest;

Stand firm, for in his look defiance lours.

He scarce had ended, when those two approached,

And brief related whom they brought, where found,

How busied, in what form and posture couched.

To whom with stern regard thus Gabriel spake.

Why hast thou, Satan, broke the bounds prescribed

To thy transgressions, and disturbed the charge

Of others, who approve not to transgress

By thy example, but have power and right

To question thy bold entrance on this place;

Employed, it seems, to violate sleep, and those

Whose dwelling God hath planted here in bliss!

To whom thus Satan with contemptuous brow.

Gabriel? thou hadst in Heaven the esteem of wise,

And such I held thee; but this question asked

Puts me in doubt. Lives there who loves his pain!

Who would not, finding way, break loose from Hell,

Though thither doomed! Thou wouldst thyself, no doubt

And boldly venture to whatever place

Farthest from pain, where thou mightst hope to change

Torment with ease, and soonest recompense

Dole with delight, which in this place I sought;

To thee no reason, who knowest only good,

But evil hast not tried: and wilt object

His will who bounds us! Let him surer bar

His iron gates, if he intends our stay

In that dark durance: Thus much what was asked.

The rest is true, they found me where they say;

But that implies not violence or harm.

Thus he in scorn. The warlike Angel moved,

Disdainfully half smiling, thus replied.

O loss of one in Heaven to judge of wise

Since Satan fell, whom folly overthrew,

And now returns him from his prison ‘scaped,

Gravely in doubt whether to hold them wise

Or not, who ask what boldness brought him hither

Unlicensed from his bounds in Hell prescribed;

So wise he judges it to fly from pain

However, and to ‘scape his punishment!

So judge thou still, presumptuous! till the wrath,

Which thou incurrest by flying, meet thy flight

Sevenfold, and scourge that wisdom back to Hell,

Which taught thee yet no better, that no pain

Can equal anger infinite provoked.

But wherefore thou alone? wherefore with thee

Came not all hell broke loose? is paint to them

Less pain, less to be fled, or thou than they

Less hardy to endure? courageous Chief,

The first in flight from pain! had’st thou alleg’d

To thy deserted host this cause of flight,

Thou surely hadst not come sole fugitive.

To which the Fiend thus answer’d, frowning stern.

Not that I less endure, or shrink from pain,

Insulting Angel! well thou knowest I stood

Thy fiercest, when in battle to thy aid

The blasting vollied thunder made all speed,

And seconded thy else not dreaded spear.

But still thy words at random, as before,

Argue thy inexperience what behoves

From hard assays and ill successes past

A faithful leader, not to hazard all

Through ways of danger by himself untried:

I, therefore, I alone first undertook

To wing the desolate abyss, and spy

This new created world, whereof in Hell

Fame is not silent, here in hope to find

Better abode, and my afflicted Powers

To settle here on earth, or in mid air;

Though for possession put to try once more

What thou and thy gay legions dare against;

Whose easier business were to serve their Lord

High up in Heaven, with songs to hymn his throne,

And practised distances to cringe, not fight,

To whom the warriour Angel soon replied.

To say and straight unsay, pretending first

Wise to fly pain, professing next the spy,

Argues no leader but a liear traced,

Satan, and couldst thou faithful add? O name,

O sacred name of faithfulness profaned!

Faithful to whom? to thy rebellious crew?

Army of Fiends, fit body to fit head.

Was this your discipline and faith engaged,

Your military obedience, to dissolve

Allegiance to the acknowledged Power supreme?

And thou, sly hypocrite, who now wouldst seem

Patron of liberty, who more than thou

Once fawned, and cringed, and servily adored

Heaven’s awful Monarch? wherefore, but in hope

To dispossess him, and thyself to reign?

But mark what I arreed thee now, Avant;

Fly neither whence thou fledst! If from this hour

Within these hallowed limits thou appear,

Back to the infernal pit I drag thee chained,

And seal thee so, as henceforth not to scorn

The facile gates of Hell too slightly barred.

So threatened he; but Satan to no threats

Gave heed, but waxing more in rage replied.

Then when I am thy captive talk of chains,

Proud limitary Cherub! but ere then

Far heavier load thyself expect to feel

From my prevailing arm, though Heaven’s King

Ride on thy wings, and thou with thy compeers,

Us’d to the yoke, drawest his triumphant wheels

In progress through the road of Heaven star-paved.

While thus he spake, the angelick squadron bright

Turned fiery red, sharpening in mooned horns

Their phalanx, and began to hem him round

With ported spears, as thick as when a field

Of Ceres ripe for harvest waving bends

Her bearded grove of ears, which way the wind

Sways them; the careful plowman doubting stands,

Left on the threshing floor his hopeless sheaves

Prove chaff. On the other side, Satan, alarmed,

Collecting all his might, dilated stood,

Like Teneriff or Atlas, unremoved:

His stature reached the sky, and on his crest

Sat Horrour plumed; nor wanted in his grasp

What seemed both spear and shield: Now dreadful deeds

Might have ensued, nor only Paradise

In this commotion, but the starry cope

Of Heaven perhaps, or all the elements

At least had gone to wrack, disturbed and torn

With violence of this conflict, had not soon

The Eternal, to prevent such horrid fray,

Hung forth in Heaven his golden scales, yet seen

Betwixt Astrea and the Scorpion sign,

Wherein all things created first he weighed,

The pendulous round earth with balanced air

In counterpoise, now ponders all events,

Battles and realms: In these he put two weights,

The sequel each of parting and of fight:

The latter quick up flew, and kicked the beam,

Which Gabriel spying, thus bespake the Fiend.

Satan, I know thy strength, and thou knowest mine;

Neither our own, but given: What folly then

To boast what arms can do? since thine no more

Than Heaven permits, nor mine, though doubled now

To trample thee as mire: For proof look up,

And read thy lot in yon celestial sign;

Where thou art weighed, and shown how light, how weak,

If thou resist. The Fiend looked up, and knew

His mounted scale aloft: nor more; but fled

Murmuring, and with him fled the shades of night.

~Paradise Lost Book VI Lines 823-1015, John Milton

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